Upon arriving in Barcelona for an internship earlier this year, I was unsure what to expect. Despite the fact I had visited a couple of times before, I still felt I hadn’t quite established what the city was all about. The only things I felt sure of were: Gaudí buildings, tapas and its surprising number of Zara outlets. This difficulty in trying to understand the Catalan capital perhaps stems from the region’s tumultuous and suppressed past (thanks to the Franco dictatorship), as well as its unclear future (will it ever achieve independence?).
My attempt to get to grips with the real Barcelona was made harder by its increasingly touristy nature. Earlier this month it was announced that the city’s new mayor, Ada Colau, would like to introduce a tourist cap in order to “stop the city becoming Venice”. It is true that Barcelona’s rise in visitors in recent years has led to a growing number of tourist traps, which are essentially bars, clubs and restaurants that cater to the non-Catalan speaking tourist (usually looking for some fun, sun and sangria). It is for this reason that, despite the fact that Catalonia itself now has a strong sense of character, it is tricky for outsiders (particularly those who do not speak Catalan) to recognise and identify with it. Is Barcelona all about sangria and paella? Do Catalans like flamenco dancing? Is it rude and ignorant to speak Spanish and not Catalan to locals?
I am still yet to answer these questions, but one thing I did establish during my internship was that Barcelona has a legitimate – in fact thriving – café culture. The city is home to a never-ending string of great coffee shops, frequented by people who can happily spend the afternoon leisurely drinking their espressos whilst reading the newspaper. It is a culture that I love and really miss whilst in Britain (where take-away cups and five-minute lunch breaks are the norm).
Once I discovered where Barcelona’s real baristas hide, I found myself becoming attached to a few coffee shops and cafes – a couple of which I have listed below. It’s important to point out that a few of them are simultaneously wonderful and globetrotter-friendly, inviting in locals and tourists alike.
Here are my top 5.
Babèlia Books & Coffee, http://babeliabcn.com/ This coffee shop/ bookshop is warm and welcoming. It tends to be busy yet quiet, primarily attracting individuals looking to do some solo reading in a friendly environment.
Biscuiter, http://www.biscuiter.com/ Hidden away in the midst of the Gothic Quarter, this café serving ice-cream, waffles, milkshakes and – of course – tea and coffee feels a bit like something out of the 1940s.
Granja Petitbo http://www.granjapetitbo.com/ This café/ restaurant situated on Passeig Sant Joan has a shabby chic interior, complete with a huge rustic looking map on the wall. Plenty of coffee-table magazines to hand make this the perfect climate for coffee sipping and casual reading.
Gaudí Bakery, https://www.facebook.com/GaudiBakery Located around the corner from the Sagrada Familia, this small and unassuming bakery actually offers amazing cappuccinos and towering, colourful cupcakes in keeping with the city’s modernism.
Nabucco Tiramisu, https://www.facebook.com/NabuccoTiramisu Perfectly positioned on the Plaça de la Vila de Gràcia, Nabucco Tiramisu offers good coffee. Their delectable little pots of tiramisu are the perfect accompaniment when basking in the sun outside.