Hello there readers! Yours truly just got back from a month long vacation to Spain and is raring to get back to anime and gaming… once the trip squee is over! During my travels, I spent a week in Barcelona, and it struck me how many great places there are it was for dates, so to contribute to the recent run of Great Dates in 50 States – and because geeks looking for love travel too! – I thought I’d give my tourist two cents for those romantic geeks living in the city or planning to visit sometime soon. So whether you’re a backpacker looking for something to do with that cute guy back at the hostel, a jetsetter with your eye on a beautiful Catalan local*, or a tourist looking for ideas for a great trip with your current squeeze, here are some suggestions as to how to spend your time in Barcelona.
* Suggestions may have diminishing returns for jaded locals sick of tourist stuff.
It’s not even my Bus-day
If this is your first time in the city – or even if it isn’t – one of the first items of business should be to get a day or two-day pass for one of the two tourist bus companies – Barcelona City Tours or Barcelona Bus Turistic. Don’t be turned off by the “tourist” handle; though pricey, this is by far the best and most pleasant way to see the city. Their open double-decker buses travel in one direction around circular routes (two for City Tours, three for Bus Turistic) and stop at all the major sightseeing locales of the city, along with scenic drives down some of the prettier neighbourhoods. Frankly, making the full rounds on the tourist buses could make for a date in its own right, especially on a sunny day; grab a seat up top with your date, snuggle up, and watch the city go by.
I’m Blue, Gaudi-da-ba-da, da-ba-dee
Most of the best and most famous stuff in the city are the architechtural works of Antoni Gaudi, an early 20th century designer who, if he were alive today, would probably be a level designer or artist for Nintendo; his work is extremely colorful, playful, and tactile, balancing somewhere between cartoony and impressionist. His most famous work is the Sagrada Familia, an enormous cathedral still under construction, and absolutely a must see for any visitor to the city. Fans of Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind will see more than a little resemblance to the purified Forest of Corruption in the beautiful interior, but be prepared for two hour long queues to test you and your date’s patience.
If you’d prefer to just waltz into a place and start the date immediately, make your way to Park Guell, a free (!) park a little off the beaten path (it’s an uphill stroll from the bus stop) that looks like a level out of a Mario game… complete with an adorable and beautiful “dragon” by the entrance, the famous Gaudi “gecko” that serves as a symbol of the city. There’s also the longest continuous bench in the world here, covered with pretty mosaics, where you and your date can sit and look out over the city towards the Sagrada Familia. Or take a walk between the portico columns or along the covered walkways and check out some of the street performers. There’s also a nice nature trail and a slightly pricey but welcome café at the top. If you want to feel like you’re in a video game, definitely check Park Guell out.
Alternately, head to Casa Mila on the Passeig de Gracia. The interior is a little dry and can be skipped if you’re not a history or architecture buff, but the rooftop is a forest of magical-looking chimneys shaped like mushrooms, knights, dollops of whipped cream, and other fantastic shapes. Spend an afternoon playing hide and seek here and pretending you’re Hayao Miyazaki characters. If you REALLY want to splurge, the similar Casa Batllo down the road has 9 PM evening events on the outdoor terrace with guitar, flamenco, and other performers for a pricey 29 euros.
More Dates Than You Could Shake Your Raccoon Tail At
Aside from Gaudi buildings, you have several options for a memorable date. The beaches in Barcelona are very nice and easy to access, as well as warm even in the fall months. There’s an amusement park up at Tibidabo that’s been there since the early 1900s, with spectacular views out over the city. The streets of the Barri Gothic have little winding side-alleys straight from the Middle Ages, along with little squares where guitarists play music (for a really romantic evening, seek out the guitarist who plays at the Basilica del Pi). If you and your date are up for it, there are two beautiful churches in the area, the main cathedral and Sant Maria de la Mar, that make for quiet and contemplative experiences.
But in terms of bang for buck, you’re probably best heading towards Montjuic, as there are lots of options for a memorable date. For something fun and oddly geeky, there’s the Fundacio Joan Miro, a twisty and funky little museum dedicated to the silly and colorful works of painter Joan Miro; the building itself is a work of modern art, and it’s a great place to get lost for an afternoon. There’s also the Poble Espanyol, a little exhibition village which represents the various styles of art and architecture in the different regions of Spain. It’s the sort of place you could almost imagine Ezio Auditore crawling around the rooftops. There are also cable cars that go down to the waterfront and a botanical garden, as well as some remnants of the 1992 Summer Olympics. But the one must see experience here is on Thursday, Friday, and weekend nights, where the Magic Fountain of Montjuic lights up in a rainbow of colors in time to a selection of music… though sadly lacking in geeky tunes, there are more than a few 80s and 90s classics and guilty pleasures! A perfect end to a perfect day.
Tapas or not Tapas, that is the question
Good news, everyone! Spanish food is awesome and made of win, so you and your date will have no problem finding a place to eat. Not only that, but tapas is great for sharing, since you can get a variety and mix and match. Still, be aware that locals eat to a somewhat hobbit-like schedule (second breakfast, then elevensies, then luncheon, afternoon tea, dinner, then supper…) Tapas is usually eaten at 6 while dinner is eaten at eight, so be prepared to be flexible with what’s available.
There are great (and not so great) tapas bars all over the city, but for a date, take them to Bilbao Berria on the plaza de la Catedral and sit out on the terrace; not only is the food glorious, but the ambiance is perfect, and there are often musicians nearby. If you’re in the Cathedral area during lunch, you might also want to try Café D’Estiu by the Museu Frederic Mares, hidden down some back alley stairs in a quiet and picturesque medieval terrace filled with pigeons and quiet waterfall sounds.
You could also do worse for lunch than the top floor of the El Corte Ingles department store at the Plaza Catalunya with its panoramic views of the neighbourhood; skip the underwhelming service menu and go for the self-service cafeteria. Finally, for fancy dancy dining to impress your date, try Tenorio next to the Casa Batllo or Divinus further down the Passeig de Gracia. Really, it’s hard to mess up; wherever you go, you’ll almost be sure to have a memorable dating experience.
What are your experiences in mixing dating and travel? Any places in Barcelona you would recommend?