Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Barcelona Live Music Venues

I was considering making this post a series with a bit more detail about each venue, but reckon it's probably more useful all mixed into one. Feel free to chip in with the comments if you feel I've missed anything worth a mention.

Barcelona is a great place for live music. As well as smaller venues across the city playing live music every weekend, and endless musical festivals from Jazz to electronic, if you want to get your rocks off in Barcelona, there are plenty of places.

Palau Sant Jordi - Barcelona Sights Blog

Let's start with the big guns - Palau Sant Jordi. Part of the 1992 Olympic Games, Palau is a very versatile arena, and is the place most of the big artists choose when touring here, as it has a capacity of 20,000. Elton John recently finished his Red Piano tour here and artists as diverse as Green Day, Red Hot Chili pappers, Beyonce, Madonna, Phil Collins and and George Michael (who started his 25 Live Tour here) have had no problem filling the seats. Palau Sant Jordi is located up on Montjüic, meaning there's plenty of space for revellers to queue up before hand and public transport links are excellent.

Another popular place for the alternative crowd is Razzmatazz. This is actually a huge club with various different areas catering for all people's tastes and is located over in Poble Nou. This is a great venue to see bands who have not quite stamped their mark on the Spanish pop map just yet, and often bands play here before returning to the larger venues once their fame has took off. I've seen some great bands here; Coldplay in 2003 who later returned the same year to fill Palau Sant Jordi, Travis, Keane, NOFX, to name but a few. An excellent and intimate venue which is here to stay.

Razzmatazz on Barcelona Sights blog

One of those intermediate venues is the Pavello Olympic in Badalona. This is an ideal venue for those bands who have a fairly large following, but can't quite fill Palau Sant Jordi (sting played a couple of years ago and should have gone here!). with a capacity of 12,500, the likes of Take That and the Backstreet Boys are happy to get bums on seats here and it's a decent size sports arena with great acoustics.

FC Barcelona's Camp Nou is reserved for only special guests, and obviously plays off season. The most notable acts over previous years have been Irish rockers U2, who played here in 2006 and started their recent 360º World Tour here with a double bill on 30th June and 2nd July this year. Camp Nou is an amazing concert venue, saved for über-stars, and was packed to the rafters on both occasions (I was lucky enough to go on both tours). The recent Go Crazy video was shot in Camp Nou (although they played the more upbeat version!).

Sala Bikini - Barcelona Sights

Sala Bikini is a really small venue up near Diagonal, and again, is a great place to see some famous bands who have not necessarily made the grade over here yet. One of the best concerts I saw here was years ago when Supergrass played here - such a small venue and there was no barriers between the band and the crowd, it was amazing. Another place which I haven't seen many return, but is still a decent sized venue is Pavello de la Valle d'Hebron, in the north east of the city. Oasis famously cancelled a gig here in 2000 which was the slippery slope to where they are now, as they then returned without Noel and played the fastest concert I've seen (all the songs played at twice the speed up to finish earlier). When they finished, there was no encore, and Liam Gallagher said "Right we've been here now, f#*k off" - as if it was a simple contractual agreement! Never mind!

There are then some equally cool but more sporadic venues around town, where live music can almost always be found. This is where I'll need your help in the comments guys! I'm talking about the classic places like London Bar, Harlem Jazz Club, Jamboree, Pipas Bar, etc. These are institutions in Barcelona, and many a night we've stumbled across a live band jamming away and spent a great, un-planned night in one of these places.

Coming to see a band in Barcelona soon? Check out these apartments for rent in Barcelona and for a heads up on the rest of the city, see this great Barcelona Guide.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Barcelona in the Year 2159 ?

This year sees the 150 year anniversary of Ildefons Cerdà's plans for Eixample being approved. Who? Well Mr Cerdà was the brain behind the biggest neighbourhood in Barcelona, the extension between the old town and the little villages such as Sarria, Gracia and Poble Nou. Eixample now houses some of Barcelona's biggest attractions, including 5 of the UNESCO World Heritage sites. Despite the current acceptance of Eixample as the city's biggest neighbourhood and it's relatively few problems coping with traffic and the like, apparently the plans were not universally accepted at the time. Either way, this year marks 150 euros since the plans were approved by the council, and there are various activities to celebrate this fact.

2159 - yes, that's my oven clock. Barcelona Sights Blog

So, in a clever move by the council, it's up to us residents to think about what Barcelona will be like in another 150 years - in 2159. Not only that, but a web has been built and everyone is encouraged to leave their message or time capsule right there on the web for others to see. AND these time capsules will be sealed and opened again in Barcelona in the year 2159!! Sounds cool, right? Well, check out the link for some funny videos and predictions from the residents of the city so far. There are some cool ideas....and some odd ones, too. Unfortunately the website is all flash, so I can't link to individual entries. Go and check it out yourself.

So, it has left me thinking. 150 Euros is a long time, and with the technological advances we have made only in the last 50 years, it's scary/impossible to predict what life will be like. Obviously (without trying to be too down about it all!) we'd have to sort out major issues with fuel sources and energy to power ever increasing computer servers and the like (robots?!). Just too hard to think about, really!
What do you think? I'd love to hear your comments and ideas. Feel free to comment below.

Coming to Barcelona soon? Try these apartments for rent in Barcelona as a great choice instead of a hotel room.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Let's Petanca !

With Barcelona enjoying sunshine for many months of the year, it's common to see people practicing sports within the high rises of the building blocks that surround. There are many table tennis tables dotted around the city, which are permanently open and often in parks or green areas. You can take your bats and ping pong balls and play at any time.

Petanca - Barcelona Sights Blog

Another such outdoor game which is a little more popular with adults and the older generation is "Petanca". Petanca is a kind of bowls game which is played on flat, often sandy pitches. The players can play alone, but usually play in teams. The game involves throwing a small wooden/plastic ball or "boliche" and then each team has to get the closest to that boliche with their metal balls, which are around 8cm in diameter and weigh around 700g. The technique of throwing the ball is to release the ball with your hand/fingers facing the direction you are going to throw, shielding the ball - so you gain backspin and it stops quicker. The one closest to the wooden ball gets a point, and the first to three is the winner.

It's great to see groups of mixed ages getting together for a quick game - you can be surprised at any time of day with a petanca game going on, and there are plenty of areas designated for the game, with perches to hang jackets and bags. Sagrada Familia has a fair few courts/playing surfaces in front of the Nativity facade inside the park, and there are numerous other locations in the city too. If you get the chance, stop and watch a game for a few minutes, it's great fun. For a full list of the rules, the Federation of Petanca in Spain has a website (in Spanish).

A great way to visit the city is also using the Barcelona Tourist Bus system, which takes in all the main sights. And for accommodation in the city, try apartments for rent in Barcelona as an alternative to a hotel room.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Second Hand Clothing Heaven

If second hand clothing or alternative items is your thing - instead of some of the mainstream high street brands - then you're in luck. Tucked away in a side street of the Raval is a haven for those who like second hand clothing, original print items and new designer stuff with thank funky feel. The street is Riera Baxia - click the link for a map.

Second Hand clothing Shops on Riera Baixa - Baercelona sights Blog
There are of course many shops of this ilk in and around the town, but this is a particularly high concentration of shops all in the same street, so you're really spoilt for choice.

Riera Baixa Street - Barcelona Sights Blog

This can also be combined on a weekend with the funky market on the Rambla del Raval - just a short stroll away. The market is the main photo at the top of this blog. Again, the market showcases local designers who are only allowed to sell their own wares - no labels or brands here. There are some great items of jewellery, original bags, prints and graffiti clothing as well as fridge magnets, and other pictures to adorn your home with a lasting memory of the city. The market is on Saturdays and Sundays and also has a Moroccan tea tent with different snacks such as olives, sweet cakes and the like. It's well worth a wander around.

Do you know any other great places for second hand clothing? Share them in the comments. And if you're coming to Barcelona soon, then try apartments for rent in Barcelona as a great money saver between friends. For a digestible read-up on the city's sights, also see this Barcelona Guide.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Fly Over Barcelona - From Your Armchair!

Now I don't know about you, but when I was younger, those complicated flight simulation computer games never quite did it for me. Unless it was the arcade version of After Burner complete with moving chair and joystick for the complete Tom-Cruise-in-Top-Gun experience, then it was all a bit dull for me. Maybe that's why I never became a pilot, and I'm not raking it in...

View of Placa Catalunya from the air - Barcelonasights blog

Anyway. I decided to make the effort and download Barcelona council's 4D Virtual Flight over Barcelona, and after fiddling around for about half an hour, I'd say it's a little bit of distraction for half an hour! I'm sure the council has put a lot of money and effort into the project, just like this one, and it is pretty cool, even for a flight simulator rookie like me.

The concept is extremely simple, using either your keyboard or mouse over the screen controls, you can "fly" over Barcelona at various heights and see the sights (true to my blog's name, there, guys and gals). There are various landmarks mentioned on your screen, and you can also click on bigger landmarks, and be "flown" there, too.

Barcelona Virtual Flight - Barcelona Sights

The 4D flight doesn't stop at there, though, and also offers a flight through time. There are virtual maps of the city from 1940, 1950 & 1960, 1970,80 and 90, too! So if you wondered what your street looked like before the Olympics (or at least what it looked like from above) then you can have a gander! It's amazing to see how places like Montjuic have changed so much and of course the Coastline at the Olympic Village, too. A bit of distraction for a lazy afternoon at work!

Coming to Barcelona soon? Check out these apartments for rent in Barcelona as a great money-saving technique - and fly over your street to get an idea of the area!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Barcelona Day Trips: Montserrat

Continuing the series of Barcelona day trips, this is another great one. Montserrat literally means "the serrated mountain" and makes reference to it's jagged form against the surrounding landscape which is completely flat. There is a Monastery on top of the mountain, and various walks can be enjoyed to view the fantastic views.

Montserrat, the Serrated Mountain - Barcelonasights

This is one day trip I can recommend using the great public transport services.
From Plaça Espanya, you can take a train around 40 minutes to Olessa de Montserrat which is a beautiful train ride inland. You will see after leaving Barcelona that the surrounding land is particularly flat and then all of a sudden a huge collection of rocks seem to just shoot out of the ground creating peaks - this is Montserrat. The train leaves Plaça Espanya from around 8:30am onwards each hour and drop you at the bottom of the mountain with two options of getting up to the top.

First is the zip train, or cremellera - so called as the train tracks have teeth and the train's wheels are like cogs which sit in the teeth, like a zip. The alternative is the cable car which leaves right outside the train station. Both of these methods will take you right up to the top where the monastery is. Those travelling in a car often have to park along the long winding road which takes you to the top, and then walk the rest of the way, which on busy days can be quite a hike.

One of the highlights of the Montserrat trip is the close-up viewing of the Black Madonna with infant Jesus seated above the church altar, and almost everyone makes the climb through the back altars to worship or admire the Virgin Mary so rarely seen in this manner. There are many theories as to why the Virgin Mary is portrayed in this way; due to fire damage, natural wood, or the ageing process. I've heard different stories on each occasion I've been there (and there have also been various fires, although not in the church itself). According to the wikipedia page, "la moreneta" was unable to be moved by the monks, who built their monastery around her, and that the statue is a Romanesque sculpture dating from the late 12th Century - some believe to have been carved in Jerusalem in the early days of the church.

Also worth a mention are the side trips such as the Angel trail, which can be enjoyed from the peak of Montserrat. Funicular trains take you to the highest points above the Monastery itself, and other routes - varying in length and time - can be taken at a leisurely pace, giving magnificent views of the surrounding countryside for those who are not only visiting for the Christian side of things.

Have you been to Montserrat recently? Please leave a comment and let us know your thoughts. For nearby accommodation to Montserrat, try apartments for rent in Barcelona, which can offer considerable savings for groups. Also, see this great Barcelona guide for other tips and ideas whilst visiting the city.

Flickr Credit (all my photos of Montserrat have family or friends in front of the best views!!)
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