Palo Alto Market
Palo Alto is a leafy haven of creativity in the Eastern district of Poblenou. Back at the end of the 1980s, Mariscal was in search of a new place to set up his studio, having left the central area of Eixample as designer boutiques forced out the local grocers, bakers and other small shops. Together with a few friends, they converted an abandoned factory into studios for designers, filling the courtyards with plants that today make Palo Alto one of the district’s greenest landmarks.
Constantly up for new challenges, Mariscal launched the Palo Alto Market at the beginning of 2015. One weekend a month stalls, workshops, DJs and food vans invade the cobbles, attracting hordes of people on the look out for that perfect vintage briefcase or pair of handmade shoes.
Palo Alto is a street market, a mixture of sophistication and urban cool, and a wonderful way to discover the latest in Barcelona’s world of creativity and design. One word of advice: don’t get there too late. The word is out and only the early birds avoid the queues!
Xemei Restaurant, Poble Sec
The neighborhood of Poble Sec, its narrow streets huddled along the lower slopes of Montjuïc, is a welcome change from the imposing avenues and monuments on the mountain.
The lively cosmopolitan barrio is home to some of the city’s best-known clubs, concert venues, bars and restaurants, including Xemei. Their relaxed yet distinctively designed interior is the perfect place to enjoy the reputedly best Italian cuisine in the city and a choice opportunity to discover a side to Barcelona most visitors don’t see.
Port Cable Car
“What other city would spend so much money on something like the Port Cable Car?” wondered Mariscal. Far from a criticism, the question is the designer’s way of admiring the audacity and eccentricity of a city that is capable of actually building a cable car that stretches from the top of the Montjuïc mountain down to the tip of Barceloneta, providing visitors with ten minutes and 1292 meters of incredible views of the city, the port and the sea.
Barcelona is a wonderfully human-scale city, nestled between the Besòs and Llobregat rivers and the mountain of Montjuïc. Like an omnipresent and benevolent protector, Montjuïc looks down onto the city, a reminder of many an episode in Barcelona’s history.
Montjuïc’s name comes from its medieval Jewish cemetery, the largest in Europe from that era. The castle, built in 1751, has served both to protect and to bombard Barcelona, without forgetting its sinister role as a prison during Franco’s dictatorship.
It is a hub of museums and cultural venues, and just like much of Barcelona, the Olympic Games left an indelible mark on the mountain, turning it into a center for sporting events. But Mariscal’s love of Montjuïc is rather for the incredible perspective afforded by its 173m altitude, and not of the city, but of the port.
From behind the castle, next to a small chiringuito that holds barbecues on summer Sundays, you can admire the patchwork of containers, the queues of merchandise vessels and the sheer immensity of the cruise ships that make Barcelona’s Port one of the most important ones in the Mediterranean.
Tibidabo Fabra Observatory
No doubt about it, Javier Mariscal likes a good view. And there are few quite as impressive as that on offer from the heights of Tibidabo, one of the hills overlooking Barcelona to the east.
But rather than fight for a space on the ramparts around the fairground, Mariscal prefers the Fabra Observatory. An initiative of the Barcelona Royal Academy of Science and Arts, the Modernist construction built by Josep Doménech i Estapà was inaugurated in 1904.
The Observatory has three strings to its bow: astronomy, meteorology and seismology and the original telescope is one of the oldest and biggest still in use in Europe.
Well worth the visit, during the day you can admire the building and the view of Barcelona, while at night you can watch the stars, and the planets, using both the century-old telescope and state-of-the-art technology, part of international programs mapping the movement of the solar system. And if you are visiting during the summer months, you can even sign up for a special starlit dinner served in front of the Observatory.