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It can all be a little overwhelming, the city may not be huge but the culture, activities, events, eateries etc. is vast. So we have taken it upon ourselves to amalgamate our local 12 years experience in the city via our blog. Whether you are planning on coming over for the festivals, want to find out vegan eats or general insider information, we will keep you in the loop.
Reading between the lines. English bookshops
For me, the best thing about holidays, besides the simple joy of being somewhere else with new sights, smells and sounds (and not being shackled to my mobile and laptop) is that they provide me with the only chance I get to read a good book.
Barcelona is full of great terraces, and parks in which to unwind and flick through the pages with a cool glass of “vino” or a rich steaming coffee and something sinfully sweet.
Thankfully, when it comes to English bookshops in Barcelona, we’re spoilt for choice. The blossoming tourist trade and cosmopolitan nature of the city has spawned all kinds of outlets for riveting reading matter…
The expansive, multi-layered branch of French Chain FNAC on Plaça Catalunya, opens from Monday to Saturday and offers a large selection of international books, press and just about everything else except the kitchen sink: CDs, DVDs, hi-fis, TVs, computers, mobile phones and a reasonable cup of coffee and a sarnie are all up for grabs in store.
If it’s more of a literary fling you’re after, VIPS on Rambla de Catalunya stocks International newspapers and magazines, which you can peruse over a hamburger and milkshake every day of the week, should the urge take you.
Hibernian Books on Carrer Montseny is bursting at the rafters with thousands of new and used English books. Part-exchange is also welcome (although children, half-eaten ice creams. metro-tickets and uncomfortable shoes are not accepted in return for books!
I should know, I’ve tried all of those.) If variety is the spice of your life, this is the store for you. From children’s books to antique novels, this place is rather like a tardis, in which one loses all sense of time, space and matter. Don’t pop in on the way somewhere: you won’t make it on time! Open from Monday to Saturday.
For those who prefer not to live in the real world, Norma Comics on Passeig de Sant Joan 9, is Barcelona’s biggest comic store and offers all the usual favorites from Marvel, Tintin, and Manga to the most obscure and beguiling Spanish and European authors, a selection of which are available in English and other languages. DVDs, dolls, costumes and assorted other comic lovers paraphernalia is also offered. Norma is open from Monday to Saturday.
La Central, one of Barcelona’s best known Spanish bookstores, has several outlets around the cityand offers a good selection of international literature, some of which is in English: art, poetry and biography are among the highlights, and regular readings are held in the evening at the Raval Branch and some staff speak English. The café serves good strong hot coffee and a devilishly tempting array of cakes (I should know, I’ve tried them all.)
BCN Books offers two branches, an English bookstore on Calle Roger de Lluria and a book cash and carryon Calle Rosselló, 24, for those with a hearty literary appetite or many imaginations to feed. The store stocks a hearty selection of educational books, plus a selection of contemporary and classic fiction, travel guides and dictionaries.
For Anglophiles seeking Anglopedias, my favorite English bookshop is Elephant on Calle Creu de Mollers.
This tiny, homely store in Poble Sec, just off Avenida de Parallel is practically built of books. For 3 euros or less, you can rummage around in this treasure trove and pluck out a gem of any genre from sci-fi to sporting legends, cookery to cartography, and astrology to zoology.
There’s a great cafe at the back, where you can grab a seat among the leaning towers of literature and get a good strong cup of coffee and a toastie or a brownie. Word-worshipers are also invited pause for thought and contemplation in the eloquently grafittid bathroom.
The owner, Canadian-born Frank Sirett opened his great-value bookstore in 2002 “because I could, and because I wanted to.”
Señor Sirett is himself, rather like a good book, welcoming, fascinating and well worth a repeat visit. (Which isn’t difficult, given that the store is open from 10:00 till 20:00, 364 days a year.)
“With so much virtual information flying about, having something in print in front of you is somehow more flesh and blood.” Frank told me. Authenticity and lack of pretension is something one immediately senses that Frank Sirett embodies (as do his coffee and toasties, by the way.)
Elephant is, in my book, the best thing to hit Barcelona since sliced jamón.