The freelancer's guide to Barcelona.

Words, hubbul

There are tonnes of adjectives to describe Barcelona – such is the wealth of art, culture, diversity, sport and attractions the city possesses. But if you were really pushed for one to sum up the Catalonian capital? Unique fits pretty nicely.

A bit about the place

Sat in northern Spain in the not so far away shadow of the Pyrenees Mountains, Barcelona’s toes dip into the Mediterranean Sea. It has everything you want from a city break slash beach holiday – which is rare, if not unheard of. 

The second largest city in Spain behind Madrid, with 1.6 million inner city dwellers, it isn’t a small place by any stretch. In fact, its vast urban sprawl, outside the so called ‘metropolitan area’, swallows up around 4.5 million people who naturally see themselves as citizens – and why wouldn’t they? Barcelona’s the kind of place you’d want to call home.

On a national scale, the number of freelancers and contractors in Spain grew by 51% between 2004 and 2013. Naturally, a lot of this was down to the recession, but that isn’t to say starting up in Barcelona - or even Spain - is a fad. In a place with a creative identity as strong as Barcelona’s, self-employment is achievable - regardless of economic uncertainty, or hesitance among Government to actively encourage this way of working.

Where to go and what to do

The city is changing constantly, always evolving. The arrival of the Olympics in 1992 was a catalyst for the development of the seafront, an area which was once steered well clear of by locals. Today it’s brimming with bars and restaurants. It’s got all the qualities of a beach holiday, within spitting distance of some of most fascinating buildings and museums in the world. To really experience Barcelona, take time to go for a wander around without a strict itinerary or even much of an agenda. 

Visit the Museum of Contemporary Art, stroll the streets of the old city – Barri Gotic – or sup a sangria in the sunshine on Las Ramblas, the famous tree-lined boulevard filled with market stalls and performers. 

Embrace the genius of Gaudí and Modernisme which is at the heart of Barcelona. His famous buildings, such as Casa Batiló and the Sagrada Familia, are mad but brilliant, whilst Parc Güell is one of the highlights of the city. For a more relaxed evening out, visit the area of Raval, an up-and-coming area with a strong Moroccan influence. It’s young, interesting and gives you a real sense of Barcelona’s range of communities. Or if you fancy reaching into your pocket, visit classy El Born with its vibrant café culture and boutique shops.

Football fan or not, take a tour of the world famous Camp Nou, a 100,000-capacity stadium, and the home of FC Barcelona. Perhaps one of the most successful and well-recognised clubs in the world, they say Barcelona is more than just a club, it is a symbol synonymous with Catalan identity. And the same can be said for sport in general in the area. The lasting legacy of the Olympics is plain to see, while the Formula 1 Grand Prix means the sporting calendar is packed. 

When in Barcelona

Take inspiration from famous architect Antoni Gaudí, who, upon being asked why his iconic Sagrada Familia church was taking so long to complete, famously said, “My client is not in a hurry.” He couldn’t have said it better: nobody should be in a hurry in Barcelona. Take your time, soak it all in.

Verdict

Barcelona is cosmopolitan, which is why – regardless of the Government’s obvious lack of sup- port for self-employment and freelancing – it has a thriving freelance scene. The tech is state-of-the-art and coffee-cum-coworking spots are everywhere.  And to top it all off the climate is perfect too - which does raise an important question; why work in rain sodden England when you can live, work and play in Barcelona? Mull that one over…

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