It may not be the capital, but Barcelona is easily the most popular and celebrated Spanish city. And for good reason: few cities offer such unrivaled culture, history, architecture, dining, and nightlife. This is a city where you can amble along medieval streets in the morning, enjoy tapas on the beach in the afternoon, and sip sangria at achingly cool bars in the evening. You could live here for months and still not touch the surface of Barcelona’s delights. From admiring Gaudí’s architectural wonders to eating at the coolest restaurants, here’s your luxury guide to Barcelona.
Where to Stay
Hotel Arts Barcelona
Hotel Arts Barcelona is perfect if you want to enjoy a beach vacation as well as a city break. Merging cutting-edge design with traditional luxury, this Ritz-Carlton property has been considered one of the city’s best hotels since it opened in the early 90s, and today the soaring building marks its stamp on the Barcelona skyline. Located right on the seafront, it’s a 30-minute walk to most of the city’s top tourist attractions, but the trendy Barceloneta district, with its laidback bars and cafés, are much closer afield. Inside the hotel, it’s all minimalist modernism, with plenty of exposed steel, glass, and clean, sleek lines.
The ambiance is upscale yet relaxed, with warm woods, cozy fabrics, and extravagant flower displays. All bedrooms enjoy sensational views of the sea or city (both if you’re lucky) and have all the mod-cons you could possibly need. There are five restaurants, the swankiest being the two Michelin-starred Enoteca Paco Pérez, and the cocktails at P41 Bar & Coctelarium are mouthwatering. Be sure to visit the spa on the top two floors, where you can pamper yourself in the hydrotherapy pool, sauna, steam bath, relaxation area, and sun-drenched outdoor terrace, all while admiring views of the Mediterranean Sea.
Barcelona is known for its unique architecture, but there’s so much more to it than the gothic or Gaudí. The Almanac Barcelona is a super-stylish newly designed hotel that gives an insight into the more modern side of Barcelona’s architectural scene. Designed by award-winning architect Jaime Beriestain, the style is contemporary comfort meets Art Deco opulence: lots of gentle glowing lights and soft grays and gold. The location is ideal for exploring: just off the upmarket Passeig de Gràcia, Las Ramblas and the old town is a short walk away, and the city’s best restaurants, boutiques, and bars are on your doorstep.
Bedrooms and suites are big, spacious and bright, and marble bathrooms boast double vanities, powerful rainfall showers, and indulgent toiletries. The best thing about the Almanac, however, is its panoramic multi-level rooftop terrace – a lovely spot for sunset drinks and nibbles. There’s also an inviting pool with sun loungers that’s exclusive to hotel guests. Downstairs, the Mediterranean-style brasserie Línia serves up traditional Catalan cuisine, with a focus on fresh fish and seafood.
Where to Eat
Eixampeling Brunch Café & Bar
The brunch obsession never really hit Barcelona… until now. The newest and hottest brunch spot in town is Eixampeling Brunch Café & Bar, where long lines snake around the corner every weekend. Choose from a wide range of colourful and whimsically-named dishes: brunch classics include the Shrimpy The Best (poached eggs with prawns marinated in lime juice, avocado, and fresh spinach), Yolky Ono (mushroom omelet with fresh spinach on crunchy toast) and Jerusal-eggs (shakshuka-style poached eggs in a spiced tomato sauce, topped with cilantro and feta). If you don’t fancy brunch, you can choose from one of the excellent burgers or salads, then follow up with a decadent dessert. The triple chocolate brownie with chocolate sauce is one of the most popular treats on the menu. Finish off with an award-winning Bloody Mary cocktail!
As the latest project by eco-group Tribu Woki, Hëtta – Swedish for “heat” – is easily one of the coolest new restaurants in Barcelona. It also offers a dining experience like nothing else. Hëtta has only nine main products on the menu at one time; these are local and seasonal, so the menu is ever-changing. If you think having only nine key ingredients might get boring you’d be wrong, because Hëtta is all about how you cook these ingredients. Using an X&Y axis system, the menu incorporates over 30 different dishes that are cooked different ways, with different techniques and at different temperatures. From raw, smoked, marinated, boiled and roasted, each dish has its own uniquely intense flavor and texture. The space is modern and welcoming, with high tables and stools, Nordic-style decor and pulsing beats that liven the atmosphere at night. The kitchen is open, so you can see everything that’s going on, and when the chef has finished your dish they bring it personally to the table and tell you all about it. A must for foodies with an adventurous palate.
Flax & Kale
Flexitarian restaurant Flax & Kale is one of the most popular restaurants in town, and dropping by for lunch or dinner might prove to be one of the unexpected highlights of your trip. The creation of local restaurant pioneer Teresa Carles, Flax & Kale caters to the new awareness of sustainability, and the mouthwatering menu serves up all kinds of delicious yet eco-friendly treats. There’s something for everyone: gluten-free foodies will be in raptures over the pizza, Asian fusion fans will be spoilt for choice, and for those craving a taste of the ocean, dishes like bamboo-steamed alaskan salmon will hit the spot. Continuing its quest to offer eco-friendly food without compromising on taste, Flax & Kale is also a plant-based haven: be sure to try the vegan ‘pulled pork’ baos, where braised jackfruit is topped with mayo, chilli jam and fresh cilantro. Try a refreshing Kombucha juice from the restaurant’s own Kombucha Lab before you leave!
When you think of Barcelona cuisine, chances are that meat might first come to mind. Here to dispel that notion is Rasoterra, one of the city’s best vegetarian restaurants that’s won countless awards. Hidden away in the winding streets of the Gothic Quarter, Rasoterra is serious about its food (it even has its own endearing manifesto) and all the produce is local and seasonal. Sharing several small plates is the best way to eat here – a good thing because once you see the menu you’ll realize how impossible it is to pick just one. Popular dishes include organic egg ravioli stuffed with provolone, caramelized onions and oregano butter, chilaquiles (white corn tortillas) packed with black beans, Manchego cheese, and spicy cream, and tempeh and shallot brochettes with carrot, daikon noodles, and chestnut satay sauce. Save room for some of the indulgent desserts.
What to Do
Tour Gaudí’s Creations
It might not be the most ‘original’ thing to do but you can’t visit Barcelona and not discover the beauty of Modernist architect Antoni Gaudí’s creations. Number one on the ‘must visit’ list is the UNESCO-listed cathedral Sagrada Família, and this bizarre yet beautiful building sets the tone for the rest of Gaudí’s work. Inside you can gaze up at vaults that rise over 200 feet, and marvel at the intricacies of the cross-inspired floor. After, head to Casa Milà, where you can snap photographs of the wavy white balconies and chimneys shaped like soldiers. Casa Batlló, with its contorted windows and iridescent, aquamarine colors should be next on your list, and Park Güell is the ideal spot to end your tour. This psychedelic park provides unrivaled views over the city and is a great place to rest your weary feet.
Have a Beach Day at Barceloneta
Aside from being one of the most beautiful and energetic cities in Europe, one perk Barcelona has over other city break destinations is its beaches. There are few places that offer such a wealth of culture and history while also boasting vast stretches of sandy beaches and sparkling turquoise water. The very best beaches are outside the city, but a visit to the Barceloneta neighborhood allows you to enjoy the best of both worlds – exploring a cool district while getting your dose of sea and sand! Once a rather industrial waterfront, Barceloneta has been given a whole new restyle, and today it features sleek sculptures, buzzing bars, towering high-rise apartments and marinas packed with super yachts.
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