Bullfighting may be banned in Catalonia from New Year’s Day 2012 but a toro hasn’t lost its life at Las Arenas de Barcelona bullring since I was a twinkle in my parents’ eyes in 1977. Between then and 25th March this year the bullring sat idle and in a growing state of disrepair until it was finally decided a few years ago to make use of it. Lo and behold what else could it possibly be turned into these days other than another temple to consumerism? Thus where crowds once cheered, bulls died and toreros pranced and taunted in their elaborate costumes and red capes there are now high street stores, chain restaurants and cafes, a multi-screen cinema and a rock and roll museum. By the way ‘Arenas’ does not mean ‘arena’ but rather ‘sands’, one of the many false friends to fool us between Spanish and English. The bullring’s façade, which is heavily moorish in style although it was designed by Catalan architect Domènech i Montaner, has been kept and elevated, but inside nothing aside from it’s circular shape remains to hint at its former usage.
It has always completely escaped me why anyone would choose to have a meal in a shopping centre cafe or restaurant, it escapes me even more why you’d want to do this in Barcelona given all the other amazing eating options available to you. However, it seems there are plenty people willing to do just this and as such there are a selection of chain fast food eateries and restaurants, although not the usual suspects of Burger King or McDonald’s. None of what follows are on my list to visit anytime soon.
I procrastinate about going shopping in the same way some people put off a visit to the dentist so I’m not really best placed to comment on the stores available, all I’ll say is nowhere particularly grabbed my attention and lured me in.
What I was most looking forward to was climbing up to the open-air, domed roof and catching a glimpse of the city below. From the side facing Plaça d’Espanya towards Montjuïc the view was every bit as good as I imagined and I spent a few minutes looking down trying to grasp how exactly everyone knows how to navigate the crazy roundabout in the plaça.
The following rooftop restaurant would have been a lovely setting for an outdoor meal had it looked onto the view above. Instead some genius must’ve decided a staircase and rooftop view was a bigger selling point. Thoughtless planning in my opinion.
I left Las Arenas feeling very disappointed. Its magnificent and historic gift wrapped façade, once torn away reveals a bland, uninspiring present to the visitor. I will stick to admiring its exterior on my daily commute and leave the rest for others to savour.
Arenas de Barcelona, Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes 373-385