The Arts In Barcelona: El Grec Festival

El Grec is a big part of Barcelona’s identity. In July, this festival transforms the warm summer nights, bringing to the city some of the best theatre, dance, music and circus acts. If you are in the Catalan capital at this time, don’t miss the opportunity to attend some of the performances.

This year, El Grec will take place the whole month of July. Although the programme is not yet complete, we know that the main theme will be that of the ‘Mediterranean’. Some highlights will include the flamenco dance ‘La Baila’ of choreographer Israel Galván (Teatre Grec, July 4-5) and the new play by Dimitris Papaionnou, which will be both experimental and meticulously arranged (Mercat de les Flors theatre, July 2-4). In fact, Papaionnou is well-known for designing the opening and closing ceremonies of the Athens Olympics back in 2004.

El grec Barcelona
Legend of flamenco: Israel Galvan (credit: lerocherdepalmer.fr)

The story

The festival started in 1976 when the Assembly of Actors and Directors of Catalunya decided to give a platform to the innovative and independent performing arts. A lot of these appeared right after the death of the Spanish dictator Franco and the restoration of democracy in Spain.

In 1979, Barcelona City Council became the organisers of the festival. This meant that international actors and directors started coming to Barcelona, alongside Catalans already playing at the festival.

Since then, some of the best theatre writers, directors and performers have come to play at El Grec. Dario Fo, Lindsay Kemp, Robert Lepage and many others have enjoyed the July nights in Barcelona. Some famous musicians have also graced its stages, like Caetano Veloso, Bob Dylan and Santana.

The venues 

Teatre Grec

This is the heart of the festival. The main performances and events take place at this venue built in 1929 by Ramon Reventós and Nicolau Maria Rubió I Tudurí. On July 8, Santiago Auserón will play some of his songs, accompanied by the stunning Barcelona Municipal Band. Not far from the Teatro Grec, you can stay in one of our luxury apartments, our Plaza Espana II residence.

Theater Grec Barcelona
Rocky backdrop and great acoustics: the Teatre Grec (credit: lameva.barcelona.cat)

Teatre Nacional de Catalunya

Opened in 1996 and designed by the famous Spanish architect Ricard Bofill, it us one of the most outstanding cultural facilities of Barcelona. The main building of this theatre takes is inspired by the Parthenon in Athens, with two halls (450 and 870 people can be seated in these theatres). Some of the main events take place here during the festival.

Teatre Lliure

Founded in 1976, its main stage is in the former Palau de l’Agricultura of Montjuïc. The main hall, Sala Fabià Puigserver, can seat more than 700 spectators. It is worth visiting it even if it is just for its beautiful exterior. The Teatre Lliure is also conveniently close to our beautiful Botadura residence.

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Teatre Lliure (credit: shbarcelona.com)

Auditori

This was opened in 1999. The venue has three halls: Sala 1 Pau Casals for 2.200 spectators, Sala 2 Oriol Martorell with 600 places, and Sala 3 Tete Montoliu with 400 places. Nowadays, some of the greatest orchestras of the world come to the Auditori. It also serves as the home of the Orquestra Simfònica of Barcelona, where the best upcoming conductors and orchestras are taught and perform.

Although main events and activities take place at all the venues mentioned above, a few shows of the El Grec are also hosted in other venues like the Teatre Romea, La Villarroel, Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona (CCCB), the Joan Miró Foundation and the CaixaForum art centre. In particularly, it’s worth noting that the Sala Beckett (in Poblenou) will host “Un tret al cap” (July 5-30), the much-anticipated new play of Pau Miró, one of the most popular Catalan theatre directors.

El Grec Barcelona festival
Playwright Pau Miro will present his latest work at the festival (credit: Xavier Solanas)

If you want to learn more about the festival as the full programme is announced, check out their website.

10 Local Tips To Make The Most Of London

London: Tips by a local

1. Download apps ahead of time

London is a big place, making navigation intimidating for visitors. If you have a smart phone, download a few simple but worthwhile apps to help you out. Try Tube Map for the underground or Citymapper for planning the best route across a variety of transport methods.

Bonus tip: Citymapper features Europea Residences’ other destinations – Paris, Brussels, Barcelona and Milan – too!

2. Save with an Oyster Card

An Oyster Card is a travel smartcard that allows you to top up credit in advance. You then simply tap in and tap out on London’s underground and tap in (no need to tap out) on buses. It offers considerable discounts compared to paper tickets, both for single journeys and daily travel (Oysters have a daily cap that is significantly cheaper than a 1 day travelcard). Under 11s travel free, but everyone else will need their own Oyster.

You can choose from:

  • Visitor Oyster Card 
    • Same fares/caps as a regular Oyster card
    • Bought in advance of your trip
    • £3 non-refundable charge + postage + chosen top up amount
    • Convenient for short stays, enjoy access to special offers and discounts
  • Regular Oyster Card 
    • Bought in London
    • £5 refundable charge + chosen top up amount
    • Can be registered online to allow online top ups and ability to stop its use/transfer credit if the card is lost or stolen
    • Arguably better for longer stays (5 days or more) as you can apply a 7-day travelcard to cap your weekly spending while still retaining the security of Oyster (in case of loss or theft) and the flexibility of pay as you go (to travel beyond the zone boundaries of your travelcard without buying an extra ticket).

3. 2 for 1 tickets with National Rail’s Days Out

However, paper travelcards do have one huge advantage over Oysters if bought from a National Rail station rather than an Underground station (the latter are identical in function but look different and do not qualify for the promotion). A paper travelcard grants access to some fantastic 2 for 1 attraction offers from National Rail Days Out (available any day the travelcard is valid).

With a bit of forward planning and printing, this can save big money at top attractions like the London Eye, London Zoo, the London Dungeon and Madame Tussauds (all between £25-35 each per adult) as well as exhibitions, theatre, tours and more. For more information on the types of tickets valid for use, see the Days Out website here.

What to see in London
Go up on the London Eye on a sunny day

4. Take in the view

In a city as frenetic at London, it’s rewarding to stand and take it all in from a distance every now and again. Some classic viewpoints to check out include Primrose Hill, the Shard, the London Eye, or the top of Tower Bridge.

5. Embrace free activities

London has a dazzling range of free activities, from world-class galleries and museums (Tate Britain, Natural History Museum, National Gallery) to tranquil parks and green spaces (Richmond Park, Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens) to iconic sights (Abbey Road’s crossing, Changing the Guard at Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square).

6. Walk or bike

If you’re not keen on the hustle and bustle of public transport, the good news is that London can be eminently walkable if you plan your activities to focus on smaller areas each day (e.g. Covent Garden – Trafalgar Square – Buckingham Palace). Alternatively, hire a bike from London’s bike-sharing scheme and explore parks or travel shorter distances on wheels.

How to move in London
Go green and bike around the city

7. Join a tour

Tours, whether by bus, boat, bike or on foot, can be a great way to take in parts of the city in one fell swoop, or to orientate yourself before exploring more fully on your own. If a hop on, hop off bus is your style, check out the options from companies like Original London or Golden Tours. For other tour types, you can’t go wrong with highly regarded operators like New Europe Tours, Alternative London and Strawberry Tours (free).

8. Classic English food and drink

Immerse yourself in British life by sampling some iconic English food and drink. Start your days off right with a Full English breakfast (The Breakfast Club serve their version – ‘The Full Monty” – all day long) or go high class with a delectable cream tea (try Claridge’s for a touch of luxury). Other English standards to look out for include fish and chips, roast dinner, bangers and mash, toad in the hole, spotted dick and Eton mess. Try The Golden Chippy for fish and chips or The Andover Arms for a superb traditional pub.

9. Cheap theatre tickets 

If you’re flexible about what show you see, it’s well worth checking out the TKTs Booth in Leicester Square for some on-the-day bargains. They sell off last minute tickets and often offer discounts as large as 40 to 50% compared with theatre prices.

what to do in London
London’s West End is famed for its excellent productions

10. Save with the London Pass

The London Pass can be a valuable asset if you plan to visit lots of paid attractions each day or want to streamline your tourist experience by only buying one ticket. It comes in 1, 2, 3, 6 and 10 day passes and includes entry to over 60 top spots (including places like Westminster Abbey, Tower of London and Kew Gardens). Often this includes fast track entry, too, to help avoid the queues.

Bonus tip: There are often discount codes available for the London Pass. Google before buying for even more savings!