Literary City Guide | Barcelona, Spain


They admired the beautiful location of the city, and they loved it as the flower of all the beautiful cities of the world, the pride of Spain, fear and terror of the neighboring and divided enemies, gift and delicacy of its inhabitants, shelter for foreigners, school of knighthood, example of loyalty and satisfaction of all that from a grand, famous, rich and well established city, one can ask a discrete and curious desire.
— Miguel de Cervantes, Exemplary Novels, 1613

Tour Guide: Camila Loew

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Born in Argentina and raised between Buenos Aires and southern California, Camila has been living in Barcelona since 1998. She has a Ph.D. in Humanities and teaches literature, film, and cultural studies to American college students studying abroad. She also moonlights as a health food geek; she founded Desayuno con guisantes (literally “Breakfast with Peas,” a play on the Spanish title of the film Breakfast at Tiffany’s), through which she offers cooking workshops and nutrition consulting. Camila deeply loves gong fu tea, riding her Brompton bike, ashtanga yoga, farmers markets and hanging out with her two kids. 

Q&A

Relationship to Barcelona: An outsider, though I’ve lived here longer than anywhere else. I can think of no other place with a similar balance of things that are important to me: good food, mild weather, vibrant cultural life, gorgeous nature close by.

Writer you'd like to invite to dinner: M.F.K. Fisher  and Manolo Vázquez Montalbán

Chef you'd like to prepare the meal: Carme Ruscalleda

Writing soundtrack: Bach cello sonatas by Pau Casals

Pen or Pencil: Fountain pen

Coffee or Tea: Tea, gong fu style. Lots of it. 

Paperback or Hardback: My kindle (go figure)

 


Good Reads


BOOKSTORES

La Central. The best place for books. They now own several shops in the city, but my favorite is the one in the Raval neighborhood, where you can spend hours browsing and then enjoying your buys in a nearby café. 

Laie. A careful selection of books, specializing in Humanities. And a classy café to boot. 

Altaïr. The largest bookstore in Europe specialized in travel. Easy chairs around the shop allow for armchair travel as well. 

Negra y criminal. A small and cozy shop specialized in crime literature. 

LIBRARIES

UPF Edifici de las Aiguas. A section of the university library in a XIXth century building was originally made to keep water for the monumental fountain at the nearby Ciutadella park.  

Biblioteca de Catalunya. The National Library of Catalonia. On a side street off the Ramblas, next to the Massana art school and with a gorgeous central patio where you can take breaks from the books. 

READINGS & CONFERENCES

Biblioteca Jaume Fuster. Inaugurated in 2005 in an impressive modern building, this neighborhood public library regularly hosts visiting authors from around the world, as well as a book club focused on travel writing.

La Central. My favorite bookstore regularly hosts the most recent book presentations, workshops, and activities for children on weekends. 

OTHER FINDS

Els Quatre Gats. The mythic café where the artists of the Modernisme movement used to hang out (and drink absinthe). Touristy, but a must.

George Orwell walking tour. Explore the most touristy part of the city in a way people don’t tend to think of it anymore; instead of the big chain stores, retreat to a time of anarchism and fervent beliefs “worth fighting for,” as Orwell said in Homage to Catalonia. 

Pepe Carvalho gastronomic tour. No other writer linked literature and food like Manolo Vázquez Montalbán. The city’s Slow Food group is named after him.

Modernist Architecture Tour. This is one of the best ways to get to know the urban landscape Barcelona is famous for. 

Good Eats


COFFEE SHOPS

Taranna. This part of the Sant Antoni neighborhood has recently exploded in trendy, comfy cafés Barcelona was lacking. 

Federal. The first to open on a street now bustling with cafés, the Aussie owners recently opened a branch in Madrid. A good place for brunch.

La Nena. In charming Gracia, a neighborhood favorite. A granja is where Catalans serve dairy products for breakfast and merienda (afternoon snack). La Nena also offers many options for non-dairy lovers, as well as fresh juices, salads, and homemade quiches and treats.

Tetere and Caj Chai. For true tea lovers. We are lucky in Barcelona to have not one but two places for an authentic tea experience (none of that flavored junk, but the real thing, as Hemingway might say). These people know their stuff.

Granja Viader. One of the oldest dairy shops in the city, now sells dairy products to go and serves breakfast and afternoon snacks in their gorgeous café. 

A PROPER MEAL

Els Pescadors. An extensive, high-quality fish and seafood menu in a charming square hidden away from the hustle and bustle. 

Agua. Mediterranean fare with a view of the sea. 

Dos palillos. Fusion Japanese-Mediterranean tapas-stlye plates by a Michelin-starred chef.

Rasoterra. A vegetarian bistro for those who don’t eat meat but don’t like cafeteria food. 

La cuina d’en Garriga. Classic, high-quality local fare in a classy locale in the heart of the city center. 

TREATS

Barcelona Rejkyavik. All organic bread and treats made with care and awareness. Gluten free options as well. 

Cacao Sampaka. Chocolate in all its forms with a café at the back (with a real tree inside!). Great place to sit and write while attending to sugar levels. 

L'Escriba. Family-owned specialized pastry shop in a beautiful locale next to the famous Boqueria market. They made the cake for the closing party of Ferran Adria’s El Bulli.

Pastisseria Foix. Traditional pastries in a classy, uptown part of the city. 


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Camila's 5 Favorites


1. Favorite view: The Mediterranean Sea from the top of the Hotel Arts. Water is soothing, never the same, never boring, yet always there. 

2. Favorite place to write: Caj Chai. I can choose among hundreds of teas from all over the world, sit for hours and pour cup after cup while I dream of faraway places. 

3. Favorite museum: Caixa Forum. Great temporary modern art exhibits in a renovated Art Nouveau textile factory. 

4. Favorite coffee shop: Tea for me, thanks. Caj Chai and Tetere are my go-tos. 

5. Favorite thing about Barcelona: Its cosmopolitan feel and relatively small size, ideal for biking my way around. The perfect weather (after Barcelona, it’s hard to live anywhere else). Knowing that the sea is there, even though I don’t see it every day.