Eco-friendly Experience in Barcelona
Guest contributor: Jessica Benavides Canepa is a travel and luxury lifestyle writer, currently preparing for her latest travel adventures in Shanghai, China.
Barcelona has long been a popular tourist destination for its cosmopolitan culture, unique architecture, inventive cuisine and enviable Mediterranean climate. What may come as pleasant surprise to some, however, is that this lively capital is also one of Europe’s most environmentally-aware cities. In fact, once you step off the plane at El Prat International Airport, you’re protected by over 1 billion dollars worth of restored solar paneling and electricity-saving glass walls. In the city, amongst the historic buildings, you’ll continue to see proof of this city’s dedication to the environment: hydrogen-powered pilot buses, recycle bins everywhere, an enormous solar panel on the Forum Esplanade and an abundance of green spaces. If that isn’t enough, Barcelona is a finalist in this year’s European Green Capital Award – a recognition given to the cities that make the biggest efforts to promote “green” living.
Where to Rest your Head
Affluent travelers will delight at the amenities found at the luxurious 5* ABaC Hotel. This minimalist boutique establishment stands at the foot of the breathtaking Tibidabo Mountains and only offers 15 spacious suites in peaceful, energy-conserving and low-lit surroundings. This hotel uses natural light whenever possible and is quite responsible when it comes to recycling. After time spent in their fabulous subterranean spa or 2* Michelin restaurant, guests can venture out on complementary Segways – a most entertaining way to promote eco-friendly transportation.
For a more casual but equally stylish option, Casa Camper (in the old town near the contemporary MACBA museum) is an excellent choice. This spacious boutique hotel, owned by the celebrated eponymous eco-friendly shoe line, offers guests a number of unique services including separate living spaces for sleeping and lounging, a recyclable watering system and natural light in the washrooms. You’ll also find a vertical garden of eastern Asian aspidistras – in full view from a courtyard patio as you wash your hands and a comfortable hammock in your “mini lounge” area. Meals are another interesting affair at this hotel; following a generous buffet breakfast (including a friendly cook on hand for your hot dish selections), guests are invited to snack on a variety of healthy options such as yogurt, fruit, light sandwiches or salads.
What to See and Do
Part of Barcelona’s enduring charm is that it is a city to be seen on foot; lose yourself in the winding streets of the Barri Gotic, or spend hours exploring one its many parks – most notably Gaudi’s whimsical Parque Güell and the romantic Cituadella, – where one can partake in a row around a placid lake. If you prefer to be close to the sea, Barcelona boasts a number of beaches – each with its own personality and charm. Active residents enjoy using the bright-red “Bicing” bikes found throughout the city, but there are plenty of inexpensive bike rental offers for visitors as well.
Shoppers will appreciate the multitude of options available in Barcelona, although the most eco-conscious consumers would find their greatest treasures in the arty El Born district where plenty of shops sell assorted organic products made from hemp, jute, or cotton among others.
Where to Tempt your Palate
Barcelona has plenty of food choices for the health-conscious traveler. A visit to the historic Boqueria Market will entice even the most selective eaters to sample some of the delectable organic treats available including fresh fruit juices, cheese and produce. If meat is part of your diet, a wonderful healthy alternative would be Heart Burger, an eco-friendly restaurant featuring the only patented “heart-shaped” burgers in Europe. Each perfectly presented burger comes from cows lovingly raised on high lands, in a stress, pollution and pesticide-free environment. If you don’t particularly like hamburgers, there is an assortment of other menu items to try including prawn, salmon and veggie sandwiches- all in the trademark heart-shaped buns- which, incidentally, come in organic-grain options. All meals are served with tasty homemade fries and can be concluded with a number of light but satisfying desserts.
A truly sensational ecological AND foodie find is the Fastvinic restaurant, a few minutes’ walk from the most elegant shopping avenue in town: Passeig de Gracia. This charming sandwich eatery truly embraces the spirit of sustainable living not only by using fresh organic Mediterranean products in all of their menu items, but also through the restaurant’s dynamic design: only recyclable materials were used; right down to the glasses, vertical plant gardens and detachable shelves. This impressive effort has even earned the barely year-old restaurant a distinguished LEED certificate. (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). One other curious novelty worth mentioning; Fastvinic has a wide selection of ecological and regional wines — available by using a card-operated vending machine! With so much to experience in terms of clean and healthy living, Barcelona is clearly a city to consider on your next eco-escapade.