On the Spanish coast, facing the azure hues of the Mediterranean Sea is Barcelona – a touristic mecca known for its cuisine, architecture and beach-going climate.
Although the summer months bring in waves of people, the remainder of the year showcases the relaxed, vacation-worthy ambience that we all flock to the seaside for. This city is not for a book and nap sort of time away, instead, it is for taking it easy as you delve into the passion and culture that is so prominent it demands exploration.
The old and new take on different quarters in the city, but new eateries seep into the old Gothic district and historic institutions stand their ground in the recently developed realms. History and culture are rooted in architecture here with a colossal spotlight directed at the works of Antoni Gaudí, a local modernist architect whose unusual style and unique artistry earned him international recognition. His works are scattered throughout the city and even on an unassumingly square block in Eixample, you’ll suddenly turn the corner to find Casa Milà, a curved stone monument of a structure. Gaudí is assimilated into the bones of the city but also makes for prominent landmarks such as La Sagrada Familia, a church that broke ground over 130 years ago but has yet to see completion.
Other than the design element, another way to absorb the city is through its food. Catalan cuisine is ubiquitous in Barcelona and fully utilises Mediterranean ingredients such as tomatoes, olives and fish to produce rice dishes, casseroles and tapas. With your meal, treat yourself to a class of cava – Spanish sparkling wine – to celebrate your getaway. And dessert devotees beware, the number of sweet and historically localised options are remarkable.
All in all, Barcelona is a place that can be appreciated on a stopover or as a week-long destination. You will find foodies and football fans uniting under the streets lined with antiquity and modernism.
Grand Hotel Central
The hotel itself oozes with a cosy atmosphere from its simple yet chic decor that is wrapped in an early 20th century exterior. The panoramic views from the infinity pool atop this hotel make it a picture-perfect vantage point to take in the views of the gothic quarter and enjoy a sunset drink. In the streets around the hotel, you will find historical landmarks, such as preserved relics from the first century B.C., and an abundance of art museums interlaced with snug bars and shops. The storied streets and compact neighbourhood make for an immersive dive into the history of Barcelona.
W Hotel Barcelona
The striking building at the end of Barceloneta Beach is the home to the W Hotel. Its 31 floors are just as dramatic on the inside with eccentrically voguish interiors that are a trademark of the W Hotels brand. Its location and design make the rooms look like a stylish city apartment married with the views and balconies of a Mediterranean cruise ship. Aside from accommodation, the hotel has a sleek spa to promote your well-being and stunning views overlooking the beach from any of their six dining and bar options. With the beach right outside, sailing, surfing and volleyball make for great close-to-home outings.
Ohla Barcelona Hotel
The distinctly neoclassical exterior and contemporary interior of the hotel make for a beautiful pairing of history and luxury right in the centre of town. The rooms range from bold and striking decor to pastel-accented abodes that take advantage of the natural light. Wine lovers can head to Vistro49, the hotel’s in-house wine bar for a drink and whilst relaxation specialists can unwind poolside on the rooftop terrace. At your doorstep is a multitude of spots for Catalonian cuisine and unique boutiques crafted into the gothic scene. Also worth noting is Caelis, the Michelin-starred restaurant inside the hotel fronted by Chef Romain Fornell who focuses on creative French cuisine.
Dating back to 1903, Gregorio Solé’s dining establishment has preserved the recipes from sailors who have arguably perfected the treatment of seafood over their tenures at sea. The clean and homely restaurant has remained intent on staying true to what has kept it popular for so long: daily seafood deliveries straight off the boat and classics of the nation such as hearty servings of paella and restaurant speciality slow baked squid. You will experience recipes that are tried and true to the Mediterranean location. This classic and pure take on Catalan food is the reason that Can Solé remains a favourite between Spanish locals and celebrities alike.
Like the city of Barcelona itself, Angle seamlessly blends the modern and the historical. Jordi Cruz has crafted a tasting menu filled with updated takes on creations that have made him a well-recognised chef. Whether you attend for lunch or dinner, you will leave satisfied with the creativity that is applied, whilst having effortlessly explored tenets of Catalan cuisine. The local ingredients used, with many dishes focusing on seafood, set the scene of port-side city life. The staff are attentive but not clingy and the red and white minimalist but eye-catching interior decor spells out the soft and hip mood of the restaurant – it is a wonderful place for an upscale date.
Bodega La Puntual
Set in a rustic bodega, this restaurant is the pleasantly casual answer to a tapas craving. Bodega La Puntual is a fantastic place to unwind at the end of the day for some delectable Spanish and Catalan tapas with homemade charm. The helpful staff will recommend you the best way to proceed with your food journey and there is flexibility in the customisable small plates. You are sure to enjoy the best of Barcelona when you visit here as they continue to evolve with the seasons. They also supply a well-selected wine menu representing different regions of Spain and have an historical bar next door. Visit when you feel like exploring the authentic.
La Sagrada Familia
The famously unfinished church that will remain under construction until 2026, but there is no good excuse to wait as you can still enter Gaudí ’s architectural legend. Inside you will find places to marvel at the colourful spectrum of stained glass windows and nature-inspired columns and ceilings. The sheer magnitude of detail in the landmark is enough to charm and captivate every person that steps in. For history buffs, there is also an adjoining museum that details the history of constructing the building chronicling the background of the church.
A central pedestrian street that is lined with shops and kiosks that extends for just over a kilometre. The street itself is an attraction in and of itself, but there are also points of interest along its length that are visit-worthy.
Located at the southern end of La Rambla is a 60-metre obelisk dedicated to the memory of Christopher Columbus. The often copied monument is in recognition of his exploration of the Americas and features statues that depict key events on that expedition.
Another one of Gaudí ‘s must-see works is Park Güell, a hillside marriage between nature and the man-made. The recognisable nature-informed geometry of the architect is spotted with colourful mosaic and forests of stone. The design appears organic and serves to synergise with the landscape instead of overpowering it. Also featured in the park are two buildings dubbed “Hansel and Gretel” houses for the resemblance to gingerbread and the fairy-tale look. One of the houses-turned-museum was where Antoni Gaudí resided for almost two decades. Prepare to assign a few hours to thoroughly explore this UNESCO World Heritage site and appreciate the unorthodox aesthetic.
La Boqueria Market
This bustling market, which has stayed open since 1840, contains mesmerising displays of everything from fruit juices to Jamon Iberico. The market comes to life around lunchtime as small restaurant-like food stalls open for business. Take your time exploring the local delicacies and definitely arrive on an empty stomach.
Arts Santa Mònica
A gallery housed in a renaissance building on the southern end of the street with revolving exhibits of contemporary art from mainly Spanish artists. Think of the displays as another way to appreciate the cultural wealth of Spain.