Beyond the Poker Table: Off the Beaten Path in Barcelona
For over a decade poker players have journeyed to Barcelona to play PokerStars events. It’s undoubtedly one of the marquee stops on the entire poker circuit and has played host to some of the biggest tournaments ever held.
But there's much more to Barcelona than just poker tournaments. It's one of the most culturally rich, downright beautiful places in the world.
Unfortunately, not everyone thinks to leave the casino so here's a little peak at some beyond-the-poker table activities to try to entice you. Bottom line: Barcelona is amazing. Don't miss it.
Tibidao: A Breath of Fresh Air
Get away from the heat of the city by taking the L7 to Avenia Tibidao. The Tibidao is Barcelona’s local mountain and offers great views of the city.
If you want to get there by public transportation -- which is a good idea as parking space is limited -- watch out for the money trap.
There’s a tram running up the mountain from the metro to the rack railway and they will both cost you extra. You can avoid the tram by taking the bus that’s going the same route – or you walk and get a bit of exercise.
Nun Farts: A Catalonian Delicacy
“Toasting for you since 1851.” That’s what the sign under the ceiling of Casa Gispert says. This shop in the Gothic quarter has been famous for fresh roasted nuts and coffee for almost 170 years.
Today, there are almost 1,000 different products available from honeys and cookies – check out the “Nun Farts," which are small cookies that go perfect with a cup of coffee. There are also teas, spices, herbs, sauces, pastries and a nearly endless amount of things for sale, most of which are local.
The place looks like the 19th century has never ended and, if you want, you can watch them roasting nuts and coffee live twice a week. The smell in the shop and the alley outside is incredible.
Alpargatas: Walk Like a Catalonian
The pope has a pair. So does Jack Nicholson.
Originally from Argentina, Alpargatas are traditional shoes that are now also known as Espardenyas or Espandrillos in their modern form.
While the Espandrillo of today is just a comfortable slipper you can get for little money, real Alpargatas come as “espandenyas de siete vetes,” referring to “seven laces” they are made with.
The laces are attached to the heels of the shoes and tied around the ankles. There are several manufacturers in Barcelona and it doesn’t get much more traditional than this.
La Boqueria: Take a Mouthful
The “Mouthery” is as close a translation for this place we can think of. Just off La Rambla, this is the largest of about 40 market halls in Barcelona. It spreads over 14,000 sq. m.
The place is buzzing like a bee hive. You’ll find over 50 stands and restaurants specializing in different foods like Spanish ham, fish, seafood, poultry, fruit, nuts and even just oysters.
You can get everything raw or cooked for you and it’s a much better place to explore Catalonian cooking than going to a bunch of high-priced restaurants.
Torre Bellesguard: The Dragon House That Ate Its Owner
Built 100 years ago by Antonio Gaudí on 600-year-old ruins, it took the famous architect so long to finish that the owner died before it was finished while his wife couldn’t pay the costs and was never able to live in it.
Gaudí designed the building in a way that it looks like a dragon’s head when looked at from the right angle. It’s also part of the open air museum Catalunya en Miniatura, where you can see the most important buildings of the region in miniature format, in case you think the real ones are too big.
The Magic Fountain of Montjuic: Godfather of Fountains
Spectacular performances don’t have to cost money. This is probably the best free event you can find in the city.
Every Thursday to Sunday – during the summer – five pumps pump up to 2,600 liters-a-minute up to 54 metres high into the air through 109 hydraulic valves and 3,620 water jets lit by 4,760 lights creating up to seven million different water-light combinations.
Accompanied by music from Lord of the Rings, Gladiator, The Godfather and other monumental pieces of music, this is an epic experience.
Open Air Gym: Posing for Advanced Athletes
Fancy a work out under the clear blue sky on the beach? No problem; Barcelona provides you with this every day. As you can see there are plenty of options for you to flex your muscles and it won’t cost you a penny.
Of course you’ll have to deal with some competition -- and the place is also used as a stage for many fitness enthusiasts who like to show what all that training was good for.
Monastery Montserrat: The Fingers of God
About 60 km away from Barcelona and high up under the summit of the “serrated mountain” is a Benedictine abbey that gives you a view of half of Catalonia. On a clear day, you can even see Mallorca from there.
One-hundred-and-fifty monks still live in the abbey that was built in the 10th century. And right behind it several stony pinnacles point up to the sky like said fingers.
If you happen to rent a car and you’d like to get away from the city for a while, catch a breath of fresh air and calm down, this is an option for you.
The famous opera singer Montserrat Caballé was named after this place and the Virgin Mary is supposed to work miracles there. Might help you to get spared from some future bad beats.