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Christmas markets

From today, Barcelone is filled with a Christmas spirit, all streets are decorated with amazing lights in various shapes and forms. When you take a walk to admire the illuminated streets, you cannot miss the traditional Christmas markets. These are very popular among the locals, who hunt for all the unique decorations to turn their home into a fairy tale. So don’t be a Grinch and go to the Christmas market.

Santa Lucia Fair

Santa Lucia Fair is the oldest in Catalonia. The first fair took place in 1786. Originally, the fair was organized on the occasion of St. Lucia Day. With time, the market turned into a Christmas fair, and this year it will celebrate its 233rd anniversary.
The market will gather around 300 stands with traditional Christmas products such as manger, figurines, trees, moss, handicrafts, bombasse, hand-made toys, jewellery, scarves and much more.
Fari Santa Lucia will present a large Native Scene with figures reaching up to 40 centimetres. You can see it for free in the patio of the Frederic Mares Museum

When: 29 November- 23 December

Where: Placa Nova

Fera de Reis

The first Reis Fair was organised in 1877 as a Christmas market with sweets and toys. It was the only place outside toy shops where citizens could buy toys. During the first edition of the fair there were only 18 stalls, nowadays the market has about 200. Traditionally you will find many stands with toys and sweets , but in recent years handmade products, clothes, jewelry and of course Christmas decorations have appeared

When: December 19 – January 6

Where: Gran Via de Los Cortes Catalanes

Christmas market Sagrada Familia

The first edition of the Sagrada Familia Christmas Market took place in 1962. On the market you will find Christmas trees, Christmas decorations, handmade products, sweets and traditional winter dishes such as roasted chestnuts.

The Christmas market in Port Vella

This year it will be the first edition of the Port Vella Christmas Fair. The fair will be organized on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the building of a modern port in Barcelona. The market will have an area of 5000 m2 and will be an perfect proposition for people of all ages. When you get tired of walking around such a large market, you can take a picture of 31 meters Christmas tree, illuminated LED technology or listen to one of the many planned performances.

When: 5 December-5 January

Where: Plaza de Portal de la Pau

La Castañada- the feast of chestnut

From today (31 October ), you will see chestnut sales on the streets of Barcelona. Why exactly from now on? During the night from 31th of October to 1th of November, the Catalans do not only celebrate All Saints’ Nights but also the Castañada – the eve of roasted chestnuts. During dinner, the families gather at the table and eat roasted chestnuts, bread and drink wine. Where does this tradition come from?

History

From the beginning of the ancient era chestnuts were quite an important product on the Iberian peninsula. Chestnuts and acorns were one of the basic products in the Iberian diet. With the arrival of the Romans on the Iberian Peninsula, chestnut cultivation increased. They were eaten as dried fruits or ground into flour.
During pagan holidays and festivities, chestnuts were offered as gifts to the gods in gratitude for the successful harvest.

But what does the chestnut have in common with the All Saints’ Nights ? We can find the beginning of this tradition in two customs, both from the end of the 18th century.

According to the first story, the tradition of Castañada is coming from the old funeral banquets. During these banquets, the only food served was legumes , dry fruits and chestnuts. During the baking of chestnuts, three parts of the rosary were recited for the souls of the deceased.

The second explanation is more practical. During the All Saints’ Nights the people had to pray all night for the souls of the dead. To prevent falling asleep, the church belfries had to ring the bells from dusk to dawn. The work was long and hard, the belfries ate highly energetic food to do their job: chestnuts, potatoes and wine.

If you are in Barcelona, try roasted chestnuts and feel the tradition of Castañada, if not, don’t worry, roasted chestnuts are selling on the streets of Barcelona until March.

Flags in Barcelona

Did you notice the number of different flags on the streets of Barcelona? During my tours, tourists often ask me about flags and symbols on public buildings and private homes. I decided today to write a post about it in order to dispel any doubts.

Spanish flag

This year the Spanish flag celebrated its 175th birthday. In 1843 Queen Isabella signed a royal decree that converted the flag into a national symbol. However, history began much earlier in the 18th century with King Charles III. At that time, the Spanish flag was white with the royal coat of arms of the Bourbon family. This caused many misunderstandings during sea battles. Why? Many European kingdoms, such as England, France, Toscani, Sicily, Palermo, also used a white background on their flag. The Spanish Navy couldn’t recognize the enemy from afar and it happened that it attacked its own ships. King Carlos III ordered a new flag to be designed. From 12 examples he chose one that had two red stripes and one yellow. These colours were very easy to distinguish from the water and flags of other countries.

The Catalan flag “Señera”

The Catalan flag is a symbol of the heraldic line of the Counts of Barcelona and has been in use since 1150. It is the oldest flag in Europe that is in use. A medieval legend explains how this symbol was created.
In the 9th century, when the region of March Hispanic (future Catalanne) was a vassal of France. The region was ruled by many counts, but the most important was the Count of Barcelona, Wilfred.
According to legend, the King of France asked Wilfred to help in the fight against the Normans, a tribe occupying French territory. Count Barcelona came with his army and helped liberate France, but was seriously injured during the battle. When Wilfredo was recovering from the wounds in his tent, the French king went to visit him and offered him everything he wanted, as a reward for the courage shown on the battlefield. Wilfredo pointed to his shield, which was all gold, and asked him to give him a coat of arms. The King of Franks put four fingers in Wilfredo’s bleeding wound and drew four vertical lines with Wilfredo’s blood on a golden shield.

Estelada

Etelada (star) is an unofficial flag of supporters of the independent region of Catalonia. The flag was designed in 1918 by the famous Catalan activist Vicenza Albert Ballester & Camps. He was inspired by the Cuban flag. The Ballester & Camps add a blue triangle with a white star to the Catalan flag, as a symbol of Catalan independence .

Yellow ribbon

Yellow ribbon, which can be seen on the clothes of residents, windows and balconies of their homes. This symbol has been used since 2017, when the leaders of the two main pro-Catalan parties were arrested by the Spanish judiciary for organising a referendum on the independence of Catalonia. The symbol expresses the solidarity and support of former pro-Cathalonian leaders.

October in Barcelona!

Summer is over, but you can still enjoy Barcelona’s amazing weather. If you think there aren’t so many things to do in October in this magical city, you are mistaken. I have for you a list of upcoming events in Barcelona.

Oktoberfest 2019

Oktoberfest in Barcelona! Are you surprised? You shouldn’t be, it’s the eighth edition that is organized in this magic city. If you are a beer lover, you must go to the Octoberfest and try some special beers, like the Paulaner, which was made especially for the original Oktoberfest in Munich. I can guarantee you that you won’t be hungry during the festival, as you will find some typical German dishes like sausages, pretzels or pork knuckles.

On the 3d of October at 18:30, there will be an opening ceremony with live music, contests, and the traditional Bavarian costumes. Please be advised that it is a free party so it can be very crowded!

When: 03.10-13.10 Where: Square del Univers de Fira de Barcelona.

Free Friday Night in Egyptian Museum of Barcelona

The Egyptian Museum of Barcelona launches the second edition of Free Friday Night. The doors will be opened from 7 pm until 12 pm. You will be able to admire two permanent collections formed by more than 1,200 pieces as well as the exhibition ‘Tutankhamun, history of a discovery’. During the day, more activities are scheduled for visitors, such as workshops in hieroglyphic and mummification.

When: 04.10 Where: Museo Egipto Barcelona

Festival the Rosary

Since 1962, the festival the Rosary is celebrated in Barcelona, or more exactly on the Rambla and its close surroundings. This festival is organized in favor of “la Mare de Deu del Roser” (Our Lady of Rosary), the saint patron of the street. During the festival, La Rambla is beautifully decorated with flowers, with the statue of Colon, Palau Vireina or Palau Moja being particularly stunningly adorned.

When: 05.10-7.10.2019 Where: La Rambla

Mercats mercat

Mercats mercat means in English ‘Market of Markets’. This event is organized by the City Hall, and this year will mark its 10th edition. You will be able to assist to presentations, sessions of live cooking, cocktail-making workshops, wine tastings and much more held by the stallholders of the municipal markets and professionals of the gastronomic sector.

When: 18.10-20.10 Where: Aveniguida de Cathedral

La Monumental Club

Monumental Club is one of my favorite activities in October. La Monumental Club is a fair for people of all ages. During the two days of fair, you can enjoy family activities such as Big Mini’s music workshops and self-portraits. You will find a market with new and second-hand clothes and vintage items. In case you are hungry, there is plenty of food trucks, meaning when you can have a drink as the scheduled DJs are playing live. If I still didn’t convince you, be advised that this event is organized in a beautiful old stadium used for bullfighting.

When: 05.10 Where: Plaza de Toros Monumental de Barcelona

Fiesta de la Merce!

Today begins the Festival de la Merce, which will be celebrated until 24th September.During the 4 days there are many different cultural, artistic and festive activities planned for people of all ages.

History

The festival is organized to celebrate one of the patron of the Barcelona city , exactly the Virgin de la Merce who is responsable a number of miracles related to the city, according to legends. The first of legends says that on 24 September 1218 Virgen de la Merce appeared at the same time to King James I, Saint Peter Nolasco and Saint Raymond of Peñafort and told them to establish a a religious order to save Christian hostages in the lands occupied by the Muslims.

According to secend legend centuries later, in 1687, Barcelona was attacked by a plague of locusts and the locals prayed for help to the Virgin of Mercy. When the plague ended, they announced her as the patron saint of the diocese, and a year later Pope Pius IX officially declared her the patron saint of Barcelona. From 1688, Barcelona began to celebrate religious and popular holidays in honor of Our Lady of Mercy around September 24th.

Festival

If you are in Barcelona, I would definitely recommend going to one or all of the events planned during the festival. Everyone will find something interesting. You can admire the traditional side of Barcelona with events such as fire run, devils, human towers, falcons, giants. In the evening, there will be concerts, lights and visual shows on the street and in the Ciutadella park, or mapping on the city hall façade and fireworks.

Mercè’s schedule of events

Discover the remains of Romans

Barcelona city has more than 2000 years of history. At the end of first century BC, the Roman Emperor Augustus decided to create a small village for retired soldiers, which he named “Colonia Iulia Augusta Faventia Paterna Barcino”, later called Barcelona. The city was created on a rectangular plan with cut corners and was surrounded by walls. Between the III and IV centuries, the citizens of the small Barcino created new walls. Today in Barcelona you can still find the remains of the Roman city. Every year, there are new archeological discoveries from that time. I will tell you about 4 places where you can see some remains of the Roman city, which are not so well known by tourists and I believe not even so well known by locals.

Centre Civic Pati Llimona

Pati Llimona is a civic center specialized in photography. What’s so special about it? When you enter it, you will be able to see the remains of the roman walls from IV century and one of the main gates to the city. The entrance is free.

Carrer del Correu Vell / Carrer d’en Groc

At the corner of these two streets, you will find a very tiny pathway which will take you to a small patio where you can admire the defense towers that were built in the 3d century. If you look on the left, you will see, through glass windows, some remains of Romans terms from the 1st century.

Terms were very popular during the Roman era – they were used by citizens who didn’t have their own “bathroom”, but it was also a place where merchants were making business. Terms had different sorts of spaces, such as pools filled with hot or cold water, swimming-pools, places to exercise and others for receiving massages.

The terms located in Barcino originally measured more than 1500m2 and most probably were divided into two parts, one for women and one for men. The structure that you can still see today is the cold-water pool. Terms were abundant in the 4th century.

If you wish to discover this small space of the Roman terms, doors are open on Tuesdays and Thursdays 10:00-3:00, on Wednesdays 5:00-8:00, and on Saturdays 10:30 – 13:30. The entrance is located on Regomir street, 6.

Domus Sant Honorat

The construction of this Domus (house) is dated back to somewhere between the first century BC and the 4th century. The location of this house, right next to the Forum, which was the center of religious and political power, shows the high social status of the owner.

In the Domus, we can see remains of the Domus viridarium (a garden with various ornamental elements) and a series of cubicula (the family’s private rooms). This museum occupies a very small surface area of only 100m2.

The museum of Sant Honorat is open on Sundays 10:00 -14:00, ticket price is 2 €.

Domus Avinyo

Domus Avinyo, just like Domus Sant Honorat is dated back to somewhere between the first century BC and the 4th century, but the archeological remains are much smaller than in Sant Honorat. In the Avinyo house, you can admire paintings that ornate the ceiling and walls, whereas the floors are covered with ceramic tails. The remains correspond to the part of the roman house where the guests were received. The big plus of this small museum Domus Avinyo is that you can watch a video explaining how the city of Barcelona and the house used to look during Roman era.

The museum of Domus Avinyo is open on Sundays 10:00 -14:00, ticket price is 2 €.

Please be advised that all these venues are very small, so you will spend there around 10-15min.

The Cemetery of Poblenou – a hidden gem.

I am pretty sure that when you were planning your holiday in Barcelona, visiting a cemetery isn’t something that crossed your mind. The cemetery of Poblenou is a hidden gem and I highly recommend you to find a bit of time to take a walk around it. The cemetery is located in the neighborhood of the same name in the city of Barcelona. Also known as the general cemetery of Barcelona, ​ Cementerio del Este, Cementerio de Levante or Cementerio Viejo.

History

The citizens of Barcelona used to live surrounded by the city walls and tombs. Bacteria and diseases were spreading fast, causing epidemics and plagues. To stop this madness, the city hall decided to create the first cemetery outside of the city walls, in an uninhabited area, close to the Mar Bella beach. It opened in 1775.

At the beginning of 19th century, the army of Napoleon destroyed the tombs. In 1813, young Italian architect Antonio Ginesi was contracted to build a new cemetery. He designed it with two main parts, the section closer to the entrance being particularly complex with thousands of burial niches. Walking towards the back part of the cemetery, you will find the individual tombs of some of the most important and rich citizens of Barcelona. The tombs are spectacularly sculpted and decorated, in different styles and forms.

In 1821. Due to the terrible cholera epidemic in the city, which caused thousands of deaths, the cemetery space had to be fully utilized.

The area, since its inauguration, has been modified several times, the most important of which was in 1849, when Joan Nolla built a pantheon in which the works of famous architects and sculptors are concentrated. This space shows the will, wealth and social prestige of Barcelona’s bourgeoisie from the mid-19th century, even on the graves.

The most famous sculpture at the Poblenou Cemetery “Kiss of death

Fiesta de Gracia

Gracia is a district of Barcelona that dates back to the 17th century. A small village of Gracia (Villa de Gracia) was built around one of the religious orders. In 1850, the small village was connected to the city of Barcelona, but never lost its own character. The district is famous for Casa Vincent by Antoni Gaudi, Park Guell and the Fiesta de Gracia, which begins today! If you’re in Barcelona, you can’t miss this most popular event. The people of Barcelona cannot imagine August without Fiesta de Gracia. The Fiesta de gracia is celebrated from 15.08 to 21.08 and is over 200 years old.

Why is it popular? Many streets in the Gracia district are fantastically decorated by neighbours. Each street has a different topic, you can admire: a garden with flora and fauna (Berga Street), a tent commemorating the novel La plaça del Diamant (Ciudad Real Street), Halloween (Fraternitat de Baix Street), a bar of the 50s. (Fraternitat de Dalt Street), environmental complaint of plastic sea (Jesus Street), Indian village (Joan Blanques de Baix Street), abstract landscape of emotions (Joan Blanques de Dalt Street) or Pantone colours (Pearl Street). All the decorations are made of recyclable materials (thank you, Gracia!). On the last day of the Fiesta one of the streets of Gracia is chosen as the best decorated and wins a prize.

If I still didn’t convince you to visit Gracia, remember that this year there are more than 900 different activities planned for people of all ages. You will find in Gracia: concerts, beer tastings, competitions, workshops, sports activities, parades, Castellers, neighborhood dinners, theatre, exhibitions and outdoor cinema. Go to Gracia and enjoy this amazing and unique event!

Barrios

Barcelona is divided into 10 districts (Barrios). I prepared for you a little guide with the oldest barrios in Barcelona and the attraction you can find there. A Ciuta Vela is a term used to describe the oldest districts of the city. It includes Barrio Gothic, El Raval, El Borne and Barceloneta. Each of them has its own style, vibe and atmosphere.

Gothic Quarter
The Gothic district is the oldest part of the town. More than 2000 years ago, Roman Emperor Augustus decided to create a small village for a retired soldier, exactly where the Gothic district is today. Over time, the small town became one of the most important cities on the Iberian Peninsula. From the 13th to 15th century, the Gothic style was popular in architecture and many new buildings were built. Barrio gothic really does not exist, the name was invented in 1928 just before the Exposicion Internacional in order to attract tourists. Many of the buildings in the center were destroyed or rebuilt to fit the concept of the Gothic style.
The best way to visit is by walking, entering a narrow street around the most famous places: Cathedral Sanat Cruz, Palau Generalitat or Basilica of Santa Maria del Pi.

Raval
The name of the district comes from the Arab world of Rabad – a neighborhood. The history of Raval began in the Middle Ages and was mostly occupied by infidels until the 19th century. The construction of many warehouses and factories has a huge impact on the settlement of immigrants. In 1990, Ayuntamiento launched a number of projects to integrate immigrants into the Barcelona community. In these days, Raval is a multicultural neighborhood, full of life day and night.
In Raval you can see the famous “Cat” from Fernando Botero and MACBA – Museu d’Art.Contemporani

El Borne
This part of the city began to be inhabited around the 13th century by an aristocratic family very closely connected with the Count of Barcelona. The nobility were very tired of the crowded city, so they decided to move just behind the Roman walls and build spectacular Gothic palaces. In the 14th century, the district became a business centre, thanks to so many craftsmen who settled down in El Borne. To this day, the street names are linked to the craftsmen who lived and worked in the particular street.
El Born is the heart of the city, tourists mix with the locals, relaxing in the numerous cocktails bars and restaurants. I recommend getting lost in the small streets and discovering tiny craft shops.
The main attractions are Cathedral Santa Maria del Mar , the Centro Cultural El Borne and the Picasso Museum.

Barceloneta
The Barceloneta district is the youngest of the Ciutat Vella. Barceloneta was founded in the second half of the 18th century as a district for the people of Ribera, whose homes were destroyed after the war of succession.
The inhabitants of Barceloneta had jobs related to the sea: fisherman, boatbuilder, etc. 100 years later,after the Industrial Revolution, many factories were opened. Fishermen slowly moved out and immigrants moved in. Just before the Olympic Games in Barcelona in 1992, the area changed completely, factories disappeared and the city hall has ordered the creation of a beaches. Today, this part of Barcelona is loved by tourists, you’ll find there many restaurants and cocktail bars.

What not to do in Barcelona!

Barcelona is a magic place and one of the most popular cities amongst tourists in Europe. If you already booked your holiday in Barcelona, I am sure that you already planned your visit but there are a couple of things that you shouldn’t do if you want to save money and be sure to enjoy your dream holiday.

1. Don’t eat on the Rambla

The Rambla is the tourists’ favorite street and also the most avoided by locals. The quality of food is very low, and prices are very high. A couple years back, a Spanish journalist decided to write an article about restaurants on the Rambla. He said that when he went into one of these restaurants and tried to order some food, the waiter, realizing that he was Spanish, told him ‘Man, don’t eat here, the food is really bad’.

2. Don’t eat in restaurants that have photos of the food in their windows

The situation is very similar to the one of the Rambla. All restaurants that have photos of the food are very low quality, where most of the food is prepared days before and next frozen.

3. Don’t buy your souvenirs on touristic streets

The souvenirs sold on the Rambla, on Avinguda Gaudi and in the Gothic neighborhood are expensive. Don’t hesitate to go on the side streets, where you will find the Chinese shops supplying all the souvenirs shop in Barcelona, or just buy from street sellers.

4. Don’t go to the beach on the Barceloneta

The Barceloneta is one of the worst beaches in Barcelona: small, crowded and very dirty.

5. Don’t go clubbing before 1 am

In Barcelona, nightclubs start to get crowded around 2 am, so if you don’t want to be alone on the dance floor, don’t go before 1 am.

6. Don’t miss the free entrance to museums

Many museums have free entrance every Sunday from 3 pm (check the previous post to know which museum you can visit for free).

7. Don’t waste your time queuing at the main attractions

Sagrada Familia, Casa Batllo, Casa Pedrera, Park Guell, etc. Buy your tickets online to save time.

8. Forget about an early dinner

Be aware that many restaurants are simply closed before 8pm.

9. Don’t book free walking tours

I am a tour guide and I have often heard stories made up by free walking tours that weren’t even close to the truth.

10. Please watch out for all your belongings

Thieves in Barcelona are operating on very high level. You won’t feel a thing when they take your stuff. Keep your bags and backpacks in front of you and only carry a copy of your documents with you.

Museums for free?

Do you like to visit museums? I personally like it a lot, but I love it even more when I can do it for free! I prepared for you a list of museums that have free entrance once a week. Ready?

1. Basilica de la Sagrada Familia
I know it is not a museum but who doesn’t want to visit the Sagrada Familia for free? At 9 am on Sundays, the Catholic mass is celebrated in the Sagrada Familia, so you can enter for free, but space is limited so you should be there at 8.30 am and take a place in a queue. Please remember that you will have to respect the celebration, so you can forget about taking photos.

2. MNAC: Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya
If you are a fan of art you must visit the MNAC. All types of artistic creations are displayed: sculptures, paintings, pieces of art, drawings, prints, posters, photographs, and numismatics. The museum has one of the biggest collections of art from the Roman period in the world. If you get tired, you can relax on one of two terraces with amazing views on the city.
Free entrance: every Saturday from 3 pm

https://www.museunacional.cat/en

3. MUHBA: Museu d’Història de Barcelona
The Muhb is a museum of history located in Plaza del Rei. At the beginning of the XX century, archaeological remains from the Roman and Visigoth eras were discovered. In this underground labyrinth, you can explore remains of houses, streets, etc. It is a visit I recommend if you have great imagination because the main thing you will see is stones, so you will have to use your creativity to picture how it used to look.
Free entrance: every Sundays from 3 pm.

http://ajuntament.barcelona.cat/museuhistoria/en/muhba-placa-del-rei

4. Museu Frederic Marès
Frederic Marès was a sculptor and a collector who lived in the XX century. You will be surprised by the multitude of things that can be found in this museum: the door of a temple from the Roman time, sarcophagi, religious sculptures, tobacco pipes, swords, hair clips, etc.
The museum is divided into 3 parts: religious sculptures, men and women.
Free entrance: every Sunday: from 3 pm

http://w110.bcn.cat/museufredericmares/eng

5. Picasso Museum
The Museum of Picasso is opened since 1963 and is home to more than 400 of his paintings. The collection of his paintings is presented chronologically. Young Pablo Picasso lived in Barcelona with his family before moving to France. The museum is located in Moncada Street, in a typical Gothic palace dating back to the XIII-XIV centuries.
Free entrance: every Thursday from 6 pm / the amount of tickets is limited, you should sign up on the museum’s website to get your free ticket

http://www.museupicasso.bcn.cat/en

6. Museu Marítim de Barcelona
This museum is located in an old shipyard and is one of the best examples of Gothic civil architecture. In the Marítim Museum, you will discover the maritime history of the Catalan region, as well as ship models from the past, from small models to a real catamaran used for a trip to a Spanish colony in America. Free entrance: every Sunday from 3 pm

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The best beaches in Barcelona!

Summer has finally arrived in Barcelona! This time we have to wait for it longer than usual. The relaxing season on the beach is open, so I’ll share with you the best places for the beach. Let’s be honest, the beaches in Barcelona are not the most beautiful in the Catalan region, but if you don’t want to spend the whole day sunbathing, just a few hours, Barcelona is a good choice. I chose four of the eight beaches that I think are the best to enjoy the water and sand.

Playa Bogatell
In the old time there was a fishing district, and through it runs a small river Bogatell. These days the river no longer exists, but the beach was named after the Bogatell River. The beach was renovated in the ’80s and is one of the most popular in the city. The beach is 702 m long.

Playa de la Mar Bella My favorite beach because of the contrast. We can “divide” this beach in three zones. First, we have a nudist beach that turns smoothly into a place where the LGBT community is relaxing, and finally a mixture of tourists, residents, families, and children.

Playa Nova Mar Bella
This beach is a favorite place for young people and women.
Nova Mar Bella is accessible for people with disabilities. You will find there wheelchair pavements connecting the sidewalks with the seashore.

Playa de Levant
It is the youngest beach, where you will find a zone for animals. If you are on holiday with your elephant, parrot or dog, this is the perfect beach for you.
On all these beaches there are toilets, showers, lifeguards, police station and bars where you can rent deckchairs and umbrellas.