Barcelona, my own post-rock view of the city (by Astralia)
Wout | On 30, Oct 2015
Living near Barcelona and having played Aloud Music Festival last year Roger Guzman, guitar player from Astralia is the perfect man to guide you through this amazing city during the weekend of AMFest.
Text by Roger Guzman, photos of Barcelona by Alexandra Cousy, photo of Astralia at #dnk15 by Davy De Pauw.
On November 5th to 7th we’re going to Barcelona for the IV edition of the finest instrumental festival in Spain, the AMFestival. This little-big thing is starting to grow and grow with each new edition thanks to an unusual open-minded and passionate organization crew. A clear example is this IV edition line-up which is totally insane. This young and amazing festival is based in the magical and mysterious Barcelona, which turns out to be one of the most popular tourist destinations. Everyone’s heard of the main attractions in town, like Gaudi buildings, the Ramblas street, Picasso Museum, etc… but what about some different and cool things to do in this busy and crowded city? Here I will compile my favorite spots in the city, alternative places where I would like to go as a post-rocker tourist, as well as some tips and recommendations to do if you’ve already decided to attend the festival. With this little and humble personal guide I hope you return home with experiences that stay with you long after you’ve left and, at the very least, will leave you with plenty of holiday snaps that go beyond the usual photo fodder of Gaudi buildings, poor paellas and overpriced jars of sangria.
So here they are in no particular order…
Near Festival’s Venue
The festival takes place at the legendary Apolo Venue, located in the quarter of Poble Sec. Near the venue (five minutes walking), the Montjuïc hill outcrops. If you need fresh air, rest or a nice walk you should definitely get lost inside the park. There you’ll find all sorts of gardens and several viewpoints. A nice route would cross the park to reach the National Palace, located near Espanya square. The Palace houses the National Art Museum (MNAC) by a beautiful viewpoint of the city. (Picture below on page 32)
Tip: The park covers a large extension so it might be a long ride.
On top of the hill, the Montjuïc castle stands, an old military fortress now serving as a municipal facility. If you have the time, it’s worth taking a bus (bus 150 from avinguda Miramar) or the funicular line.
Hungry? On the way to Montjuic from the venue you’ll find Carrer de Blai which is well known for the wide range and assortment of delicious and cheap tapas. Highly recommended! Another option for pizza lovers would be La pizza del Sortidor at Carrer Blasco de Gara, where you can enjoy delicious napolitan-style pizza.
Very close to the Apolo venue, the genuine Psycho Rock’n’roll club (carrer Piquer 23) might be a good choice to take a beer and listen to good music in a great atmosphere, if a three-day festival isn’t enough for your ears!
Is the center of the old city of Barcelona, and perhaps is one of the most interesting places to walk around. No route needed, just let you go by. Probably, one of my favorite corners is the one located at the Sant Felip Neri square, a unique hidden place of great beauty and a sad story to tell. It is located in the Jewish Quarter of the old town built over the medieval cemetery of Montjuïc del Bisbe. Among the walls of the church a terrible story of the Spanish Civil War is hidden, you can still see on its walls the marks of shrapnel from the explosion of a bomb that killed 42 children on 1938. It is a quiet and beautiful place which deserves some of your time and attention.
Stuck to the Gothic quarter, there is the Born quarter. Of particular interest to me is the Sant Agustí Vell square and surrounding streets, a charming and serene corner away from the noise and saturation of the busy places. The place looks like something out of a romantic novel with an amazing literary touch. We can see a medieval arcades and buildings mixed with modern architecture. The place invites you to sit in one of its terraces and enjoy a beautiful time. Totally inspiring. If you decide to go, don’t miss the opportunity to taste one of the best Vietnamese cuisines in the city, Mosquito and Red Ant restaurants located in Carrer dels Carders and Carrer dels Triadors, respectively. Amazing food with astonishing prices!
Parc de la ciutadella. L’umbracle
Next to Born quarter we find the Ciutadella park, a charming and welcome green space in the heart of the city (metro L1 Arc de Triomf or L4 Ciutadella). It has water displays including a beautiful fountain and small lake along with lots of grass to lie down and soak up the warm sunshine. A perfect spot for relaxation and a walk is l’Umbracle, a 128 years old building designed to protect from the sun the plants that usually grow in tropical or subtropical forests. Combines brick with plywood, a space covered with a lobed structure of iron is spectacularly beautiful and original. When you walk through its interior, peace takes hold of you, making this visit a very intimate moment.
Very close to the park you’ll find the Barcelona’s “China town” (nothing to do with the traditional China towns in the cities around the world). I would recommend a Chinese restaurant called Chen Ji in 65 Ali Bei Street. Don’t expect a fancy restaurant. The place is big and a bit noisy but food is tasty, huge portions and super cheap.
Tip: Watch out your timings; it is a busy restaurant. However the line outside moves quickly and once you are seated you get a menu and service fairly promptly.
Spend a sunny day at Barceloneta
The average weather in Barcelona in November is still fine compared to northern Europe, so probably you will appreciate a walk along the seafront in the Barceloneta Beach or the harbor in a sunny day. Go and hang out for a few hours, before finding a nice place to have lunch and get ready for the festival!
Collserola, Carmel’s Bunkers and Tibidabo
These are probably my favorite spots of the city. Barcelona is surrounded by the Collserola Mountains a huge natural forest a few minutes far away from the rush of the city which cannot be ignored. I live in the middle of the natural park, so I use to spend my time just walking and enjoying the nature, taking some fresh air or just contemplating the city lights when enjoying a good post-rock record. One of the most astonishing places are the Bunkers. This unbelievable viewpoint, until recently, was not well known by people. It founds the remains of an antiaircraft battery of the Spanish Civil War. It is located on top of the Turó de la Rovira, in the Carmel quarter. You can get there by taking the bus V17 and walking a few minutes. One of the most fascinating things of this viewpoint is that you feel literally floating over the city as the mountain stands in the middle. Either day or night visits are totally worth it.
Tip1: This place is quite far from the center, so be careful with your timings and public transport.
Tibidabo is almost 520m high, and the highest peak of Collserola. On it, a theme park offers you unique rides and superb views of Barcelona. Getting there is already part of the fun: metro+streetcar+funicular and you get to the park and to the beautiful Gothic cathedral.
Tip2: The top level of the park is free to the public, but you have to pay per ride.
Tip3: The views from the big wheel (Giradabo) are just unique, particularly at night.
One of the most famous neighborhoods of Barcelona and its streets constantly abound with people of all kinds, young families, a bohemian artsy alternative crew, hipsters etc. You will find old buildings and small cozy streets that gives the intimate feeling of small magical village amid the big city life. Also great restaurants, terraces, second-hand shops… The entire neighbourhood has a charming bohemian vibe. This quarter boasts from some of the most avant-garde galleries to independent artists’ workshops. Any ride through the area would be a good choice. The Heliogabal bar (Carrer de Ramon y Cajal 80) is undoubtedly one of the musical spots of the night of Gracia.
Enjoy the festival and the city!