A Gothic and Modernist marvel on the Mediterranean Sea, Barcelona is quirky, cosmopolitan and effortlessly cool. This city breathes life: from chefs foraging for fresh produce in La Boqueria Market at the crack of dawn to partygoers leaving El Born’s pulsating clubs around the same time. Pause for a minute, and discover Barcelona’s real charm in small details, the hidden courtyards of Barri Gòtic, the light catching Sagrada Família’s wax-like turrets, all coming together to make the Catalan capital one of Spain’s most livable and loveable cities. Start with a leisurely saunter down tree-lined La Rambla, dipping into the Barri Gòtic‘s maze-like alleyways to reach Santa Maria del Mar church. Antoni Gaudí has left his fantastical stamp on the city in the twirling spires of La Sagrada Família cathedral and sculpted greenery of Park Güell. The unmissable Picasso Museum displays Picasso‘s early sketches and Blue Period masterpieces. Join locals for sun on Barceloneta beach and shade in Montjuïc‘s gardens.
La Boqueria Market‘s iron gates lead to Barcelona’s best grazing, shop for Iberian ham, glossy olives and creamy goat cheese before lunch at a seafood bar. Two metro stops north, the stately Modernist Passeig de Gràcia is a catwalk to designer labels, near Avinguda Diagonal‘s department stores like Spanish giant El Corte Inglés. Local creatives have set up galleries and boutiques in El Born, El Raval and Barri Gòtic, selling quirky fashion, vintage clothes and used records.
Barcelona’s real party begins at midnight. Do like the Barcelonese, take an evening paseo in the Ciutat Vella, leading to an intimate bodega in Barrí Gótic and Plaça Real‘s jazz clubs and tapas bars. In trendier El Born DJs spin everything from techno to tango. Summer means cocktails and people-watching on Gràcia‘s squares and fiestas at Villa Olímpica‘s beach bars. Dress up for concerts at the Palau de la Música Catalana and opera at Gran Teatre del Liceu. Michelin-starred chefs like Xavier Pellicer, Fermí Puig and Mey Hoffmann have firmly placed Barcelona on the gastro map. Restaurants with inspired menus and interiors cluster in elegant Eixample and El Born. The Barri Gòtic is packed with tiny tapas bars and vibrant restaurants dishing up Catalan fare like esqueixada and pan tomaquet. Look up the famous Los Caracoles specializing in exactly that. Head to Barceloneta for no-frills fish restaurants and Gràcia for a world of cuisines.