Friday, October 30, 2015

Barcelona 2014 - Nou Mercat dels Encants

Flea market lovers will probably find their paradise at Nou Mercat dels Encants, Barcelona's oldest and largest flea market in the Sant Marti district. This permanent flea market is also the oldest in Europe dating back to the 14th Century. The antique selection here is not that impressive compared to Mercat Gotic. It is more an eclectic mix of used clothes, old furniture, knick-knacks and other general traders, etc. 

The main attraction here is the architecture. The market moved from its old location at Plaza Glories to a new purpose-built building, and it is quite an amazing structure. A ramp starts from the ground level and winds up to the top-most level which is a food court. Along the way are hundreds of small shops vying for your business. 

The most spectacular feature of the building is the roof. It is a folded and triangulated roof which is covered with a highly polished metallic ceiling underneath. It reflects what is going on below, as well as the surrounding landscape. From certain angles - the roof seem to disappear.

The market is open on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 9.00a.m. to 8.00p.m. 

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Barcelona 2014 - Mercat Gòtic de Antiguitats at Placa Nova

If you are an antique lover or trinket hunter, Barcelona is a great city for you. There are lots of antique markets and flea markets around the city, filled with junk or priceless treasures depending on the beholder. One of the most accessible open air antique markets is the Mercat Gòtic de Antiguitats which opens on Thursdays at the Place Nova, just in front of Barcelona Cathedral. It is not a very big market, but the dealers are really well-stocked. You can find some real gems here. 

Lots of interesting stuff. You really need to spend a whole morning or afternoon to separate the wheat from the chaff.

The antique jewelry collections are really good - with prices to match.

The market is open from 10.00 a.m. to 9.00 p.m. Some of the dealers are not very friendly and do not like to be photographed. So be discreet.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Barcelona 2014 - Bilbao Berria

In most parts of Spain you will find Tapas - the national snack, but in northern Spain you will find Pintxos. They are similar to Tapas - being small appetizers or snacks eaten with a drink in a bar, but Pintxos are usually served on a piece pf bread spiked with a skewer or toothpick.

Bilbao Berria is a popular Pintxo bar at Placa Nova near Barcelona Catherdral. There is no menu here, instead all that they offer are place on the long bar counter. You take a plate and help yourself to whatever strikes your fancy. The varieties of Pintxos here are truly mind-boggling - some very simple with only two or three ingredients, and some quite elaborate.  For the first timer there are bound to be some hits or misses.

The selection of Pintxos is mind-boggling especially for a first-timer.

These are what I had - they range from good to great.

You can order a cava or beer to go with your Pintxos. At the end of the meal, the waiter count the number of skewers on your plate and charge you accordingly. Each skewer cost around 1.75€ - though they are relatively cheap they can add up if you end up having 4 or 5 Pintxos and a few drinks. Service is almost non-existent as many reviewers have pointed out - but hardly required for a place like this.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Barcelona 2014 - Barceloneta

Barceloneta is a very interesting neighbourhood in the Old Town sandwiched between the old harbour Port Vel and Barcelona Beach. This area was developed to resettle the people who were displaced during the construction of the Barcelona Citadel by King Philip V in the 18th Century. It was once the home of fishermen and those involved in the fishing trade. Today the area is slowly being gentrified, and there are a lot of cafes, restaurants and pubs sprouting everywhere.

Port Vel is now a popular marina.

Barceloneta was planned based on a military grid with quite narrow city blocks. The buildings are therefore quite skinny and look very charming in their bright colours.

If you are an architecture buff, there is also an interesting market building right in the middle of the neighbourhood. Covered in a heavy curved metal roof - the building looks more like some kind of artillery defense structure then a market.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Barcelona 2014 - Port Olympic

Port Olympic is one of the most popular leisure areas in Barcelona. The marina was built in 1991 for sailing competitions in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. Surrounding the marina are hotels, a Grand Casino, restaurants and facilities catering to all types of water activities.

Barcelona has a beautiful beachfront facing the Mediterranean Sea, and judging from the crowd a lot of beach lovers.

The beachfront promenade is also very popular. Here you will find one of Frank Gehry's early pieces - the golden fish sculpture. 

There are also some other interesting architectural gems to be discovered. 

Next to the marina are a lot of seafood restaurants. Many of these are tourist traps so do check out the prices before you order. The seafood display are very enticing.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Barcelona 2014 - Renaissance Barcelona Fira Hotel

If you have a bit of time, go to Fira Barcelona - the exhibition district. Here you will find several interesting hotels designed by International architects. We only have time to visit one - the Renaissance Barcelona Fira designed by French Architect Jean Nouvel. 

This is a very unusual hotel. The form is simple - two rectangular towers with the circulation sandwiched in between. The facade is another story altogether - covered with hundreds of palm leaves. On closer look - you suddenly realize that they are actually windows to the rooms.

When you enter the rooms - you are hit with the unusual palm-shaped windows.

The corridors in the hotel are actually an open air garden filled with tropical plants. It is a beautiful concept - perfect for the pleasant weather of Barcelona. In colder or warmer climates it may not be so practical.