Art, fashion, culture and food – Margie T Logarta savours the best that the Catalan capital offers and finds herself hungry for more
From Las Ramblas – Barcelona’s evergreen tourist magnet – the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art) is a
short walk away on Plaça dels Àngels. Richard Meier’s massive, blindingly pristine showcase for local Catalan expression contrasts dramatically with the rather down-at-heel El Raval neighbourhood, but somehow the combination works and the plaza attracts crowds (especially skateboarders), which start to build up from midday to late night. As a design icon, however, the structure tends to compete with the exhibits it is supposed to provide a backdrop for, with more visitors appearing to focus on the architectural details rather than the art works on display. Open weekdays from 11am-7.30pm, Saturdays from 10am-8pm, and Sundays and holidays from 10am-3pm.Tuesdays closed except public holidays. Entry fee is E8 (US$11). Guided tours are available in various languages starting from E400 (US$530).
If time permits, do wander over to the lovely medieval Convent dels Àngels (for whom the plaza was named), a chapel that has been converted into a separate exposition area known as the Capella del MACBA, and catch some video art gems. Entry here is free.
The quirky Spanish footwear brand hasn’t lost the beat, branching out to accommodation as reflected in Casa Camper Barcelona. (A sister property is located in Berlin.) Just steps away from MACBA, this bolthole of 20 rooms and five suites provides the perfect base from which to explore a picturesque precinct brimming with Old World ambience and 21st century coolness.The free wifi and generous 24-hour buffet, instead of minibars in the units, have won consistent travellers’ raves.
LA CENTRAL DEL RAVAL
Who can resist a bookstore? Certainly, I can’t when housed in a sensitively restored former chapel and offering a stunning range of titles on design, photography, art, poetry, languages and cuisine. There’s even a lift to the third floor, which must have been the choir loft in the building’s past life. Aspiring and veteran chefs will find the cookbook section amply stocked with – what else – Spanish cookbooks. I would have liked to pick up Ferran Adria’s autobiography-cum-recipe book, but it was rather heavy and I had still some way to go on my journey. Several kilogrammes lighter was a handy Barcelona pop-out map (plano) I bought at the cashier counter, which served me well during my stay. An adjacent café invites you to wet your whistle if need be.
Backtrack from La Raval to Las Ramblas and take the metro at the Liceu metro station for Jaume station. This homage to one of the world’s most controversial artists houses an extensive collection of his works, most of which were gifts from the Malaga-born genius to his friend Jaume Sabartes. The museum opened in 1963, beginning with 574 pieces. Then, after Sabarte died in 1968, Picasso donated not only more paintings, especially from his Blue Period, but other items including schoolbooks and academic exercises. Two of his early major works, The First Communion (1896) and Science and Charity (1897) can be seen here. Picasso’s endowment of the museum reflects his close ties with Barcelona, a city in which he arrived in 1894, when his father landed a job teaching in an art school, and which left an indelible mark on his creative self. www.museupicasso.bcn.cat/en
ARTESANIA I COSES
Searching for something more than the usual T-shirt or Flamenco dancer doll to bring home, I accidentally wandered into this ceramics shop, close to Picasso Museu, and nearly went berserk with longing to grab everything in sight. The friendly owner, who wrapped my eventual pickings – two mugs and a spoon rest sprinkled with fishes – informed me the products were manufactured in Girona, a town about more than an hour from Barcelona. I vow to return to that Ali Baba’s cave of houseware on my next visit. Please, let that be soon! Placeta de Montcada, 2;
tel + 34 93 319 5413.
Bubó, EL BORN DISTRICT
A great way to soak in the ambience of the buzzy, upcoming El Born precinct is from one of the perches of Bubó patisserie, nibbling at a pear tart and sipping espresso. The glass display features veritable works of art that one would be reluctant to plunge a fork into, but alas, eat one must. There are no regrets as the act releases a sugar rush that is delightfully subtle and memorable. More charming shops and eateries are to be found behind the majestic Esglesia St Maria del Mar that is the centrepiece of the plaza where Bubó and its sister Bubó Bar are located.
Opposite El Born is Barceloneta Beach, a favourite weekend hangout of local residents who enjoy the restaurants and bars (chiringuitos) dotting the boardwalk. Other attractions include Rebecca Horn’s Homenatge a la Barceloneta monument, and where the beachfront gives way to Port Olimpic, Frank Gehry’s Peix d’Or sculpture.