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I recently spent a long week in Barcelona during the 2013 Circuit Festival. Held over 10 days in August, the Circuit festival brings together all the best gay circuit parties from Europe (and a few extras) in one city. Reports of around 50,000 people attending last year’s festivities were sure to be beaten by this year’s haul. Held in and around Barcelona at various clubs and venues, the circuit festival is a great way to see a lot of Barcelona without seeing much of it at all. In between parties we managed to even get in a little bit of sight seeing around the town. Here are a few of the highlights that one simply must visit when going to Barcelona:
Visit a proper Spanish bar
Barcelona is truly a tourist city. Almost every restaurant and bar caters to tourists, and will provide menus in English (or have hot English waiters), but it’s the proper Spanish bars that you really want to find. They tend to be hidden away, underground or down alley ways, and you might need to find a friendly local to help order things if you don’t speak Spanish, but the atmosphere here is 100% better than in a tourist bar. You’ll also need to get used to the “Spanish Pour” which is a means of making drinks without measuring the alcohol. The waiter simply free-pours to around half a glass of spirits to which the mixer is added at your table. It is also not impolite to ask the waiter for a little more every so often. While there are many around the town, I recommend Milano, which can be found near Plaza Cataluyna, just down Ronda De La Universitat.
La Sagrada Familia
This is probably a sight that goes without saying, but I will include it because it is simply amazing. This church was designed by Gaudi using only models. The Church has been working on building and completing this masterpiece for the last 200 years. There are always large crowds, so it’s worth remembering to keep one’s mind on one’s belongings, and to give yourself plenty of time if you want to actually go in. The line for tickets is several hours long, although you can purchase tickets online to save this wait.
La Rambla & Gothic Quarter
Just off Plaza Cataluyna is La Rambla, a long street full of shops, markets and other fun things to keep you interested as the street takes you down through the gothic quarter and to the harbour. About half way down La Rambla, is Carrer de la Portaferrissa, which leads directly to the Barcelona Cathedral. This is surrounded by many period buildings, some of which are still in regular use by residents and stores, others are part of the museum surrounding the Cathedral. Take a short detour off the main street to see this part of town. It’s a short walk from the Cathedral through the gothic quarter and its winding streets. Walking along the waterfront will take you back towards La Rambla, the end of which is denoted by the massive obelisk commemorating Christopher Columbus.
El Bosc De Les Fades
A short walk back up La Rambla from the Harbour, and next door to the wax museum, is the El Bosc De Les Fades cafe. Unlike any other cafe in the world, this cafe is decorated like the inside of a dark forest. With only a few tea-lights lighting the room, one sits amongst low-hanging dense foliage and ponds while having a tea, coffee or something stronger. It is remarkably popular, and not overly large in terms of seating, so you might find yourself having to stand at the bar waiting for a seat in busy periods. It is certainly worth it to enjoy the ambiance once you find a table.
Pan & Oli Tapas Restaurant
Sometimes the best places to eat are a little further out of the city centre. Of course one can find plenty of tourist tapas bars around Plaza Cataluyna, but mostly the better ones are those not designed for tourists. Pan & Oli is one such place. The staff however, headed by master chef Carlos all speak enough English to get you by, or you can order a standard menu for 25 euros per person that will give you a great example of the tapas on offer. Pan & Oli can be found at Carrer de Galileu, 30, Barcelona.
A trip to Barcelona would not be complete without at least a day trip (however you may want to spend the night) to Sitges. The gay area of Barcelona is about an hour south by train, which you can catch from a few stations in Barcelona (the easiest of which is Placa de Gracia) and costs about 3.80 each way. Buying a return ticket offers no savings, and if you decide to stay past 10pm you’ll need a ticket on the night bus which runs until around 4am. In Sitges (said like ‘bitches’) you will find an excellent beach (much nicer than the ones in Barcelona) with the gay area to be found between the kiosk with the pride flags and the restaurant named Picnic.
In the streets surrounding Placa del Industria one can find a great number of gay bars and cafes, particularly Parrots, two bars facing each other, with a large out-door seating area with all the chairs facing towards the street so that you can observe and be observed by passers by. Once the sun sets, and the bars close at around 2am, it’s time to head to the clubs such as Trailer Disco – Europe’s longest running gay bar. Trailer also hosts weekly foam parties, on Sunday and Wednesday evenings, and reports are that these are not to be missed, though one would be advised to bring along your own prophylactics as the foamy activities tend to get quite heated. There are also back room areas where things can be continued in a slightly more private setting.
Getting to Barcelona is relatively simple as it has three major airports supplying its traffic. The main airport is El Prat, which takes traffic from the major airlines from around Europe and the UK. The two smaller airports Reus and Girona are connected by Ryanair from various ports and require a transit bus to reach Barcelona. Buses are readily available, and have ample seats to take all passengers both ways. It’s not possible to book seats on the bus, however you can pre-purchase a return ticket at the airport which is good for a month. The bus from Girona takes about an hour and is the furthest from Barcelona. You can also reach Barcelona by train, or for the adventurous by car, as long as you don’t mind braving the Spanish drivers in Barcelona!