Barcelona, I love you!

Barcelona has always held a special place in my heart, ever since I first visited the buzzing metropolis back in 2008.

For me, this city has everything. A relaxed pace of life, months of glorious sunshine, enough culture and design to rival Paris, 7 different beaches, unbeatable food and 6 San Miguels for 2 euros. Yes I promise that’s true.

Most importantly, happy people and happy smiling faces every day…maybe that’s because of the 6 San Miguels for 2 euros?!

It’s a patchwork of architectural styles; Gothic Facades mixed with modern futuristic constructions, all set amongst traditional Spanish streets. There’s music, dancing, street parties, fiestas, outdoor cinemas, art, markets, outdoor pools, music festivals, parks, theatres and beautiful people everywhere you look.

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I was lucky enough to spend 5 weeks there over the summer. It made sense for Sunshine Communications to be in the sunshine after all. Sunshine is so good for my soul and although I couldn’t take a proper holiday due to being in the first year of my new business, I knew I couldn’t make it through the rainy Scottish summer without at least a few weeks of heat. So I packed up my summer essentials and headed off for the bright lights of the Catalonia Capital (on a Ryanair low cost flight, I repeat the low cost part as it actually cost me £402 for a return flight, which bizarrely was more expensive that my return flight to NYC in May!).

Even though this was my fifth trip to Barcleona, I’d only ever discovered the city as a long weekend tourist. This time was so different. Since I’ve returned back to the grey skyline of Edinburgh that I call my home, so many people have asked me “Tell me some tips Jen, where should I go, where should I eat and what should I do”. So this cried out for a blog post that I can share with my friends and family who are going there in the next year, but also share with you lovely people. So here are my tips!

1) Visit Sagrada Familia at night

You can’t go to Barca and not visit the infamous, magnificent Sagrada Familia. My top tip is to go early in the morning and buy your tickets for the evening slot. We booked for around 7pm when the temperature had dropped and the sky was magical. Plus you can skip right to the front of the queue if you have booked a slot rather than waiting in the 2 hour blistering heat.

If you want to be even more organised you could book online tickets here.

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2) Park Güell

If you’re into Gaudi, then I also recommend going to Park Güell. The park contains amazing stone structures, stunning tiling and fascinating buildings. At the top of Güell park is a terraced area where you can sit on some multi-coloured tiled mosaic seats and take in the view of the park and of Barcelona City. Casa Batlló and La Pedrera are definitely worth a look at, but personally I wouldn’t pay to go inside.

3) The Outdoor Cinema

The Sala Montjuïc is an open-air cinema festival that takes place each summer in the gardens of Barcelona’s Montjuïc Castle. Starting around 8pm on Mondays and Wednesdays, the evening kicks off with some live jazz or classical music until the film begins at 10pm. It’s a very civilised affair with food and drink stalls and portaloos that are cleaner than my own bathroom. We took a picnic and a carry out (champers of course) and watched Reservoir Dogs and American Hustle. It’s an absolute must in my eyes!

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Tip – it’s definitely worth arriving early and buying a chair as they sell out quickly and then you have a 3 hour uncomfortable wriggle on the grass with the ants. Put a jumper or cover-up in your bag, once the temperature dropped it was quite cool at night.

Also be prepared to walk back down to the city as there are no taxis and the bus is packed. You come out around Paral·lel which is actually one of my favourite parts of Barcelona.

4) Ciutadella Park

Some people compare the Parc de la Ciutadella to Central Park in New York. Aside from the fact it’s about 20 times smaller than the New York equivalent, I can see the similarities with the vibe and the crowd. You can picnic, cycle, boat or just kick back and relax in the green oasis.

5) Marbella Beach

Don’t get me wrong, I love Barceloneta Beach but it does get too busy. You really struggle for even an inch of sand and the towels are a little too close for comfort (especially on the nudist part of the beach!) For me, I prefer the Marbella Beach. Not only because my boyfriend loves to skate and they have a great skate park there, but the beach was quieter and cleaner. The restaurants are less American diner and more seafood. There’s a nudist part of the beach there too but it’s tucked away behind a stretch of bamboo so you won’t choke on your prawns when you see an old Spanish wrinkly man bearing all…

6) MACBA at night

Ah MACBA, what can I say. This is definitely one of my favourite hang out spots in the world. Note, I don’t actually mean the museum of contemporary art per se, but I mean the large square of flat, grey concrete surrounding the museum. Sounds fun eh!

Simply referred to as the MACBA skate spot, this concrete jungle has become a meeting spot for skaters, spectators, musicians and artists. Despite the modest sets of steps and ledges (none of which were intentionally designed for skating) – the spot has become just as renowned as any skate park.

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Hundreds of skateboard enthusiasts view this place as the beating heart of a thriving skate scene that continues throughout Barcelona, and with good reason. The atmosphere is chilled and friendly, and even as an outsider who has only recently just learned what a front side kick-flip and a nolly is, even I felt close to giving it a go. While my boyfriend skated day in and out, I sat back and soaked up the atmosphere, speaking bad Spanish to people from all over the world. The vibe is addictive and I urge any young people to go there.

Tip – Don’t go if you’re over 40, the constant smell of weed and threat of being run down by a skateboard will put you off.

7) W Hotel, Sunday Wet Deck Sessions

Located along the Barceloneta boardwalk, W Barcelona enjoys panoramic view of the city and a party atmosphere to boot. Reminiscent of Dubai’s famous Burj al-Arab hotel, the W rises up at the end of the beach like a tall, shimmering sail.

On Sundays throughout the summer, they host a free party called Wet Deck Sessions. It’s high-end, but works hard to be young and sexy, cultivating an “Ocean Beach Club’ vibe with Djs playing to a model-esk crowd. I’m making it sound wanky, but it’s actually really fun, and quite the spectacle. We opted to drink the large glasses of Sauvignon blanc as the Veuve Clicquot by the glass was a tad out of our price range.

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Tip – If you’re on a budget, take a carry out and sit on the beach for a few hours if you don’t want to pay the premium drink prices.

Oh and don’t forget to put your gladrags on – I was wearing an orange silk playsuit and white heels teemed with YSL earrings and a gold clutch (the dressiest outfit I have ever worn) and even I could have passed for under-dressed!

8) Picnik Electronic

Techno heads are spoilt for choice in Barcelona. With clubs such as Elrow and La Terraza on my doorstep, I was in my music heaven. One of the highlights was Picnik Electronic, which does exactly what it says on the tin: combines a traditional afternoon picnic with the best in electronic music. This goes on every Sunday across the summer and is an absolute must for music fans. Who says Sundays have to be boring?

9) Food market

About two thirds of the way up the Ramblas, on the left, you will see one of Europe’s largest and most famous food markets, La Boqueria. A kaleidoscope of sights, this paradise of food is popular with tourists across the world. I picked up a freshly pressed juice, some hand-made truffles, a fruit salad, some fried anchovies, olives, cheese, bread and a GIANT bag of fizzy laces on my visit. I was pretty hungry.

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Tip – It is worth aiming to get to the Boqueria in the morning – preferably before 14:00, as this is when the market is really in full swing. Alternatively go at the very end of the day when you can get lots of bargains as sellers are looking to get rid of their stock.

Tip – if you are in search of a quick, cheap and quality snack during your visit to the Boqueria, head down the centre of the market to just behind the fish sections. You will find a small stall manned by an Italian man with a wood fired oven selling pizzas by the slice

10) Outdoor Pool

Some days I wasn’t in the mood for the surf and the sand, but I needed to be near water to cool down in the 30 degree heat. So I opted for an outdoor pool, the very best in the city in-fact. Montjuïc Municipal Swimming Pool is tucked away near the top of Montjuic offering the most stunning panoramic views of Barcelona. It’s well worth getting the bus up the hill to take in the city as you swim.

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Tip – There’s not much shade around the poolside but the water is ice-cold and refreshing.

Tip – If you head to Plaça d’Espanya you can jump on a number of buses which take you straight there.

Well there you have it, my top tips for things to do in the summer in Barcelona. Look out for more Barcelona posts coming soon.

Author Jenny Emslie Photograph

Jenny Emslie

Founder and Managing Director