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Barcelona Like a Local
If you want to get a sense of local Barcelona culture and indulge in some of the pleasures treasured by barcelonins, start by familiarizing yourself with the rituals of daily life. These are a few highlights—activities and events you can take part in along with Barcelona's rank and file.
Grazing: Tapas and Wine Bars
Few pastimes in Barcelona are more satisfying than wandering, tippling, and tapas hunting. Whether during the day or after dark, meandering through the Gothic Quarter, Gràcia, Barceloneta, or the Born-Ribera district offers an endless selection of taverns, cafés, bars, and restaurants where wines, beers, or Cava (Catalan sparkling wine), accompany little morsels of fish, sausage, cheese, peppers, wild mushrooms, or tortilla (potato omelet). If you find yourself stuck on Passeig de Gràcia or the Rambla in bars that serve microwaved tapas, know this: you're missing out. The areas around Passeig del Born, Santa Maria del Mar, Plaça de les Olles, and the Picasso Museum are the prime tapeo (tapa-tasting) and txikiteo (tippling) grounds.
Openings, Presentations, Lectures, and Musical Events
Check listings in the Guía del Ocio or in the daily newspapers El País or La Vanguardia to find announcements for art-gallery openings, book presentations, and free public concerts. Often serving Cava and canapés, these little gatherings welcome visitors (if it's announced in the papers, you're invited). Famous authors from Richard Ford or Paul Auster to Martin Amis or local stars such as Javier Marías or Carlos Ruiz Zafón may be presenting new books at the British Institute or at bookstores such as La Central. Laie Libreria holds jazz performances in its café, while the travel bookstore Altair has frequent book signings and talks by prominent travel authors. Events in the town hall's Saló de Cent are usually open to the public.
Soccer: FC Barcelona
As FC Barcelona's soccer fortunes soar, sports bars proliferate throughout the city. Though the pubs showing soccer near the Rambla are usually heavily populated by foreign tourists, the taverns and cafés in Barceloneta, El Raval, Gràcia, and Sarrià are generally local penyas (fan clubs), where passions run high. For the real thing, there is the Camp Nou stadium; strangely, the stadium, though beautiful, often seems soporific compared to the taverns and bars where 90% of Barcelona's soccer fans get their weekly hit of "the opium of the masses."
Sunday Sardanas, Puppets, and Castellers
The Sunday-morning papers carry announcements for local neighborhood celebrations, flea markets and produce fairs, puppet shows, storytelling sessions for children, sardana dancing (Catalonia's national dance), bell-ringing concerts, and, best of all, castellers. The castellers, complex human pyramids sometimes reaching as high as 10 stories, are a quintessentially Catalan phenomenon that originated in the Penedés region west of Barcelona and are performed regularly at neighborhood fiestas or key holidays. Most Sunday-morning events are over by 2 pm, when lunchtime officially reigns supreme, so an early start is recommended. The Barcelona town hall in Plaça Sant Jaume is a frequent castellers and sardanas venue, as is Plaça de la Catedral.
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