The chic, meandering capital of proud Catalonia is best known for the hallucinatory architectural visions of Gaudí, but it’s the great food and amiability of the locals that make it one of Europe’s great cities.
Author Chris Wright Photography Francisco Guerrero
In a town full of tours, World RT, run by Robert Thai, offers something different: bespoke. Just tell him your tastes and how long you’ll be in town, and he’ll map out your trip. If you want, he will even come with you. So how good is he? Asked to devise a quirky and surprising 10-minute tour of the Gothic District, he doesn’t skip a beat. “Look,” he says, pointing to a small carved skull overhead. You look at it. “They say if you stare into its face, you’ll get one year of bad luck.” You thank him for that. Next it’s off to a dingy, nondescript courtyard. Here, standing alone in the half-light, is a cluster of Roman columns. It might just be the most beautiful sight in all of Barcelona. The last stop is a little stone turtle jutting from a wall. “Rub that,” Thai says, helpfully, “and you break the curse of the skull.”
Until recently, vermouth was something your yaya drank after church, a libation to be sipped while discussing the price of sardines. The drink, which is basically inferior wine that has been fortified and flavored to make it palatable, has never been thought of as fashionable. Until now: Barcelona, it seems, is in the midst of a vermouth revival. Old, family-run bars like Cala del Vermut are seeing an influx of young people. And there are relatively new vermouth joints cropping up, such as Bar Calders, that are among the trendiest in town. During the so-called hora del vermut — the hour leading up to lunch — the terrace at Bar Calders is overflowing with enthusiasts, without a pair of false teeth in sight.
ARTIST, DOLAR TATTOO
There’s a little park I like to go to in Ciutat Vella. People go there to sit on the grass and play music — I play guitar. It’s an artist’s park, a place for young people, people who live here. I could walk there right now and find some friends.
CHIEF METEOROLOGIST, TELEVISIÓ DE CATALUNYA
People forget we have musicals here, like Broadway. My favorite place is Teatre Musical, which used to be a sports pavilion. It is huge, so it puts on big productions. The last one I saw was Mamma Mia! I liked it very much.
What I enjoy most about Barcelona is the incredibly well-preserved Modernist buildings. I love their stained glass windows, which are like kaleidoscopes. Sometimes I dream about Casa Batlló coming to life as a dragon.
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