Social Society: The city’s hot spots
Joana Bonet is a journalist and writer, as well as one of the most recognisable female voices currently in Spain. She edits the Fashion & Arts magazine for La Vanguardia newspaper, and regularly participates in radio and television programmes.
It’s said that the Catalan character lies somewhere between seny (good sense) and rauxa (passion). That’s also a great way to describe Barcelona, an elegant city with a rational urban plan that surrendered itself to the inspiration of artists, designers and bon vivants who knew just how to transform their creative impulses into declarations of beauty.
Many years ago, mothers from well-to-do families wished for nothing more than their sons to marry a girl who lived on the same street. A century and an entire cultural revolution later, those rarefied upper classes are less prominent and the fusion of cultures in Barcelona today is strong. The social scene has grown richer in accents and the city has become a melting pot of interactions between the north and south. From the austerity of the early 20th century to the sensational designs of the avant-garde, Barcelona is a swinging city, marching to the beat of its own rhythms and attracting people from all over the world who are drawn to a place open to progress and a hub for the latest technology. Barcelona is a laboratory for ideas and good times.
This Mediterranean city offers plenty of glamorous accommodation, where refined, classic hotels are nestled among boutique, luxury options, like the Primero Primera, a memorable mansion where the tastes of the old bourgeoisie have been preserved. And the halls and terraces at The Wittmore, Hotel Neri, Mercer Barcelona, the Monument Hotel, and The Serras (in the building where Picasso had his studio) transform a hotel stopover into a painterly sojourn. Daily life includes all the trappings of the 21st century, like bars equipped with business lounges that are perfect for after-work drinks on a Wednesday: Ethniko or The Wild Bunch are just a couple to choose from.
Barcelona has improved its offerings in nightclubs and private clubs too, which include Marula Café, a sister to the famous club in Madrid that promises to be a danceable place for clubbers who are ever-so-slightly beyond their twenties; OneOcean Club, a private members’ club in Port Vell marina; and Soho House, with its exclusive restaurant overlooking the harbour and Cecconi’s on the ground floor. There are also the cultural foundations and artists’ groups that represent the cream of the city.
Creative, sensual, hedonistic and welcoming, Barcelona offers visitors a banquet for the senses, making it the world capital for new gastronomy.
Unmissable restaurants include Cinc Sentits from Jordi Artal, where high doses of sensibility meld with an understated sense of modernity. There are also many vegan options in El Raval, a neighbourhood frequented by hipsters and bohemians, including Tamia Organic Food, Flax & Kale, and Teresa Carles. Of course, you can’t mention food in Barcelona without talking about the tapas culture and the many eateries to enjoy a sociable meal with friends and family. Some favourites include Bar Cañete, which is beside Gran Teatre del Liceu, Casa Guinart inside Mercat de la Boqueria, Bodega la Puntual beside The Picasso Museum, and Gresca, where contemporary dishes showcase seasonal ingredients. There’s also a new seafood tapas bar La Barra from Carles Abellán at W Barcelona, which is a must-try.
And then there’s the long list of renowned gourmet restaurants. Majestic encounters occur on every plate at Caelis by Romain Fornell, where he reinterprets tradition with his own daring and passionate creations. Other great restaurants that mix Spanish and Catalan cuisine perfectly include Nectari, Disfrutar, Hisop, ABaC, Lasarte and Moments. Hints of happiness and sparks of flavour can also be tasted at Tickets by Albert Adrià, and Dos Pebrots. Cocktail bars are also now an important part of the city’s cultural vibe and a sure stop-off between dinner and home (or a nightclub, perhaps). From the mythical Boadas Cocktails to new locations like Negresco Bar or The Alchemix, catering to every whim for taste and discovery.
Barcelona is a beacon for the avant-garde and a window to the Mediterranean, and its sophistication lies in perfectly balancing two apparently contradictory traits: simplicity and boldness. With this in mind, if you’re looking for the perfect soundtrack for your cocktail, there’s the pioneering jazz club Jamboree, where legends including Chet Baker, Dexter Gordon, Stéphane Grappelli and Tete Montoliu have all played, or the Harlem Jazz Club, where the rhythms of bossa nova, blues, soul and flamenco-jazz fill the night. Barcelona is – and always has been – a musical city, beginning with Parallel, which in its day was compared to Montmartre and London’s West End, through to the massive nightclubs and festivals with international line-ups and artists to suit all tastes: Razzmatazz nightclub, the Jardins de Pedralbes festival, Sònar festival and Primavera Sound festival, to name but a few.
This article wouldn’t be complete without the mention of two places that draw fans from all over the globe:
Gran Teatre del Liceu, one of the most prestigious opera houses in the world – and also one of the most unusual for its lack of a royal box, as it was commissioned by private citizens and without money from the state or the crown. And of course, there’s Camp Nou, F.C. Barcelona’s stadium, whose museum has received more than 30 million visitors since opening, making it the most popular museum in Catalonia.
Intimately linked with creativity and entrepreneurship, the city offers an innovative landscape based on the fusion of an ideal cosmopolitan city with an array of tastes and sensations that makes the heart soar.