Adventure Activities in Barcelona - Try if You Dare
1. Eat food you've never heard of, or can't easily identify
Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria, or La Boqueria for short, is arguably one of Europe's best open-air markets. A veritable panoply of culinary delights -- a food lover's personal Elysium. Every kind of raw meat and veggie imaginable, fruits - fresh and dry, fresh fish and yes, dried, nuts, olives, cheeses, candy, etc can be found here. In addition, there is a large selection of bar-style restaurants with prepared foods just waiting to be eaten. So feel like being adventurous? Then eat up!
World-famous Iberian ham? Try it.
Colorful arrays of freshly squeezed fruit juices (half you've probably never heard of)? Drink up!
And the always delicious croquettes (deep-fried potato dumplings) stuffed with who-knows what kind of mystery meat? Why not?
In fact, much of the prepared foods you will have never heard of, or even recognize. And therein lies the adventure! What's more daring than putting on your best "brave face" and shoving all sorts of questionable cuisine into your chow-hole? Andrew Zimmern, eat your heart out!
Location: La Rambla, 91
2. Get lost in a real life fairy tale
Imagine walking into a park to be greeted at the main entrance by two houses that look like they are straight out of Hansel and Gretel! And, being watched over by a giant mosaic-tiled lizard, hidden caves and grottos at every corner, as you ascend the stairs. You'd get the feeling that you've just stepped into a Brothers Grimm story. Well, no need for make believe! Welcome to Parc Guell.
Antoni Gaudi's over-the-top Art Nouveau influence can be seen all over Barcelona, from the sacred (Sagrada Familia) to the secular (Casa Batllo) but for Gaudi's contribution to the public parks of Barcelona, you must check out Parc Guell. It will prove to be one of the most unusual park experiences of your life.
With several kilometers of paths, there are so many different walkways and intricately colonnaded corridors that it's easy to lose yourself. While exploring the park, keep an eye out for hidden Gaudi sculptures that are scattered about in the strangest of places just waiting to be discovered. The architect's own family house is also located on the park grounds, which you can tour for a small entrance fee. The park's main terrace with its great views of Barcelona and its serpentine bench that winds all the way around the Gran Placa Circular adds to the fairy tale feel of the park. So go for it Alice, jump down that rabbit hole head first.
Location: Carrer d'Olot, 7
3. Get an authentic Mediterranean tan
We've all seen that person who looks like they have an unhealthy obsession with the tanning salon and thought, "He/she looks like a carrot/Oompaloompa! It looks so unnatural!" Well you may be surprised to learn that a real-life Mediterranean tan will in fact turn you that lovely hue of orange. Believe me, I learned the hard way.
Get that straight-from-the-tanning-booth orange look, only naturally, at Playa de la Barceloneta. After all, it's OK if it's real... right? We dare you to try this adventure activity in Barcelona.
A heads-up if you're traveling with kids: As with most European beaches, the women are topless and the men are only wearing the tiniest of grape-smugglers.
Barceloneta Beach runs along Passeig Martim de la Barceloneta.
4. Make friends with strangers over soccer
Soccer (or as I like to call it, "metric football") is a national pastime in Spain. Even more so now that they are coming off a World Cup victory. In most pubs and bars in Barcelona it is all that will be on TV with games from all over the world being beamed in live, and many local and tourist watering holes filled with cheering fans.
So let's say you find yourself in Barcelona as I did recently, traveling by yourself. Why don't you step out of your comfort zone and make some new friends while enjoying the world's most popular sport over a few pints (or .5L because you're in Europe after all)? I think the best way to make the point is to describe an experience of mine that turned into one of the highlights of my visit.
This was the scene I found upon taking a seat at the bar of a local pub looking for drinking buddies: to my left, pretty French girls watching a French game, and to my right, mustachioed Catalonian dude watching Barcelona's team ... this is an easy choice -- I'm the newest fan of the team from Marseilles! Much to the amusement of the French girls, I get really into the game.
With new friends made and partners in crime for the remainder of the evening (see Activity 5) something happened that will forever in my mind tie together Barcelona and exciting soccer experiences. Apparently the game I was ignoring was a big final in some important Euro-soccer-tourney with the Barcelona team coming out victorious. Needless to say, the whole city went C-R-A-Z-Y! Every fan in every pub emptied into the streets in their blue-and-red-striped jerseys in collective celebration. There were firecrackers going off everywhere and deafening explosions that made you wonder if the city was being attacked by mortar-fire. Nope, it's just how the Catalonians celebrate.
And all because of soccer... er, futbol.
5. Watch the sun rise after partying all night
This is a much more common experience in Barcelona than you might think. The nightlife scene there is a major draw for many visitors, especially for other Europeans (due to its proximity) looking for a weekend getaway to let loose until the wee hours of the morning.
Consider the typical evening in Barcelona:
- 10PM - Dine. Nobody eats dinner before 10 p.m., unless you want to avoid crowds, but where's the fun in that?
- Midnight - Drink. This is around the time when people start their serious drinking at the city's pubs and bars. After all, most clubs will not open for a few hours yet.
- 2AM - Dance. Now that the clubs are open and you have consumed enough adult beverages, it's time to dance your a** off and shake your booty until your feet hurt.
With a schedule like this, it becomes clear why you can expect to end the night with burning retinas as you step out from the closing nightclub and take that first look up into that fireball in the sky.
If you're a quitter who can't make it to sunrise, and you find yourself walking/stumbling home in the dark, beware -- especially if you are on or near La Rambla -- there are prostitutes EVERYWHERE. They are aggressive and WILL try to pick your pocket under the guise of playful grabbing of the buttocks. Unless you want to add a No. 6 to this list and partake in a mini-adventure activity in Barcelona I like to call "sprinting La Rambla to avoid molestation," I recommend taking a cab.
- Overview: Barcelona Travel Guide
- Bullfighting in Spain: A Dying Tradition? [Lonely Planet]
- Don't Miss: The Timeless Traditions of Catalan Ceramics [National Geographic]