First Dip of the Year in Barcelona

What better way to welcome in the New Year than a bracing dip in the Mediterranean? Since 1996, hundreds of bold bathers have flocked to Platja de Sant Sebastià for the first dip of the year (Primer Bany de l’Any). Why not join these brave souls on January 1st 2017 at midday as they charge into the sea, clad in only their swimming costumes and the occasional Santa hat?!

The event, organised by el Club Natació Atlètic-Barceloneta, is totally free and is a sure-fire way to rid your cobwebs from the night before! And, if the prospect of an icy dip is a little daunting, you can register at the club´s reception prior to the event for a hot shower afterwards. This is a brilliant affair and a far better alternative to a day spent hibernating under the duvet, cradling a packet of Alka-Seltzer to nurse your hangover.

Whilst not for the faint-hearted (medically speaking), proponents of icy dips claim that the health benefits are numerous. Swimming in cold water can help your immune system, improve libido and boost circulation. Some even claim to experience a natural high so surely that´s reason enough to tempt you!first-dip-of-the-year-in-barcelona

  • Join Europe´s Popular New Year´s Day Tradition

By taking part in Barcelona´s Primer Bany de l’Any, you’ll join the tradition of thousands of people who mark the start of the New Year with a dip in the sea, rivers or lakes and, with an average water temperature of 13 degrees in January, Barcelona provides a comparatively gentle winter bathing experience!

For over 30 years, bathers have braved the freezing waters off Barry Island (Wales) for a New Year´s Day swim and in Edinburgh (Scotland), locals take part in the Loony Dook –  an icy plunge into the River Forth where the water is decidedly chilly! Similarly, in Rzeszów (Poland) bathers refuse to be deterred by the bitingly cold waters year on year.

first-dip-of-the-year-in-barry-island

The Netherlands boasts over 60 locations for a New Year´s Day plunge, and insist there is no better way to start the year. With a whopping 25,000 participants each January, the Dutch are arguably the champions of this watery tradition. The largest scale event is the annual nieuwjaarsduik in Scheveningen which welcomes approximately 10,000 swimmers.

first-dip-of-the-year-in-the-netherlands

So, what are you waiting for?! Get 2017 off to a great start and make this January 1st a day to remember by heading to Barcelona for a New Year’s Day dip!

Christmas Bath in Barcelona

Christmas Catalan Dishes

Barcelona does Christmas undeniably well. Whereas in many European cities, you are likely to have Christmas tat and poor Santa-imitations thrust upon you, the Catalans celebrate in style and yuletide joy is often accompanied by a range of delicious Catalan dishes and sweet treats. In Catalonia Christmas begins on 24th December and continues until Epiphany (Dia dels Tres Reis d’Orient) on 6th January when the presents arrive, providing ample time to fill your boots with some local culinary delights.

On Christmas Eve, We celebrate El Tío de Nadal (a Christmas log which poos presents) and whilst there are no traditional Catalan dishes to mark the occasion, no self-respecting Catalan would celebrate without having stocked up on Neulas (Catalan biscuits usually eaten with Cava) and Turró (a sweet food found in a variety of guises but its most original form is similar to that of nougat). Be sure to pick up your own share of these tantalising treats in any of the Christmas markets dotted around Barcelona.neules

December 25th in Barcelona is one big gastronomic treat. Catalan dishes served on Christmas day include escudella i carn d’olla (a sensational soup comprised of lamb, pig´s ear or cheek, potatoes, chicken, butifarra or Catalan sausage and Galets, a kind of pasta with a shape of a shell) , followed by pollastre farcit (oven roasted chicken stuffed with seasonal chestnuts and sausage meat). These Catalan dishes are washed down with Cava and sweet treats such as dried fruits and nuts, “Turrons” and “Neules”. You´ll also find giant Galets (pasta shells) along the streets of Barcelona in December which make great photo opportunities!

Escudella i Carn D'olla

Celebrations continue on St Steven´s Day (26th December) with family gatherings and once again, the opportunity to extend the Christmas waistlines with leftovers from the day before used to make “canelons”.canelons

Celebrate New Years Eve like a true Catalan with the surprisingly-tricky-to-master grape countdown in which you pop one grape in your mouth for every clock chime. Considered to ensure good luck for the year ahead, make sure you you don´t miss out – you can even buy packs of 12 deseeded grapes for the occasion! There are many theories attached to this tradition, but the most common explanation arises from the over-production of grapes around 1900. New Years Day hangovers aren´t usually soothed by a particular Catalan dish but stuffed chicken often crops up on the menu.uvas de Fin de año

Finally, the 6th January (Dia de Reis) provides yet another perfect excuse to indulge with El Tortell de Reis. This colourful, O-shaped cake is usually stuffed with marzipan or cream and glazed with fruit and contains two hidden surprises: a figurine of one of the threee kings and a fava, or dried field bean (yes, you read correctly, a bean!). Whoever is lucky enough to find the king gets to wear a paper crown whereas the less fortunate finder of the bean has to pay for the cake!

tortell-de-reis

So, loosen the belt and prepare to indulge. Catalan Christmas cuisine won’t fail to disappoint!

 

18 of the Best Things to Do in Barcelona, Spain

18 of the Best Things to Do in Barcelona, Spain

It’s no wonder why our beautiful city is on every international traveler’s bucket list. There are so many things to do in Barcelona! Its numerous historic attractions, beautiful parks, and bustling city shops create the perfect atmosphere for an exciting vacation.  To ensure that you get the most out of your vacation in Barcelona, we at bizFlats have compiled a list of the most fantastic activities and fun things to do in Barcelona, Spain!

The Top 10 Things to Do in Barcelona

1.Magic Fountain of Montjuïc

Barcelona’s  Magic Fountain of Montjuïc has earned its name after a century of virtually uninterrupted, crowd-pleasing performances in the heart of one of the world’s most beautiful cities. The fountain’s waters are known to jump and dance in a rainbow of colors and to a diversity of melodies and pictures. The performances have earned a genre all their own and are now called water acrobatics, and considered one of the best things to do in Barcelona in June.

  1. La Sagrada Familia Basilica

Located in the heart of Barcelona, La Sagrada Familia Basilica is a monument to Catalan culture dating back to 1882. Embracing the city and nation’s deep roots in Catholicism and talent in both design and architecture, this World Heritage Site is a beautiful and breathtaking symbol of both national and local identity. Although it is not finished, the ongoing project surrounding the Basilica’s creation is part of its intrigue and beauty. Wondering, why was La Sagrada Familia built, or when will La Sagrada Familia be finished? Read on to learn more!

  1. Palace of Catalan Music

In the heart of downtown Barcelona you’ll find the Palace of Catalan Music, which is just as much an historical institution as it is a center for the arts. Featuring world-renown art in both performance arts and in fine arts, this is certainly a stop worth making on your trip to Barcelona. Whether you’re seeing a performance, taking a tour, or just walking by you won’t be disappointed that you visited that Palace.

  1. Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter

You won’t just get lost in the history of the Barcelona Gothic Quarter but also in the amazing variety of things to do in this corner of the city that is among the most visited places by tourists and residents alike. With its labyrinthine streets, it’s best to pay extra close attention to your surroundings as it’s common to literally get lost in the area. Along with beautiful squares that make for the perfect place to relax for an afternoon with a bottle of wine or a good book, there are numerous great boutiques for shopping, a grand cathedral, and a lively nightlife. During your next visit to Barcelona, be sure to take a walking tour though the Gothic Quarter!

  1. The Pablo Picasso Museum

Among the city’s many cultural attractions in Barcelona is the famous Pablo Picasso Museum, housing a sizeable collection of the Spanish artist’s lifeworks. If you’re an art enthusiast or at all interested in the life and works of Picasso, this museum is central to understanding his career and the extensiveness of his talent. Located on the Carrer de Montcada, the city’s most important stretch of mediaeval architecture, the Pablo Picasso Museum Barcelona building is a site to see in itself.

  1. Las Ramblas

The Barcelona Ramblas is the most famous street in the whole city. Stretching for 1.2 kilometers through its midst, this street has been a central meeting place for residents since the 18th century. Originally situated outside the walls of the medieval city, Barcelona Ramblas was once the site of a flowing river. In fact, the word ramblas originates from the Arabic word ramla, meaning a sandy riverbed. When the walls came down and the river dried up, sometime around 1766, covenants, monasteries, and a university were built along this new city limit.

  1. Barcelona’s Camp Nou

If you’ve ever happened upon Barcelona during a football match then you may have been surprised to see the red and blue streets filled with ecstatic fans cheering as if their very lives depended on victory. Catalonians couldn’t be prouder of their all-star team now sporting football heroes such as Lionel Messi, an idol of many Spanish youths, and soccer players around the world. Camp Nou was the team’s very first stadium in its inaugural year of 1957, carrying some of the team’s richest history in its bleachers as well as on the turf. Soccer fan or not, taking a tour of Camp Nou will provide a lot of insight into the heart of Catalan culture.

  1. Poble Espanyol de Montjuïc

Located in the center of Barcelona, the Poble Espanyol de Montjuïc is Barcelona’s intriguing open-air architectural museum. Whether you want to take a tour, attend a special event or class or just wander its old streets and buildings for hours and maybe enjoy some delicious food and drink, a trip to Montjuïc is well worth it. It’s also not much of a trip since it is so centrally located, accessible by public transportation or even by foot or bicycle if you so desire. Enjoy the beautiful Mediterranean climate in the midst of Spain’s most famous architecture all within a few blocks of breathtaking buildings and alluring alleyways.

  1. The Various Cathedrals in Barcelona

Exploring the cathedrals in Barcelona is one of the best ways for visitors to learn about the city’s history and architecture. With deep catholic roots, there is much to learn about Barcelona’s long heritage reaching back to medieval times by exploring the city’s many cathedrals and other holy places. Music is central to the experience, which you’ll discover as you tour the cathedrals in Barcelona and see or hear their enormous organs and perhaps even their majestic choirs. Another key characteristic to a cathedral is that they are the seat of a bishop, making it the central church of the diocese.

  1. Barcelona’s Beautiful Beaches

Though Barcelona has always been on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, it wasn’t always known for its lively beach culture. The beaches in Barcelona used to be almost entirely industrial space so they weren’t the most inviting destinations. As the city prepared to host the 1992 Summer Olympics, the governing powers began to reconsider Barcelona’s identity as a Mediterranean cultural center and decided to start cleaning up its beaches. Barcelona has since been known as one of Europe’s most recommended beach destinations where turquoise waters and white sand rub up against an epicenter of culture, history, and architectural beauty. With a climate as mild as on the Mediterranean, the beaches are beautiful year-round, though visiting the beaches here is one of the best things to do in Barcelona in July!

Even More Attractions in Barcelona, Spain

A list of the top 10 things to do in Barcelona barely scratches the surface of all the amazing reasons to visit our great city! Are you still wondering what to do in Barcelona? As locals, our list of favorite things to do here is quite long!

  1. 10 of the Best Restaurants in Barcelona

Barcelona restaurants are an attraction in and of themselves! Catalonian food is world renowned, and a visit to Barcelona and Catalonia in general wouldn’t be complete without enjoying as many fantastic restaurants as possible. There are plenty of romantic restaurants as well as amazing tapas restaurants in Barcelona to choose from.

  1.  The Opera is Spectacular at the Gran Teatre del Liceu

The Gran Teatre del Liceu is not only Barcelona’s premier opera house, but a historical institution founded on La Rambla in 1847. It is a symbol of the city’s diverse arts culture. Visiting the Teatre on La Rambla would be a great night out in Barcelona, is a favorite among locals and visitors alike. A nice meander down the tree-lined, open air mall, and maybe a meal or cappuccino at one of the outdoor cafes would be a great precursor or finish to a show. This outing in the heart of Barcelona will be all but disappointing whether it’s your first time in Barcelona, or you’re just looking for something new to try in this wonderful city.

  1. Go for a Hike on a Day Trip to Montserrat

Montserrat’s serene setting continues to attract not just spiritual pilgrims, but also naturalists and those in need of some time in mountains. This destination soaring above the Barcelona skyline, whose name means “sawn mountain”, makes not only for an incredibly unique horizon, but also a convenient natural retreat for locals and visitors alike. Whether you’re heading on your day trip to Monsterrat to visit the monastery, the museum or for an event, give yourself some time to explore one of the numerous hiking trails on the mountain. No matter your timing or fitness level there are varying degrees of difficulty to choose from, all offering breathtaking views and the peace and quiet unique to mountaintops. Taking a hike is one of the best things to do near Barcelona in the summer, especially in July or August.

  1. Enjoy a Day Cycling the Serra de Collserola

Nearly bordering the city, Serra de Collserola natural park is a wonderful place to enjoy the wild beauty that surrounds Barcelona. From the sea to the mountains, this Catalonian city is not just a dream destination for urban junkies, but outdoorsy types as well, with everything from boating, mountain climbing, and cycling to participate in. Tours leave from downtown Barcelona daily to take groups exploring the area’s natural heritage. Whether you’re a road cyclist or a mountain biker, you’ll find the perfect routes at Serra de Collserola to explore. The views are spectacular and the terrain can be as challenging or laid-back as you’re looking for, with plenty of places to stop for bathrooms, food and drink along the way.

  1. Inspire the Artist Within at the National Museum of Catalan Art

Located on Montjuïc Mountain where there is an overwhelming number of fantastic things to see and do, the National of Museum of Catalan Art captures the spirit of this unique region within Spain. While this is a place for art enthusiasts and certainly artists themselves, it is also a wonderful place for leisure and reflection, as its location offers a unique vantage point from which to see both city and yourself. Enjoy the art collection as well as the bird’s eye view of the city while you explore one of the Barcelona’s best art collections.

  1. Dive With the Sharks at l’Aquàrium de Barcelona

Of the 450 different species living in harmony at l’Aquàrium de Barcelona, the sharks are by far the most popular, with many different activities to wow the crowds with their beauty and ferocity. This is the largest Mediterranean-themed aquarium in the world, meaning that the variety of sharks who call it home are all from the waters that surround the Barcelona Marina. Its six million liters of water are home to 11,000 different organism, all living happily with the sharks who also welcome divers and observers of all kinds. While reportedly a dangerous species, at l’Aquarium de Barcelona you’ll learn what they truly are. Visiting the aquarium is one of the best things to do in Barcelona with kids.

  1. Visit the Joan Mirò Museum

Barcelona has long had a celebrated community of the arts, from incredible design and architecture throughout the city, to painters and sculptors like the amazing Joan Mirò, a Barcelona native known for his rebellious surrealism. If you have yet to visit the Joan Mirò Museum in Parc to Montjuïc in the heart of the city, it is well worth the trip and is easy to reach by public transportation or even on foot depending where you are staying when you visit.

  1. Where to Enjoy the Views While Hiking in Barcelona

You won’t run out of great things to do and places to see in Barcelona though you may find yourself seeking some outdoor adventure to break up your urban exploring. While Barcelona is at the heart of Catalonia, the majority of this unique Spanish region is surrounded by beautiful mountainous country for hikes, backpacking, or rock climbing. If you’re interested in doing some hiking in Barcelona while visiting, there are plenty of options. Whether you’re inclined to grabbing a map and exploring the country on your own or would prefer to take a group tour, the experience will be breathtaking as well as enlightening as you begin to understand the Catalonian culture from a larger vantage. It’s one of the most fun things to do in Barcelona, Spain!

A trip to our fantastic city would be incomplete without a visit to at least one of these Barcelona, Spain points of interest. Explore this city’s vast history, culture and ascetic beauty from your home base at a great short term rental in the heart of Barcelona. Our vacation rentals are an excellent alternative to Barcelona hotels. If you’re making the trip to enjoy the best of Barcelona tourism, you may as well do it right.

8 Important Catalan Traditions

8 Important Catalan Traditions

Many Catalan traditions have been born of these centuries of intriguing culture and are still practiced today. People visiting Barcelona are often in search of these traditions, whether around holidays, food, or are just looking for the unexpected experience. A city of friendly people, you can easily ask around and get a feel for where to find these wonderful flourishes of Catalan culture. Here are the ones that are most well known and frequented by visitors to the area.

8 Catalan Traditions

  1. Castellers – Meaning “towers” in English, the Catalan Castellers are certainly one of the most famous Catalan traditions around. If you are visiting Barcelona during any national holiday, head to a public square where you may catch a glimpse of these agile natives making human towers reaching as high as three stories in the air. There is also an annual competition on the first Sunday of October in Tarragona that is bound to be breathtaking.
  2. Correfocs – Another wondrous, though a little scary, of the Catalan traditions, is the Correfocs festivals during which there are huge street parades. People run around dressed as devils. Though they aren’t partaking in evil perse, it is certainly tomfoolery involving drums, firecrackers and other wonders you’ll enjoy.
  3. Els Segadors – The national anthem, Els Segadors was written in 1693 when Catalonia fought for its freedom against the Spanish King. You’re bound to hear it sung if you’re around for any holidays, and give it a listen beforehand if you want to be able to sing along.
  4. The Catalan Donkey – The symbol of Catalonia, the donkey became important to the people of this region after nearly going extinct. Two natives circulated donkey silhouette stickers in defense of these animals and saved the species.
  5. Pa amb Tomàquet – Meaning, literally, bread with tomato, this is traditional tapas treat that can be found virtually anywhere in Barcelona.
  6. Calçotada – There is a harvest party each year celebrated mainly this leek-like vegetable. The celebration consists mainly of eating these onions in the traditional manner of roasting them over an open fire and until charred, peeling back the burnt leaves and eating the soft, sweet inner layers.
  7. Tió de Nadal – This Christmas tradition is an odd way that Catalonian children are accustomed to getting gifts in the form of sweets and goodies leading up to the holiday. In every home, you’ll find a hollow tree stump that is filled with little presents and on Christmas eve they take a stick to it and beat all the goodies out.
  8. Caganer – If you are here during Christmas, be prepared to see an odd figure as part of their nativity scene. Caganer is a little boy you’ll see in the manger, with his pants down, taking a poop and so fertilizing the earth for the coming years.

These are a just a taste of the great Catalan traditions you’ll find while visiting the area. Any meal will reveal a number of habits of the region that date back farther than you would imagine. A walk through the Gothic Quarter will likewise bring you right back to Medieval times. It’s a treat to visit this region any time of year!

 

“Calçotada” de Valls (Spring Onion Festival)

If anybody ever ask me to mention a traditional Catalan dish, I would say “Calçots” without hesitation. Calçots are milder and less bulbous than onions.This weekend we will celebrate the 34th edition of Fiesta de la Calçotada de Valls (Spring Onion Festival).

 I know sometimes it’s better to discover new experiences by your own. However, some local events require some know-how/contacts, and it’s better to reserve a tour, so you enjoy all the insights of the festival. A great option is LivingIt, an agency focus on traditional events and local festivals in Catalunya.

If you decide to visit the festival by your own, make sure you get there early (before 10 a.m.) to  make the most of your visit. There are trains coming to Valls from Barcelona Sants Station.

There will be plenty of contests and activities, so  as soon as you arrive, go to get your tickets at the City Hall and get prepare to live a unique traditional experience.

If you are looking for accommodation in Barcelona, don’t miss our special offers for this weekend. Apartments in the city center from 36€ per person/per night.

Bon profit!