“Barcelona is one of my best bleisure destinations. Very quickly, I find my wellbeing feeling here at my favourite places.” Angela Barzen, Managing Director of Business Wellbeing and guest author of Bleisure Traveller
Barcelona is versatile, exciting, colourful, proud. All at once. And if you open your eyes, you will always find something special here in winter and summer, despite the many tourists.
That’s why I usually stay a few days longer when I’m in Barcelona for work to visit my favourite places. Be it the small streets around the Santa Caterina Market, Palau de la Música Catalana and the Plaça d’Antoni Maura – or the extensive beach. I love strolling barefoot along the beach from the Restaurant Pez Vela to Platja de Sant Sebastià, Platja de Sant Miquel and Platja de la Barceloneta. A one-hour Barcelona Beach walk – and I feel like I’m on holiday. Afterwards, the Carpe Diem Lounge Club with its large seat and cushion combinations lures me to read a book and study people. The bar is already open from 11 a.m., in the evening this is where the action is and with a little luck a local DJ struts up.
My head “floats on my neck”
My personal favourite hotel is the Mandarin Oriental Barcelona in the Passeig de Gràcia. Located in the centre of Barcelona, opposite the famous Gaudi house Casa Batlló, the 20 meter long “gangway” to the foyer is already a show and the view to the top anyway. The whole hotel is modern and cosy, as one might not expect in this historical location. Many elements like the chairs in the Garden Area and in the breakfast room were designed for the Mandarin Oriental Barcelona.
But above all I like the attention of the team here: As if the hotel somehow know my favourite chocolate, white chocolates greet me in the room and on the second day a whole Barcelona skyline is in white chocolate. Breakfast leaves nothing to be desired, and the service here knows what I particularly like to eat every day, how I like to drink my coffee and where I like to sit.
If Rooftop, then here …
I never miss lunch or a sundowner in the hotel on the Rooftop Bar terrace. Every time, I’m fascinated by the loungers, lounge seats, the flanking pool and the incredible view of Barcelona’s Gaudi palaces and the Sagrada Família (see picture above).
My second tip at the hotel: the Hair Treatment, a 90-minute pampering program for hair and scalp. Instead of “washing, drying, laying” I use a camera technique to find out whether my hair is healthy or stressed. The wellness program is coordinated with this – from massage and cures to refreshing oils. My head then “floats” on my neck. And at the end the camera also shows the effect of the treatment to me.
Bike, gaze, carpaccio
From the Mandarin Oriental Barcelona I prefer to conquer the city centre on foot or partly by taxi, because the offer is much bigger and considerably cheaper than in Germany. A bicycle is also a real alternative in the city, which can be rented at several Rent-a-Bike locations. Via the app you can use it everywhere and for as long as you want. Thus, one gets almost everywhere, also to the classical sightseeings like the Sagrada Família or up to the Park Güell. With these all-time favourite places of the tourists, however, it is recommended to book the tickets online a few days in advance, otherwise one finds the phrase “we are fully booked” and has to limit oneself to the outside view.
The restaurant Blue Spot Barcelona offers a less frequented, but at least as beautiful view of the city. My favourite there: Carpaccio from beef. Forget how it usually tastes and is served, it also works done differently and very well. At noon one can get a place without reservation, in the evening not. And if you like fish close to the beach, you can’t get a place without a reservation in the “Barceloneta”. The restaurant is almost always fully booked, despite many rooms and niches. The terrace places are also nice with a view to the yachts and the many local artists. I always ask for the “catch of the day” and put my trust in it.
Loud and perfect
Where is a typical place in Barcelona where you can experience Catalan mentality, hustle and bustle and cosiness? The Mercat de la Boqueria, the food market on the edge of La Rambla. Here I find everything my culinary connoisseur’s heart desires: fresh fish, delicious fruit, freshly squeezed juices, local specialities, wines – and the Bar Central on the far left! A typical Catalan bar, where the freshest fish, mussels and seafood are prepared in front of the guests. Granted, it’s noisy here, you have to wait for your place and you can’t make a reservation. And if the staff suspect that you are a tourist, they will try to guide you to the “same” restaurant around the corner. But don’t do it! It’s worth the wait. Insist on a table in the hall at the bar. The sound is sometimes a bit rough, but honest and has its charm. The bar is open as long as the market is open.
And if you just want a tapas bar in a casual environment, I recommend the La Bombeta in Barcelona. Reservation here is a no-no also. If a place is free, one simply sits down. As a speciality, everything revolves around the squid. And the owner is also special – an elderly, very likeable Catalan who only speaks Catalan. So you can either speak in the local language or make yourself understood with your hands and feet. Bleisure feeling is guaranteed.
Angela Barzen …
will certainly soon extend her professional Barcelona trip by a few private days and then plans not to think so much about the possibilities of eating in Barcelona. But then, that will never happen.
Fotos: Angela Barzen