Besides bullfighting, flamenco music and dance, beaches, and wine, Spain is notorious for their tapas. Thus hitting the town for some socializing and late-night tapas-tasting at an authentic Spanish restaurant is always on the top of backpackers’ list of things to experience while traveling on the Iberian Peninsula.
But at the Barcelona Central Garden hostel in Barcelona, Spain, they bring all of the traditional favorites to you at their weekly Tapas Night every Friday. Unable to pass up the opportunity to socialize with other backpackers from all over the world and chow down on these little bites of heaven in our own neighborhood, the Gomio team decided to check out this hostel experience for ourselves!
Just around the corner from some of Gaudi’s most hallowed architectural works of art at Passeig de Gracia, and situated in a grand 19th century building, we opened the towering red door to a line of famished backpackers eager to try the spread of traditional Spanish tapas. This included famous picks like tortilla, patatas bravas, croquetas, pimientos piquillo (stuffed red pepper), and stew – just to name a few. (Not to mention the giant tubs of Sangria to wash it all down!)
After everyone’s plates were heaping, some took a seat at the long table on the private, outdoor terrace while others sat around the plush, leather couches to share stories of their ventures, travel plans, and talk about how delicious everything tasted! Still others, like our German members, were relieved to find that the hostel had a wide, flat-screen TV to watch the Quarter Final of the Eurocup 2012 of Germany vs. Greece.
Besides the food, what I found myself most impressed with Barcelona Central Garden hostel was the feeling of intimacy, closeness, and comfort – a home in a different city. Not only was there a cozy atmosphere with the lofty ceilings, wood floors, open, spacious common rooms, community kitchens with modern appliances, warm lighting, and cleanliness, but you never felt isolated nor overwhelmed since there were less rooms, making it easier to really get to know other travelers instead of getting lost in the crowd of a large, chain hotel.
When talking to a traveler from Argentina, she told me how she switched hostels in the middle of her stay and ended here. As a solo, female traveler, “I wanted to be in a safety zone,” she said. And the Barcelona Central Garden Hostel gave her the security to travel freely without having to worry about walking back after dark.
Another, vital contribution to this feel-good atmosphere was the hostel’s proprietors Mirko and Alessia. Wearing a cowboy hat, tribal dress, and beaded necklace, Alessia bounced around the hostel joking with her guests, introducing us to more travelers, giving out free dinners, walking, and bicycling tours exclusive to her hostel guests, and sharing stories like how one backpacker from New York thought he would be content with seeing all of Barcelona in one day.
“I told him he had to stay longer,” she told me. And who would have blamed him, in a city and hostel as friendly, for taking her advice.
At the end of the night, when everyone’s bellies were bursting, and only crumbs of tapas remained, we were happy to join a group of backpackers for a drink at a nearby bar. Thus the verdict is in: Tapas Night is the best mix of being as social as it is delicious, and Barcelona Central Garden is a hostel you must experience for yourself!