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Boys, beaches and Barcelona: 5 days in the Catalonian capital

Boys, beaches and Barcelona: 5 days in the Catalonian capital

The European super-city of Barcelona is known for its buzzing energy – an energy that reaches new heights with the arrival of Pride every summer.

Locals young and old emerge from their balconies to wave at passing floats, as revelers from around the world mingle with Barcelonians in celebration of all things LGBTI.

And we saw all of this with our own eyes last month, when we attended Pride Barcelona as part of the #mygaypride summer campaign.

We flew over to Barcelona from London Heathrow with KLM, making a quick layover in Amsterdam Schiphol airport before landing in one of the most gay-friendly cities for the long weekend. Though not a direct flight, it was a smooth trip and convenient flying from central London. After a quick cocktail between flights, it was off to the Catalan capital, just one of more than 130 destinations worldwide departing from Schiphol. Having been an LGBTI supporter for years at various European prides, KLM was happy to support the campaign.


We even got to ride a float during the parade (nothing brings out your inner drag queen quite like it – thanks to Two Bad Tourists, friends of Gay Star Travel, for pulling us aboard!), and it was here we met a whole host of new, international friends, from all aspects of the LGBTI spectrum.

But as Eloi, our tour-guide from Rainbow Barcelona soon informed us, it’s not just during Pride that the Catalonian capital welcomes LGBTI travelers with open arms, but all year round.

The gay scene is centered around the neighborhood of Eixample – nicknamed Gaixample years ago, and it stuck (not surprisingly). On an average evening, gay guys meet at Plaza Universitat before heading for drinks at the Axel Hotel Barcelona rooftop bar and finishing their night at Club Arena. But while it’s clear this Mediterranean metropolis knows how to party, LGBTI life is represented in other ways, too.

 


Rainbow Barcelona [pictured above hosting a tour in front of the Sagrada Familia] provide gay-friendly tours of the city led by those who know it best, and guides such as Eloi go out of their way to ensure your interests are catered to.

We meandered through the charming streets of the Gothic District and went into an Instagram frenzy at Gaudi’s Casa Batllo [below], before being plunged headfirst into a foam party.

 


I was later moved to see a beautiful monument in Parc Cuitadella, one of the city’s biggest and most interesting parks. Among picnics, couples strolling hand in hand and children chasing giant bubbles, rests a memorial to all the LGBTI people who have suffered discrimination in Barcelona. The stone triangle, framed in bright pink, promises that the Catalan capital strives to be a safe haven for all LGBTI people. (Sadly, not far away, a plaque marks the spot where a trans woman was brutally murdered.)

homo_monument_barcelona
Barcelona’s LGBTI monument

During my stay, I also met a group of people who founded an organization called Acathi, offering a variety of specialist help to LGBTI immigrants in Catalonia. Suddenly, I realized Barcelona is far more that gay bars packed with cute boys but a city with a rich history of progressive LGBTI politics and a place where many feel safe and at home.

Of course, Barcelona is also renowned for its gastronomy, and foodies are spoiled for choice here. I’ve been called a ‘food tourist’ before. This means I decide how much I like a destination depending on how satisfied my stomach is. After all, what better way is there to judge a country than by its cuisine? Be sure to block out a significant amount of your time to devote purely to eating, drinking and more of the same.

 

A photo posted by Abrassame (@abrassame) on


While breakfasts are brief affairs, lunches and dinners are long and amorous adventures. Visit Elche for calҫots in tempura batter with smoky Romesco sauce, El Cangrejo Loco for beautiful sea views while you eat fiduea and Abrassame [above] in former bullring turned shopping mall Las Arenas. Staples of every restaurant, cafe and family dining room table include sparkling white wine Cava, one of the region’s proudest exports, and ‘pa amb tomaquet’ (fresh bread smeared with tomatoes and olive oil).

 

A photo posted by Toc Hostels (@tochostels) on


We stayed at the TOC Hostel Barcelona [above] right in the center of Gaixample. It is quite possibly the cutest, most compact hostel I’ve ever stayed in. For a change of pace, I transferred to Melia Barcelona Sky [below] in the uptown district of El Poblenou. The luxurious rooms thrust you high into the sky for amazing views and the pool is just made for lounging around. It’s also a short walk away from Mar Bella, one of the three gay beaches where people spend the balmy evenings sipping beers at the chiringuitos (beach bars).

 


Gay Star Travel is the official media partner of #MyGayPride. We were kept online during our trip by using AllDayInternet.

Gay Star Travel flew with KLM airlines. Lead in fares for both are 132 GBP all-in from London Heathrow via AMS. Flight frequency is six daily flights to Berlin and five daily flights to Barcelona BCN from London Heathrow via Amsterdam Airport Schiphol.

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines was founded in 1919 and is the oldest airline still operating under its original name. After merging with Air France in May 2004, they are a major player in the air transport industry operating the leading long-haul network on departure from Europe.

Words: Liam Johnson