What to See in Barcelona this Summer

What to see in Barcelona this summer, from live music and festivals, to street parties and fireworks displays.

The catalonian capital; famous for Gaudi architecture, Gothic old town alleyways, food, and football, is a great destination all year round, but if you’re planning a visit to Barcelona this summer then check out these events. If you love to party, then try a fiesta Barcelona style!

Views of Barcelona

Views of Barcelona, Torre Agbar, Las Ramblas and from Tibidabo to the beach

Barcelona Music Festivals
Barcelona is a great destination for music lovers with International music festivals and acts, and plenty of live music venues. If you’re here in summer you can catch the famous Primavera Sound festival (28th-30th May), Sonar 2015, and Hard Rock Rising (24th-25th July) amongst others. There are also festivals all summer long, such as Piknic Electronik (Every Sunday from 28th June to 20th Sep) with different music acts. The festival Grec showcases all the arts but includes more traditional music performances in the open air Greek Theatre on Montjuic.

Barcelona Beach

Barcelona Beachfront Musicians

Traditional Celebrations – Nit di San Joan
Barcelonians love to party, so almost every week there’s some reason to start a procession and play some music.
The Nit de Sant Joan (or Feast of Sant John) is the biggest and loudest festival of the year, where Catalans celebrate midsummer (on 23rd June) with lots of fireworks and revelry. There are parties all over town but head down to the beach in Barcelonetta for some serious partying – the crowd can reach 100,000 people so not for the faint hearted!
The biggest end of summer party is September 15-24th – La Festa de la Merce which celebrates Barcelona’s patron Saint. Be prepared to see street art, dance, costumes, folklore celebrated (people dressed up as dragons and giants) and the throwing of firecrackers, all ending with a huge fireworks display.
Gracia Festival

La Festa Major de Gracia Festival

Barcelona Block Party
Each Barcelona Barrio (neighbourhood) has a week-long summer Street Party – the Festa Major. That means 10 weeks of parties in total by the time each neighbourhood has celebrated! They generally involve castellers (human tower displays), music and dancing in the street and lots of merriment. The most famous is the Les Festes de Gràcia (one week in August) where the streets are decorated with various themes and there is a music stage in the main square. Prepare for lots of dancing in the streets!
MACBA

Barcelona’s MACBA

Barcelona Art Shows
Until Aug 30, Photographer Gabriel Casas has an exhibition at the famous museum Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (MNAC) of Barcelona life, until 7th June you can see the Moche art from ancient Peru exhibit at the CaixaForum, and the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA) is showing it’s Species of Spaces exhibit and Sergi Aguilar’s sculptures. MACBA is also a good spot to check out the skateboarders and break dancers who hang out there. The Festival Fotografia Documental Barcelona, (DOCfield15) is also on until 23rd July – a celebration of photography in Barcelona and with over 40 free shows – this year’s theme is ‘The Heart of Matter’.

MNAC

MNAC – The Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya

Equity Point Barcelona

Barcelona can be very busy in summer but luckily we have three Equity Point Hostels to choose from: Equity Point Gothic Hostel, Equity Point Sea Hostel, and Equity Point Centric Hostel. So all you need to decide is if you want to be on the beach front in Barceloneta, in the old town amidst the Gothic winding streets and architecture, or in the centre of Barcelona nearer the shops and areas with cultural interests. Excited to come to Barcelona? Book your bed here!

Equity Point Centric Hostel

Equity Point Centric Hostel

Enjoy Prague Like a Local

The Czech capital is famous for its beautiful bridges, the oldest castle in the world, Kafka and great beer, but there is more than just pivo and outstanding architecture to this romantic destination.

The ‘Golden City’
A beautiful capital packed with historical monuments, museums and old town allure; Prague lies on the Vltava River and has well preserved districts that make it a photographer’s dream. The stunning architecture and cobbled streets with horse drawn carriages make it a charming tourist attraction, with the main sites busy all year round. Take a break from the tourist trail and try something a little different; enjoy Prague like a local.

Yarga River

Yarga River with the famous Charles Bridge

Prague’s Medieval Old Town – Staré Mêsto

No visit to Prague would be complete without seeing the top sites, so don’t miss out on the hill-top Castle complex, the famous Astronomical Clock in the Old Town Square, the Jewish Quarter and Jewish Museum, Charles Bridge, the Powder Gate and Wenceslas Square. Once you’ve explored the main tourist attractions you can begin to enjoy Prague like a local and see what else this cosmopolitan city has to offer.

Kampa Island

From the Lesser Town (Malá Strana) end of Charles Bridge, you can find Kampa Island; a tranquil spot with charming waterside houses and local cafes. Known as the “the Venice of Prague” you can even rent rowboats or just admire the view of the Old Town across the river. There is also the modern European art museum – Kampa Museum and the Velkoprevorské námestí (Grand Priory Square), with the Beatles lyrics-covered ‘Lennon Wall’.

View from Prague Castle

View from Prague Castle

Great Views of Prague

Climb the hill to the Castle for a great sunset view, or for something different visit Vítkov Hill, next to the Žižkov district. If the weather is good then the locals love a picnic or a beer garden. Stroll across the Most Legií bridge to the island and visit Letná Park. There is open air cinema all Summer on weekdays (9pm, 100 CZK) and a small floating bar on the waterfront!

Enjoy a Czech Beer!

If you’re a fan of Czech beer (pivo) then don’t miss the Staropramen brewery in the Smíchov district, and the most famous ‘pubs’ in Prague – the 500 year old U Fleku and Pivovarský dum on the site of the former ‘Research Institute of Brewing and Malting’. There’s also a newcomer; the microbrewery Novomestský where you can order a 10 litre barrel (best shared with friends!) If you’re in town May 7th-23rd then catch the Czech Beer Festival - with 17 days of festivities and over 150 Czech beers!

Prague Old Town Square

Prague Old Town Square

Czech Cafe Culture

Prague is full of lovely cafes with cosy terraces and blankets in winter and sunshine spots in summer – and locals love to hang out and have a coffee or beer. Here are some of the less touristy places to try.

Le Court Galerie Café is a cute favourite, along with Lokál Dlouhá for lunch, or the delicious Restaurant Mincovna or recommended Bistro Maso a Kobliha. For traditional meatloaf or great burgers try quality butcher/bistro Naše maso. For a bit of style and great coffee try the Café Lounge in the Lesser Quarter or Muj Salek Kavy. If you have a sweet tooth try traditional confectionery shop Myšák. Bistro 8 on trendy Veverkova Street does some tasty dishes (a popular and cool spot for art students from the Academy of Fine Arts nearby.)

More touristy are the original Café B Braun on Sokolovská Street or more international Slavia café or grab something at Jan Paukert Deli if you’re on the move.

Karluv Most - Charles Bridge at sunset

Karluv Most – Charles Bridge at sunset

The Best Food Market
Naplavka Farmers Market With views of Prague Castle and on the Vlatva River, this Saturday local produce market is the best place to sample smoked meats, cheeses, pickled local specialties, baked treats and cakes – everything you could want to eat! With great events all summer, local beer tasting, and best of all ‘Wurst-kunst’ (sausage campfire cooking) what’s not to love about wandering around with the locals and buying some authentic Czech fair? Saturdays 8am-2pm

Explore Alternative Neighborhoods

Away from the romance of the old town and the well preserved architecture of the narrow streets and Renaissance bridges the city is a little different. Further from the city center there are more ‘authentic’ neighborhoods where you can see the affects of the Velvet Revolution culturally and politically. Check out the DOX Centre for Contemporary Art in Holešovice; a new gallery exhibiting thought provoking art, and the more underground scenes of street art and graffiti and contemporary art scene in Karlín. Unfortunately the alternative art commune at Trafacka has now closed for development.

Equity Point Prague

Equity Point Hostel Prague

Equity Point Hostel Prague

Our hostel is located in a new building in the heart of the old town, just moments from Charles Bridge and a short walk from the main square. Our cosy yet spacious hostel has 26 light rooms and plenty of communal space to chill out. Book your bed in our Prague hostel here.

What to see in Morocco’s Marrakech in Two Days

What not to miss with two days in this Moroccan gem, from busy souks to tranquil gardens.

La cité ocre, or Pink City, is an assortment of bustling market stalls, impressive historical sites, and a labyrinth of chaotic narrow streets. Here’s our guide of what not to miss!

Square at night

The famous square at night by Carlitos

The Medina of Marrakech

Begin your visit with a trip to this spectacular market place – a jumble of colours and sights that are the essence of Marrakech. By day and night it’s a hive of activity, with souks selling everything from lanterns to camel leather bags, traditional ceramics and tea sets to tempting jewelry. The market place is the largest Berber one in Morocco and you will definitely get lost in its charming narrow streets, amongst the carts, motorbikes and donkeys – but this is the fun part. Visit the stalls and enjoy the traditional mint tea while you browse and haggle. The friendly owners will persuade you to buy more than you can carry home!

Jamaa el Fna – Main Square

In the center of the Medina lies the beating heart of Marrakech – the city square. This is a major tourist attraction but also a local market place since the 11th C and UNESCO site, with snake charmers, musicians, henna artists and tea sellers all vying for trade. Teaming with food stalls and the smell of sweet cakes and barbecued lamb in the evening, it’s a great place to soak up the atmosphere and sit back on a café rooftop and watch the ‘halqa’ – street theatre.

Marrakech Medina

Marrakech Medina

El Badi Palace

Now this former seat of luxury and power is in ruins, but the 16th C palace still has charming courtyards, gardens and underground tunnels to explore, along with a small historical museum. The view of the Atlas Mountains from the peaceful terrace is beautiful. The Royal Palace complex can only be seen from the outside, but it’s high walls and artful doors are worth a quick detour from the southern Medina. The Bahia Palace complex is still grand and majestic and shows exemplary architecture – definitely worth seeing.

Kasbah Mosque

Beautifully decorated within, it’s worth seeing this National Historic Monument during prayer time, when the doors are open to the public. Constructed in 1230, the silhouetted minarets can be seen from around the city.

Souk

Souk selling traditional pottery

For Day Two:

Saadian Tombs

These 16th C tombs were restored to a garden containing graves of soldiers and mausoleum for the Dynastic royalty. There are gleaning marble columns and the mosaics are stunning – don’t miss the sultan’s grandson’s room.

Opposite are the ancient city’s ramparts, with 19 gateways to the city. The ornate stone Bab Agnaou gate is the highlight.

Koutoubia Mosque

Visible throughout Marrakech, The Koutoubia Mosque is great to visit by day or night as it is spectacularly lit. The largest mosque in Marrakech, it has a beautiful 250 ft tall Minaret and is considered an architectural wonder. There are tranquil gardens with fountains to stroll around by day.

A former theological college, the Ben Youssef Madrasa was constructed in 1570 and is a geometric wonder with marble patterns, tranquil pools and traditional design. It’s a peaceful place to detour to if you’re an architecture fan.

Jardin Majorelle

Jardin Majorelle

Jardin Majorelle

A short walk from the chaotic Medina there is an oasis of calm in this frenetic city at these enchanting gardens. Created by 19thC French painter Jacques Majorelle over forty years and restored by Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé in 1980, the gardens brim with shady palms, rare and exotic plants, all on a background of bright blue and yellow colorful mosaics. The gardens also house the Musée Berbere - an interesting insight into the region’s Berber culture.

Hammam Experience

Make time for a unique and relaxing hammam visit – a traditional Morrocan spa. Treatments include massages, steams and scrubs. The most famous is the Hamman of the Rose.

Finally, head back to your hostel relaxed! Enjoy a dip in the pool or a rooftop drink at sunset – Equity Point Marrakech

Equity Point Marrakech

Equity Point Marrakech

 The famous square image is by Carlitos0802 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

London for Free

London for free! What to see in this cool capital without spending a penny.

London Eye

London Eye and County Hall

Walking Tour of London

Get your map out and take yourself for a walkabout to see the sites. Watch the street performers and mime artists in Covent Garden, catch the red carpet premieres in Leicester Square, or wander by Soho for cool bars and lively gay scene and the iconic restaurants of Chinatown. See the modern ‘City’ architecture surrounding the Tower of London, and South Bank is the best!

Chinatown London

Gerrard Street in Chinatown, London

London’s Best Markets

Free to look at – buying is up to you! Visit famous Covent Garden Market and alternative Camden Lock, Sundays head east early to the flower-filled streets of Columbia Road then nearby Brick Lane Market for food from around the world, music and fashion with London’s hipsters. Saturdays head west to world famous Portobello Market for vintage clothes and antiques.

Waterloo Bridge

Waterloo Bridge and South Bank

London’s South Bank

The river Thames’ South Bank has the best views of London and there is always something happening, from outdoor festivals to Christmas markets. Walk from Tower Bridge (opposite the Tower of London) past Southwark Cathedral, neighbouring foodie heaven Borough Market (sample food here for free!), past Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, the Tate Modern art gallery. From Gabriel’s Wharf’s to the National Theatre (free music and art performances in summer), the Southbank Centre and Hayward Gallery and see the view that inspired the song ‘Waterloo Sunset’ with Big Ben and parliament opposite.

Hyde Park's Serpentine Lake

Hyde Park’s Serpentine Lake

Visit London’s Parks

From free concerts at famous Hyde Park to feeding pelicans at St James’s Park with a view of Buckingham Palace, there’s over 5,000 acres of parkland to see, including former 2012 Olympic Games site is now the Queen Elizabeth Park featuring waterside picnic spots.

"National Gallery London 2013 March" by Morio - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:National_Gallery_London_2013_March.jpg#/media/File:National_Gallery_London_2013_March.jpgFree Museums & Galleries

London’s many museums and galleries stage world-class exhibitions. Luckily for you – most are free! See Van Gogh’s ‘Sunflowers’ at the National Gallery, or the National Portrait Gallery in Trafalgar Square. World famous Tate Britain and Tate Modern on the riverbanks are also free, and the British Museum or fascinating Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A). See dinosaurs at the National History Museum or explore space at the Science Museum.

Book your bed at Equity Point in London, by trendy Notting Hill and Hyde Park. With great facilities including a guest cafe, there’s a choice of private en-suite or dormitory rooms. Book Now!

Hostel decorations: Equity Point Prague’s “Kofola”

Kofola room201

At Equity Point Prague we’ve got a room dedicated to Kofola and not to Coca cola. So, what’s the connection?

Originated in the Czechoslovak pharmaceutical company Galena, (located in Opava) in 1959 during research targeted at finding a possible use for surplus caffeine produced in the process of coffee roasting. The resulting dark-coloured, sweet-and-sour syrup Kofo became the main ingredient of a new soft drink named Kofola introduced in 1960.

During the 1960s and 1970s Kofola became exceedingly popular in Czechoslovakia because it substituted for Western cola-based drinks like Coca-Cola or Pepsi, which were not generally available. Continue reading

Hostel decorations: Equity Point Prague’s “Kladrubský”

Kladruber printing room 306

The Kladruber (Czech Kladrubský kun) is the oldest Czech horse breed and one of the world’s oldest and it’s considered very rare. We have a room at Equity Point Prague to commemorate it.

The main breeding center is in National stud farm Kladruby nad Labem in the Czech Republic where Kladrubers have been bred for more than 400 years. Kladrubers have always been bred to be a galakarosier – a heavy type of carriage horse for the court of the House of Habsburg.

Bred in Kladruby nad Labem national stud, the Kladruber breed is almost 400 years old, yet is remarkably rare (492 mares as of January, 2011). Kladruby stud was founded in 1579 by Rudolf II as an Imperial stud, at the Perlstein stables.

The breed was based on imported Spanish (such as the Andalusian) and Italian horses, crossed with Neapolitan, Danish, Holstein, Irish, and Oldenburg blood, in addition to the heavy Czech breeds. The animal was first developed to be a galakarosier; a heavy type of carriage horse used to pull the imperial coach, usually in a four- or six-in-hand, at ceremonies and funerals.

It originally came in a variety of colors, including palomino and appaloosa, although today the breed is strictly gray or black, due to a breeding program requiring 18 “white” (i.e. fully mature grays) and 18 black stallions for various ceremonies of the court.

Hostel decorations: Equity Point Prague’s “Barrandov Studios”

Barrandov Studios

Hollywood and Czech Republic: What’s the connection?

Barrandov Studios is a famous set of film studios in Prague, Czech Republic. It is the largest film studio in the country and one of the largest in Europe. Several of the movies filmed there won Oscars.

Czech film history is closely connected with that of Prague’s entrepreneurial Havel family, and especially with the activities of the brothers Miloš Havel (1899–1968) and Václav Havel (1897–1979) (Václav was the father of the Czech President of the same name).

In 1921 Miloš Havel created the A-B Joint Stock Company by merging his American Film distribution company with the Biografia film distributors.

At present the studios are often called the “European Hollywood” or “Hollywood of the East” and many films have been filmed there, such as Mission Impossible, The Bourne Identity, Casino Royale, Prince Caspian, and many others.

Hostel decorations: Equity Point Prague’s “Lodní Šroub’s propellers”

Ship's propellers Room 203

Do you like sailing? If so, you may know that Josef Ludvík František Ressel (29 June 1793 – 9 October 1857) was an Austrian-Czech forester and inventor who designed one of the first working ship’s propellers, and at Equity Point Prague we have a room designed to commemorate it.

He worked in Landstrass (Kostanjevica on the Krka river in Carniola in Slovenia), where he tested his ship propellers for the first time.

In 1821 he was transferred to Trieste (Italy), the biggest port of the Austrian Empire, where his tests were successful. He was awarded a propeller patent in 1827. Continue reading

Hostel decorations: Equity Point Prague’s “Carps”

Fried carp room 307

It is too early to think about our Christmas’s menu but this tradition but we’ve got a room at Equity Point Prague devoted to the Christmas menu. A traditional Christmas meal in the Czech Republic is fried carp and potato salad. It’ a sort of ”Carp tradition”.

Several days before the 24th Carp sellers pop up around the country. The Carp sellers or stalls consist of several large vats filled with live Carp and water. There is a large table where the carp is killed and prepared if you want to.

But the tradition is that families buy their Carp fresh a day, or so, before and cook it fresh on the 24th. Those who buy the Carp alive will fill the bathtub up with water and have a family pet for a couple of days.

Won’t you try the traditional Christmas Czech Carp?

Hostel decorations: Equity Point Prague’s “Klementinum”

Klementinum printing

Klementinum is about a “must see” in Prague: one of its most spectacular places to visit. You will be fascinated by the majestic and the historical atmosphere of the Klementinum.

The Klementinum is a historic complex of buildings in Prague. It is currently in use as the National Library of the Czech Republic. In 2005, the Czech National Library received the UNESCO Jikji prize (Memory of the World). Continue reading