Want an insider’s look at a timeless Spanish city in strong revival mode? Here we reveal a destination that beckons its visitors with flair, fervor and flavor. Discover Barcelona like never before with inveterate travelers Molly Bayme and Emily Glocer on their quest for cool
As Eleanor Roosevelt said so astutely, “the purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” Barcelona, a centuries-old city turned hipster mecca, invites travelers on a true quest for unique experiences. Exquisite worldliness abounds within this city: succulent dining opportunities, historical and cultural landmarks, and infinitely exciting activities await travelers who land in one of the chicest cities on the planet. If you want to immerse yourself in an enriching and awe-inspiring city with a heart of gold, Barcelona is the place be.
Barcelona has flourished robustly in recent years, but that is no surprise to anyone who knows of the city. Film lovers may be familiar with high society filmmaker Whit Stillman’s Barcelona, a film that chronicles the trials and travails of singles in the sexy, sultry city that rarely sleeps. Barcelona’s real-life energy faithfully rivals its cinematic reputation. After hosting the Summer Games in 1992, the world caught a glimpse of the growth that the city underwent in preparation for the festivities. The event’s global spotlight highlighted state-of-the-art enhancements throughout the city, including the augmentation of Catalan architecture throughout the city aimed toward increasing its cultural flair, and a novel beach port that boasts a spectacular view of the Mediterranean. Barcelona has continued to thrive in the ensuing decades, drawing visitors from across the world. This dazzling metropolitan destination immediately enamors newcomers upon arrival.
You may wonder, What is so enchanting about this city? What is everyone falling in love with? Barcelona is such an eclectic city that it truly has something for everyone. For the history buffs, there is the Gothic Quarter. For the beach-combers, there is the Barcelonetta Beach, and for the fashionistas there is high style shopping in Passeig de Gràcia. For the artfully inclined, there is the generous trace of artisanship that Antoni Gaudí and Picasso left upon the city. A stay in Barcelona is never a bore simply because there’s so much to explore.
Location, location, location; it’s all about where you stay when visiting Barcelona. There are so many chic options, yet staying anywhere other than the Mandarin Oriental Barcelona, Hotel Bagues, The Majestic Hotel and Spa Barcelona, Olivia Balmes Hotel, or The W Barcelona would be a disservice to your experience in this lively, culturally rich Catalonian destination.
If you love to wake up to a breathtaking view, grab a cocktail with other trendsetters, lounge by the pool, and hear the ocean waves while falling asleep, the The W Barcelona will be your best choice. The W stands as one of the most favorable picks to lodge in Barcelona since it is directly on the beach in the prime retail area of Barcelonetta. Are you looking for simply superb? Then grab your walking shoes, your Amex card and book The Majestic Hotel, in the heart of the city on the Rodeo Drive of Barcelona, Passeig de Gràcia. You can shop till you drop, have a glass of fruit-laden sangria on a rooftop patio overlooking the city, and treat yourself to that soothing couples spa day to cap off a full day of indulgence.
If you wish to discover contemporary Catalan style, you will want to stay at the luxurious Mandarin Oriental Barcelona, where you will be only steps away from your next Tiffany & Co. shiny blue box. The hotel, also located in the city’s famous Passeig de Gràcia Avenue, is acclaimed as one of Barcelona’s most luxurious and delightful hotel experiences, offering innovative dining, romantic suites, beautiful city views, and family-friendly accommodations. The Hotel Bagues is located in the Ciutat Vella, directly in the cultural heart of town, walking distance from the astoundingly grand Old Cathedral, Las Ramblas, and the Palau de la Musica Catalana. This five-star paradise is home to a bustling lounge, irresistible sauna, and truly beautiful architecture. If you want to stay a little further from the heart of tourism and closer to the L’Eixample district full of breathtaking architecture, eclectic boutiques and local Spanish delicacies, look no further than the Olivia Balmes Hotel. This modern boutique hotel is your ticket to experiencing the rich hospitality of the Barcelona natives at their finest.
The tantalizing cuisine in Barcelona will fulfill your epicurean desires and always leave you wanting more. In a city famous for its hearty cured ham, appetizing libations such as sparkling Cava wine and sangria, petite “tapas” dishes, and traditional paella, almost every restaurant offers these Iberian delicacies . Discerning diners won’t want to miss all the right places to indulge in the utmost Barcelonan experience.
After a day at the beach under the glittering sun, stop by the renowned restaurant Cal Pep for a tasty repast. The basic principle of this restaurant makes the dining experience there inimitable: most of the restaurant seating is at one long, Continental- style bar and the cuisine is served in smaller-sized dishes called “tapas.” The bar’s communal tables and shareable tapas contribute to the sense of community, an aspect of Barcelona that is highly emphasized in the local culture. The eatery serves authentic Mediterranean dishes with seasonal cuisine changes. The really cool part? The restaurant has no menu. The servers surprise you with their favorite combination of cuisines based on what’s in season, making the meal even more exciting. Another restaurant famous for its tapas-style meals is Cervecería Catalana, which keeps its patrons coming back with its traditional specialties including “Pan con tomate”, “croquetas”, and “patatas bravas”. At Cerveceria Catalane, you can revel in Barcelona culture while indulging in a delectable meal.
If you’re looking for a light lunch or afternoon pick-me-up, but still want to eat a traditional meal, Barri I Irrati is your destination. There you will stand at the bar to eat your meal, which consists of a variety of light tapas including both savory and sweet selections, so there is something for everyone.
For a chic dinner alongside the scintillating Barcelona sea, Arenal is the restaurant of choice. Arenal allows customers to enjoy a breathtaking meal while enjoying an astonishing view. Especially known for its paella, a traditional Catalan dish that features a delightful combination of seafood, chicken and vegetables mixed with rice, Arenal’s take on this traditional dish stands above all other paellas in the city. It’s a must-try during your stay in Barcelona.
During the Modernist art movement in Barcelona, Antoni Gaudí created an uproar with his work, and although at the time many locals might have disapproved his new artistic style, today his work is highly venerated and contributes to the city’s charm and appeal. Many travel to Barcelona solely to see the distinctive work of this architectural genius. To get a sense of what all the Gaudí fuss is about, you must see two especially illustrious sites: La Sagrada Familia and Parc Guell. Although Gaudí designed architecture all over the city, these two examples are the most profound. La Sagrada Familia is currently under construction – and has been in the process of being built since 1828. It is already gorgeous with its unique form, sculpture, and implementation of stained glass and marble, truly making it a modern world wonder. Parc Guell is another must-see Gaudí construction. The peaceful park overlooks the bustling city, offering viewers a glimpse of the spectacular skyline that eventually fades into the ocean. It is so easy to get lost in the natural beauty of this park, so let yourself wander among the mosaic patterns and elaborate artistic design that Gaudí created within it.
For all of the art history lovers, a visit to the Barcelona Picasso Museum ranks as a strong favorite. The collections in this museum feature the artist’s work during his formative years and reflect his rapport with the city of Barcelona. The museum houses some of the artist’s most renowned pieces including artwork from his Blue Period such as The Pigeons, and Infanta Margarita Maria from his Las Meninas series.
The Gothic Quarter, or Barrí Gotic sits in the Ciutat Vella district in the heart of the old city center. This historical area dates back to medieval times, featuring buildings that still stand from as far back as the Roman settlement. It is home to both the astounding Cathedral and the Jewish Quarter. Take a quick look around the Cathedral and don’t miss the panoramic city views from the church’s viewing deck. The Gothic Quarter has it all: it is home to rich art history, ancient architecture, eclectic shopping, and truly authentic Catalan cuisine. This fabulous mecca is the perfect place to explore with its tiny winding streets that open to fascinating public squares, stretching from the Rambla to the Mediterranean seafront. It will entrance you for hours on end. Who knows? You might even get lost on your journey, yet it will be worth every single turn you take.
As you make your way through the winding streets of the Gothic Area, before you approach the quirky, artsy area of El Born, take some time to enjoy the Palau de la Musica Catalana. This hidden gem is a historical music hall and one of the most fascinating tourist attractions in Barcelona. Take a guided tour of the lavish interior to appreciate the building’s ornate beauty. Originally designed as home to the Orfeó Catalá, Barcelona’s primary choir, this venue still hosts the classical choir’s performances. If you need a break from walking the city, take some time to listen to the traditional Catalan tunes that will enrich your ears with harmonious melodies. The treat for your ears also contains a feast for your eyes: the exterior structure is decorated with elaborate mosaics full of intricate Catalan charm.
With a Café Con Leche (café latte) in hand, prepare to spend a day (or more) walking bourgeois Barcelona. Passeig de Gràcia is in fact, Barcelona and Spain’s most expensive avenue. Home to the chicest designer fashion, fabulous dining experiences, and many exquisite boutiques, you’ll find the Barcelona’s most celebrated architecture here, and of course, its swell hotels. You’ll shop Cartier, Louis Vuitton, and all of the familiar prestigious stores. While we all love a new Chanel purse, also make sure to see some of the less well-known stores that represent Spain’s high fashion. Take a minute and peek into a local boutique, you may just find the perfect pair of new Majorca pearl earrings.
No matter what sights you see, hotels you visit, or restaurants you enjoy, you will fall in love with this contemporary, cosmopolitan city, and Barcelona will have you booking your next trip upon arrival back home. From the beautiful beaches to the architectural masterpieces, to the flavorful Catalan cuisine and seemingly endless glasses of sangria, to the historical and cultural sights, you will always have something to add to your to-do list. Immerse yourself in this breathtaking city, and just know you will return for another stay. So what are you waiting for? Pack your bags because your marvelous Barcelona experience awaits.