We had a very pleasant evening at the Cafe De Le Radio in Casp Street. We had wine two course dinner (typical local tapas not plastic) a couple of beers and two brandies and coffee to follow. This came to 36 euros because they shut at one we walked a round the corner to Txapella. We asked for two brandies and two coffees and sat at the bar talking we had another two brandies and coffees and asked for then bill. This came to 37 euros the brandies had been charged at 7.50 euros each. This was a rip off they just stitched us up with their best brandy, all the other bars gave us extremely good brand such as Mango or one of the good reasonably priced brandies. If you want to be ripped off go here.
Unique Suggestions: Don't
Fun Alternatives: Walk passed and go to Le Glop, El Mussol in Casp Street 200meters next to Hotel Barcelona the same drinks cost 11 euros and the atmosphere is much nicer full of locals not tourists.
On my first night in Barcelona, once I dind't know anything in this town, I had dinner on "Insòlit", located in Maremagnum (Port Vell). It was recommended in my "Barcelona Card Guide", because we have 10% off in restaurant.
I didn't find the waiter very friendly (as most part of the catalan waiters...) and in the end of dinner (nothing really special, and not so so much...) the waiter told, first, that there was no discount for BCN Card and, as we showed him the label on restaurant's door, it told tat he could'not take 10% off the price because it was a holly day (!!).
Conclusion - he only took 8% off and we paid for each bottle of water (0,5 l) 1,85€!!!
Unique Suggestions: I think the best thing to do to avoid this "smart waiters" is to assure that they make the (real) discount before sitting to have a meal.
Fun Alternatives: I hardly recommend the small restaurants (La Farandula, Paral-lel...) in Barcelona: they are not so good-looking, it's true, but there's much more food, more variety and a really good taste, for a low cost.
The corte ingles may seem like it has everything,(supermarket, department store etc.) but you should be warned that it is much more expensive than other clothing stores and other supermarkets.
Unique Suggestions: If you need food and it's the only place around it's worth it but I've never seen any clothes here that were worth the extra cost, they're not particularly unique it's mostly western styles and mass marketed things you could get anywhere.
Fun Alternatives: Instead go to the cheapest supermarkets, dia, lidl, condis, caprabo. You won't find on the main streets but just go down the side streets ( off the beaten path I suppose) and you'll definitely find one. Opencor is also more expensive but it's open very late.
Visiting the Sagrada Familia in high season might bring you in a bad mood, as thousands of people are hanging around, waiting to get inside. Furthermore there's a lot of noise, dust and dirt because of the everlasting construction work.
Fun Alternatives: I would prefer to come here in the early morning or evening and admire Gaudi's work in the exhibition at La Pedrera.
Barcelona loudly proclaims its openness to other cultures and its defence (at least in word) of Democracy and Human Rights. In fact, it is now part of the way the city is being marketed abroad. It all comes down to trying to find what is called a 'Unique Selling Proposition' or USP. The 2004 Forum of Cultures is part of this strategy - Human Rights, Peace, Sustainable Development make an attractive 'package' that commands broad consensus. The trick is to get foreigners to associate these ideas with Barcelona - if it works the chances are that the city will become more attractive as a tourist and conference destination.
Strange then that one of the VIPs invited to speak at the Forum of Cultures debate on the problems of South America was none other than Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada, erstwhile President of Bolivia*. Lozada's name is inextricably linked to the 'slash and burn' variety of Capitalism. While miners desperately try to eke a living in Bolivia's Cerro Rico de Potosi mine, 25 kilometres down the road is the wealthy and polluting Porco mine, jointly owned by Lozada and US interests. Readers may recall that Lozada fled to Miami in a private aircraft last October while the Bolivian military machine-gunned striking miners in La Paz's impoverished El Alto district from army helicopters. The toll was 84 dead and hundreds wounded. Instead of listening to Lozada's vapourings at the pompous and pedantic Forum of Cultures, Barcelona's city authorities would have done better to issue a warrant for his arrest. So much for Human Rights.
* [as reported in Joan Barril's article in El Periodico newspaper, p.96, 7th July 2004]
Unique Suggestions: Read the wikipedia article and decide for yourself if this is the kind of guy you would invite to a Forum of Cultures
Fun Alternatives: Highly recommended: the city's Nits de Museu, nocturnal sessions in Barcelona's main museums. A wonderful way of avoiding the tourist crush and seeing the collections when it is a bit cooler. Details from the Barcelona Tourist Office in Placa Catalunya. I'll see if I can't dig up some more detailed information.
If you are reading this, you may be thinking of visiting the Forum of Cultures in Barcelona. After all, there is something of a media blitz, carefully orchestrated by the Spanish political establishment and big corporate sponsors backing the event. Not surprisingly, the local media (never outspoken at the best of times) tamely echoes the press notes churned out by the organisers.
One of the Forum's stated aims is sustainable development. Many environmentally-conscious tourists may consider visiting the Forum on the strength of this. Unfortunately, this would be a big mistake. The criticisms made by Greenpeace in the courageous El Triangle newspaper [Issue 693, 26th July 2004, p.15] are eloquent. A summarized version is set out below.
'The Forum is a disaster for the Catalan coastline', stated Maria Jose Caballero, Director of Greenpeace's Coastline Campaign. Greenpeace has just published its annual report on the state of beaches in Spain and cites Barcelona's schemes as a glaring example of unsustainable development. Caballero says Barcelona City Council's attitude is 'appalling'. The annual report highlights the way 'The last vestiges of Barcelona's coastline have been buried under masses of reinforced concrete'. Greenpeace is particularly critical of the way in which the Forum site has turned the coastline along this stretch into a concrete jungle. 'There is simply no excuse for this' argues Caballero, 'the Council has taken over public land, built on it, and charges admission into the bargain'.
Note: Greenpeace withdrew from the Forum organization a couple of years ago when it became clear that big business was hijacking the event and betraying key principles. Amnesty International has also withdrawn from the Forum, in this case in protest at the human rights abuses committed by many of the event's commercial sponsors.
Barcelona 2004 and there is propaganda for The Forum of Cultures everywhere. But Forum of Vultures would be a better name.
The exhibitions and the site (a concrete jungle in an industrial area of the city) are very disappointing. The event's themes are Peace, Sustainable Development, and Multiculturalism - all very worthy topics. But the practices of the event's commercial sponsors tell a very different story: INDRA (missile systems, the Eurofighter, link-ups with US companies involved in 'Star Wars II' projects); ENDESA (Spanish power utility whose dirty thermal power stations make the company Europe's 4th largest CO2 polluter); Nestle (pushes bottle feeding in the Third World, contributing to 1.5 million baby deaths a year according to UNICEF), and so it goes on. In fact, the whole US $ 2.5 billion-plus project is little more than a wheeze to justify massive property speculation and position Barcelona as a kind of latter-day San Francisco in the tourism stakes. Greenpeace and Amnesty - among other NGOs - have pulled out of the event in protest. Environmentally aware tourists should therefore be in no doubt as to what awaits them - a kind of Disneyland in which the multinationals have hijacked decent ideas for their own nefarious purposes.
In fact, the whole project seems cursed. Two acrobats collided in mid-air in one of the early performances and the troupe pulled out. The much trumpeted (and sinfully ugly) Herzog & Meuron building leaked, and a couple of priceless Chinese terracotta warriors on exhibition were damaged. The Tibetan monks were thrown out of the Forum at the Chinese government's behest because their stand mentioned the atrocities committed by the Peking regime in their land. The Forum organisers caved in - the Chinese Terracotta Warriors provide the key exhibit - and the corporate sponsors have their own reasons for keeping the Chinese sweet. End result: the Tibetans have been exiled to a small tent at the end of the Ramblas boulevard in the city.
Fun Alternatives: Visit the Tibetan monks in their tent at the Columbus statue end of the Ramblas boulevard. Watch monks making a mandala and give them a bit of moral support to help make up for the shabby treatment meted out to them by the Forum organisers.
Take a trip to Montjuic castle, overlooking the city. Gazing towards the northern end of Barcelona, you will see a mess of skyscrapers and cranes emerging from Barcelona's traditional low-rise cityscape. That is the Forum site and its associated rampant property development .
Write a letter /postcard in English to
Ajuntament de Barcelona,
Placa Sant Jaume,
There are MANY bad restaurants here, and some people leave having never been to a good one! its such a shame as there are plenty of great ones. Just avoid eating on the Ramblas, invariably rubbish! also Paceo de Gracia and Rambla Catalunya; looks nice enough with all the lovely terraces but the food is a rip off and in general its just not a good example of the restaurants that there are here.
Unique Suggestions: Do have a drink on some of these nice terraces, they are also a bit more expensive than you might pay else where but its a nice place to sit around people watching.
Can you believe there is a Spanish theme park in Barcelona? The " El Pueblo Espanhol" is a theme park in Montjuic that reproduces the artistic and architectural contrasts that can be found thoughout Spain.
Of course this would end up with shopping. And the place is actually filled with dozens of shops selling spanish artcrafts at exorbitant prices.
This is definetly a tourist trap, The whole country of Spain is itself a great theme park and they dont need disney-like places reproducing corners of Catalunia or Andalucia.
Unique Suggestions: No, dont go there
Fun Alternatives: Travel the rest of Spain! The country is beatiful and the people friendly
This shopping centre is a dive that caters for removing the tourists from their money
Unique Suggestions: This criticism excludes the aquarium and I-Max located alongside
Fun Alternatives: Anywhere else - port Olympic for food, L'Illa Shopping centre for shopping
The Antonio Tapies museum consists of about 4 "artworks" by Tapies - a few canvases with cement or other junk poured on them and an old wooden cabinet filled with dirty clothes. To see this wonder, you pay something like 4.5 EUR apiece.
Unique Suggestions: Remember that nearly all the museums in Barcelona are closed on Monday. On Sunday, some close early. To get into the Picasso Museum on a Sunday, be prepared to wait on a line that stretches to the other side of town...I wasn't, so I never got in.
Fun Alternatives: The stuff to see in Barcelona isn't in museums. It's outside.
Don't visit the D'Or Tapas Bar on C de Pelai - this is at the top of La Rambla - they take advantage or mis-interupt your order to bring larger drinks or portions of food and charge you for the priveledge. This has happened not only to ourselves but to other english speaking customers we spoke to. We really love Barcelona BUT shall not be visting this bar again - and strongly urge you not !!!
Downtown Barcelona is divided into distinctive districts including La Ribera, today a popular museum quarter; El Raval (or Barri Xinès, China Town), a run-down area with a high crime rate (and perhaps best avoided); the bohemian 'village' of Grácia; Barceloneta, the former fishermen's quarter; and smart seafront developments - Port Vell, the Olympic village and port.
If you wanna eat good tapas go to small bars with homemade food! Avoid to have tapas in bars or restaurants owned by big chains as "TAPAS BAR" for instance or you will taste industrial food, not real tapas!
Unique Suggestions: No choice!
Raise your hand if you've never heard of Hard Rock Cafe....(sound of crickets...)...Okay great, so we all know about Hard Rock Cafe. Need I say more? I do? Well, I was going to do the tourist thing and spring for a t-shirt, but I couldn't. There were too many people in line! And the line, wow, out the door, around the building....so many people waiting out on the street, people who were actually trying to walk down the street had to go off the sidewalk to do so. Now that I think of it, there weren't very many people in line for the actual restaurant though...Hmmm...
Unique Suggestions: Well, I was there on a Saturday afternoon, so I imagine that had something to do with how busy it was. I recommend going during off-peak hours if you really have to have that Hard Rock Cafe Barcelona beer cozy.
Fun Alternatives: There are so many great restaurants up and down La Rambla.