Fodor's Spain (2015)
Main Table of Contents
Welcome to Barcelona
Where to Eat
Where to Stay
Nightlife and Performing Arts
Sports and the Outdoors
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Top Reasons to Go | Getting Oriented | What’s Where | Planning | Eating and Drinking Well in Barcelona | Barcelona’s Best Beaches
Updated by Jared Lubarsky, Steve Tallantyre, and Suzanne Wales
The infinite variety of street life, the nooks and crannies of the medieval Barri Gòtic, the ceramic tile and stained glass of Art Nouveau facades, the art and music, the throb of street life, the food (ah, the food!)—one way or another, Barcelona will find a way to get your full attention.
The Catalonian capital greets the new millennium with a cultural and industrial rebirth comparable only to the late-19th-century Renaixença (Renaissance) that filled the city with its flamboyant Moderniste (Art Nouveau) buildings. An exuberant sense of style—from hip new fashions to cutting-edge interior design, to the extravagant visions of star-status postmodern architects—gives Barcelona a vibe like no other in the world. Barcelona is Spain’s most-visited city, and it’s no wonder: it’s a 2,000-year-old master of the art of perpetual novelty.
Barcelona’s present boom began on October 17, 1987, when Juan Antonio Samaranch, president of the International Olympic Committee, announced that his native city had been chosen to host the 1992 Olympics. This single masterstroke allowed Spain’s so-called second city to throw off the shadow of Madrid and its 40-year “internal exile” under Franco, and resume its rightful place as one of Europe’s most dynamic destinations. The Catalan administration lavished millions in subsidies from the Spanish government for the Olympics, then used the Games as a platform to broadcast the news about Catalonia’s cultural and national identity from one end of the planet to the other. More Mediterranean than Spanish, historically closer and more akin to Marseille or Milan than to Madrid, Barcelona has always been ambitious, decidedly modern (even in the 2nd century), and quick to accept the most recent innovations. (The city’s electric light system, public gas system, and telephone exchange were among the first in the world.) Its democratic form of government is rooted in the so-called Usatges Laws instituted by Ramon Berenguer I in the 11th century, which amounted to a constitution. This code of privileges represented one of the earliest known examples of democratic rule; Barcelona’s Consell de Cent (Council of 100), constituted in 1274, was Europe’s first parliament and one of the cradles of Western democracy. The center of an important seafaring commercial empire with colonies spread around the Mediterranean as far away as Athens, when Madrid was still a Moorish outpost on the arid Castilian steppe—it was Barcelona that absorbed new ideas and styles first. It borrowed navigation techniques from the Moors. It embraced the ideals of the French Revolution. It nurtured artists like Picasso and Miró, who blossomed in the city’s air of freedom and individualism. Barcelona, in short, has always been ahead of the curve.
TOP REASONS TO GO
Explore La Boqueria: Barcelona’s produce market may be the most exciting cornucopia in the world.
Visit Santa Maria del Mar: The early Mediterranean Gothic elegance, rhythmic columns, and unbroken spaces make this church peerless.
See La Sagrada Família: Gaudí’s unfinished masterpiece is the city’s most iconic treasure.
Experience El Palau de la Música Catalana: This Art Nouveau tour de force is alive with music.
Shop for fashion and design: How could a city famous for its architecture not offer an abundance of innovative clothing, furniture, and design shops as well?
Watch castellers and sardanas: Human castles and Catalonia’s national dance are two fun ways to appreciate Catalan culture.
The baseball-diamond-shape jumble at the bottom of the map of Barcelona is Ciutat Vella (Old City). This is the heart of the city and a sensory feast, from the Rambla’s human parade and the Boqueria’s fish, fruit, and vegetables to the steamy corners of the Born. The wide checkerboard grid above Ciutat Vella is the post-1860 Eixample (Expansion), rich in Moderniste architecture and shops. The outlying villages of Gràcia and Sarrià each have their own personalities: Gràcia a cauldron of youthful energy, trendy bars and boutiques; Sarrià is more rustic and leafy. The Montjuïc promontory hovering over the port is a repository of paintings, from the Miró Foundation to the MNAC and CaixaFòrum, while Tibidabo, the other high point, offers panoramic views on clear days.
The Rambla and the Raval. Ciutat Vella (the Old City) is bisected by the Rambla, the city’s all-purpose runway and home of the Boqueria market, the city’s heart, soul, and stomach. The Raval is a funky multicultural sprawl, spread out around the MACBA contemporary art museum and the medieval Hospital de la Santa Creu.
Barri Gòtic and Born-Ribera. Northeast of the Rambla, Ciutat Vella’s Gothic Quarter surrounds the cathedral and a jumble of ancient (mostly pedestrianized) streets filled with shops, cafés, and Gothic architecture. Born-Ribera is across Via Laietana, around Santa Maria del Mar.
Barceloneta, Ciutadella, and Port Olímpic. Barceloneta is a charmingly Naples-like fisherman’s village, filled with seafood restaurants and lined with sandy beaches. Port Olímpic, built for the 1992 Olympic Games, is a sprawling succession of restaurants and discos. Ciutadella, just inland, was originally a fortress but is now a park with the city zoo.
The Eixample. The post-1860 Eixample spreads out above Plaça de Catalunya and contains most of the city’s Art Nouveau (in Catalan, Moderniste) architecture, including Gaudí’s iconic Sagrada Família church, along with hundreds of shops and places to eat.
Upper Barcelona. The village of Gràcia nestles above the Diagonal, with Gaudí’s Park Güell at its upper edge. Sarrià and Pedralbes spread out farther west, with two Gaudí buildings, a stunning monastery and cloister, and a rustic village surrounded by upscale residential development.
Montjuïc. The promontory over the south side of the city lacks street vibe but the artistic treasure massed here is not to be missed: Miró, the MNAC, Mies van der Rohe, and CaixaFòrum.
PLANNING YOUR TIME
The best way to get around Barcelona is on foot; the occasional resort to subway, taxi, or tram will help you make the most of your visit. The comfortable FGC (Ferrocarril de la Generalitat de Catalunya) trains that run up the center of the city from Plaça de Catalunya to Sarrià put you within 20- to 30-minute walks of nearly everything. (The metro and the FGC close just short of midnight Monday through Thursday and Sunday, and at 2 am on Friday; on Saturday, the metro runs all night. The main attractions you need a taxi or the metro to reach are Montjuïc (Miró Foundation, MNAC, Mies van der Rohe Pavilion, CaixaFòrum, and Poble Espanyol), most easily accessed from Plaça Espanya; Park Güell above Plaça Lesseps; and the Auditori at Plaça de les Glòries. You can reach Gaudí’s Sagrada Família by two metro lines (2 and 5), but you may prefer the walk from the FGC’s Provença stop, as it’s an enjoyable half-hour jaunt that passes by three major Moderniste buildings: Palau Baró de Quadras, Casa Terrades (les Punxes), and Casa Macaia.
Sarrià and Pedralbes are easily explored on foot. The Torre Bellesguard and the Col.legi de les Teresianes are uphill treks; you might want to take a cab. It’s a pleasant stroll from Sarrià down through the Jardins de la Vil.la Cecilia and Vil.la Amèlia to the Cátedra Gaudí (the pavilions of the Finca Güell, with Gaudí’s amazing wrought-iron dragon gate); from there, you can get to the Futbol Club Barcelona through the Jardins del Palau Reial de Pedralbes and the university campus, or catch a two-minute taxi.
All of Ciutat Vella (Barri Gòtic, La Rambla, El Raval, Born-Ribera, and Barceloneta) is best explored on foot. If you stay in Barceloneta for dinner (usually not more than €12), have the restaurant call you a taxi to get back to your hotel.
The city bus system is also a viable option—you get a better look at the city as you go—but the metro is faster and more comfortable. The tramway offers a quiet ride from Plaça Francesc Macià out Diagonal to the Futbol Club Barcelona, or from behind the Ciutadella Park out to Glòries and the Fòrum at the east end of Diagonal.
WHEN TO GO
For optimal weather and marginally fewer tourists, the best times to visit Barcelona, Catalonia, and Bilbao are April through June and mid-September through mid-December. Catalans and Basques vacation in August, causing epic traffic jams at both ends of the month.
DISCOUNTS AND DEALS
The very worthwhile Barcelona Card (www.barcelona-card.com) comes in two-, three-, four-, and five-day versions: for €33.30, €42.30, €50.40, and €55.80. You get unlimited travel on public transport and free entrance at numerous museums, and discounts on restaurants, leisure sights, and stores. You can get the card in Turisme de Barcelona offices in Plaça de Catalunya and Plaça Sant Jaume and in the Sants Estació del Nord train stations, and El Prat airport, among other sites.
GETTING HERE AND AROUND
Most flights arriving in Spain from the United States and Canada pass through Madrid’s Barajas (MAD), but the major gateway to Catalonia and other regions in this book is Spain’s second-largest airport, Barcelona’s spectacular glass, steel, and marble El Prat del Llobregat (BCN). The T1 terminal, which opened in 2009, is a sleek ultramodern facility that uses solar panels for sustainable energy and offers a spa, a fitness center, restaurants and cafés, and more VIP lounges. This airport is served by numerous international carriers, but Catalonia also has two other airports that handle passenger traffic, including charter flights. One is just south of Girona, 90 km (56 miles) north of Barcelona and convenient to the resort towns of the Costa Brava. Bus and train connections from Girona to Barcelona work well and cheaply, provided you have the time. The other Catalonia airport is at Reus, 110 km (68 miles) south of Barcelona and a gateway to Tarragona and the beaches of the Costa Daurada. Flights to and from the major cities in Europe and Spain also fly into and out of Bilbao’s Loiu (BIL) airport. For information about airports in Spain, consult www.aena.es.
Aeroport de Girona-Costa Brava (GRO). | Girona | 913/211000, 972/186600.
Aeropuerto de Reus (REU). | Autovia Tarragona–Reus, | Reus | 902/404704, 913/211000.
Aeropuerto Internacional de Bilbao (BIL). | Carretera Aeropuerto, | Loiu | 902/404704, 913/211000.
Barajas Aeropuerto de Madrid (MAD). | Av. de la Hispanidad s/n, | Madrid | 902/404704, 913/211000.
El Prat de Llobregat (BCN). | 91/3211000, 902/404704.
Check first to see if your hotel in Barcelona provides airport-shuttle service. Few do: visitors normally get into town by train, bus, taxi, or rental car.
The Aerobus leaves the airport for Plaça de Catalunya every 10 minutes between 6 am and 1 am. From Plaça de Catalunya the bus leaves for the airport every 10 or 20 minutes between 5:30 am and 12:30 am. The fare is €5.90 one-way and €10.20 round-trip. Aerobuses for terminals 1 and 2 pick up and drop off passengers at the same stops en route, so if you’re outward bound make sure that you board the right one. The A1 Aerobus for Terminal 1 is two-tone light and dark blue; the A2 Aerobus for Terminal 2 is dark blue and yellow.
Cab fare from the airport into town is €30–€35, depending on traffic, the part of town you’re heading to, and the amount of baggage you have (there’s a €1 surcharge for each suitcase that goes in the trunk). If you’re driving your own car, follow signs to the Centre Ciutat, from which you can enter the city along Gran Vía. For the port area, follow signs for the Ronda Litoral. The journey to the center of town can take 25–45 minutes, depending on traffic.
City Bus, Subway, and Tram Travel
City buses run daily 5:30 am–11:30 pm. Barcelona’s 17 night buses generally run until about 5 am. Route maps are displayed at bus stops. Schedules are available at bus and metro stations or at www.bcn.es/guia/welcomea.htm.
Barcelona’s new tramway system is divided into two subsectors: Trambaix serves the western end of the Diagonal, and Trambesòs serves the eastern end.
In Barcelona the underground metro, or subway, is the fastest, cheapest, and easiest way to get around. Metro lines run Monday through Thursday and Sunday 5 am to midnight, Friday to 2 am Saturday, and holiday evenings all night. The FGC trains run 5 am to just after midnight on weekdays and to 1:52 on weekends and the eves of holidays. Sunday trains run on weekday schedules.
Transports Metropolitans de Barcelona (TMB). | 93/2987000 | www.tmb.net.
Transports Metropolitans de Barcelona (TMB). | www.tmb.cat/en.
In Barcelona taxis are black and yellow and show a green rooftop light on the front right corner when available for hire. The meter currently starts at €2.05 and rises in increments of €0.98 every kilometer. These rates apply 6 am to 10 pm weekdays. At hours outside of these, the rates rise 20%. There are official supplements of €1 per bag for luggage.
Trips to or from a train station, or the quay where the cruise ships put in, entail a supplemental charge of €2.10; airport runs add a supplemental charge of €4.20, as do trips to or from a football match. There are cabstands (parades, in Catalan) all over town, and you can also hail cabs on the street, though if you are too close to an official stand they may not stop. You can call for a cab by phone 24 hours a day. Drivers do not expect a tip, but rounding up the fare is standard.
Barna Taxi. | 93/3222222 | www.barnataxi.com.
Cooperativa Radio-Taxi Metropolitana Barcelona. | 93/225000.
Radio Taxi. | 93/2250000.
Taxi Class Rent. | 93/3070707.
Teocar Mercedes. | 93/3083434.
International overnight trains to Barcelona arrive from many European cities, including Paris, Grenoble, Geneva, Zurich, and Milan; the route from Paris takes 11½ hours. Almost all long-distance trains arrive at and depart from Estació de Sants, though many make a stop at Passeig de Gràcia that comes in handy for hotels in the Eixample or in the Ciutat Vella. Estació de França, near the port, handles only a few regional trains within Catalonia. Train service connects Barcelona with most other major cities in Spain; in addition a high-speed Euromed route connects Barcelona to Tarragona and Valencia.
A twice-daily high-speed train, linking Barcelona and Paris in just six and a half hours, went into service in December 2013. Only the 200-km (124-mile) section of track between Perpignan and Nîmes is still unable to handle the TGV speed.
Information on the local/commuter lines (rodalies in Catalan, cercanias in Castilian) can be found at www.renfe.es/cercanias. Rodalies go, for example, to Sitges from Barcelona, whereas you would take a regular RENFE train to, say, Tarragona. It’s important to know whether you are traveling on RENFE or on rodalies (the latter distinguished by a stylized C), so you don’t end up in the wrong line.
Estació de França. | Av. Marquès de l’Argentera 1, Born-Ribera | 902/240202, 902/320320 | www.renfe.es.
Estació de Passeig de Gràcia. | Passeig de Gràcia/Carrer Aragó, Eixample | 902/240202.
Estació de Sants. | Pl. dels Països Catalans s/n, Eixample | 902/240202, 902/432343.
Ferrocarrils de la Generalitat de Catalunya (FGC). | 93/2051515 | www.fgc.es.
RENFE. | 902/240202 | www.renfe.es.
Information and Passes
Eurail. | www.eurail.com.
Rail Europe. | 44 S. Broadway, | White Plains, New York | 800/6228600 | www.raileurope.com | 905/6024195 in Canada, 800/3617245 | www.raileurope.ca.
The Ruta del Modernisme (Moderniste Route), a self-guided tour, provides an excellent guidebook (available in English) that interprets 116 Moderniste sites from the Sagrada Família and the Palau de la Música Catalana to Art Nouveau building facades, lampposts, and paving stones. The €12 Guide, sold at the Plaça de Catalunya Tourist Office, Pavellons Güell, and Hospital de Sant Pau, comes with a book of vouchers good for discounts up to 50% on admission to most of the Moderniste buildings and sites in the Guide in Barcelona and 13 other towns and cities in Catalonia, as well as free guided tours in English at Pavellons Güell (daily 10:15 and 12:15) and the Hospital de Sant Pau (daily at 10, 11, noon and 1).
Centre del Modernisme, Centre d’Informació de Turisme de Barcelona. | Pl. Catalunya, 17, soterrani, Eixample | 93/2853834 | www.rutadelmodernisme.com.
Centre del Modernisme, Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau. | C. Sant Antoni Maria Claret 167, Eixample | 93/2682444 | www.rutadelmodernisme.com | Station: Sant Pau/Dos de Maig.
Centre del Modernisme, Pavellons Güell. | Av. de Pedralbes 7, Pedralbes | 93/3177652, 93/2562504 | www.rutadelmodernisme.com | Station: Palau Real.
Urbancultours. | email@example.com | www.urbancultours.com.
Aula Gastronómica. | Sagristans 5, Barri Gòtic | 93/3011944 | www.aulagastronomica.com.
Epicureanways. | 1208 Wellford St., | Charlottesville, Virginia | 434/7382293 in the U.S., 93/8022688 in Spain | firstname.lastname@example.org | www.epicureanways.com.
Spanish Journeys. | 805 Long Pond Rd., | Wellfleet, Massachusetts | 508/3499769 | www.spanishjourneys.com.
DAY TOURS AND GUIDES
Golondrina harbor boats make short trips from the Portal de la Pau, near the Columbus monument. The fare is €7 for a 40-minute “Barcelona Port” tour of the harbor and €14.80 for the “Barcelona Sea” 90-minute ride out past the beaches and up the coast to the Fòrum at the eastern end of Diagonal. Departures are spring and summer (Easter week through September), daily 11:15 to 5:15 for the Port tour, 12:30 and 3:30 for the Sea tour; fall and winter, weekends and holidays only, 11 to 5. It’s closed mid-December through early January.
Fees and Schedules
Las Golondrinas and Trimar y Ómnibus. | Pl. Portal de la Pau s/n, Rambla | 93/4423106 | www.lasgolondrinas.com | Station: Drassanes.
The Bus Turístic (9 or 9:30 am to 7 or 8 pm every 5–25 minutes, depending on the season), sponsored by the tourist office, runs on three circuits that pass all the important sights. The blue route covers upper Barcelona; the red route tours lower Barcelona; and the green route runs from the Port Olímpic along Barcelona’s beaches to the Fòrum at the eastern end of Diagonal (April through September only). A one-day ticket, which you can buy online (with a 10% discount) for €23.40 (a two-day ticket is €30.60), or on the bus for €26 (€34 for two days), also covers the fare for the Tramvía Blau, funicular, and Montjuïc cable car across the port. You receive a booklet with discount vouchers for various attractions. The blue and red bus routes start at Plaça de Catalunya near Café Zurich. The green route starts at Port Olímpic next to the Hotel Arts. Passengers can jump off and catch a later bus at any stop along the way; some stops are “hubs” where you can switch to a bus on one of the other routes.
Bus Turístic. | Pl. de Catalunya 3 | 93/2853832 | www.barcelonabusturistic.cat.
Julià Tours. | Ronda Universitat 5, Eixample | 93/4026951 | www.juliatravel.com/en/tours-barcelona.html.
Pullmantur. | Gran Vía 645, Eixample | 902/240070 | www.pullmantur.es.
Baló Tours S.L. runs balloon and helicopter tours in and around Barcelona. Cat Helicopters circles Barcelona for €75 per person for 10 minutes, €220 for 30 minutes.
Fees and Schedules
Baló Tours S.L. | Bisbe Morgades 49, ent. 2A | Vic | 93/4144774, 607/856969 | www.balotour.com.
Cat Helicopters. | Passeig de l’Escullera, Moll Adossat s/n, Port | 93/2240710 | www.cathelicopters.com.
Guides from the organizations listed below are generally competent, though the quality of language skills and general showmanship may vary.
Associació Professional d’Informadors Turístics. Book half-day or full-day tours with an English-speaking guide, for Moderniste Barcelona, the Gothic Quarter, and/or the major museums. | 93/319–8416 | www.informadoresturisticos.com/index.html.
Barcelona Guide Bureau. Book here for five-hour coach tours (from €59) of the major sites in Barcelona, offered daily, and get fast-track entrance to museums and popular venues like the Sagrada Família. | Via Laietana 54 | 93/268–2422, 93/315–2261 | www.barcelonaguidebureau.com. .
Turisme de Barcelona offers weekend walking tours of the Barri Gòtic, the Waterfront, Picasso’s Barcelona, Modernisme, a shopping circuit, and Gourmet Barcelona in English (at 10:30 am). Prices range from €15 to €21, with 10% discounts for purchases online. The Picasso tour, which includes the entry fee for the Picasso Museum, is a real bargain. Tours depart from the Plaça de Catalunya tourist office. For private tours, Julià Tours and Pullmantur both lead walks around Barcelona. Tours leave from their offices, but you may be able to arrange a pick-up at your hotel. Prices per person are €35 for half a day and €90 for a full day, including lunch.
Turisme de Barcelona. | Pl. de Catalunya 17, soterrani, Eixample | 93/2853834 | www.barcelonaturisme.com.
Turisme de Barcelona. | Pl. de Catalunya 17, soterrani, Eixample | 93/2853834 | www.barcelonaturisme.com.
EATING AND DRINKING WELL IN BARCELONA
Barcelona cuisine draws from Catalonia’s rustic country cooking and uses ingredients from the Mediterranean, the Pyrenees, and inland farmlands. Historically linked to France and Italy, cosmopolitan influences and experimental contemporary innovation have combined to make Barcelona an important food destination.
The Mediterranean diet of seafood, vegetables, olive oil, and red wine comes naturally to Barcelona. A dish you’ll see on many menus is pa amb tomaquet: bread rubbed with ripe tomato (garlic optional), then drizzled with olive oil. Fish of all kinds, shrimp, shellfish, and rice dishes combining them are common, as are salads of seafood and Mediterranean vegetables. Vegetable and legume combinations are standard. Seafood and upland combinations, the classic mar i muntanya (surf and turf) recipes, join rabbit and prawns or cuttlefish and meatballs, while salty and sweet tastes—a Moorish legacy—are found in recipes such as duck with pears or goose with figs.
Order Champagne in Barcelona and you’ll get anything from French bubbly to dirty looks. Ask, instead, for cava, sparkling wine from the Penedès region just southwest of the city. The first cava was produced in 1872 after the phylloxera plague wiped out most of Europe’s vineyards. Cava (from the “cave” or wine cellar where it ferments) has a drier, earthier taste than Champagne, and slightly larger bubbles.
Esqueixada is a cold salad consisting of strips of raw, shredded, salt-cured cod marinated in oil and vinegar with onions, tomatoes, olives, and red and green bell peppers. Chunks of dried tuna can also be included and chickpeas, roast onions, and potatoes can be added, too. Escalibada is another classic Catalan salad of red and green bell peppers and eggplant that have been roasted over coals, cut into strips, and served with onions, garlic, and olive oil.
Botifarra amb mongetes (sausage with white beans) is the classic Catalan sausage made of pork and seasoned with salt and pepper, grilled and served with stewed white beans and allioli (an olive oil and garlic emulsion); botifarra can also be made with truffles, apples, eggs, wild mushrooms, and even chocolate. Mongetes de Santa Pau amb calamarsets (tiny white beans from Santa Pau with baby squid) is a favorite mar i muntanya.
Espinaques a la catalana (spinach with pine nuts, raisins, and garlic) owes a debt to the Moorish sweet-salt counterpoint and to the rich vegetable-growing littoral along the Mediterranean coast north and south of Barcelona. Bits of bacon, fatback, or jamón ibérico may be added; some recipes use fine almond flakes as well. Albergínies (eggplant or aubergine) are a favorite throughout Catalunya, whether roasted, stuffed, or stewed, while carxofes (artichokes) fried to a crisp or stewed with rabbit is another staple.
Llobarro a la sal (sea bass cooked in salt) is baked in a shell of rock salt that hardens and requires a tap from a hammer or heavy knife to break and serve. The salt shell keeps the juices inside the fish and the flesh flakes off in firm chunks, while the skin of the fish prevents excessive saltiness from permeating the meat. Suquet is favorite fish stew, with scorpion fish, monkfish, sea bass, or any combination thereof stewed with potatoes, onions, and tomatoes.
Crema catalana (Catalan cream) is the most popular dessert in Catalonia, a version of the French crème brûlée, custard dusted with cinnamon and confectioner’s sugar and burned with a blowtorch (traditionally, a branding iron was used) before serving. The branding results in a hardened skim of caramelized sugar on the surface. The less sweet and palate-cleansing mel i mató (honey and fresh cheese) is a close second in popularity.
BARCELONA’S BEST BEACHES
Over the last decade, Barcelona’s platjas (beaches) have been improved, now stretching some 4 km (2½ miles) from Barceloneta’s Platja de Sant Sebastià at the southwestern end, northward via the Platjas de Sant Miquel, Barceloneta, Passeig Marítim, Port Olímpic, Nova Icària, Bogatell, Mar Bella (the last bit of which is a nudist enclave), and La Nova Mar Bella to Llevant. The Barceloneta beach is the most popular stretch, easily accessible by several bus lines, notably the No. 64, and from the L4 metro stop at Barceloneta or at Ciutadella–Vila Olímpica. The best surfing is at the northeastern end of the Barceloneta beach, while the boardwalk offers miles of runway for walkers, cyclers, and joggers. Topless bathing is common on all beaches in and around Barcelona.
Platja de la Barceloneta
Just to the left at the end of Passeig Joan de Borbó, this is the easiest beach to get to, hence the most crowded and the most fun from a people-watching standpoint. Along with swimming, there are windsurfing and kitesurfing rentals to be found just up behind the beach at the edge of La Barceloneta. Rebecca Horn’s sculpture L’Estel Ferit, a rusting stack of cubes, expresses nostalgia for the beach-shack restaurants that lined the beach here until 1992. Surfers trying to catch a wave wait just off the breakwater in front of the excellent beachfront Agua restaurant.
Platja de la Mar Bella
Closest to the Poblenou metro stop near the eastern end of the beaches, this is a thriving gay enclave and the unofficial nudist beach of Barcelona (but clothed bathers are welcome, too). The water-sports center Base Nàutica de la Mar Bella rents equipment for sailing, surfing, and windsurfing. Outfitted with showers, safe drinking fountains, and a children’s play area, La Mar Bella also has lifeguards who warn against swimming near the breakwater. The excellent Els Pescadors restaurant is just inland on Plaça Prim.
Platja de la Nova Icària
One of Barcelona’s most popular beaches, this strand is just east of the Olympic Port with the full range of entertainment, restaurant, and refreshment venues close at hand. (Mango and El Chiringuito de Moncho are two of the most popular restaurants.) The beach is directly across from the area developed as the residential Vila Olímpica for the 1992 Games, an interesting housing project that has now become a popular residential neighborhood.
Platja de Sant Sebastià
The landmark of Barceloneta’s most southwestern beach (at the end of Passeig Joan de Borbó) now is the ultramodern W Barcelona Hotel, but Sant Sebastià is in fact the oldest of the city beaches, where 19th-century Barcelonins cavorted in bloomers and bathing costumes. On the west end is the Club Natació de Barcelona, and there is a semiprivate feel that the beaches farther east seem to lack.
Platja de Gavà-Castelldefels
A 15-minute train ride south of Barcelona (from the Estació de Sants) to Gavà brings you to the broad swath of clean golden sand at Gavà Mar, a popular outing for Barcelona families and beach party aficionados. Gavà Mar extends some 4 km (2½ miles) south to join the busier beach at Castelldefels; returning to Barcelona from Castelldefels allows for a hike down the beach to a variety of seaside shacks and restaurants serving local favorites like calçots and paella.
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Ciutat Vella: The Rambla and the Raval | Ciutat Vella: Barri Gòtic and Born-Ribera | Barceloneta and La Ciutadella | Eixample | Upper Barcelona: Sarrià and Pedralbes | Montjuïc
Barcelona has several main areas to explore. Between Plaça de Catalunya and the port lies the Old City, or Ciutat Vella, including El Barri Gòtic (the Gothic Quarter); the shop-, bar-, and tapas-rich Ribera (the waterfront, also known as Born-Ribera); the populous central promenade of the Rambla; and the Raval, the former slums or outskirts southwest of the Rambla. Above Plaça de Catalunya is the grid-pattern expansion known as the Eixample (literally, the “Expansion”) built after the city’s third series of defensive walls were torn down in 1860; this area contains most of Barcelona’s Moderniste architecture. Farther north and west, Upper Barcelona includes the former outlying towns of Gràcia and Sarrià, Pedralbes, and, rising up behind the city, Tibidabo and the green hills of the Collserola nature preserve.
Though built in the mid-18th century, Barceloneta is generally considered part of Ciutat Vella. The Port Olímpic, a series of vast terrace restaurants and discos, is just beyond the Frank Gehry goldfish and the Hotel Arts. The Ciutadella park, once a fortress built not to protect but to dominate Barcelona, is just inland.
A final area, less important from a visitor’s standpoint, is Diagonal Mar, from Torre Agbar and Plaça de les Glòries, east to the mouth of the Besòs River. This is the new Barcelona built for the 2004 Fòrum de les Cultures.
CIUTAT VELLA: THE RAMBLA AND THE RAVAL
The promenade in the heart of premodern Barcelona was originally a watercourse, dry for most of the year, that separated the walled Ciutat Vella from the outlying Raval. In the 14th century, the city walls were extended and the arroyo was filled in, so it gradually became a thoroughfare where peddlers, farmers, and tradesmen hawked their wares. (The watercourse is still there, under the pavement. From time to time a torrential rain will fill it, and the water rises up through the drains.) The poet-playwright Federico García Lorca called this the only street in the world he wished would never end—and in a sense, it doesn’t.
A GOOD WALK
Start on the Rambla opposite the Plaça Reial, near the Drassanes metro stop, and wander down toward the sea to the Columbus Monument and the Rambla de Mar boardwalk, perhaps stopping to investigate the Museu Marítim and its medieval Drassanes Reials shipyards. Retracing your steps, Gaudí’s Palau Güell, on Carrer Nou de la Rambla, is the next stop before the Gran Teatre del Liceu. For a little detour, head over to Sant Pau del Camp, which will take you through Barcelona’s fairly tame red-light district, the Barri Xinès, on the way. Back on the Rambla, you can stroll through the Boqueria food market, and then cut around to the courtyards of the medieval Antic Hospital de la Santa Creu. The Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA), a short detour away, is an excellent place to spend an hour or two.
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Fodor’s Choice | Antic Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau.
Founded in the 10th century, this is one of Europe’s earliest medical complexes, and contains some of Barcelona’s most impressive Gothic architecture. The buildings that survive today date mainly to the 15th and 16th centuries; the first stone for the hospital was laid by King Martí el Humà (Martin the Humane) in 1401. From the entrance on Carrer del Carme, the first building on the left is the 18th-century Reial Acadèmia de Cirurgia i Medecina (Royal Academy of Surgery and Medicine); the amphitheater is kept just as it was in the days when students learned by observing dissections. (One assumes that the paupers’ hospital next door was always ready to oblige with cadavers.) The Academy is open to the public on Wednesday from 10 am to 1 pm. (For guided tours by appointment call | 93/3171686.) Across the way on the right is the gateway into the patio of the Casa de la Convalescència, where patients who survived their treatment in the hospital were moved for recuperation; it now houses the Institute for Catalan Studies. The walls of the forecourt are covered with brightly decorated scenes of the life of St. Paul in blue-and-yellow ceramic tiles; the story begins with the image to the left of the door to the inner courtyard, recounting the moment of the saint’s conversion: “Savle, Savle, quid me persegueris?” (“Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”). The ceramicist, Llorenç Passolas, also designed the late 17th-century tiles around the inner patio. The image of St. Paul in the center of the pillared courtyard, over what was once a well, pays homage to the building’s first benefactor, Pau Ferran. Look for the horseshoes, two of them around the keyholes, on the double wooden doors in the entryway: tokens of good luck for the afflicted who came here to recover—again, in reference to benefactor Ferran, from ferro (iron), as in ferradura (horseshoe).
Through a gate to the left of the Casa de Convalescència is the garden-courtyard of the hospital complex, the Jardins de Rubió i Lluc, centered on a baroque cross and lined with orange trees. On the right is the Biblioteca de Catalunya (Carrer de l’Hospital 56 | 93/270–2300 | www.bnc.cat | Weekdays 9–8, Sat. 9–2), Catalonia’s national library and—with some 2 million volumes in its collection—second only to Madrid’s Biblioteca Nacional. The stairway under the arch, leading up to the library, was built in the 16th century; the Gothic well to the left of the arch is from the 15th century, as is the little Romeo-and-Juliet balcony in the corner to the left of the doors to the Escola Massana academy of design. The library itself is spectacular: two parallel halls—once the core of the hospital—70 meters (230 feet) long, with towering Gothic arches and vaulted ceilings, designed in the 15th century by the architect of the church of Santa Maria del Pi, Guillem Abiell. This was the hospital where Antoni Gaudí was taken, unrecognized and assumed to be a pauper, after he was struck by a trolley on June 7, 1926. Among the library’s collections are archives recording Gaudí’s admittance and photographs of the infirmary and the private room where he died. The staggering antiquarian resources here go back to the earliest history of printing, and range from silver medieval book covers to illuminated manuscripts from the Llibre Vermell (Red Book) of medieval Catalonian liturgical music, to rare editions of Cervantes. (For free guided tours by appointment, contact Sr. Sergi Font at | 93/270–2300, ext. 2123 or by email at | email@example.com.)
Leave the complex through the heavy wooden doors to Carrer Hospital, and turn left, towards La Rambla. The next set of doors leads to the Capella (Chapel) of the Hospital, an interesting art space well worth a visit. Built in the early 15th century, on the site of what had been the old Hospital de Colom (founded in 1219), it is now a showcase for promising young artists, chosen by a jury of prominent museum directors and given this impressive space, with its Romanesque tunnel vault and medieval arches, to exhibit their work (www.bnc.cat/lacapella | Tues.–Sat. 12–2 and 4–8, Sun. 11–2).
In 1587 King Felip II granted the Hospital de Santa Creu i Sant Pau the privilege of mounting theatrical performances, the proceeds to be used to support its charitable work. In the early 17th century the Hospital built its own theater for this purpose (variously called the Casa de Comèdias or the Teatre de la Santa Creu); it was the city’s sole venue for itinerant theater and opera companies until it burned down in 1787. Rebuilt, it kept its royal monopoly on entertainment in Barcelona until 1844, when Queen Isable II gave the Societat del Liceu permission to build a bigger, grander opera house on La Rambla. The Teatre de la Santa Creu became the Teatre Principal, and remained a rival to the Licea until it, too, burned down in 1915. | Carrer Hospital 56 (or Carrer del Carme 45), El Raval | 93/270–2300 | Station: Liceu.
Fodor’s Choice | La Boqueria.
Barcelona’s most spectacular food market, also known as the Mercat de Sant Josep, is an explosion of life and color graced with wonderful little tapas bar-restaurants (with counter seating only). Stall after stall of fruit, herbs, wild mushrooms, vegetables, nuts, candied preserves, cheese, ham, fish, poultry, and provender of every imaginable genus and strain greet you as you turn in from La Rambla and wade through the throng of shoppers and casual visitors. Under a Moderniste hangar of wrought-iron girders and stained glass, the market occupies a neoclassical square built in 1840 by architect Francesc Daniel Molina. The ionic columns visible around the edges of the market were part of the mid-19th-century neoclassical square constructed here after the original Sant Josep convent was torn down, uncovered in 2001 after more than a century of neglect. Highlights include the sunny greengrocer’s market outside (to the right if you’ve come in from La Rambla), along with Pinotxo (Pinocchio), just inside to the right, where owner Juanito Bayén and his family serve some of the best food in Barcelona. (The secret? “Fresh, fast, hot, salty, and garlicky.”) Pinotxo—marked with a ceramic portrait of the wooden-nosed prevaricator himself—is typically overbooked. But take heart; the Kiosko Universal, over toward the port side of the market, or Quim de la Boqueria both offer delicious alternatives. Don’t miss the herb- and wild-mushroom stand at the back of La Boqueria, with its display of fruits del bosc (fruits of the forest): wild mushrooms, herbs, nuts, and berries. | La Rambla 91, Rambla | www.boqueria.info | Mon.–Sat. 8–8 | Station: Liceu.
Fodor’s Choice | Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art, MACBA).
Designed by American architect Richard Meier in 1992, this gleaming explosion of light and geometry in the darkest corner of El Raval houses a permanent collection of contemporary art, and regularly mounts special thematic exhibitions of works on loan. Meier gives a nod to Gaudí (with the Pedrera-like wave on one end of the main facade), but his minimalist building otherwise looks a bit like the scaffolding hadn’t been taken down yet. That said, the MACBA is unarguably an important addition to the cultural capital of this once-shabby neighborhood. | Pl. dels Àngels s/n, El Raval | 93/412–0810 | www.macba.es | €9 | Mon. and Wed.–Fri. 11–7:30, Sat. 10–9, Sun. 10–3; free guided tours daily at 4 (Mon. at 4 and 6) | Station: Catalunya.
FAMILY | Fodor’s Choice | Museu Marítim.
The superb Maritime Museum, which is currently under renovation, is housed in the 13th-century Drassanes Reials (Royal Shipyards), at the foot of La Rambla adjacent to the harbor front. This vast covered complex launched the ships of Catalonia’s powerful Mediterranean fleet directly from its yards into the port (the water once reached the level of the eastern facade of the building). Today these are the world’s largest and best-preserved medieval shipyards; centuries ago, at a time when Greece was a province of the House of Aragón (1377–88), they were of crucial importance to the sea power of Catalonia (then the heavyweight in an alliance with Aragón). On the Avinguda del Paral.lel side of Drassanes is a completely intact section of the 14th- to 15th-century walls—Barcelona’s third and final ramparts—that encircled El Raval along the Paral.lel and the Rondas de Sant Pau, Sant Antoni, and Universitat. (Ronda, the term used for the “rounds” or patrols soldiers made atop the defensive walls, became the name for the avenues that replaced them.) The earliest part of Drassanes is the section farthest from the sea along Carrer de Portal de Santa Madrona. Subsequent naves were added in the 17th and 18th centuries.
Though the shipyards seem more like a cathedral than a naval construction site, the Maritime Museum is filled with vessels, including a spectacular collection of ship models. The life-size reconstruction of the galley of Juan de Austria, commander of the Spanish fleet in the Battle of Lepanto, is perhaps the most impressive display in the museum. | Av. de les Drassanes s/n, Rambla | 93/342–9920 | www.mmb.cat | €3.50 (free Sun.) | Daily 10–8 | Station: Drassanes.
Catalan First, Spanish Second
Throughout a history of political ups and downs, prosperity rarely abandoned Barcelona, as the city continued to generate energy and creativity no matter who imposed authority from afar: Romans, Visigoths, Franks, Moors, Aragonese, French, or Castilians. Catalonia’s early history hinges on five key dates: the 801 Frankish conquest by Charlemagne that wrested Catalonia away from the encroaching Moors; the 988 independence from the Franks; the 1137 alliance through marriage with Aragón; the 1474 unification (through the marriage of Fernando of Aragón and Isabella of Castile) of Aragón with the Castilian realms of León and Castile; and the 1714 defeat by Felipe V, who abolished Catalan rights and privileges.
The Roman Empire annexed the city built by the Iberian tribe known as the Laietans and established, in 133 BC, a colony called Colonia Favencia Julia Augusta Paterna Barcino (Favored Colony Barcino of Father Julius Augustus). After Rome’s 4th-century decline, Barcelona enjoyed an early golden age as the Visigothic capital under the rule of Ataulf and the Roman empress of the West, Galla Placidia (388–450), daughter of Theodosius I and one of the most influential and fascinating women of early European history. Ataulf, assassinated in Barcelona in 415, was succeeded by Visigothic rulers who moved their capital to Toledo, leaving Barcelona to a secondary role through the 6th and 7th centuries. The Moors invaded in the 8th century; and in 801, in what was to be a decisive moment in Catalonia’s history, the Franks under Charlemagne captured the city and made it a buffer zone at the edge of Al-Andalus, the Moors’ empire on the Iberian Peninsula. Moorish rule extended to the Garraf Massif just south of Barcelona, while Catalonia became the Marca Hispánica (Spanish March or, really, “edge”) of the Frankish empire.
Over the next two centuries the Catalonian counties, ruled by counts appointed by the Franks, gained increasing autonomy. In 985 the Franks failed to reinforce their allies against a Moorish attack, and as of 988 Catalonia declared itself an independent federation of counties with Barcelona as its capital. The marriage in 1137 of Sovereign Count Ramon Berenguer IV to Petronella, daughter of King Ramiro II of Aragón, united Catalonia with Aragón. The crown of Aragón, with Barcelona as its commercial and naval center, controlled the Mediterranean until the 15th century. The 1474 marriage of Ferdinand II of Aragón and Isabella of Castile and León brought Aragón and Catalonia into a united Spain. As the main city of Aragón’s Mediterranean empire, Barcelona had grown in importance between the 12th and the 14th century, and only began to falter when maritime emphasis shifted to the Atlantic after 1492.
Despite the establishment of Madrid as the seat of Spain’s royal court in 1562, Catalonia continued to enjoy autonomous rights and privileges until 1714, when, in reprisal for having backed the Austrian Habsburg pretender to the Spanish throne during the War of the Spanish Succession (1700–14), all institutions and expressions of Catalan identity were suppressed by the triumphant Felipe V of the French Bourbon dynasty. Not until the mid-19th century would Barcelona’s industrial growth bring about the so-called Renaixença (Renaissance), a rebirth of nationalism and a cultural flowering that recalled Catalonia’s former opulence.
Barcelona’s power and prosperity continued to grow in the early 20th century. After the abdication of Alfonso XIII and the establishment of the Second Spanish Republic in 1931, Catalonia enjoyed a high degree of autonomy and cultural freedom. Once again backing a losing cause, Barcelona was a Republican stronghold during the Spanish Civil War. When the war ended, Catalan language and identity were once again brutally suppressed by such means as book burning, the renaming of streets and towns, and the banning of the Catalan language in schools and in the media. This repression, or “internal exile,” lasted until Franco’s death in 1975, when it became evident that the Catalans had once again, more stubbornly than ever, managed to keep their language and culture alive. Catalonian home rule was granted after Franco’s death in 1975, and Catalonia’s parliament, the ancient Generalitat, was reinstated in 1980. Catalan is now Barcelona’s co-official language, along with Castilian Spanish. Street names are signposted in Catalan, and newspapers, radio stations, and a TV channel publish and broadcast in Catalan. The culmination of this rebirth was the staging of the Olympics in 1992—ring roads were constructed, new harbor-side promenades were created, and Catalonia announced its existence and national identity to the world. The urban renewal for the Olympics under Mayor Pasqual Maragall (later president of the Generalitat) was just the beginning. Mayor Joan Clos, with the 2004 Fòrum Universal de les Cultures, engineered the new Diagonal-Mar development, stretching from Plaça de les Glòries to the mouth of the Besòs River and populated with Jean Nouvel, Oscar Tusquets, and Herzog & de Meuron buildings that keep architecture students on a perennial field trip.
Catalonia’s 2006 Autonomy Statute, approved under the Socialist government of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, placed still more power in local hands. Although there are now varying positions on Catalonian nationalism ranging from pro-independence militants to conservative Spain-firsters, Catalans today generally think of themselves as Catalans first and Spanish citizens second. The return to power of the conservative and Spain-centric Partido Popular in November 2011 will test Catalonia’s nationalist gains over the last eight years.TIP Learning a few Catalan phrases will give you a much warmer reception than the usual Spanish. A friendly “bon dia” (good day) goes a long way.
Fodor’s Choice | Palau Güell.
Gaudí built this mansion in 1886–89 for textile baron Count Eusebi de Güell Bacigalupi, his most important patron. (The prominent four bars of the senyera, the banner of Catalunya, on the facade between the parabolic arches of the entrance attest to the nationalist fervor the two men shared.) Gaudí’s principal obsession in this project was to find a way to illuminate this seven-story house, hemmed in as it is by other buildings in the cramped quarters of El Raval. The dark facade is a dramatic foil for the brilliance of the inside, where spear-shaped Art Nouveau columns frame the windows, rising to support a series of detailed and elaborately carved wood ceilings.
The basement stables are famous for the “fungiform” (mushroom-like) columns carrying the weight of the whole building. Note Gaudí’s signature parabolic arches between the columns and the way the arches meet overhead, forming a canopy of palm fronds. (The beauty of the construction was probably little consolation to the political prisoners held here during the 1936–39 Civil War.) The patio where the horses were groomed receives light through a skylight, one of many devices Gaudí used to brighten the space. Don’t miss the figures of the faithful hounds, with the rings in their mouths for hitching horses, or the wooden bricks laid down in lieu of cobblestones in the entryway upstairs and on the ramp down to the basement grooming area, to deaden the sound of horses’ hooves. The chutes on the Carrer Nou de la Rambla side of the basement were for loading feed straight in from street level overhead; the catwalk and spiral staircase were for the servants to use, en route to their duties.
The dining room is dominated by a beautiful mahogany banquet table seating ten, an Art Nouveau fireplace in the shape of a deeply curving horseshoe arch, and walls with floral and animal motifs. Note the Star of David in the woodwork over the window and the Asian religious themes in the vases on the mantelpiece. From the outside rear terrace, the polished Garraf marble of the main part of the house is exposed; the brick servants’ quarters are on the left. The passageway built toward La Rambla was all that came of a plan to buy an intervening property and connect three houses into one grand structure, a scheme that never materialized.
Gaudí is most himself on the roof, where his playful, polychrome ceramic chimneys seem like preludes to later works like the Park Güell and La Pedrera. Look for the flying-bat weather vane over the main chimney, a reference to the Catalan king Jaume I, who brought the house of Aragón to its 13th-century imperial apogee in the Mediterranean. Jaume I’s affinity for bats is said to have stemmed from his Mallorca campaign, when, according to one version, he was awakened by a fluttering rat penat (literally, “condemned mouse”) in time to stave off a Moorish night attack. Another version attributes the presence of the bat in Jaume I’s coat of arms to his gratitude to the Sufi sect that helped him to successfully invade Mallorca, using the bat as a signal indicating when and where to attack. See if you can find the hologram of COBI, Javier Mariscal’s 1992 Olympic mascot, on a restored ceramic chimney (hint: the all-white one at the Rambla end of the roof terrace). | Nou de la Rambla 3–5, Rambla | 93/472–5775 | palauguell.cat/come-palace | €12 | Apr.–Oct., Tues.–Sun. 10–8; Nov.–Mar., Tues.–Sun. 10–5:30 | Station: Drassanes, Liceu.
Nobel Prize–winning novelist Gabriel García Márquez, architect and urban planner Oriol Bohigas, and Pasqual Maragall, former president of the Catalonian Generalitat, are among the many famous people said to have acquired apartments overlooking this elegant square, a chiaroscuro masterpiece in which neoclassical symmetry clashes with big-city street funk. Plaça Reial is bordered by stately ocher facades with balconies overlooking the wrought-iron Fountain of the Three Graces, and an array of lampposts designed by Gaudí in 1879. Cafés and restaurants—several of them excellent—line the square. Plaça Reial is most colorful on Sunday morning, when collectors gather to trade stamps and coins; after dark it’s a center of downtown nightlife for the jazz-minded, the young, and the adventurous (it’s best to be streetwise touring this area in the late hours). Bar Glaciar, on the uphill corner toward La Rambla, is a booming beer station for young international travelers. Tarantos has top flamenco performances, and Jamboree offers world-class jazz. | Rambla | Station: Liceu.
Fodor’s Choice | Sant Pau del Camp.
Barcelona’s oldest church was originally outside the city walls (del camp means “in the fields”) and was a Roman cemetery as far back as the 2nd century, according to archaeological evidence. A Visigothic belt buckle found in the 20th century confirmed that Visigoths used the site as a cemetery between the 2nd and 7th centuries. What you see now was built in 1127 and is the earliest Romanesque structure in Barcelona. Elements of the church—the classical marble capitals atop the columns in the main entry—are thought to be from the 6th and 7th centuries. Sant Pau is bulky and solid, featureless (except for what may be the smallest stained-glass window in Europe, high on the facade facing Carrer Sant Pau), with stone walls three feet thick and more; medieval Catalan churches and monasteries were built to be refuges for the body as well as the soul, bulwarks of last resort against Moorish invasions—or mauraders of any persuasion. Check local events listings carefully for musical performances here; the church is an acoustical gem. (Rebecca Ryan’s Mercyhurst Madrigal Singers sang American composer Horatio Parker’s “Lord We Beseech Thee” here in 2009.) | Sant Pau 99, El Raval | 93/441–0001 | Cloister €3 | Cloister: Mon.–Sat. 10–1:30 and 4–7, Sun. Mass at 10:30, 12:30, and 8 | Station: Paral.lel.
Santa Maria del Pi (St. Mary of the Pine).
Sister church to Santa Maria del Mar and to Santa Maria de Pedralbes, this early Catalan Gothic structure is perhaps the most fortresslike of all three: hulking, dark, and massive, and perforated only by the main entryway and the mammoth rose window, said to be the world’s largest. Try to see the window from inside in the late afternoon to get the best view of the colors. The church was named for the lone pi (pine tree) that stood in what was a marshy lowland outside the 4th-century Roman walls. An early church dating back to the 10th century preceded the present Santa Maria del Pi, which was begun in 1322 and finally consecrated in 1453. The interior compares poorly with the clean and lofty lightness of Santa Maria del Mar, but there are two interesting things to see: the original wooden choir loft, and the Ramón Amadeu painting La Mare de Deu dels Desamparats (Our Lady of the Helpless), in which the artist reportedly used his wife and children as models for the Virgin and children.
The adjoining squares, Plaça del Pi and Plaça de Sant Josep Oriol, are two of the liveliest and most appealing spaces in the Old Quarter, filled with much-frequented outdoor cafés and used as a venue for markets selling natural products or paintings, or as an impromptu concert hall for musicians. The handsome entryway and courtyard at Plaça de Sant Josep Oriol 4 across from the lateral facade of Santa Maria del Pi is the Palau Fivaller, now seat of the Agricultural Institute, an interesting patio to have a look through. | Pl. del Pi 7, Rambla | 93/318–4743 | €3 (visits to the basilica only are free 9:30–11 am and 6–8:30 pm) | Museum and basilica weekdays 11–6, Sat. 11–3, Sun. 4–8 | Station: Liceu.
Fodor’s Choice | Gran Teatre del Liceu.
Barcelona’s opera house has long been considered one of the most beautiful in Europe, a rival to Milan’s La Scala. First built in 1848, this cherished cultural landmark was torched in 1861, later bombed by anarchists in 1893, and once again gutted by an accidental fire in early 1994. During that most recent fire, Barcelona’s soprano Montserrat Caballé stood on La Rambla in tears as her beloved venue was consumed. Five years later, a restored Liceu, equipped for modern productions, opened anew. Even if you don’t see an opera, don’t miss a tour of the building; some of the Liceu’s most spectacular halls and rooms, including the glittering foyer known as the Saló dels Miralls (Room of Mirrors), were untouched by the fire of 1994, as were those of Spain’s oldest social club, El Círculo del Liceu. | La Rambla 51–59, Rambla | 93/485–9914, 93/485–9900 for backstage tour reservations | firstname.lastname@example.org | www.liceubarcelona.cat | Guided tours weekdays €11.50, Sat. and Sun. €10.50, 20-min. express tour €5.50 | Tours daily at 10 am in Spanish and English; guided express tours daily at 11:30, noon, 12:30, and 1 pm. Backstage tours in Spanish at 9 am, including wardrobe and dressing rooms (€12.50), by reservation only | Station: Liceu.
Monument a Colom (Columbus Monument).
This Barcelona landmark to Christopher Columbus sits grandly at the foot of La Rambla along the wide harbor-front promenade of Passeig de Colom, not far from the very shipyards (Drassanes Reials) that constructed two of the ships of his tiny but immortal fleet. Standing atop the 150-foot-high iron column—the base of which is aswirl with gesticulating angels—Columbus seems to be looking out at “that far-distant shore” he discovered; in fact he’s pointing, with his 18-inch-long finger, in the general direction of Sicily. The monument was erected for the 1888 Universal Exposition to commemorate the commissioning of Columbus’s voyage, in Barcelona, by the monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella, in 1491. Since the royal court was at that time (and, until 1561, remained) itinerant, Barcelona’s role in the discovery of the New World is, at best, circumstantial. In fact, Barcelona was consequently excluded from trade with the Americas by Isabella, so Catalonia and Columbus have never really seen eye to eye. | Portal de la Pau s/n, Rambla | 93/285–3832 | €4 | Mar.–Oct., daily 8:30–8:30; Nov.–Feb., daily 8:30–7:30 | Station: Drassanes.
Beyond the Columbus monument—behind the ornate Duana (now the Barcelona Port Authority headquarters)—is Rambla de Mar, a boardwalk with a drawbridge designed to allow boats into and out of the inner harbor. Rambla de Mar extends out to the Moll d’Espanya, with its Maremagnum shopping center, IMAX theater, and the excellent Aquarium. Next to the Duana you can board a Golondrina boat for a tour of the port and the waterfront or, from the Moll de Barcelona on the right, take a cable car to Montjuïc or Barceloneta. Trasmediterránea and the fleeter Buquebus passenger ferries leave for Italy and the Balearic Islands from the Moll de Barcelona; at the end of the quay is Barcelona’s World Trade Center and the Eurostars Grand Marina Hotel. | Station:Drassanes.
CIUTAT VELLA: BARRI GÒTIC AND BORN-RIBERA
No city in Europe has an ancient quarter to rival Barcelona’s Barri Gòtic in its historic atmosphere and the sheer density of its monumental buildings. It’s a stroller’s delight, where you can expect to hear the strains of a flute or a classical guitar from around the next corner. The Barri Gòtic comprises the area around the Catedral de la Seu and rests squarely atop the first Roman settlement. This high ground the Romans called Mons Taber coincides almost exactly with the early 1st- to 4th-century fortified town of Barcino. Sights to see here include the Plaça del Rei, the remains of Roman Barcino underground beneath the Museum of the History of the City, the Plaça Sant Jaume and the area around the onetime Roman Forum, the medieval Jewish Quarter, and the ancient Plaça Sant Just.
The city’s claim to Pablo Picasso (1881–1973) has been contested by Málaga (the painter’s birthplace), as well as by Madrid, where La Guernica hangs, and by the town of Gernika, victim of the 1937 Luftwaffe saturation bombing that inspired the famous canvas. Picasso, an anti-Franco opponent after the war, refused to return to Franco’s Spain. In turn, the regime allowed no public display of Picasso’s work until 1961, when the artist’s Sardana frieze at Barcelona’s Architects’ Guild was unveiled. Picasso never set foot on Spanish soil for his last 39 years.
The artist spent the formative period of his youth in Barcelona between 1895 and 1904, when he moved to Paris. His father was an art professor at the Reial Acadèmia de Belles Arts in La Llotja. Picasso, a precocious draftsman, began advanced classes there at 15. The 19-year-old Picasso first exhibited at Els Quatre Gats, a tavern still thriving on Carrer Montsió. His early Cubist painting Les Demoiselles d’Avignon was inspired not by the French town but by the Barcelona street Carrer d’Avinyó, then known for its brothels. After moving to Paris, Picasso returned occasionally to Barcelona until his last visit in 1934. Considering the artist’s off-and-on tenure, it is remarkable that the city and Picasso should be so intertwined in the world’s perception. The Picasso Museum, while certainly worth a visit, is perhaps fourth (after the Miró, the MNAC, and the MACBA) on any art connoisseur’s list of Barcelona galleries.
Iconoserveis Culturals (Av. Porta de l’Àngel 38, 4º-2ª, Barri Gòtic | 93/410–1405 | www.iconoserveis.com) gives walking tours through the key spots in Picasso’s Barcelona life, covering studios, galleries, family apartments, and the painter’s favorite haunts and hangouts.
Across Via Laietana is the Barri de la Ribera, or Born-Ribera, once the waterfront district around the basilica of Santa Maria del Mar. The Born-Ribera includes Carrer Montcada, lined with 14th- to 18th-century Renaissance palaces; Passeig del Born, where medieval jousts were held; Carrer Flassaders and the area around the early mint; the shop- and restaurant-rich Carrer Banys Vells; Plaça de les Olles; and Pla del Palau, where La Llotja, Barcelona’s early maritime exchange, housed the fine-arts school where Picasso, Gaudí, and Domènech i Montaner all studied, as did many more of Barcelona’s most important artists and architects.
Long a depressed neighborhood, La Ribera began to experience a revival in the 1980s; liberally endowed now with intimate bars, cafés, and trendy boutiques, it continues to enjoy the blessings of gentrification. An open excavation in the center of El Born, the onetime market restored as a multipurpose cultural center, offers a fascinating view of pre-1714 Barcelona, dismantled by the victorious troops of Felipe V at the end of the War of the Spanish Succession. The Passeig del Born, La Rambla of medieval Barcelona, is once again a pleasant leafy promenade.
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Fodor’s Choice | Museu d’Història de la Ciutat (Museum of the History of the City).
This fascinating museum (MUHBA for short) just off Plaça del Rei traces Barcelona’s evolution from its first Iberian settlement through its Roman and Visigothic ages and beyond. Antiquity is the focus here: the Romans took the city during the Punic Wars, and the striking underground remains of their Colonia Favencia Julia Augusta Paterna Barcino (Favored Colony of the Father Julius Augustus Barcino), through which you can roam on metal walkways, are the museum’s main treasure. Archaeological finds include the walls of houses, mosaics and fluted columns, and workshops (for pressing olive oil and salted fish paste), marble busts, and funerary urns. Especially fascinating is to see how the Visgoths and their descendents built the early medieval walls on top of these ruins, recycling whatever came to hand: chunks of Roman stone and concrete, bits of columns—even headstones. The price of admission to the museum includes entry to the other treasures of the Plaça del Rei, including the Palau Reial Major, the splendid Saló del Tinell, and the chapel of Santa Àgata. | Palau Padellàs, Carrer del Veguer 2, Barri Gòtic | 93/256–2122 | www.museuhistoria.bcn.cat | €7, includes admission to Monestir de Pedralbes, Centre d’Interpretació del Park Güell, Centre d’Interpretació del Call, Centre d’Interpretació Històrica, Refugi 307, and Museu-Casa Verdaguer (free with the Barcelona Card, and Sun. after 3) | Tues.–Sat. 10–7, Sun. 10–8 | Station: Catalunya, Liceu, Jaume I.
Fodor’s Choice | Museu Picasso (Picasso Museum).
This museum focused on the works of famous Spanish artist Pablo Picasso is housed in five adjoining palaces on Carrer Montcada, a street known for Barcelona’s most elegant medieval palaces. Picasso spent his key formative years in Barcelona (1895–1904), and this collection, while it does not include a significant number of his best paintings, is particularly strong on his early work. The museum was begun in 1962 on the suggestion of Picasso’s crony Jaume Sabartés, and the initial donation was from the Sabartés collection. Later Picasso donated his early works, and in 1981 his widow, Jaqueline Roque, added 141 pieces.
Displays include childhood sketches, works from the artist’s Rose and Blue periods, and the famous 1950s Cubist variations on Velázquez’s Las Meninas (in Rooms 22–26). The lower-floor sketches, oils, and schoolboy caricatures and drawings from Picasso’s early years in La Coruña are perhaps the most fascinating part of the whole museum, showing the facility the artist seemed to possess almost from the cradle. His La Primera Communión (First Communion), painted at the age of 16, gives an idea of his early accomplishment. On the second floor you see the beginnings of the mature Picasso and his Blue Period in Paris, a time of loneliness, cold, and hunger for the artist. | Carrer Montcada 15–19, Born-Ribera | 93/319–6310 | www.museupicasso.bcn.cat | €11 (free 1st Sun. of month, free Sun. 3–8) | Tues.–Sun. 10–8 | Station: Jaume I.
QUICK BITES: Mercat de Santa Caterina.
This marketplace, a splendid carnival of colors with a roller-coaster rooftop, was restored by the late Enric Miralles, whose widow Benedetta Tagliabue finished the project in 2005. Undulating wood and colored-ceramic mosaic ceilings redolent of both Gaudí and Miró cover a bustling and dramatically illuminated market with an excellent restaurant, Cuines de Santa Caterina (93/268–9918), and several good bars and cafés. The archeological section of the building is at the eastern end, showing Visigothic remains and sections of the 13th-century church and convent that stood here until the early 18th century. | Av. Francesc Cambó s/n, Born-Ribera | www.mercatsantacaterina.com | Station: Jaume I, Urquinaona.
Fodor’s Choice | Palau de la Música Catalana.
On Carrer Amadeus Vives, just off Via Laietana, a 10-minute walk from Plaça de Catalunya, is one of the world’s most extraordinary music halls. From its polychrome ceramic tile ticket windows on Carrer de Sant Pere Més Alt side to the row overhead of busts of (from left to right) Palestrina, Bach, Beethoven, and—around the corner on Carrer Amadeus Vives—Wagner, the Palau is a flamboyant tour de force, a riot of color and form designed in 1908 by Lluís Domènech i Montaner. It was meant by its sponsors, the Orfeó Català musical society, to celebrate the importance of music in Catalan culture and the life of its ordinary people (as opposed to the Liceu opera house, with its Castilian-speaking, monarchist upper-class patrons, and its music from elsewhere), but the Palau turned out to be anything but commonplace; it and the Liceu were for many decades opposing crosstown forces in Barcelona’s musical as well as philosophical discourse. If you can’t fit a performance into your itinerary, you owe it to yourself to at least take a tour of this amazing building.
The exterior is remarkable. The Miquel Blay sculptural group over the corner of Amadeu Vives and Sant Pere Més Alt is a hymn in stone to Catalonia’s popular traditions, with hardly a note left unsung: St. George the dragon slayer (at the top), women and children at play and work, fishermen with oars over their shoulders—a panoply of everyday life. (The glass facade over the present ticket-window entrance is one of the city’s best examples of nonintrusive modern construction wedded to heritage from the past.) Inside, the decor of the Palau assaults your senses before the first note of music is ever heard. Wagner’s Valkyrie burst from the right side of the stage over a heavy-browed bust of Beethoven; Catalonia’s popular music is represented by the graceful maidens of Lluís Millet’s song “Flors de Maig” (“Flowers of May”) on the left. Overhead, an inverted stained-glass cupola seems to channel the divine gift of music straight from heaven; painted rosettes and giant peacock feathers adorn the walls and columns; across the entire back wall of the stage is a relief of muselike Art Nouveau musicians in costume. | Carrer Sant Pere Més Alt 4–6, Sant Pere | 93/295–7200 | www.palaumusica.org | Tour €17 | Sept.–June, tours (every 30 mins) daily 10–3:30; July and Aug., tours daily 10–7 | Station: Urquinaona.
Fodor’s Choice | Plaça del Rei.
This little square is as compact a nexus of history as anything the Gothic Quarter has to offer. Long held to be the scene of Columbus’s triumphal return from his first voyage to the New World—the precise spot where Ferdinand and Isabella received him is purportedly on the stairs fanning out from the corner of the square (though evidence indicates that the Catholic monarchs were at a summer residence in the Empordá)—the Palau Reial Major was the official royal residence in Barcelona. The main room is the Saló del Tinell, a magnificent banquet hall built in 1362. To the left is the Palau del Lloctinent (Lieutenant’s Palace); towering overhead in the corner is the dark 15th-century Torre Mirador del Rei Martí (King Martin’s Watchtower). The 14th-century Capilla Reial de Santa Àgueda (Royal Chapel of St. Agatha) is on the right side of the stairway, and behind and to the right as you face the stairs is the Palau Clariana-Padellàs, moved to this spot stone by stone from Carrer Mercaders in the early 20th century and now the entrance to the Museu d’Història de la Ciutat. | Barri Gòtic | Station: Liceu, Jaume I.
Plaça Sant Jaume.
Facing each other across this oldest epicenter of Barcelona (and often politically on opposite sides as well) are the seat of Catalonia’s regional government, the Generalitat de Catalunya, in the Palau de La Generalitat, and the City Hall, the Ayuntamiento de Barcelona, in the Casa de la Ciutat. Just east of the Cathedral, this square was the site of the Roman forum 2,000 years ago, though subsequent construction filled the space with buildings. The square was cleared in the 1840s; the two imposing government buildings facing each other across it are much older: the Ayuntamiento dates to the 14th century; the Generalitat was built between the 15th and mid-17th centuries. | Pl. Sant Jaume, Barri Gòtic | www.bcn.es | Guided tours of the Ayuntamiento (in English) weekends at 11 am; tours of the Generalitat, 2nd and 4th weekends every month 10:30 am–1 pm, by reservation only. | Station: Jaume I.
Fodor’s Choice | Santa Maria del Mar.
The most beautiful example of early Catalan Gothic architecture, Santa Maria del Mar is extraordinary for its unbroken lines and elegance. The lightness of the interior is especially surprising considering the blocky exterior. The site, originally outside the 1st- to 4th-century Roman walls at what was then the water’s edge, was home to a Christian cult from the late 3rd century. Built by stonemasons who chose, fitted, and carved each stone hauled down from the same Montjuïc quarry that provided the sandstone for the 4th-century Roman walls, Santa Maria del Mar is breathtakingly and nearly hypnotically symmetrical.
Ironically, the church owes its present form to the anticlerical fury of anarchists who, on July 18, 1936, burned nearly all of Barcelona’s churches as a reprisal against the alliance of army, church, and oligarchy during the military rebellion. The basilica, filled with ornate side chapels and choir stalls, burned for 11 days, and nearly crumbled as a result of the heat. Restored after the end of the Civil War by a series of Bauhaus-trained architects, Santa Maria del Mar has become one of the city’s most universally admired architectural gems.
The paintings in the keystones overhead represent, from the front, the Coronation of the Virgin, the Nativity, the Annunciation, the equestrian figure of the father of Pedro IV, King Alfons, and the Barcelona coat of arms. The 34 lateral chapels are dedicated to different saints and images. The first chapel to the left of the altar (No. 20) is the Capella del Santo Cristo (Chapel of the Holy Christ), its stained-glass window an allegory of Barcelona’s 1992 Olympic Games, complete with names of medalists and key personalities of the day in tiny letters. An engraved stone riser to the left of the side door onto Carrer Sombrerers commemorates the spot where San Ignacio de Loyola, founder of the Jesuit Order, begged for alms in 1524 and 1525.
Set aside at least a half hour to see Santa Maria del Mar. La Catedral del Mar (The Cathedral of the Sea) by Ildefonso Falcons chronicles the construction of the basilica and 14th-century life in Barcelona. Check the leisure announcements in the weekly magazines for concerts in the basilica; the setting and the acoustics here make the performance of the Mozart Requiem, for example, an unforgettable experience. | Pl. de Santa Maria, Born-Ribera | 93/3102390 | Mon.–Sat. 9–1:30 and 4:30–8, Sun. 10:30–1:30 and 4:30–8 | Station: Jaume I.
Fodor’s Choice | Catedral de la Seu.
Barcelona’s cathedral is a repository of centuries of the city’s history and legend—although as a work of architecture visitors might find it a bit of a disappointment, compared to the Mediterranean Gothic Santa Maria del Mar and Gaudí’s Moderniste Sagrada Família. It was built between 1298 and 1450; work on the spire and neo-Gothic facade began in 1892 and was not completed until 1913. Historians are not sure about the identity of the architect: one name often proposed is Jaume Fabre, a native of Mallorca. The plan of the church is cruciform, with transepts standing in as bases for the great tower—a design also seen in England’s Exeter Cathedral. The building is perhaps most impresssive at night, floodlit with the stained-glass windows illuminated from inside; book a room with a balcony at the Hotel Colon, facing the Cathedral square, and make the most of it.
This is reputedly the darkest of all the world’s great cathedrals—even at high noon the nave is enveloped in shadows, which give it magically much larger dimensions than it actually has—so it takes a while for your eyes to adjust to the rich, velvety pitch of the interior. Don’t miss the beautifully carved choir stalls of the Knights of the Golden Fleece; the intricately and elaborately sculpted organ loft over the door out to Plaça Sant Iu (with its celebrated Saracen’s Head sculpture); the series of 60-odd wood sculptures of evangelical figures along the exterior lateral walls of the choir; the cloister with its fountain and geese in the pond; and, in the crypt, the tomb of Santa Eulàlia.
St. Eulàlia, originally interred at Santa Maria del Mar—then known as Santa Maria de les Arenes (St. Mary of the Sands)—was moved to the cathedral in 1339, and venerated here as its patron and protector. Eulalistas (St. Eulàlia devotees, rivals of a sort to the followers of La Mercé, or Our Lady of Mercy) celebrate the fiesta of La Laia (the nickname for Eulàlia) February 9–15, and would like to see the cathedral named for her, but for the moment it is known simply as La Catedral, or in Catalan La Seu (the See, or seat of the bishopric).
Enter from the front portal (there are also entrances through the cloister and from Carrer Comtes down the left side of the apse), and the first thing you see are the high-relief sculptures of the story of St. Eulàlia, on the near side of the choir stalls. The first scene, on the left, shows St. Eulàlia in front of Roman Consul Decius with her left hand on her heart and her outstretched right hand pointing at a cross in the distance. In the next, she is tied to a column and being whipped by the Consol’s thugs. To the right of the door into the choir the unconscious Eulàlia is being hauled away, and in the final scene on the right she is being lashed to the X-shaped cross upon which she was crucified in mid-February in the year 303. To the right of this high relief is a sculpture of the martyred heroine, resurrected as a living saint.
Among the two-dozen ornate and gilded chapels in the basilica, pay due attention to the Capilla de Lepanto, dedicated to Santo Cristo de Lepanto, in the far right corner as you enter through the front door. According to legend, the 15th-century polychrome wood sculpture of a battle-scarred, dark-skinned Christ, visible on the altar of this 100-seat chapel behind a black-clad Mare de Deu dels Dolors (Our Lady of the Sorrows), was the bowsprit of the flagship Spanish galley at the battle fought between Christian and Ottoman fleets on October 7, 1571. (A plaque next to the alms box of the chapel notes that, though John of Austria was the commander in chief, the captain who led the fleet into battle was Lluís de Requesens, a Catalan aristocrat and prominent Spanish general during the reign of Felipe II.
Outside the main nave of the cathedral to the right, you’ll find the leafy, palm tree–shaded cloister surrounding a tropical garden, and a pool populated by 13 snow-white geese, one for each of the tortures inflicted upon St. Eulàlia in an effort to break her faith. Legend has it that they are descendants of the flock of geese from Rome’s Capitoline Hill, whose honking alarms roused the city to repel invaders during the days of the Roman Republic. Don’t miss the fountain with the bronze sculpture of an equestrian St. George, hacking away at his perennial foe, the dragon, on the eastern corner of the cloister. On the day of Corpus Christi, this fountain is one of the more spectacular displays of the traditional ou com balla (“dancing egg”). The intimate Santa Llúcia chapel is at the front right corner of the block (reached by a separate entrance or from the cloister). Another Decius victim, St. Llúcia allegedly plucked out her own eyes to dampen the Roman consul’s ardor, whereupon she miraculously generated new ones. Patron saint of seamstresses, of the blind, and of the light of human understanding, St. Llúcia is portrayed over the altar in the act of presenting her plucked-out eyes, sunny-side up on a plate, to an impassive Decius.
In front of the cathedral is the grand square of Plaça de la Seu, where on Saturday from 6 pm to 8 pm, Sunday morning, and occasional evenings, barcelonins gather to dance the sardana, the circular folk dance performed for centuries as a symbol-in-motion of Catalan identity and the solidarity of the Catalan people. | Pl. de la Seu s/n, Barri Gòtic | 93/315–1554 | www.catedralbcn.org | Free 8–12:45 and 5:15–7:30, €6 1–5 pm | Daily 8 am–7:30 pm | Station: Jaume I.
Els Quatre Gats–Casa Martí.
Built by Josep Puig i Cadafalch for the Martí family, this Art Nouveau house, a three-minute walk from the cathedral, was the fountainhead of Bohemianism in Barcelona. It was here in 1897 that four friends, notable dandies all—Ramon Casas, Pere Romeu, Santiago Russinyol and Miguel Utrillo—started a café-restaurant called the Quatre Gats (Four Cats), meaning to make it the place for artists and art lovers to gather and shoot the breeze, in the best Left Bank tradition. (One of their wisest decisions was to mount a show, in February 1900, for an up-and-coming young painter named Pablo Picasso, who had done the illustration for the cover of the menu.) The exterior was decorated with figures by sculptor Eusebi Arnau (1864–1934), a darling of the Moderniste movement—notice the wrought-iron St. George and the dragon, that no Puig i Cadafalch project ever failed to include, over the door. Inside, the Four Cats hasn’t changed an iota: the tile and stained glass are as they were; the bar is at it was; the walls are hung with copies of work by the original owners and their circle. (Pride of place goes to the Casas self-portait, smoking his pipe, comedically teamed up on a tandem bicycle with Romeu.) Drop in for a break: Who knows? You might be taking your café au lait in Picasso’s chair. | Carrer Montsió 3 bis, Barri Gòtic | 93/302–4140 | www.4gats.com | Daily 10 am–1 am | Station: Catalunya.
Museu Frederic Marès (Frederic Marès Museum).
Here, in a building off the left (north) side of the cathedral, you can browse for hours among the miscellany assembled by the early-20th-century sculptor-collector Frederic Marès. Everything from paintings and polychrome wood carvings—such as Juan de Juní’s 1537 masterpiece Pietà and the Master of Cabestany’s late-12th-century Apparition of Christ to His Disciples at Sea—to Marès’s personal collection of pipes and walking sticks is stuffed into this surprisingly rich potpourri. | Pl. Sant Iu 5, Barri Gòtic | 93/3105800 | www.museumares.bcn.es | €4.20; free 1st Sun. of month and Wed. afternoon | Tues.–Sat. 10–7, Sun. 11–8 | Station: Catalunya, Liceu, Jaume I.
BARCELONETA AND LA CIUTADELLA
Barceloneta and La Ciutadella make a historical fit. In the early 18th century, some 1,000 houses in the Barrio de la Ribera, then the waterfront neighborhood around Plaça del Born, were ordered torn down, to create fields of fire for the cannon of La Ciutadella, the newly built fortress that kept watch over the rebellious Catalans. Barceloneta, then a wetland, was developed almost four decades later, in 1753, to house families who had lost homes in La Ribera.
Open water in Roman times and gradually silted in only after the 15th-century construction of the port, it became Barcelona’s fishermen’s and stevedores’ quarter. With its tiny original apartment blocks, and its history of seafarers, Barceloneta even now maintains its carefree flavor.
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Barceloneta. Once Barcelona’s pungent fishing port, Barceloneta retains much of its salty maritime flavor, even as it undergoes a long-overdue gentrification. Stop in Plaça de la Barceloneta to see the baroque church of Sant Miquel del Port, with its oversize sculpture of the winged archangel. Look for the splendidly remodeled Barceloneta market and its upstairs and downstairs restaurants, Lluçanès and Els Fogons de la Barceloneta. The original two-story houses and the restaurant Can Solé on Carrer Sant Carles are historic landmarks. Barceloneta’s surprisingly clean and sandy beach, though overcrowded in midsummer, offers swimming, surfing, and a lively social scene late May through September.
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Arc de Triomf.
This imposing, exposed-redbrick arch was built by Josep Vilaseca as the grand entrance for the 1888 Universal Exhibition. Similar in size and sense to the traditional triumphal arches of ancient Rome, this one refers to no specific military triumph anyone can recall. In fact, Catalunya’s last military triumph of note may have been Jaume I el Conqueridor’s 1229 conquest of the Moors in Mallorca—as suggested by the bats (always part of Jaume I’s coat of arms) on either side of the arch itself. The Josep Reynés sculptures adorning the structure represent Barcelona hosting visitors to the exhibition on the west (front) side, while the Josep Llimona sculptures on the east side depict the prizes being given to its outstanding contributors. | Passeig de Sant Joan, La Ciutadella | Station: Arc de Triomf.
El Transbordador Aeri del Port (cable car).
This hair-raising cable-car ride over the Barcelona harbor from Barceloneta to Montjuïc (with a midway stop in the port) is spectacular—an adrenaline rush with a view. The rush comes from being packed in with 18 other people, standing-room only, in a tiny gondola swaying a hundred feet or so above the Mediterranean. The cable car leaves from the tower at the end of Passeig Joan de Borbó and connects the Torre de San Sebastián on the Moll de Barceloneta, the tower of Jaume I in the port boat terminal, and the Torre de Miramar on Montjuïc. Critics maintain, not without reason, that the ride is expensive, not very cool, and actually pretty scary. On the positive side, this is undoubtedly the slickest way to connect Barceloneta and Montjuïc, and the Torre de Altamar restaurant in the tower at the Barceloneta end serves excellent food and wine. | Passeig Joan de Borbó s/n, Barceloneta | 93/225–2718, 93/430–4716 | €16.50 round-trip, €11 one-way | Sep.–June, daily 11–7; Jul. and Aug., daily 11–8 | Station: Barceloneta.
The sights and sounds of Barcelona seem far away when you stand near this monumental, slightly overdramatized creation by Josep Fontseré, presented as part of the 1888 Universal Exhibition. The waterfall’s somewhat overwrought rocks were the work of a young architecture student named Antoni Gaudí—his first public work, appropriately natural and organic, and certainly a hint of things to come. | Parc de la Ciutadella, Ciutadella | Station: Arc de Triomf.
Museu d’Història de Catalunya.
Established in what used to be a port warehouse, this state-of-the-art interactive museum makes you part of Catalonian history from prehistoric times through more than 3,000 years and into the contemporary democratic era. After centuries of “official” Catalan history dictated from Madrid (from 1714 until the mid-19th century Renaixença, and from 1939 to 1975), this offers an opportunity to revisit Catalonia’s autobiography. Explanations of the exhibits appear in Catalan, Castilian, and English. Guided tours are available on Sunday at noon and 1 pm. The rooftop restaurant has excellent views over the harbor and is open to the public (whether or not you visit the museum itself) during museum hours. | Pl. Pau Vila 3, Barceloneta | 93/2254700 | www.mhcat.net | €4 (free 1st Sun. of month) | Tues. and Thurs.–Sat. 10–7, Wed. 10–8, Sun. 10–2:30 | Station: Barceloneta.
FAMILY | Parc de la Ciutadella (Citadel Park).
Once a fortress designed to consolidate Madrid’s military occupation of Barcelona, the Ciutadella is now the city’s main downtown park. The clearing dates from shortly after the War of the Spanish Succession in the early 18th century, when Felipe V demolished some 1,000 houses in what was then the Barri de la Ribera to build a fortress and barracks for his soldiers and a glacis, or open space, between rebellious Barcelona and his artillery positions. The fortress walls were pulled down in 1868 and replaced by gardens laid out by Josep Fontseré. In 1888 the park was the site of the Universal Exposition that put Barcelona on the map as a truly European city; today it is home to the Castell dels Tres Dragons, built by architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner as the café and restaurant for the exposition (the only building to survive that project, now a botanical research center), the Catalan parliament, and the city zoo. | Ciutadella | Station: Barceloneta, Arc de Triomf, Ciutadella–Vila Olímpica.
FAMILY | Zoo.
Barcelona’s excellent zoo occupies the whole eastern end of the Parc de la Ciutadella. There’s a superb reptile house and a full assortment of African animals. The dolphin show usually plays to a packed house. | Parc de la Ciutadella, Ciutadella | 93/2256780 | www.zoobarcelona.cat | €19.60 | Winter, daily 10–5:30; summer, daily 10–8 | Station: Ciutadella–Vila Olímpica, Barceloneta.
Barcelona’s most famous neighborhood, this late 19th-century urban development is known for its dazzling Art Nouveau architecture. Called the “Expansion” in Catalan, the Eixample (ay-shom-pla) is an open-air Moderniste museum. Designed as a grid, in the best Cartesian tradition, the Eixample is oddly difficult to find your way around in; the builders neglected to number the buildings or alphabetize the streets, and even Barcelona residents can get lost in it. The grid was the work of engineer Ildefons Cerdà, and much of the construction was done in the peak years of the Moderniste movement by a who’s who of Art Nouveau architects, starring Gaudí, Domènech i Montaner, and Puig i Cadafalch; rising above it all is Gaudí’s Sagrada Família church.
A GOOD TOUR
Starting in the Plaça de Catalunya, walk up Passeig de Gràcia until you reach the corner of Consell de Cent, where you’ll enter the vortex of Moderniste architecture, the Manzana de la Discòrdia. The Casa Montaner i Simó–Fundació Tàpies is around the corner on Carrer Aragó. Gaudí’s Casa Milà, known as La Pedrera, is three blocks farther up Passeig de Gràcia; after touring the interior and rooftop, walk up Passeig de Gràcia to the Vinçon, one of Barcelona’s top design stores, with views into the back of Casa Milà. Just around the corner, at Diagonal 373, is Puig i Cadafalch’s intricately sculpted Palau Baró de Quadras, now housing the Casa Asia cultural center. Two minutes farther east is his Nordic castle-like Casa de les Punxes at No. 416–420. From here it’s a 10-minute walk to yet another Puig i Cadafalch masterpiece, Casa Macaia. Finally, walk another 15 minutes along Carrer Provença to Gaudí’s emblematic Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família. If you’ve still got energy and curiosity to burn, stroll over to Domènech i Montaner’s Hospital de Sant Pau.
Depending on how many taxis you take, this is a four- to five-hour tour, so plan your exploring around a good lunch. Add an hour to two hours each to visit Casa Battló, Casa Milà, and the Sagrada Família, or plan to return later.
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Fodor’s Choice | Casa Milà.
Usually referred to as La Pedrera (The Stone Quarry), this building, with its wavy, curving stone facade undulating around the corner of the block, is one of Gaudí’s most celebrated yet initially reviled designs. Topped by chimneys so eerie they were nicknamed espantabruxes (witch scarers), the Casa Milà was unveiled in 1910 to the horror of local residents. The sudden appearance of this strange facade on the city’s most fashionable street led to the immediate coining of unflattering descriptions; newspapers called it the “Rock Pile,” and made unflattering references to the gypsy cave dwellings in Granada’s Sacromonte. The exterior has no straight lines; the curlicues and wrought-iron foliage of the balconies, sculpted by Josep Maria Jujol, and the rippling, undressed stone, made you feel, as one critic put it, “as though you are on board a ship in an angry sea.”
The building was originally meant to be dedicated to the Mother of God and crowned with a sculpture of the Virgin Mary. The initial design was altered by owner Pere Milà i Camps, who, after the anticlerical violence of the Setmana Tràgica (Tragic Week) of 1909, decided that the religious theme would be an invitation to a new outbreak of mayhem. Gaudí’s rooftop chimney park, alternately interpreted as veiled Saharan women or helmeted warriors, is as spectacular as anything in Barcelona, especially in late afternoon, when the sunlight slants over the city into the Mediterranean. Inside, the handsome Espai Gaudí (Gaudí Space) in the attic has excellent critical displays of Gaudí’s works from all over Spain, as well as explanations of theories and techniques, including an upside-down model (a reproduction of the original in the Sagrada Família museum) of the Güell family crypt at Santa Coloma, made of weighted hanging strings. This hanging model is based on the theory of the reversion of the catenary, which says that a chain suspended from two points will spontaneously hang in the exact shape of the inverted arch required to convert the stress to compression, thus providing structural support. The Pis de la Pedrera apartment is an interesting look into the life of a family that lived in La Pedrera in the early 20th century. Everything from the bathroom to the kitchen is filled with reminders of how comprehensively life has changed in the last century. People still live in the other apartments.
In the summer high season the lines of visitors waiting to see the Pedrera can stretch a block or more; if you can, sign up for Pedrera Secreta (Secret Pedrera), a private guided tour of the building by night, offered with or without dinner, daily March–October between 8:15 pm and midnight, November–February Wednesday–Saturday from 7:15 to 11. Bookings are essential: call | 902/202138 or reserve online at | reserves@lapedreracom. There are also guided tours in various languages, weekdays at 6 pm, weekends at 11 am; call | 902/202138 or email | email@example.com for bookings and information. On Nits d’Estiu (Summer Nights; Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, June 20–September 7) the Espai Gaudí and the roof terrace are open for drinks and jazz concerts; the doors open at 9:45 pm and concerts begin at 10:30. Admission is €27. | Passeig de Gràcia 92, Eixample | 902/202138 | €16.50; Pedrera Secreta tours €30/€49 | Nov.–Feb., daily 9–6:30; Mar.–Oct., daily 9–8 | Station: Diagonal, Provença.
Fodor’s Choice | Manzana de la Discòrdia.
The name is a pun on the Spanish word manzana, which means both “apple” and “city block,” alluding to the three-way architectural counterpoint on this street and to the classical myth of the Apple of Discord (which played a part in that legendary tale about the Judgment of Paris and the subsequent Trojan War). The houses here are spectacular and encompass three monuments of Modernisme—Casa Lleó Morera, Casa Amatller, and Casa Batlló. Of the three contrasting buildings (four if you count Sagnier i Villavecchia’s comparatively tame 1910 Casa Mulleras at No. 37), Casa Batlló is clearly the star attraction and the only one of the three offering visits to the interior. | Passeig de Gràcia 35–43, Eixample.
The neo-Gothic Casa Amatller was built by Josep Puig i Cadafalch in 1900, when the architect was 33 years old. Eighteen years younger than Domènech i Montaner and 15 years younger than Gaudí, Puig i Cadafalch was one of the leading statesmen of his generation, mayor of Barcelona and, in 1917, president of Catalonia’s first home-rule government since 1714, the Mancomunitat de Catalunya. Puig i Cadafalch’s architectural historicism sought to recover Catalonia’s proud past, in combination with eclectic elements from Flemish and Dutch architectural motifs. Note the Eusebi Arnau sculptures—especially his St. George and the dragon, and the figures of a drummer with his dancing bear. The flowing-haired “Princesa” is thought to be Amatller’s daughter; the animals above the motif are depicted pouring chocolate, a reference to the source of the Amatller family fortune. The upper floors are generally closed to the public, although the Fundació Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic holds occasional cultural events upstairs. The small gallery on the first floor, which mounts various exhibitions related to Modernisme, is open to the public free of charge; a quick visit will give you a sense of what the rest of the building is like—and a chance to buy some chocolate de la casa at the boutique. | Passeig de Gràcia 41, Eixample | 93/487–7217 | www.amatller.org | Station: Passeig de Gràcia.
Gaudí at his most spectacular, the Casa Batlló is actually a makeover: it was originally built in 1877 by Emili Sala Cortés, one of Gaudí’s teachers, and acquired by the Batlló family in 1900. Batlló wanted to tear down the undistinguished Sala building and start over, but let Gaudí persuade him to remodel the facade and the interior instead. The result is astonishing: the facade, with its rainbow of colored glass and trencadís polychromatic tile fragments, and the toothy masks of the wrought-iron balconies projecting outward toward the street, is an irresistible photo op. Nationalist symbolism is at work here: the scaly roof line represents the Dragon of Evil impaled on St. George’s cross, and the skulls and bones on the balconies are the dragon’s victims—allusions to medieval Catalonia’s code of chivalry and religious piety. Gaudí is said to have directed the composition of the facade from the middle of Passeig de Gràcia, calling instructions to workmen on the scaffolding, about how to place the trencadís. Inside, the translucent windows on the landings of the central staircase light up the maritime motif and the details of the building, all whorls and spirals and curves: here, as everywhere in his oeuvre, Gaudí opted for natural shapes and rejected straight lines. | Passeig de Gràcia 43, Eixample | 93/216–0306 | www.casabatllo.es | €20.35 | Daily 9–9 (hrs subject to change) | Station: Passeig de Gràcia.
Casa Lleó Morera.
The ornate Casa Lleó Morera was extensively rebuilt from 1902 to 1906 by Palau de la Música Catalana architect Domènech i Montaner and is a treasure house of Catalan Modernisme. The facade is covered with ornamentation and sculptures depicting female figures using the modern inventions of the age: the telephone, the telegraph, the camera, and the Victrola. The inside, presently closed to the public, is even more astounding, another anthology of Art Nouveau techniques assembled by the same team of glaziers, sculptors, and mosaicists Domènech i Montaner directed in the construction of the Palau de la Música Catalana. The Eusebi Arnau sculptures around the top of the walls on the main floor are based on the Catalan lullaby “La Dida de l’Infant del Rei” (The Nurse of the King’s Baby); while the stained-glass scenes in the old dining room, of Lleó Morera family picnics, resemble Moderniste versions of impressionist paintings. (Though Casa Lleó Morera is not open to the public at this writing, check the current status with the Modernisme Centre (93/317–7652) and ask how to arrange a visit.) | Passeig de Gracia 35, Eixample | Station: Passeig de Gracia.
Fodor’s Choice | Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família.
Barcelona’s most emblematic architectural icon, Antoni Gaudí’s Sagrada Família, is still under construction 130 years after it was begun. This striking and surreal creation was conceived as nothing short of a Bible in stone, a gigantic representation of the entire history of Christianity, and it continues to cause responses from surprise to consternation to wonder. No building in Barcelona and few in the world are more deserving of the investment of a few hours to the better part of a day in getting to know well. In fact, a quick visit can be more tiring than an extended one, as there are too many things to take in at once. However long your visit, it’s a good idea to bring binoculars.
Looming over Barcelona like some magical midcity massif of needles and peaks, left by eons of wind erosion and exuberant growth, the Sagrada Família can at first seem like piles of caves and grottoes heaped on a labyrinth of stalactites, stalagmites, and flora and fauna of every stripe and sort. The sheer immensity of the site and the energy flowing from it are staggering. The scale alone is daunting: the current lateral facades will one day be dwarfed by the main Glory facade and central spire—the Torre del Salvador (Tower of the Savior), which will be crowned by an illuminated polychrome ceramic cross and soar to a final height 1 yard shorter than the Montjuïc mountain (564 feet) guarding the entrance to the port (Gaudí felt it improper for the work of man to surpass that of God). Today, for a €4.50 additional charge (cash only), you can take an elevator skyward to the top of the bell towers for some spectacular views. Back on the ground, visit the museum, which displays Gaudí’s scale models, photographs showing the progress of construction, and images of the vast outpouring at Gaudí’s funeral; the architect is buried under the basilica, to the left of the altar in the crypt.
Soaring spikily skyward in intricately twisting levels of carvings and sculptures, part of the Nativity facade is made of stone from Montserrat, Barcelona’s cherished mountain sanctuary and home of Catalonia’s patron saint, La Moreneta, the Black Virgin of Montserrat. Gaudí himself was fond of comparing the Sagrada Família to the shapes of the sawtooth massif 50 km (30 miles) west of the city; a plaque in one of Montserrat’s caverns reads, “Lloc d’inspiració de gaudí” (“Place of inspiration of Gaudí”).
History of Construction and Design. “My client is not in a hurry,” Gaudí was fond of replying to anyone curious about the timetable for the completion of his mammoth project—and it’s a lucky thing, because the Sagrada Família was begun in 1882 under architect Francesc Villar, passed on in 1891 to Gaudí (who worked on the project until his death in 1926), and is still thought to be 15 or 20 years from completion, despite the ever-increasing velocity of today’s computerized construction techniques. After the church’s neo-Gothic beginnings, Gaudí added Art Nouveau touches to the crypt (the floral capitals) and in 1893 went on to begin the Nativity facade of a new and vastly ambitious project. Conceived as a symbolic construct encompassing the complete story and scope of the Christian faith, the Sagrada Família was intended by Gaudí to impress the viewer with the full sweep and force of the Gospel. At the time of his death in 1926, however, only one tower of the Nativity facade had been completed.
Gaudí’s plans called for three immense facades, the Nativity and Passion facades on the northeast and southwest sides of the church, and the even larger Glory facade designed as the building’s main entry, facing east over Carrer de Mallorca. The four bell towers over each facade would represent the 12 apostles, a reference to the celestial Jerusalem of the Book of Revelation. The four larger towers around the central Tower of the Savior will represent the evangelists Mark, Matthew, John, and Luke. Between the central tower and the reredos at the northwestern end of the nave will rise the 18th and second-highest tower, crowned with a star, in honor of the Virgin Mary. The naves are not supported by buttresses but by treelike helicoidal (spiraling) columns. The first bell tower, in honor of Barnabas—the only one Gaudí lived to see—was completed in 1921. Presently there are eight towers standing: Barnabas, Simon, Judas, and Matthias (from left to right) over the Nativity facade and James, Bartholomew, Thomas, and Phillip over the Passion facade.
Meaning and Iconography. Reading the existing facades is a challenging course in Bible studies. The three doors on the Nativity facade are named for Charity in the center, Faith on the right, and Hope on the left. As explained by Joan Serra, onetime vicar of the parish of the Sagrada Família and devoted Gaudí scholar, the architect often described the symbology of his work to visitors although he never wrote any of it down. Thus, much of this has come directly from Gaudí via the oral tradition. In the Nativity facade Gaudí addresses nothing less than the fundamental mystery of Christianity: Why does God the Creator become, through Jesus Christ, a mortal creature? The answer, as Gaudí explained it in stone, is that God did this to free man from the slavery of selfishness, symbolized by the iron fence around the serpent of evil at the base of the central column of the Portal of Charity. The column is covered with the genealogy of Christ going back to Abraham.
Above the central column is a portrayal of the birth of Christ; above that, the Annunciation is flanked by a grotto-like arch of water. Overhead are the constellations in the Christmas sky at Bethlehem: if you look carefully you’ll see two babies, representing the Gemini, and the horns of a bull, for Taurus.
To the right, the Portal of Faith chronicles scenes of Christ’s youth: Jesus preaching at the age of 13 and Zacharias prophetically writing the name of John. Higher up are grapes and wheat, symbols of the Eucharist, and a sculpture of a hand and an eye, symbols of divine providence.
The left-hand Portal of Hope begins at the bottom with flora and fauna from the Nile; the slaughter of the innocents; the flight of the Holy Family into Egypt; Joseph, surrounded by his carpenter’s tools, contemplating his son; the marriage of Joseph and Mary. Above this is a sculpted boat with an anchor, representing the Church, piloted by St. Joseph assisted by the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove. Overhead is a typical peak or spire from the Montserrat massif.
Gaudí planned these slender towers to house a system of tubular bells (still to be created and installed) capable of playing more complete and complex music than standard bell-ringing changes had previously been able to perform. At a height of one-third of the bell tower are the seated figures of the apostles. The peaks of the towers represent the apostles’ successors, each in the form of a mitre, the official headdress of a bishop of the Western Church.
The Passion facade on the Sagrada Família’s southwestern side, over Carrer Sardenya and the Plaça de la Sagrada Família, is a dramatic contrast to the Nativity facade. In 1986, sculptor Josep Maria Subirachs was chosen by project director Jordi Bonet to finish the Passion facade. Subirachs was picked for his starkly realistic, almost geometrical, sculptural style, which many visitors and devotees of Gaudí find gratingly off the mark. Subirachs pays double homage to the great Moderniste master in the Passion facade: Gaudí himself appears over the left side of the main entry, making notes or drawings, the evangelist in stone, while the Roman soldiers farther out and above are modeled on Gaudí’s helmeted warriors from the roof of La Pedrera. Art critic Robert Hughes calls the homage “sincere in the way that only the worst art can be: which is to say, utterly so.”
Framed by leaning tibia-like columns, the bones of the dead, and following an S-shaped path across the Passion facade, the scenes represented begin at the lower left with the Last Supper. The faces of the disciples are contorted in confusion and dismay, especially that of Judas, clutching his bag of money behind his back over the figure of a reclining hound, symbol of fidelity in contrast with the disciple’s perfidy. The next sculptural group to the right represents the prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane and Peter awakening, followed by the kiss of Judas.
In the center, Jesus is lashed to a pillar during his flagellation, a tear track carved into his expressive countenance. Note the column’s top stone is out of kilter, reminder of the stone soon to be removed from Christ’s sepulchre. To the right of the door are a rooster and Peter, who is lamenting his third denial of Christ “ere the cock crows.” Farther to the right are Pilate and Jesus with the crown of thorns, while just above, starting back to the left, Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus with the cross after his first fall.
Over the center is the representation of Jesus consoling the women of Jerusalem and a faceless (because her story is considered legendary, not historical fact) St. Veronica with the veil she gave Christ to wipe his face with on the way to Calvary. To the left is the likeness of Gaudí taking notes, and farther to the left is the equestrian figure of a centurion piercing the side of the church with his spear, the church representing the body of Christ. Above are the soldiers rolling dice for Christ’s clothing and the naked, crucified Christ at the center. The moon to the right of the crucifixion refers to the darkness at the moment of Christ’s death and to the full moon of Easter; to the right are Peter and Mary at the sepulchre. At Christ’s feet is a figure with a furrowed brow, perhaps suggesting the agnostic’s anguished search for certainty. It is thought to be a self-portrait of Subirachs, characterized by the sculptor’s giant hand and an S on his right arm.
Over the door will be the church’s 16 prophets and patriarchs under the cross of salvation. Apostles James, Bartholomew, Thomas, and Phillip appear at a height of 148 feet on their respective bell towers. Thomas, the apostle who demanded proof of Christ’s resurrection (thus the expression “doubting Thomas”), is visible pointing to the palm of his hand, asking to inspect Christ’s wounds. Bartholomew, on the left, is turning his face upward toward the culminating element in the Passion facade, the 26-foot-tall gold metallic representation of the resurrected Christ on a bridge between the four bell towers at a height of 198 feet.
Future of the project. The apse of the basilica, consecrated by Pope Benedict XVI in November 2010, has space for 15,000 people and a choir loft for 1,500 and occupies an area large enough to encompass the entire church of Santa Maria del Mar. The towers still to be completed over the apse include those dedicated to the four evangelists—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—the Virgin Mary, and the highest of all, dedicated to Christ the Savior. By 2022, the 170th anniversary of the birth of Gaudí, the great central tower and dome, resting on four immense columns of Iranian porphyry, considered the hardest of all stones, will soar to a height of 564 feet, making the Sagrada Família Barcelona’s tallest building. By 2026, the 100th anniversary of Gaudí’s death, after 144 years of construction in the tradition of the great medieval and Renaissance cathedrals of Europe, the Sagrada Família may well be complete enough to be called finished. | Pl. de la Sagrada Família s/n, Eixample | 93/2073031 | www.sagradafamilia.org | €14.80 (€18 with audio guide), bell-tower elevator €4.50 | Oct.–Mar., daily 9–6; Apr.–Sept., daily 9–8 | Station: Sagrada Família.
Casa de les Punxes (House of the Spikes).
Also known as Casa Terrades for the family that owned the house and commissioned Puig i Cadafalch to build it, this extraordinary cluster of six conical towers ending in impossibly sharp needles is another of Puig i Cadafalch’s northern European inspirations, this one rooted in the Gothic architecture of Nordic countries. One of the few freestanding Eixample buildings, visible from 360 degrees, this ersatz Bavarian or Danish castle in downtown Barcelona is composed entirely of private apartments. Some of them are built into the conical towers themselves and consist of three circular levels connected by spiral stairways, about right for a couple or a very small family. Interestingly, Puig i Cadafalch also designed the Terrades family mausoleum, albeit in a much more sober and respectful style. | Av. Diagonal 416–420, Eixample | Station: Diagonal.
Casa Montaner i Simó–Fundació Tàpies.
This former publishing house—and the city’s first building to incorporate iron supports, built in 1880—has been handsomely converted to hold the work of preeminent contemporary Catalan painter Antoni Tàpies, as well as temporary exhibits. Tàpies, who died in 2012, was an abstract painter, although influenced by surrealism, which may account for the sculpture atop the structure—a tangle of metal entitled Núvol i cadira (Cloud and Chair). The modern, airy split-level gallery also has a bookstore that’s strong on Tàpies, Asian art, and Barcelona art and architecture. | Carrer Aragó 255, Eixample | 93/4870315 | www.fundaciotapies.org | €7 | Tues.–Sun. 10–8 | Station: Passeig de Gràcia.
Fodor’s Choice | Recinte Modernista de Sant Pau.
Among the more recent tourist attractions in Barcelona, the Recinte Modernista (Modernist Complex) is set in what was surely one of the most beautiful public projects in the world: the Hospital de Sant Pau. A World Heritage site, the complex is extraordinary in its setting and style, and in the idea that inspired it. Architect Lluis Domènech i Montaner believed that trees and flowers and fresh air were likely to help people recover from what ailed them more than anything doctors could do in emotionally sterile surroundings. The hospital wards were set among gardens, their brick facades topped with polychrome ceramic tile roofs in extravagant shapes and details. Domènech also believed in the therapeutic properties of form and color, and decorated the hospital with Pau Gargallo sculptures and colorful mosaics, replete with motifs of hope and healing and healthy growth. Begun in 1900, this monumental production won Domènech i Montaner his third Barcelona “Best Building” award in 1912. (His previous two prizes were for the Palau de la Música Catalana and Casa Lleó Morera.)
No longer a functioning hospital (the new Sant Pau—comparatively soulless but fully functional and state-of-the-art—is uphill from the complex), many of the buildings have been taken over for other purposes. The Sant Manuel Pavillion, for example, now houses the Casa Àsia, a comprehensive resource for cultural and business-related research on all the countries of Asia, with library holdings of books, films, and music from each of them. Tours of the Complex are offered in English daily at 10, 11, noon and 1 pm. | Carrer Sant Antoni Maria Claret 167, Eixample | 93/553–7801, 93/269–2444 | www.santpaubarcelona.org | Tour €10 | Station: Hospital de Sant Pau.
UPPER BARCELONA: SARRIÀ AND PEDRALBES
Sarrià was originally a country village, overlooking Barcelona from the foothills of the Collserola. Eventually absorbed by the westward-expanding city, the village, 15 minutes by FGC commuter train from Plaça de Catalunya, has become a unique neighborhood with at least four distinct populations: the old-timers, who speak only Catalan among themselves, and talk of “going down to Barcelona” to shop; writers, artists and designers, and people in publishing and advertising, drawn here in the 1970s and 1980s by the creative vibe; yuppie starter families, who largely support Sarriá’s gourmet shops and upscale restaurants; and a cadre of expats, who prize the neighborhood for its proximity to the international schools.
Did we mention gourmet shops? J. V. Foix, the famous Catalan poet, was a native son of Sarrià; his father founded what is arguably the best patisserie in Barcelona, and his descendants still run the quintessential Sarrià family business. On Sundays, barcelonins come to the village from all over town; Sunday just wouldn’t be Sunday without a cake from Foix. Cross Avinguda Foix from Sarriá and you’re in Pedralbes—the wealthiest residential neighborhood in the city. (Fútbol superstar Leo Messi has his multimillion-euro home here; the exclusive Real Club de Tenis de Barcelona is not far off.) The centerpiece of this district is the 14th-century Monestir (Monastery) de Pedralbes; other points of interest include Gaudí’s Pavellons de la Finca Güell on Avinguda de Pedralbes, and the gardens of the Palau Reial de Pedralbes, a 20-minute walk downhill from the monastery. The Futbol Club Barcelona’s 98,000-seat Camp Nou stadium and museum are another 20 minutes’ walk, down below the Diagonal.
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If you’re in Barcelona between September and June, a chance to witness the celebrated FC Barcelona play soccer (preferably against Real Madrid, if you can get in) at Barcelona’s gigantic stadium is a seminal Barcelona experience. Just the walk down to the field from the Diagonal with another hundred thousand fans walking fast and hushed in electric anticipation is unforgettable. Games are played Saturday night at 9 or Sunday afternoon at 5, though there may be international Champions League games on Tuesday or Wednesday evenings as well. A worthwhile alternative to seeing a game is the guided tour of the FC Barcelona museum—the city’s most visited tourist attraction—and facilities. | Arístides Maillol 12–18, Les Corts | 93/496–3600 for museum, 902/189900 for club office | www.fcbarcelona.cat | Museum €23, includes tour of museum, field, and sports complex | Museum Mon.–Sat. 10–6:30 (until 8 Apr.–Oct.), Sun. 10–2:30. On match days, the museum closes 3 hrs early, and stadium tours are not available. | Station: Collblanc, Palau Reial.
Fodor’s Choice | Monestir de Pedralbes.
This marvel of a monastery, named for its original white stones (pedres albes), is really a convent, founded in 1326 for the Franciscan order of Poor Clares by Reina (Queen) Elisenda. The three-story Gothic cloister, one of the finest in Europe, surrounds a lush garden. The day cells, where the nuns spend their mornings praying, sewing, and studying, circle the arcaded courtyard. The queen’s own cell, the Capella de Sant Miquel, just to the right of the entrance, has murals painted in 1346 by Catalan master Ferrer Bassa. Look for the letters spelling out “Joan no m’oblides” (“John, do not forget me.”) scratched between the figures of St. Francis and St. Clare (with book and quill), written by a brokenhearted novice. Farther along, inscriptions over the tombs of nuns who died here can be seen through the paving grates. The nuns’ upstairs dormitory contains the convent’s treasures: paintings, liturgical objects, and seven centuries of artistic and cultural patrimony. Temporary exhibits are displayed in this space. The refectory where the Poor Clares dined in silence has a pulpit used for readings, while wall inscriptions exhort “Silentium” (“Silence”), “Audi tacens” (“Listening makes you wise.”), and “Considera morientem” (“Consider, we are dying.”). Notice the fading mural in the corner, and the paving tiles broken by heavy cannon positioned here during the 1809 Napoleonic occupation. Your ticket also includes admission to Museu d’Història de la Ciutat, Centre d’Interpretació del Park Güell, Centre d’Interpretació del Call, Centre d’Interpretació Històrica, Refugi 307, and Museu-Casa Verdaguer. | Baixada Monestir 9, Pedralbes | 93/2563434 | www.bcn.cat/monestirpedralbes | €7 (free Sun. after 3) | Oct.–Mar., Tues.–Fri. 10–2, weekends 10–5; Apr.–Sept., Tues.–Fri. 10–5, Sat. 10–7, Sun. 10–8 | Station: Reina Elisenda.
Pavellons de la Finca Güell–Càtedra Gaudí.
Work on the Finca began in 1883 as an extension of the Count Eusabi Güell’s family estate. Gaudí, the count’s architect of choice, was commissioned to do the gardens and the two entrance pavilions (1884-87); the rest of the project was never finished. The pavilions now belong to the University of Barcelona; the one on the right houses the Càtedra Gaudí, a Gaudí library and study center. The fierce wrought-iron dragon gate is Gaudí’s reference to the Garden of the Hesperides, as described by national poet Jacint Verdaguer’s epic poem L’Atlàntida—the Iliad of Catalunya’s historic/mythic origins—published in 1877. The property is open for guided tours in English on Saturday and Sunday at 10:15 and 12:15. Admission is limited to 25 visitors: call ahead, or book on the Ruta del Modernisme website. (The Ruta is a walking tour covering 115 masterworks of the Moderniste period, including Gaudí, Domenech i Muntaner, and Puig i Catafalch. Pick up a guide—which includes a map and discounts for admission to many of the sites—here at the Pavellons or at the Turisme de Barcelona office in the Plaça de Catalunya.) | Av. Pedralbes 7, Pedralbes | 93/3177652 | www.rutadelmodernisme.com | Station: Palau Reial.
The village of Sarrià was originally a cluster of farms and country houses overlooking Barcelona from the hills. The 10th-century Romanesque Church of Sant Vicenç dominates the square; the bell tower, illuminated on weekend nights, is truly impressive. Across Passeig de la Reina Elisenda from the church (50 yards to the left) is the 100-year-old Moderniste Mercat de Sarriá.
From the square, cut through the Placeta del Roser to the left of the church to the elegant Town Hall (1896) in the Plaça de la Vila; note the buxom bronze sculpture of Pomona, goddess of fruit, by famed Sarrià sculptor Josep Clarà (1878–1958). Follow the tiny Carrer dels Paletes, to the left of the Town Hall (the saint enshrined in the niche is Sant Antoni, patron saint of paletes, or bricklayers), and right on Major de Sarrià, the High Street of the village. TIP Lunch time? Try Casa Raphael, on the right as you walk down—in business (and virtually unchanged) since 1873. Further on, turn left into Carrer Canet. The two-story row houses on the right were first built for workers on the village estates; these, and the houses opposite at Nos. 15, 21, and 23, are among the few remaining original village homes in Sarrià. Turn right at the first corner on Carrer Cornet i Mas and walk two blocks down to Carrer Jaume Piquet.
On the left is No. 30, Barcelona’s most perfect small-format Moderniste house, thought to be the work of architect Domènech i Montaner, complete with faux-medieval upper windows, wrought-iron grillwork, floral and fruited ornamentation, and organically curved and carved wooden doors either by or inspired by Gaudí himself. The next stop down Cornet i Mas is Sarrià’s prettiest square, Plaça Sant Vicens, a leafy space ringed by old Sarrià houses and centered on a statue of Sarrià’s patron, St. Vicenç, portrayed, as always, beside the millstone used to sink him to the bottom of the Mediterranean after he was martyred in Valencia in 302. Can Pau, the café on the lower corner with Carrer Mañé i Flaquer, is the local hangout, a good place for coffee and once a haven for authors Gabriel García Marquez and Mario Vargas Llosa, who lived in Sarrià in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Other Sarrià landmarks to look for include the two Foix pastry stores, one at Plaça Sarrià 9–10 and the other at Major de Sarrià 57, above Bar Tomás. The late J. V. Foix (1893–1987), son of the store’s founders, was one of the great Catalan poets of the 20th century, a key player in keeping the Catalan language alive during the 40-year Franco regime. The shop on Major de Sarrià has a bronze plaque identifying the house as the poet’s birthplace and inscribed with one of his most memorable verses, translated as, “Every love is latent in the other love/every language is the juice of a common tongue/every country touches the fatherland of all/every faith will be the lifeblood of a higher faith.” | Pl. Sarrià, Sarrià | Station: Sarrià, Reina Elisenda (FGC Line L6).
For a Gaudí experience to the last drop, climb up above Plaça de la Bonanova to this private residence built between 1900 and 1909 over the ruins of the summer palace of the last of the sovereign count-kings of the Catalan-Aragonese realm, Martí I l’Humà (Martin I the Humane), whose reign ended in 1410. In homage to this medieval history, Gaudí endowed the house with a tower, gargoyles, and crenellated battlements; the rest—the catenary arches, the trencadis (broken bits of polychromatic ceramic tile) of the facade, the stained-glass windows—are pure Art Nouveau. Look for the red and gold Catalan senyera (banner) on the tower, topped by the four-armed Greek cross Gaudí often used. Over the front door is the inscription sens pecat fou concebuda (without sin was she conceived) referring to the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary; on either side of the front door are benches with trencadís mosaics of playful fish bearing the crimson quatre barres (four bars) of the Catalan flag as well as the Corona d’Aragó (Crown of Aragón).
Still a private home and long closed to visitors, the Torre Bellesguard is now accessible to small groups. TIP Sign up ( | firstname.lastname@example.org) for a guided tour: this is a treat not to be missed. | Bellesguard 16–20, Sant Gervasi | 93/250–4093, 646/800127 | www.bellesguardgaudi.com | €16 full tour (reservations required), €7 grounds only (with audio guide) | Guided 1-hr tours of house and grounds in English (max. 15 persons) weekdays at 11 am; open visits to grounds Nov.–Mar., weekdays 10–3; Apr.–Oct., weekdays 10–7:30 | Station: Sarrià.
This park is one of Gaudí’s, and Barcelona’s, most visited attractions. Named for and commissioned by Gaudí’s steadfast patron, Count Eusebi Güell, it was originally intended as a gated residential community based on the English Garden City model, centered on a public square, where impromptu dances and plays could be performed, built over a covered marketplace. Only two of the houses were ever built (one of which, designed by Gaudí’s assistant Francesc Berenguer, became Gaudí’s home from 1906 to 1926 and now houses the Casa-Museu Gaudí museum of memorabilia). Ultimately, as Barcelona’s bourgeoisie seemed happier living closer to “town,” the Güell family turned the area over to the city as a public park—which it still is, for local residents; as of September 2013, visitors are assessed an entrance fee.
An Art Nouveau extravaganza with gingerbread gatehouses, Park Güell is a perfect place to visit on a sunny afternoon, when the blue of the Mediterranean is best illuminated by the western sun. The gatehouse on the right, topped with a rendition in ceramic tile of the hallucinogenic red-and-white fly ammanite wild mushroom (rumored to have been a Gaudí favorite) houses the Center for the Interpretation and Welcome to Park Güell. The center has plans, scale models, photos, and suggested routes analyzing the park in detail. Atop the gatehouse on the left sits the phallus impudicus (no translation necessary). Other Gaudí highlights include the Room of a Hundred Columns—a covered market supported by tilted Doric-style columns and mosaic medallions; the double set of stairs; and the iconic lizard guarding the fountain between them. There’s also the fabulous serpentine, polychrome bench enclosing the square. The bench is one of Gaudí assistant Josep Maria Jujol’s most memorable creations, and one of Barcelona’s best examples of the trencadís technique of making colorful mosaics with broken bits of tile. From the metro at Plaça de Lesseps, or the Bus Turistic stop on Travessera de Dalt, take Bus No. 24 to the park entrance, or make the steep 10-minute climb uphill on Carrer de Lallard. | Carrer d’Olot s/n, Gràcia | www.parkguell.es | €8 (€7 online) | Jan.–Oct., daily 8–9:30; Nov. and Dec., daily 8:30–6 | Station: Lesseps.
FAMILY | Tibidabo.
One of Barcelona’s two promontories, this hill bears a distinctive name, generally translated as “To Thee I Will Give”—referring to the Catalan legend that this was the spot from which Satan tempted Christ with all the riches of the earth below (namely, Barcelona). On a clear day, the views from this 1,789-foot peak are legendary. Tibidabo’s skyline is marked by a neo-Gothic church, the work of Enric Sagnier in 1902, and—off to one side, near the village of Vallvidrera—the 854-foot communications tower, the Torre de Collserola, designed by Sir Norman Foster. Do you have youngsters in tow? Take the cute little San Francisco–style Tramvía Blau (Blue Trolley) cable car from Plaça Kennedy to the overlook at the top, and transfer to the funicular to the 100-year-old Amusement Park at the summit. | Pl. Tibidabo 3–4, Tibidabo | 93/211–7942 | www.tibidabo.cat | Amusement Park €28.50 | Noon–7 | Station: Tibidabo.
This bar overlooks the city lights and is a popular late-night hangout. | Pl. Doctor Andreu s/n | 93/4185879.
El Mirador de la Venta.
You may come here for the great views, but El Mirador de la Venta has good contemporary cuisine to accompany them. | Pl. Doctor Andreu s/n | 93/212–6455.
This hill overlooking the south side of the port is said to have originally been named Mont Juif for the Jewish cemetery once on its slopes. Montjuïc is now Barcelona’s largest and lushest public space, a vast complex of museums and exhibition halls, gardens and picnic grounds, sports facilities—and even a Greek-style amphitheater.
A bit remote from the bustle of Barcelona street life, Montjuïc more than justifies a day or two of exploring. The Miró Foundation, the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, the minimalist Mies van der Rohe Pavilion, the lush Jardins de Mossèn Cinto Verdaguer, and the gallery and auditorium of the CaixaFòrum (the former Casaramona textile factory) are all among Barcelona’s must-see sights. There are buses within Montjuïc that visitors can take from sight to sight.
Fodor’s Choice | Fundació Miró.
The Miró Foundation, a gift from the artist Joan Miró to his native city, is one of Barcelona’s most exciting showcases of contemporary art. The airy, white building, with panoramic views north over Barcelona, was designed by the artist’s close friend and collaborator Josep Lluís Sert and opened in 1975; an extension was added by Sert’s pupil Jaume Freixa in 1988. Miró’s playful and colorful style, filled with Mediterranean light and humor, seems a perfect match for its surroundings, and the exhibits and retrospectives that open here tend to be progressive and provocative. Look for Alexander Calder’s fountain of moving mercury. Miró himself rests in the cemetery on Montjuïc’s southern slopes. During the Franco regime, which he strongly opposed, Miró first lived in self-imposed exile in Paris, then moved to Mallorca in 1956. When he died in 1983, the Catalans gave him a send-off amounting to a state funeral. | Av. Miramar 71, Montjuïc | 93/4439470 | www.fundaciomiro-bcn.org | €11 | Tues., Wed., Fri., and Sat. 10–7, Thurs. 10–9:30, Sun. 10–2:30.
Mies van der Rohe Pavilion.
One of the masterpieces of the Bauhaus School, the legendary Pavelló Mies van der Rohe—the German contribution to the 1929 International Exhibition, reassembled between 1983 and 1986—remains a stunning “less is more” study in interlocking planes of white marble, green onyx, and glass. In effect, it is Barcelona’s aesthetic antonym (possibly in company with Richard Meier’s Museu d’Art Contemporani and Rafael Moneo’s Auditori) to the flamboyant Art Nouveau—the city’s signature Modernisme—of Gaudí and his contemporaries. Don’t fail to note the mirror play of the black carpet inside the pavilion with the reflecting pool outside, or the iconic Barcelona chair designed by Mies van der Rohe (1886–1969); reproductions of the chair have graced modern interiors around the world for decades. A free guided tour in English is offered on Saturday at 10 am. | Av. Francesc Ferrer i Guàrdia 7, Montjuïc | 93/4234016 | www.miesbcn.com | €5 | Daily 10–8; guided tours Sat. at 10. | Station: Espanya.
Fodor’s Choice | Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (Catalonian National Museum of Art, MNAC).
Housed in the imposingly domed, towered, frescoed, and columned Palau Nacional, built in 1929 as the centerpiece of the International Exposition, this superb museum was renovated in 1995 by Gae Aulenti, architect of the Musée d’Orsay in Paris. In 2004 the museum’s three holdings—Romanesque, Gothic, and the Cambó Collection—an eclectic trove, including a Goya, donated by Francesc Cambó—were joined by the 19th- and 20th-century collection of Catalan impressionist and Moderniste painters. Also now on display is the Thyssen-Bornemisza collection of early masters, with works by Zurbarán, Rubens, Tintoretto, Velázquez, and others. With this influx of artistic treasure, the MNAC (Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya) becomes Catalonia’s grand central museum. Pride of place goes to the Romanesque exhibition, the world’s finest collection of Romanesque frescoes, altarpieces, and wood carvings, most of them rescued from chapels in the Pyrenees during the 1920s to save them from deterioration, theft, and art dealers. Many, such as the famous fresco Cristo de Taüll (from the church of Sant Climent de Taüll in Taüll), have been painstakingly removed from crumbling walls of abandoned sites and remounted on ingenious frames that exactly reproduce the contours of their original settings. The central hall of the museum, with its enormous pillared and frescoed cupola, is stunning. | Palau Nacional, Montjuïc | 93/6220376 | www.mnac.cat | €12, valid for day of purchase and one other day in same month (free Sat. 3–6 and 1st Sun. of the month) | Jun.–Sept., Tues.–Sat. 10–8, Sun. 10–3; Oct.–May, Tues.–Sat. 10–6, Sun. 10–3 | Station: Espanya.
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Ciutat Vella: Barri Gòtic, Born-Ribera, La Rambla, and El Raval | Barceloneta and the Port Olímpic | Eixample | Gràcia | Sarrià, Pedralbes, and Sant Gervasi | Tibidabo
Barcelona’s restaurant scene is an ongoing adventure. Between avant-garde culinary innovation and the more rustic dishes of traditional Catalan fare, there is a fleet of brilliant classical chefs producing some of Europe’s finest Mediterranean cuisine.
Catalans are legendary lovers of fish, vegetables, rabbit, duck, lamb, game, and natural ingredients from the Pyrenees or the Mediterranean. The mar i muntanya (literally “sea and mountain,” or “surf and turf”) is a standard. Combining salty and sweet tastes—a Moorish legacy—is another common theme.
The Mediterranean diet—based on olive oil, seafood, fibrous vegetables, onions, garlic, and red wine—is at home in Barcelona, embellished by Catalonia’s four basic sauces: allioli (whipped garlic and olive oil), romesco (almonds, nyora peppers, hazelnuts, tomato, garlic, and olive oil), sofregit (fried onion, tomato, and garlic), and samfaina (a ratatouille-like vegetable mixture).
Barcelona dines late. Lunch is served 1:30–4 and dinner 9–11.
Nearly all of Barcelona’s best restaurants require reservations.
Whereas low-end fixed-price lunch menus can be found for as little as €10, most good restaurants cost closer to €30 to €40 ordering à la carte. For serious evening dining, plan on spending €55–€80 per person. Prices in the restaurant reviews are the average cost of a main course at dinner or, if dinner is not served, at lunch; for tapas bars, the price reflects the cost of a light meal of 4–5 selections.
TIPPING AND TAXES
Tipping is not required as gratuity is included. If you do tip, 5% to 10% is acceptable.
CIUTAT VELLA: BARRI GÒTIC, BORN-RIBERA, LA RAMBLA, AND EL RAVAL
Chic new restaurants come and go, but the top places in the Old City endure.
CATALAN | Wainscoting and 1950s’ canvases are the background for the mostly Catalan crowd in this homey restaurant in the lower reaches of the Gothic Quarter. Agut was founded in 1924, and its popularity has never waned—after all, hearty Catalan fare at a fantastic value is always in demand. In season (September–May), try the pato silvestre agridulce (sweet-and-sour wild duck). There’s a good selection of wine, but no frills such as coffee or liqueur. | Average main: €16 | Gignàs 16, Barri Gòtic | 93/315–1709 | www.restaurantagut.com | Closed Mon., and 2 wks in Aug. No dinner Sun. | Station: Jaume I.
Café de l’Acadèmia.
CATALAN | With wicker chairs, stone walls, and classical music playing, this place is sophisticated-rustic, and the excellent contemporary Mediterranean cuisine specialties such as timbal d’escalibada amb formatge de cabra (roast vegetable salad with goat cheese) or crema de pastanaga amb gambes i virutes de parmesá (cream of carrot soup with shrimp and Parmesan cheese shavings) make it more than a mere café. Politicians and functionaries from the nearby Generalitat frequent this dining room, which is always boiling with life. Be sure to reserve at lunchtime. | Average main: €18 | Lledó 1, Barri Gòtic | 93/319–8253 | Closed weekends and 2 wks in Aug. | Station: Jaume I.
CATALAN | In an increasingly chic neighborhood of artisans and antiquers, this stylish place in the Barri Gòtic is a fine example of Barcelona’s new-over-old architecture and interior-design panache. Although the 30-foot, floor-to-ceiling, wooden shutters are already a visual feast, the carefully prepared interpretations of old standards such as the xai al forn (roast lamb) or the more surprising raviolis de vieiras (scallop raviolis) awaken the palate brilliantly. The separate dining room, for a dozen to two-dozen diners, is a perfect place for a private party. | Average main: €17 | Carrer Cometa 5, Barri Gòtic | 93/310–1558 | www.cometacinc.com | No lunch | Station: Jaume I.
Cuines Santa Caterina.
ECLECTIC | A lovingly restored market designed by the late Enric Miralles and completed by his widow Benedetta Tagliabue provides a spectacular setting for one of the city’s most original dining operations. Under the undulating wooden superstructure of the market, the breakfast and tapas bar, open from dawn to midnight, offers a variety of culinary specialties cross-referenced by different cuisines (Mediterranean, Asian, vegetarian) and products (pasta, rice, fish, meat), all served on sleek counters and long wooden tables. | Average main: €22 | Av. Francesc Cambó 16, Barri Gòtic | 93/268–9918 | www.cuinessantacaterina.com | Station: Urquinaona, Jaume I.
CATALAN | An original wine list and an ever-rotating selection of interesting cavas accompany creative tapas and small dishes from foie (duck or goose liver) to ibérico hams and cheeses, all in a rustic wooden setting 50 yards from the Palau de la Música, close enough for intermissions. | Average main: €10 | Carrer Verdaguer i Callis, 9, Sant Pere | 93/268–1708 | Tues.–Sat. 1–1, Mon. 7 pm–1 am | Station: Urquinaona.
ECLECTIC | The world’s first dessert-only restaurant sounds like one of those terrible ideas that receives ridicule on reality TV shows, but Espai Sucre has been making a success of this distinctive concept since 2000. Attached to a creative and pioneering patisserie school that Willy Wonka would be proud of, this 30-seat restaurant serves multicourse tasting menus based around sweet-and-savory “desserts” that never fail to astonish and somehow never feel overwhelming. Consider “goat-cheesecake” with raspberries, red pepper, and ginger; or squid rice with saffron custard and passion fruit. The innovation-for-innovation’s-sake has been scaled back in recent years, but this is still a long way from a conventional dining experience—expect the unexpected. | Average main: €28 | Princesa 53, Born-Ribera | 93/268–1630 | www.espaisucre.com | Reservations essential | Closed Sun. and Mon. No lunch | Station: Arc de Triomf.
Irati Taverna Basca.
TAPAS | There’s only one drawback to this lively Basque bar between Plaça del Pi and the Rambla: it’s narrow at the street end and harder to squeeze into than the Barcelona metro at rush hour. Try coming on the early side, at 1 pm or 7:30 pm. The tapas—skip the ones on the bar and opt for the plates brought out piping-hot from the kitchen—should be accompanied by a freezing and refreshing txakolí, the young Basque white wine with a spritzer. The dozen tables in the back are surprisingly relaxed and crowd-free, and serve excellent Basque cuisine. | Average main: €7 | Cardenal Casañas 17, Barri Gòtic | 902/520522 | www.iratitavernabasca.com | 10 am–midnight | Station: Liceu.
CATALAN | Filled with young couples night after night, this combination music, drinking, and dining place is candlelit and sleekly designed in glass over ancient stone, brick, and wood. The cuisine is light and contemporary, featuring inventive salads and fresh seafood. Open until 3 am (kitchen until 12:30 am) on Friday and Saturday, Pla is a good postconcert option. | Average main: €18 | Carrer Bellafila 5, Barri Gòtic | 93/412–6552 | www.elpla.cat | No lunch | Station: Jaume I.
CATALAN | Saüc’s location in the Hotel Ohla two steps from the Palau de la Música Catalana has catapaulted chef Xavi Franco’s inventive culinary offerings to increasted acclaim. Named for the curative elderberry plant, Saüc’s elegantly modern decor—wide wood-plank floors and softly draped tablecloths—sets the mood, and the avant-garde tabletop centerpiece is the first hint that the fare here is far from standard. This postmodern cuina d’autor (original cuisine) uses fine ingredients and combines them in flavorful surprises such as scallops with cod tripe and black sausage or monkfish with snails. The tasting menu is an unbroken series of unusual combinations of standard products, none of which fail to please. Try the coulant de chocolate y maracuyá (chocolate pudding with passion fruit) for dessert. | Average main: €34 | Via Laietana 49, Barri Gòtic | 93/321–0189 | www.ohlahotel.com | Reservations essential | Daily 1:30–4 and 8:30–11 | Station:Urquinaona.
Taberna Les Tapes.
TAPAS | Proprietors and chefs Barbara and Santi offer a special 10-selection tapas anthology at this narrow, cozy, cheery place, just behind the town hall and just seaward of Plaça Sant Jaume. Barbara, originally from Worcestershire, England, takes especially good care of visitors from abroad. The 10-tapa medley for two (€12.75) with croquettes, squash omelet, wild mushrooms, patatas bravas, chistorra, pimientos de Padrón, and four more according to market and season is a popular choice here. | Average main: €15 | Pl. Regomir 4, Barri Gòtic | 93/302–4840 | Mon.–Sat. 5–11:30 pm. Closed Aug. | Station: Jaume I.
TAPAS | Cal Pep, a two-minute walk east from Santa Maria del Mar, has been in a permanent feeding frenzy for 30 years, intensified even further by the hordes of tourists who now flock here. Pep serves a selection of tapas, cooked and served hot over the counter. Generally avoid ordering the fish dishes (unless you’re willing to part with an extra €35–€50), and stick with green peppers, fried artichokes, garbanzos and spinach, baby shrimp, the “trifasic” (mixed tiny-fish fry), the nonpareil tortilla de patatas, and botifarra trufada en reducción de Oporto (truffled sausage in Port-wine reduction sauce). The house wines are good, but the Torre la Moreira Albariño perfectly complements Pep’s offerings. Be prepared to wait for 20 minutes for a place at the counter. Reservations for the tables in the tiny back room are accepted, but reserve well in advance and know that you’ll miss out on the lively counter scene. | Average main: €18 | Pl. de les Olles 8, Born-Ribera | 93/310–7961 | www.calpep.com | Closed Sun. and 3 wks in Aug. No lunch Mon.; no dinner Sat. | Station: Jaume I, Barceloneta.
CATALAN | Artist, aesthete, and chef Carles Abellán playfully reinterprets traditional Catalan favorites and creates new ones at this artfully decorated dining spot on Carrer Comerç. Try the arroz d’ànec amb foie (rice with duck and foie gras). For dessert, don’t miss the postmodern version of the traditional Spanish after-school snack of chocolate, olive oil, salt, and bread. Abellán trained under superstar Ferran Adrià and is as original as the master; the best way to experience his creativity is to throw budget to the winds and order one of the two tasting menus (€92 and €116, without wine). | Average main: €32 | Carrer Comerç 24, Born-Ribera | 93/319–2102 | www.projectes24.com | Reservations essential | Closed Sun. and Mon. No lunch | Station: Arc de Triomf.
El Passadís d’en Pep.
SEAFOOD | Hidden away at the end of a narrow unmarked passageway off the Pla del Palau, near the Santa Maria del Mar church, this restaurant is a favorite with local politicos and fat cats from the nearby stock exchange. Sit down, and waiters begin to serve a rapid-fire succession of delicious seafood starters, whatever’s freshest that day in the market. Don’t bother asking for a menu: there isn’t one. At some point you may be asked to decide on a main course; if you’re already full, feel free to pass—but you might well be missing a pièce de résistance. | Average main: €38 | Pl. del Palau 2, Born-Ribera | 93/310–1021 | www.passadis.com | Mon.–Sat. 12:30–3:30 and 8:30–11:30. Closed Sun. and 3 wks in Aug. | Station: Jaume I.
TAPAS | Just down the street from the Picasso Museum, hanging botas (leather wineskins) announce one of Barcelona’s liveliest and prettiest taverns, with marble-topped tables and walls decorated with colorful ceramic tiles; it’s usually packed to the rafters with a rollicking mob of local and out-of-town celebrants. Avoid the oversweet house sparkling wine (go for draft beer, real Cava, or wine), but don’t miss the pa amb tomaquet or the ibérico ham. | Average main: €10 | Montcada 22, Born-Ribera | 93/319–7003 | Tues.–Sat. noon–3:30 and 7–11, Sun. noon–3:30. Closed Mon. and Aug. | Station: Jaume I.
BASQUE | An elbow-shaped, pine-panel space, this spot (one of the Sagardi group of Basque restaurants) is one of the better grazing destinations in the Gothic Quarter, with a colorful array of tapas and canapés on the bar ranging from the olive-pepper-anchovy on a toothpick to chunks of tortilla or pimientos de piquillo (red piquillo peppers) stuffed with codfish paste. An excellent and usually completely booked restaurant (don’t miss the Euskal Txerria confit and crispy suckling pig with thistle and walnuts) and a Basque cultural circle and art gallery round out this social and gastronomical oasis. | Average main: €18 | Placeta de Montcada 1–3, Born-Ribera | 902/520522 | www.euskaletxeataberna.com | Daily 11 am–midnight | Station: Jaume I.
FAMILY | Llamber.
TAPAS | Although it may look like one of the many stylish, tourist-trap tapas restaurants that have sprung up here in recent years, Llamber’s culinary pedigree sets it apart from the competition. Chef Francisco Heras learned his chops in Spain’s top restaurants before opening his own establishments in his home region of Asturias and then Llamber in Barcelona. Efficient and friendly, this dapper space attracts a mixed crowd of couples and families with its excellent wine list and well-crafted tapas based on classic Spanish and Catalan recipies. Consider the spendidly light eggplant with honey, and potatoes stuffed with cabrales cheese and hazelnut praline. Year-round late-night hours make it a handy option. | Average main: €11 | Carrer de la Fusina 5, Born-Ribera | 93/319–6250 | www.llamberbarcelona.com | Daily 12:30 pm–1:30 am | Station: Jaume 1.
BASQUE | An attractive wood-and-stone cider-house replica, Sagardi piles the counter with a dazzling variety of cold tapas; even better are the hot offerings straight from the kitchen. The restaurant in back serves Basque delicacies like veal sweetbreads with artichokes and txuletas de buey (beef steaks) grilled over coals. The other Sagardi branches at Carrer Muntaner 70–72 and Avinguda Diagonal 3 (in Diagonal Mar) are equally good. | Average main: €22 | Carrer Argenteria 62, Born-Ribera | 93/319–9993 | www.sagardi.com | Daily 1:30–3:30 and 8–midnight | Station: Jaume I.
Café de l’Opera.
CAFÉ | Directly across from the Liceu opera house, this high-ceiling Art Nouveau–interior café has welcomed operagoers and performers for more than 100 years. It’s a central point on the Rambla traffic pattern and a good place to run into unexpected friends and ex-lovers. But don’t expect to fill up here, just catch a drink and take in the scene. | Average main: €7 | Rambla 74, Rambla | 93/317–7585 | www.cafeoperabcn.com | Daily 8 am–2:30 am | Station: Liceu.
CAFÉ | There are more than 40 Viena cafés in Catalonia, but this particular branch is always packed with international travelers trying what Mark Bittman of the New York Times once consecrated as “the best sandwich in the world.” One wonders if it was the only one he’d ever eaten: the flautas de jamón ibérico (thin bread “flutes” of ibérico ham anointed with tomato squeezings) here are perfectly adequate but no better than those served in any typical Spanish bar and, at €9, are considerably more expensive. Viena is a pleasant enough place to have a snack, especially when the pianist is playing on the balcony, but it doesn’t live up to the hype. | Average main: €8 | La Rambla 115, Rambla | 93/317–1492 | www.viena.es | Daily 8 am–1:30 am | Station: Catalunya.
CAFÉ | This traditional café at the top of La Rambla and directly astride the main metro and transport hub remains the city’s prime meeting point. Prices are reasonable, considering the location, but the sandwiches and snacks could most charitably be described as ordinary. Forget the food and enjoy a beer or coffee at a table on the terrace, perhaps the best spot in the city to observe street life. Pickpockets are rife here, so watch your belongings as closely as you watch the passersby. | Average main: €5 | Pl. Catalunya 1, Rambla | 93/317–9153 | No credit cards | Weekdays 8 am–11 pm, weekends 9 am–midnight | Station: Catalunya.
CATALAN | Just off La Rambla in the Gothic Quarter, this family-run restaurant founded in 1786 displays tradition in both decor and culinary offerings. Generations of the Manubens and Agut families have kept this unpretentious spot—Barcelona’s oldest restaurant (listed in the Guinness Book of Records)—popular for more than two centuries. Wooden beams overhead and bright paintings of sea- and landscapes on the walls surround a jumble of tables. The cooking is solid rather than sophisticated, but traditional Catalan specialties such as spinach cannelloni with cod, wild boar stew, and white beans with botifarra sausage are competently presented. | Average main: €13 | Calle Quintana 5, Rambla | 93/317–3022 | www.culleretes.com | Closed Mon. and July. No dinner Sun. | Station: Liceu.
CATALAN | Journalists, students, and artists haunt this romantic little spot near the MACBA (contemporary art museum), across the street from Barcelona’s journalism school, and around the block from the former offices of Barcelona’s La Vanguardia daily newspaper. Estevet and family are charming, and the carefully elaborated Catalan cuisine sings, especially at these prices. Try the asparagus cooked over coals, the chopitos gaditanos (deep-fried baby octopus), or the magret de pato (duck breast). The house wine is inexpensive, light, and perfectly drinkable. | Average main: €14 | Valldonzella 46, El Raval | 93/302–4186 | www.restaurantestevet.com | No dinner Sun. | Station: Universitat.
Fodor’s Choice | Ca l’Isidre.
CATALAN | A throwback to an age before foams and food science took over the gastronomic world, this restaurant has elevated simplicity to the level of the spectacular since the early 1970s. Isidre and Montserrat share their encyclopedic knowledge of local cuisine with guests while their daughter, Núria, cooks traditional Catalan dishes to an extraordinarily high standard using fresh produce from the nearby Boqueria market. Ignore the menu—just follow their recommendations and order whatever’s in season. The restaurant is decorated with original works by a slew of luminaries, including Miró and Dalí, both former patrons. Spain’s King Juan Carlos celebrated his wedding anniversary here. | Average main: €38 | Les Flors 12, El Raval | 93/441–1139 | www.calisidre.com | Reservations essential | Closed Sun., Easter wk, and 1st 2 wks of Aug. | Station: Paral.lel.
Fodor’s Choice | Casa Leopoldo.
CATALAN | In a hard-to-find pocket of the Raval, west of the Rambla, this family-run restaurant serves fine seafood and Catalan fare. To get here, approach along Carrer Hospital, take a left through the Passatge Bernardí Martorell, and go 50 feet right on Sant Rafael to the front door. Try the revuelto de ajos tiernos y gambas (eggs scrambled with young garlic and shrimp) or the famous cap-i-pota (stewed head and hoof of pork). Albariños and Priorats are among owner Rosa Gil’s favorite wines. | Average main: €38 | Sant Rafael 24, El Raval | 93/441–3014 | www.casaleopoldo.com | Closed Mon. and late July–late Aug. No dinner Sun. | Station: Liceu.
SPANISH | The pick of a crop of new restaurants putting the razzle back into the run-down Raval, Cera 23 offers a winning combination of great service and robust cooking in a fun, friendly setting. Stand at the bar and enjoy a blackberry mojito cocktail while you wait for your table. The open kitchen is in the dining area, so guests can watch the cooks creating contemporary presentations of traditional dishes. Try the Volcano of Black Rice, with seafood “rocks” and saffron-flavored “lava,” and the homemade duck foie gras mi-cuit (cooked partly through). The reasonably priced restaurant is usually packed until late, but the surrounding area can be intimidating at night; get a taxi to the end of the street. | Average main: €14 | Carrer de la Cera 23, El Raval | 93/442–0808 | www.cera23.com | No lunch | Station: Sant Antoni.
BISTRO | With French-Mediterranean cuisine and reasonable prices, this attractive bistro 100 yards west of the Rambla in the MACBA section of the Raval is a keeper. The lunch menu for under €10 would be reason enough to try their risotto de setas y esparragos trigueros (wild mushroom risotto with wild asparagus), while à la carte choices are tempting and economical. | Average main: €16 | Dr. Dou 14, El Raval | 93/302–8467 | www.envillebarcelona.es | Reservations essential | Closed Mon. No dinner Sun. | Station: Catalunya, Liceu, Universitat.
Els Tres Porquets.
TAPAS | Somewhat off the beaten path (though handy to the Auditori and the Teatre Nacional de Catalunya and not that far from the Sagrada Familia), Els Tres Porquets (The Three Little Pigs) packs in foodies and bon vivants. A wide range of morsels, tapas, and small plates are the way to go here, with everything from ibérico ham to torta del Casar cheeses and regional specialties from all around the Iberian Peninsula. | Average main: €16 | Rambla del 165, Poblenou | 93/300–8750 | www.elstresporquets.es | Reservations essential | Mon.–Sat. 10–4 and 8:30–11. | Station:Glòries, Clot.
Fodor’s Choice | Quimet i Quimet.
TAPAS | A foodie haunt, this tiny place is hugely popular with locals and in-the-know visitors alike. If you come too late, you might not be able to get in. Come before 1:30 pm and 7:30 pm, and you will generally find a stand-up table. Fourth-generation chef-owner Quim and his family improvise ingenious canapés. All you have to do is orient them toward cheese, anchovies, or whatever it is you might crave, and they masterfully do the rest and recommend the wine to go with it. | Average main: €15 | Poeta Cabanyes 25, Poble Sec | 93/442–3142 | Weekdays noon–4 and 7–10:30, Sat. noon–4 | Closed Aug. | Station: Paral.lel.
BARCELONETA AND THE PORT OLÍMPIC
Barceloneta and the Port Olímpic (Olympic Port) have little in common beyond their seaside location: the former is a traditional fishermen’s quarter; the latter is a crazed disco strip with thousand-seat restaurants.
SEAFOOD | This restaurant, in an enormous riverboat-like building at the end of the yacht marina in Barceloneta, is definitely geared up for high-volume business. But the food is delicious, the service impeccable, and the hundreds of fellow diners make the place feel like a cheerful New Year’s Eve celebration. Rice and fish dishes are the house specialty, and the salads are excellent. | Average main: €24 | L’Escar 22, Barceloneta | 93/221–2111 | www.restaurantbarceloneta.com | Station: Barceloneta.
FAMILY | Els Pescadors.
SEAFOOD | A kilometer northeast of the Olympic Port in the interesting Sant Martí neighborhood, this handsome late-19th-century bistro-style dining room has a lovely terrace on a little square shaded by immense ficus trees. Kids can play safely in the traffic-free square while their parents concentrate on well-prepared seafood specialties such as paella, fresh fish, or fideuá (paella made with noodles). | Average main: €26 | Pl. de Prim 1, Sant Martí | 93/225–2018 | www.elspescadors.com | Station: Poblenou.
Fodor’s Choice | El Vaso de Oro.
TAPAS | A favorite with gourmands from Barcelona and beyond, this often overcrowded little counter serves some of the best beer and tapas in town. The artisanal draught beer, specially brewed for this classic bar, is drawn and served with loving care, with just the right amount of foam and always at the correct temperature. The high rate of consumption ensures you will never encounter a stale keg. To eat, the solomillo con foie y cebolla (beef filet mignon with duck liver and onions) is an overwhelming favorite, but the fresh fish prepared a la plancha (on the grill) is also excellent. | Average main: €10 | Balboa 6, Barceloneta | 93/319–3098 | www.vasodeoro.com | Station: Barceloneta.
Fodor’s Choice | Enoteca.
CATALAN | Located in the Hotel Arts, Enoteca has established a reputation for creative and surprising cooking using peerless Mediterranean and Pyrenean products, from the finest wild-caught turbot to black trumpet wild mushrooms in season to spring lambs from Burgos. The gorgeous white-on-white dining room captures a fresh modern look. White rectangular shelving echos the wall of windows that keeps things light. A 550-bottle wine list and the bottle theme in the decoration remind diners that this is, after all, an enoteca or wine library. | Average main: €40 | Hotel Arts, Marina 19, Port Olímpic | 93/483–8108 | www.hotelartsbarcelona.com | Closed Sun. | Station: Ciutadella–Vila Olímpica.
FAMILY | Kaiku.
SEAFOOD | You could easily pass by this undistinguished-looking little dining room on the edge of the beach at the end of Passeig Joan de Borbó. But seeking it out is worth your while; the seafood here is excellent and the value is ironclad. Rice dishes, mussels, sea anemones, fish soup are all hearty. Try the arròs del xef, a smoky rice with calamari, asparagus, and wild mushrooms. The wine list has some surprising choices at reasonable prices. | Average main: €16 | Pl. del Mar 1, Barceloneta | 93/221–9082 | www.restauranTKaiku.cat | Reservations essential | Closed Tues. No dinner mid-Sept.–mid-May | Station: Barceloneta.
Fodor’s Choice | La Mar Salada.
SEAFOOD | This restaurant stands out along a street of seafood specialists by offering creative twists on classic dishes at rock-bottom prices. Traditional favorites such as paella, black rice, fideuá, and simple fresh fish are invigorated by the cooking of Chef Marc Sengla—also consider the delicious creations of dessert chef Albert Enrich. The fixed-price lunch menu changes weekly and offers a budget-friendly way to try what’s in season. Freshness is assured, as the main ingredients come directly from the lonja fish quay across the street, a lively auction where Barcelona’s small fishing fleet sells its wares. You can’t do much better for value and quality in Barceloneta. | Average main: €18 | Passeig Joan de Borbó 58, Barceloneta | 93/221–2127 | www.lamarsalada.cat | Closed Tues. | Station: Barceloneta.
Torre d’Alta Mar.
MEDITERRANEAN | Location, location, location: at a height of 250 feet over the Barcelona waterfront in the Eiffel-tower-like Sant Sebastià cable-car station over the far side of the port, this restaurant has spectacular 360-degree views of Barcelona as well as far out into the Mediterranean. Seafood of every stripe, spot, fin, and carapace emanates from the kitchen here, but the mar i muntanya combination of pork and prawns adds a meaty twist for carnivores. | Average main: €33 | Torre de San Sebastián, Passeig Joan de Borbó 88, Barceloneta | 93/221–0007 | www.torredealtamar.com | Reservations essential | Closed Mon. No lunch Sun. | Station: Barceloneta.
Eixample dining, invariably upscale and elegant, ranges from traditional cuisine to designer fare in sleek minimalist spaces.
CATALAN | Chef Jordi Vilà is making news here with his inventive creations and tasting menus at €68 and €94 that still manage to pass for a bargain at the top end of Barcelona culinary culture even in the current economy. The €39 price tag on the midday menu is daunting, but well worth the outlay. Vilà’s deconstructed pa amb tomaquet served in a shot glass is just a culinary wink before things get deadly serious with raw tuna strips, baby squid, or turbot. Venison or beef brings the taste progression to a close before dessert provides a sweet ending. | Average main: €30 | Indústria 79, Eixample | 93/207–6115 | alkimia.cat | Reservations essential | Closed weekends | Station: Sagrada Família, Joanic.
CATALAN | This clean, simple place par excellence is the perfect antidote to the sensory overload of Gaudí’s nearby Sagrada Família. A past winner of the Chef of the Year award in the annual Fòrum Gastronòmic de Girona, Dani Lechuga produces streamlined cuisine that is invariably long on taste and short on cost, especially if you take advantage of the bargain lunch prix-fixe menu. A specialist in beef of all kinds (Wagyu, Kobe, Angus, Girona, Asturian oxen), Caldeni also does tapas, soups, and an assortment of tastings, making any stop here a gastronomical event. | Average main: €26 | València 452, Eixample | 93/232–5811 | www.caldeni.com | Closed Sun., Mon., and 3 wks in Aug. | Station: Sagrada Família.
MEDITERRANEAN | It’s hard to pass up the opportunity to break bread in a Gaudí-designed building. Completed in 1900, the Art Nouveau Casa Calvet includes a graceful dining room decorated in Moderniste ornamentation, from looping parabolic door handles to polychrome stained glass, etched glass, and wood carved in floral and organic motifs. Popular with local business people who want to entertain guests in style, the restaurant exudes velvet-and-mahogany charm and also attracts couples seeking an intimate meal for two. Chef Miguel Ajita’s Catalan and Mediterranean fare is contemporary, seasonal and market-inspired. | Average main: €28 | Casp 48, Eixample | 93/412–4012 | www.casacalvet.es | Closed Sun. | Station: Urquinaona.
TAPAS | With preserved and fresh ingredients and original dishes flowing from the kitchen, this miniaturesque and handsome (though not inexpensive) dazzler two blocks south of the Mercat de Sant Antoni is well worth tracking down. Lucio’s wife, chef Maribel, is relentlessly inventive. Try the tastum albarole (cured sheep cheese from Umbria) or the pochas negras con morcilla (black beans with black sausage). | Average main: €24 | Viladomat 59, Eixample | 93/424–4401 | Mon.–Sat. 1–4 and 8–11 | Station: Sant Antoni.
Cerveseria la Catalana.
TAPAS | A bright and booming bar with a few tables on the sidewalk, this spot is always packed for a reason: excellent food at fair prices. Try the small solomillos (filets mignons), minimorsels that will take the edge off your carnivorous appetite without undue damage to your wallet, or the jumbo shrimp brochettes. | Average main: €15 | Mallorca 236, Eixample | 93/216–0368 | Station:Diagonal, Passeig de Gracia.
Fodor’s Choice | Cinc Sentits.
CATALAN | The engaging Artal clan—led by master chef Jordi—is a Catalan-Canadian family offering something unique in Barcelona: cutting-edge, contemporary cooking explained eloquently in English. There’s no à la carte option, only tasting menus: Essèncias is the simplest and Sensacions is more creative, while the lunchtime-only Gastronomic is top-of-the-line, foodie nirvana. The wine pairings, like the food, are obsessively local and scrupulously selected. Expect to spend from €59 to a budget-busting €109, not including drinks, depending on the menu. | Average main: €36 | Aribau 58, Eixample | 93/323–9490 | cincsentits.com | Reservations essential | Closed Sun. and Mon. | Station: Provença.
MEDITERRANEAN | Twins Javier and Sergio Torres have leaped to the top of Barcelona’s culinary charts as well as to the top tower of the Hotel ME. It only seems fitting that their restaurant be named Dos Cielos, cielo being Spanish for heaven. A panoramic dining room around a vast open kitchen offers dazzling 360-degree views of the city. The cuisine, combining Brazilian, French, and Valencian touches reflecting the twins’ accumulated culinary experiences around the world, is no less brilliant: pasta with black olives and sun-dried tomatoes, steamed organic vegetables, and crema de mandioquinha con caviar de sagú (cream of Brazilian white carrot with pearls of sago palm). | Average main: €42 | Pere IV 272–286, Eixample | 93/367–2070 | www.doscielos.com | Reservations essential | Closed Sun. and Mon. | Station: Poble Nou.
ECLECTIC | After 10 years as the chief cook and favored disciple of the pioneering chef Ferran Adrià, Albert Raurich opened this Asian fusion restaurant with a Spanish-Mediterranean touch—and he’s garnered a Michelin star for it. Past the typical Spanish bar in the front room, the dining room inside is a canvas of rich black surfaces bordered with red chairs around the kitchen, where an international staff of Japanese, Chinese, Colombian, and Scottish cooks do cooking performances of Raurich’s eclectic assortment of tastes and textures. Nippon burgers (beef, ginger, cucumber, and shiso on steamed bun), dumplings, dim sum, and tataki of 150-day-aged Galician beef vie for space on the €75 and €90 tasting menus. | Average main: €28 | Elisabets 9, Eixample | 93/304–0513 | www.dospalillos.com | Reservations essential | Closed Sun. and Mon. No lunch Tues. and Wed. | Station: Catalunya, Universitat.
Fodor’s Choice | Embat.
CATALAN | An embat is a puff of wind in Catalan, and this little “bistronomic” is a breath of fresh air in the swashbuckling Eixample. The highly affordable market cuisine is always impeccably fresh and freshly conceived, starring thoughtful combinations such as the cazuelita de alcachofas con huevo poché y papada (casserole of artichokes and poached egg with pork dewlap) or the pichón con bizcocho de cacao y cebolla confitada (wood pigeon with cacao biscuit and onion confit). | Average main: €18 | Mallorca 304, Eixample | 93/458–0885 | www.restaurantembat.es | Reservations essential | Closed Sun. and Mon. No dinner Tues. and Wed. | Station: Verdaguer.
Fodor’s Choice | Gelonch.
CATALAN | This gem of a restaurant is something of a secret sensation in Barcelona. Listed in few guides, it caters mainly to clued-in locals who have fallen in love with chef-owner Robert Gelonch’s relentless creativity and pursuit of perfection. It’s worth making the effort to join them—the restaurant is off the beaten tourist track but still near the center of the neighborhood. Once there, depending on how hungry you are, expect to be astonished by a procession of small dishes from the short (€56) or long (€74) tasting menu. | Average main: €25 | Bailen 56, Eixample | 93/265–8298 | www.gelonch.es | Reservations essential | Closed Sun., Mon., and last wk in Aug.–1st wk Sept. No lunch | Station: Tetuan, Girona.
BASQUE | Named for founder Fermín Gorría, this is quite simply the best straightforward Basque-Navarran cooking in Barcelona. Everything from the stewed pochas (white beans) to the heroic chuletón (steak) is as clear and pure in flavor as the Navarran Pyrenees. The Castillo de Sajazarra reserva, a semisecret brick-red Rioja, provides the perfect accompaniment. | Average main: €22 | Diputació 421, Eixample | 93/245–1164 | www.restaurantegorria.com | Closed Sun., Easter wk, and Aug. No dinner Mon. | Station: Monumental.
Fodor’s Choice | Gresca.
CATALAN | Spearhead of the so-called “bistronomic” movement in Barcelona, head chef and owner Rafa Peña aims to put the creativity and skill he learned in the world’s most celebrated kitchens within the reach of those on less astronomical budgets. In his small, minimalist restaurant, he cranks out inventive dishes based on humble ingredients to a fervently loyal customer base of local foodies. Expect limited choice, a well-chosen but shallow wine list, and some of the most delightful dishes you can find in Barcelona. The tasting menu is the best way to sample what’s on offer. | Average main: €20 | Provença 230, Eixample | 93/451–6193 | www.gresca.net | Reservations essential | Closed Sun. and last wk Aug.–1st wk Sept. No lunch Sat. | Station: Diagonal.
BASQUE | Martin Berasategui, one of San Sebastián’s fleet of master chefs, opened his Barcelona restaurant in early 2006 and triumphed from day one. Berasategui has placed his kitchen in the capable hands of Alex Garés, who trained with the best and serves an eclectic selection of Basque, Mediterranean, market, and personal interpretations and creations. Expect whimsical aperitifs and dishes with serious flavor such as foie and smoked eel or simple wood pigeon cooked to perfection. | Average main: €40 | Mallorca 259, Eixample | 93/445–3242 | www.restaurantlasarte.com | Reservations essential | Jacket required | Closed Sun., Mon., and 2 wks in Aug. | Station: Diagonal.
Fodor’s Choice | La Taverna Del Clinic.
TAPAS | The Simoes brothers have earned a solid reputation with discerning locals for serving creative and contemporary tapas based on traditional Catalan and Galician flavors. Chef Antonio left his family’s restaurant to study under masters, including the late Santi Santamaria, before launching La Taverna with his brother, Manuel, a sommelier. Their cramped bar spills out onto a sunny street terrace where customers can enjoy truffle canelones, oyster tartare, and an award-winning variation on patatas bravas, paired with selections from the excellent wine list. | Average main: €25 | Carrer Roselló 155, Eixample | www.latavernadelclinic.com | Closed Sun. | Station: Hospital Clinic.
Fodor’s Choice | Manairó.
CATALAN | A manairó is a mysterious Pyrenean elf and Jordi Herrera may be the culinary version. A demon with meat cooked al clavo ardiente (à la burning nail)—fillets warmed from within by red-hot spikes producing meat both rare and warm and never undercooked—Jordi also serves an unforgettable version of squid with blowtorch-fried eggs (calamari de huevo frito) and a palate-cleansing gin and tonic with liquid nitrogen, gin, and lime. The intimate and edgy design of the dining room is a perfect reflection of the cuisine. | Average main: €20 | Diputació 424, Eixample | 93/231–0057 | www.manairo.com | Reservations essential | Closed Sun. and 1st wk of Jan. | Station: Sagrada Família.
Mantequeria Can Ravell.
TAPAS | Lovers of exquisite wines, hams, cheeses, oils, whiskies, cigars, caviars, baby eels, anchovies, and any other delicacy you can think of—this is your spot. The backroom table open from mid-morning to early evening is first come, first served; complete strangers share tales, tastes, and textures at this foodie forum. | Average main: €15 | Carrer Aragó 313, Eixample | 93/457–5114 | www.ravell.com | Tues.–Sat. 10–9, Sun. 10–3 | Station: Girona.
TAPAS | The name, a pun on para comer algo (“to eat something” with an Andalusian accent), may be only marginally amusing, but the tapas here are no joke at all, from the classical calamares fritos (fried cuttlefish rings) to the pimientos de Padrón (green peppers, some fiery, from the Galician town of Padrón.) Whether à table, at the counter, or in the private dining room upstairs, this modern space always rocks. | Average main: €12 | Carrer Muntaner 171, Eixample | 93/430–9027 | www.pacomeralgo.com | Mon.–Sat. 1–4 and 8–12:30 | Station: Hospital Clinic.
CATALAN | A rustic interpretation of the traditional cuisine that has made the Gaig family culinary stars, this cozy split-level restaurant has made a name for itself in Barcelona’s ever-changing dining scene. As passions cooled for molecular gastronomy, Carles Gaig and a growing number of top chefs have returned to simpler and more affordable models. Look for standards such as botifarra amb mongetes de ganxet (sausage with white beans) or perdiu amb vinagreta calenta (partridge withe warm vinagrette) or tartar de llobarro i gamba (sea bass and shrimp tartare). The ample dining room is, in contrast to the cuisine, stylishly contemporary, with comfortable armchairs à table. | Average main: €18 | Còrsega 200, Eixample | 93/453–2020, 93/429–1017 | www.restaurantgaig.com | Reservations essential | Closed Mon. and 2 wks in Aug. No dinner Sun. | Station: Hospital Clínic.
Fodor’s Choice | Roca Moo.
CATALAN | In any space as spectacular as Roca Moo, located in the Hotel Omm, there’s a real risk of the food playing second fiddle to the surroundings. Fortunately, head chef Felip Llufriu keeps the spotlight firmly on the menu designed by the world-renowned El Cellar de Can Roca team. From behind the counter of an open kitchen he cooks with a zenlike precision that suits the restaurant’s Tokyo vibe. The dishes, like the space, are stylish and creative but draw on deep wells of Spanish culinary traditions, elevating humble barroom snacks like Russian salad and pig-trotter carpaccio with prawns to dazzling heights. The Menu Joan Roca is the chef’s favorite, a tour-de-force balancing act of gutsy flavors and contemporary techniques matched with impressive wine selections. | Average main: €28 | Roselló 265, Eixample | 93/445–4000 | www.hotelomm.es/en/roca-moo | Closed Sun., Mon., and Jan. 6–15 | Station: Diagonal.
TAPAS | Celebrity chef Carles Abellán’s irrepressibly creative Comerç 24 has been a hit for years, and his tapas emporium has followed suit. Here Abellán shows us how much he admires traditional Catalan and Spanish bar food, from patatas bravas to croquetas de jamón ibérico (croquettes made of Iberian ham). The counter can get crowded, but you can always take refuge on the terrace. | Average main: €14 | Carrer Diputació 269, Eixample | 93/488–0977 | www.carlesabellan.es/restaurantes-tapas-24 | Mon.–Sat. 8 am–midnight | Station: Passeig de Gràcia.
BASQUE | Specializing in San Sebastián’s favorite dishes, this Basque restaurant has only one drawback—a table is hard to score unless you call weeks in advance (an idea to consider before you travel). Your backup plan? The tapas served over the first-come, first-served bar: They’re of such a high quality, you can barely do better à table. And the charming family that owns and runs this gem is the very definition of hospitality. | Average main: €20 | Valencia 169, Eixample | 93/453–4759 | Reservations essential | Closed Sun. No dinner Sat. | Station: Hospital Clinic.
MEDITERRANEAN | Tragaluz means skylight and this is an excellent choice if you’re still on a design high from shopping at Vinçon or visiting Gaudí’s Pedrera. The sliding roof opens to the stars in good weather, while the chairs, lamps, and fittings by Javier Mariscal (creator of 1992 Olympic mascot Cobi) reflect Barcelona’s ongoing passion for playful design. The Mediterranean cuisine is traditional yet light and innovative. Luis de Buen’s TragaFishh (an outpost from his restaurant Fishhh!) is the downstairs oyster bar. The redesigned main dining room upstairs is reached via the kitchen, and the top floor is an informal space for coffee or an after-dinner drink. | Average main: €28 | Passatge de la Concepció 5, Eixample | 93/487–0621 | www.grupotragaluz.com | Reservations essential | Daily 1:30–4 and 8:30–11:30 | Station: Diagonal.
Sagardi BCN Centre.
BASQUE | Basque favorites from alubias de Tolosa (diminutive but potent black beans from Tolosa) to pimientos de piquillo (sweet red bell peppers) to txuletón de buey (ox steak) are on the menu at this mid-Eixample restaurant and tapas bar, open daily from 10 am to midnight. Prime your palate with a glass of freezing txakolí (a young white wine from the Basque Country) for openers. | Average main: €26 | Carrer Muntaner 70–72, Eixample | 93/706–0706 | www.sagardi.com | Station: Universitat.
This exciting yet intimate neighborhood has everything from the most sophisticated cuisine in town to lively Basque taverns.
BASQUE | This excellent little Basque enclave has managed to stay largely under the radar, and for that reason, among others (the cuisine is authentic, the prices are fair, and the service is personal and warm), it’s a fantastic choice. A balanced menu offers San Sebastián specialties such as txuleta de buey (ox steak) or besugo a la donostiarra (sea bream covered with scales of crispy garlic and a vinegar sauce), flawlessly prepared, while the wine list presents classic Riojas and freezing Txomin Etxaniz txakolí straight from Getaria. | Average main: €24 | Carrer Mozart 22, Gràcia | 93/218–1954 | www.ipar-txoko.com | Reservations essential | Closed Sun. and Aug. No dinner Mon. | Station: Gràcia, Diagonal.
SPANISH | This rustic dining room in Gràcia, a spinoff from the original in Les Corts, evokes the rice paddies and lowlands of Valencia and eastern Spain. Low lighting imparts a warm glow over exposed brick walls, beamed ceilings, and bentwood chairs. It’s a great spot to savor some of Barcelona’s finest paellas and rice dishes. Fish, seafood, and meats cooked over coals round out a complete menu prepared with loving care and using top ingredients. | Average main: €24 | Torrent d’en Vidalet 26, Gràcia | 93/284–8502 | www.arrosseriaxativa.com | Station: Joanic.
CATALAN | Rattan chairs and a garden terrace characterize this simple-yet-polished dining spot in the bottom corner of Gràcia just above the Diagonal (near Via Augusta). Rustic and relaxed, Roig Robí (ruby red in Catalan, as in the color of certain wines) maintains a high level of culinary excellence, serving traditional Catalan market cuisine with original touches directed by chef Mercé Navarro. A good example? The arròs amb espardenyes i carxofes (rice with sea cucumbers and artichokes). | Average main: €32 | Seneca 20, Gràcia | 93/218–9222 | www.roigrobi.com | Reservations essential | Closed Sun. and Aug. No lunch Sat. | Station: Diagonal.
SARRIÀ, PEDRALBES, AND SANT GERVASI
An excursion to the upper reaches of town offers an excellent selection of restaurants, little-known Gaudí sites, shops, cool evening breezes, and a sense of village life in Sarrià.
CATALAN | The unpretentious nature of this new restaurant isn’t what you might expect when looking at the galaxy of stars that chef-owners Ferran Maicas and Albert Ferrer have helped earn for some of Spain’s most famous kitchens. The décor is simple, the names of dishes straightforward, and the cooking style entirely absent of palate-twisting molecular gastronomy. Despite—or perhaps because of—this, it’s booked solid every night, with a growing waiting list of locals and in-the-know tourists. Friendly service and honest cooking executed to a very high standard for modest prices provides a winning combination. The menu is a mix of Catalan and Asian tapas—try the wonderful scallops with pork and wild mushrooms. | Average main: €13 | Carrer Santaló 21, Tres Torres | 93/250–7074 | www.bambarol.cat | Reservations essential | Closed Sun. No lunch Tues.–Fri. | Station: Gràcia.
CATALAN | When wunderkind molecular gastronomist Ramón Freixa turned the family restaurant back over to his father, Josep Maria Freixa, there was some speculation about the menu’s headlong rush into the past. Now that the results are in, Barcelona food cognoscenti are coming in droves for the authentic Catalan fare that made El Racó d’en Freixa great before experimental cuisine took over the culinary landscape. Creamy rice with cuttlefish, monkfish with fried garlic, pig trotters with prunes and pine nuts and robust selection of local specialties are making the new-old Freixa better than ever. The dining room is all white-tablecloth elegance, but a witty installation of copper pots on the wall gives a wink to its traditional roots. | Average main: €21 | San Elies 22, Sant Gervasi | 93/209–7559 | www.freixatradicio.com | Closed Mon., Easter wk, and Aug. No dinner Sun. | Station: Sant Gervasi.
MEDITERRANEAN | Originally from Alsace, chef Jean-Louis Neichel skillfully manages a vast variety of exquisite ingredients such as foie gras, truffles, wild mushrooms, herbs, and the best seasonal vegetables. With his son Mario now at the burners, and his identical triplet daughters taking turns serving tables, Neichel is fully a family operation. His flawless Mediterranean delicacies include ensalada de gambas de Palamós al sésamo con puerros (shrimp from Palamós with sesame-seed and leeks) and espardenyes amb salicornia (sea cucumbers with saltwort) on sundried tomato paste. The dining room is classically elegant with bold red accent walls and contrasting crisp white tablecloths. | Average main: €27 | Carrer Bertran i Rózpide 1, Pedralbes | 93/203–8408 | www.neichel.es | Reservations essential | Closed Sun., Mon., and Aug. | Station: Maria Cristina.
Fodor’s Choice | Silvestre.
MEDITERRANEAN | A graceful and easygoing mainstay in Barcelona’s culinary galaxy, this restaurant serves modern cuisine to some of the city’s most discerning and distinguished diners. Located just below Via Augusta, Silvestre’s series of intimate dining rooms and cozy corners are carefully tended by chef Guillermo Casañé and his charming wife Marta Cabot, a fluent English–speaking maître d’ and partner. Look for fresh market produce lovingly prepared in dishes such as tuna tartare, noodles and shrimp, or wood pigeon with duck liver. Willy’s semisecret list of house wines is always surprising for its quality and value. | Average main: €20 | Santaló 101, Sant Gervasi | 93/241–4031 | www.restaurante-silvestre.com | Closed Sun., 3 wks in Aug., and Easter wk. No lunch Sat. | Station: Muntaner.
Fodor’s Choice | Tram-Tram.
CATALAN | At the end of the old tram line above the village of Sarrià, this restaurant offers one of Barcelona’s finest culinary stops, with Isidre Soler and his wife Reyes at the helm. Try the menú de degustació and you might be lucky enough to get marinated tuna salad, cod medallions, and venison filet mignon, among other tasty creations. Perfectly sized portions and a streamlined, airy white space within this traditional Sarrià house add to the experience. In nice weather, request a table in the garden out back. | Average main: €22 | Major de Sarrià 121, Sarrià | 93/204–8518 | www.tram-tram.com | Reservations essential | Closed Sun., Mon., Easter wk, and 2 wks in Aug. | Station: Reina Elisenda.
Fodor’s Choice | Via Veneto.
CATALAN | Open since 1967, this family-owned temple of fine Catalan dining offers a contemporary menu punctuated by old-school classics. Elegant and stylish, the restaurant was a favorite of Salvador Dalí and now attracts local sports stars and politicians. Service is impeccable, and diners can safely place themselves in the hands of the expert staff to guide them through modern variations of regional specialties and a daunting 10,000-bottle wine list. The starter of tagliolini pasta with free-range eggs cooked at a low temperature and served with Alba (Piedmont) white truffle threatens to be a showstopper, but the theatrical presentation of roast baby duck, deboned and pressed at the table, provides a memorable second act. | Average main: €38 | Ganduxer 10,Sarrià | 93/200–7244 | www.viavenetorestaurant.com | Closed Sun. and Aug. 1–20. No lunch Sat. | Station: Hospital Clínic.
MEDITERRANEAN | Just above Plaça de Sarrià, Vivanda produces traditional Catalan miniatures, para picar (small morsels), platillos (little dishes), and half rations of meat and fish listed as platillos de pescado and platillos de carne, thanks to a redesigned menu by Alkimia’s Jordi Vilà. The coca de pa de vidre con tomate (a delicate shell of bread with tomato and olive oil) and the venison-like presa de ibérico (filet of ibérico pig) are both exquisite. Weather permitting, book a table in the lush back garden for lunch. | Average main: €12 | Major de Sarrià 134, Sarrià | 93/203–1918 | No dinner Sun. | Station: Reina Elisenda.
CATALAN | Chef Jordi Cruz, the youngest chef ever to win a Michelin star and author of two books on his culinary philosophy and techniques, is known for his devotion to impeccable raw materials and his talent for combining creativity and tradition. The tasting menu is the only reasonable choice here: trust this chef to give you the best he has (and any attempt at economy is roughly analagous to quibbling about deck chairs on the Titanic). The hypercreative sampling has ranged from tartare of oysters with green-apple vinegar, fennel, and seawort to veal royal with concentrate of Pedro Ximénez sherry and textures of apples in cider. Connected to an exquisite five-star boutique hotel of the same name, the dining room, awash in beige and white linens with dark wooden floors in wide planks, delivers a suitably elegant backdrop. | Average main: €48 | Av. del Tibidabo 1–7, Tibidabo | 93/319–6600 | www.abacbarcelona.com | Reservations essential | Closed Sun. and Mon. No lunch. | Station: Tibidabo.
El Asador de Aranda.
SPANISH | It’s a hike to this immense palace a few-minutes walk above the Avenida Tibidabo metro station—but worth it if you’re in upper Barcelona. The kitchen specializes in Castilian cooking, with cordero lechal (roast suckling lamb), morcilla (black sausage), and pimientos de piquillo (sweet red peppers) as star players. The Art Nouveau details here—carved-wood trim, stained-glass partitions, engraved glass, Moorish archways, and terra-cotta floors—belie the fact that this extravagantly beautiful building was originally a nunnery, funded by wealthy members of the Catalan industrial bourgeoisie as a place to stash their errant daughters. | Average main: €46 | Av. del Tibidabo 31, Tibidabo | 93/417–0115 | www.asadordearanda.com | Reservations essential | No dinner Sun. | Station: Penitents, Vallcarca, Tibidabo.
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Ciutat Vella | Barceloneta, Port Olímpic, and Fòrum | Eixample | Gràcia | Sarrià, Sant Gervasi, and Pedralbes | Tibidabo
Barcelona’s hotel trade may be centuries removed from Miguel de Cervantes’s 17th-century description of it as a “repository of courtesy, travelers’ shelter,” but in the 400 years or so since Don Quijote the city has never lost its talent for pampering visitors.
Barcelona’s pre-Olympics hotel surge in the early 1990s was matched only by its post-Olympics hotel surge in the early 2000s. Barcelona is the premier tourist destination in Spain and the major cruise port in the Mediterranean. Starchitects like Ricardo Bofill and Rafael Moneo have changed the skyline with skyscraper hotels of eye-popping luxury; the Grand Hyatt group is about to add another, acquiring Jean Nouvel’s emblematic Torre Agbar for the latest in it its collection. The real heroes of this story, however, are the architect-designer teams that take one after another of the city’s historic properties and restore them with an astonishing tour de force of taste. Hotel restaurants, too—from the Arts’s Enoteca to the Mandarin’s Moments—are among the superstar attractions in the city’s gastronomic scene. Prices in the reviews are for two people in a standard double room in high season, excluding tax.
The Ciutat Vella includes the Rambla, Barri Gòtic, Born-Ribera, and Raval districts between Plaça de Catalunya and the port.
FAMILY | Fodor’s Choice | Arai-Palau Dels Quatre Rius Monument.
HOTEL | You couldn’t ask for a better location from which to explore Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter—or for a bivouac more elegant—than one of the aparthotel suites in this stunning restoration. The Arai is filled with exquisite pieces of art, sculpture and tapestry, which seems to modernize this 18th-century palace of the Quatre Rius noble family while keeping its historic character. Rooms have the original stone and brick walls, hardwood plank floors, exposed beam ceilings, and beds with antique spiral wooden pillars bracketing the headboards. Suites have connecting apartments that can be booked separately, fully equipped kitchens, leather sofas and loveseats, and private terraces with jacuzzis. Perfect for family sojourns. Pros: warm, attentive service; double shower heads in the bath; top-tier amenities; strategic location; superb soundproofing. Cons: pool on the rooftop terrace is tiny; no spa; no room service; rooms on the top floor lack some of the historic charm below. | Rooms from: €200 | Avinyó 30, Barri Gòtic | 93/320–3950 | www.hotelarai.com/#!en/home | 30 rooms | No meals.
HOTEL | The Colón opened in 1951, and feels like it’s been around forever: quiet, conservative, correct. The lobby tells you what’s in store: the antique upright clock, the salmon walls and marble floors and walnut trim, the discretely separated suites of comfy chairs and sofas in flocked upholstery, the hotel coat of arms on the curtains. It’s the sort of place you’d take your grandmother for dinner. (The food, alas, is unmemorable.) But the Colón is suprisingly reasonable for what and where it is, and the location is ideal—providing you can book a room with a balcony, overlooking the Cathedral square. Illuminated at night, the Catedral de la Seu is spectacular. On weekends, there’s sardana dancing in the square, on Thursday an antique market. Small wonder it was Miró’s favorite hotel. Pros: walking distance from all of central Barcelona; pet-friendly; attentive staff. Cons: can feel a bid stodgy; pricey breakfast; undistinguished dining. | Rooms from: €150 | Av. Catedral 7, Barri Gòtic | 93/301–1404 | www.hotelcolon.es | 15 singles, 121 doubles, 5 suites | No meals | Station: Catalunya.
Fodor’s Choice | Hotel Neri.
HOTEL | Built into an 18th-century palace just steps from the Cathedral, this elegant upscale boutique hotel marries ancient and avant-garde design. The facade and location are Early Barcelona, but the cavernous interior spaces are unfailingly contemporary and edgy. Rooms stress straight lines, neutral linens with a pop of red or green, and expanses of wood and stone with Rothko-like artwork. Pros: central location; hip design; roof terrace for cocktails and breakfast. Cons: noise from adjacent Plaça Sant Filip Neri can be a problem on summer nights (and winter-morning school days); impractical hanging bed lights. | Rooms from: €200 | Sant Sever 5, Barri Gòtic | 93/304–0655 | www.hotelneri.com | 14 doubles, 8 suites | No meals | Station: Liceu, Catalunya.
HOTEL | One of Barcelona’s top new design hotels, the Ohla’s neoclassical exterior (not counting the goofy eyeballs stuck to the facade) belies its avant-garde interior, full of witty, design-conscious touches. Rooms aren’t particularly spacious, but they’re tastefully done with a minimalist palate of black and white, gray textiles and tall windows. The Ohla’s no-contest best feature is its gastronomy. The weekday prix-fixe lunch (€16) at the flagship Gastrobar restaurant could be the best bargain in town. Upstairs, award-winning chef Xavier Franco has run the hot-ticket restaurant Saüc since 2004. Mixmaster Giuseppe Santamaria was declared the best bartender in Spain in 2012. Pros: strategic location, a two-minute walk from the Palau de la Música Catalana; attentive, professional staff. Cons: layout in some rooms sacrifices privacy to design; Via Laietana, just outside, is a nonstop noisy traffic artery. | Rooms from: €215 | Via Laietana 49, Barri Gòtic | 93/341–5050 | www.ohlahotel.com | 73 rooms, 1 suite | No meals | Station: Urquinaona.
Fodor’s Choice | Jardí.
HOTEL | Facing charming Plaça del Pi and Plaça Sant Josep Oriol, this family-friendly little budget hotel couldn’t be better situated for exploring La Rambla and the Barri Gòtic. Rooms have simple pine furniture and bare-bones amenities. The in-house breakfast (€6) is excellent, and the alfresco tables at Bar del Pi, downstairs, are ideal in summer. There are five floors—the higher, the quieter—and an elevator. The square in front can be noisy at night, but the soundproofing is equal to the challenge. Book online, but pay your bill in cash for a 10% discount. Pros: central location; good value for price; impeccable bathrooms. Cons: no pets; no room service. | Rooms from: €95 | Pl. Sant Josep Oriol 1, Barri Gòtic | 93/301–5900 | www.eljardi-barcelona.com | 40 rooms | No meals | Station: Liceu, Catalunya.
Lodging Alternatives in Barcelona
If you want a home base that’s roomy enough for a family and comes with cooking facilities, consider a furnished rental. These can save you money, especially if you’re traveling with a group. Prices range from €100 to €300 per day depending on the quality of the accommodations. Apartment accommodations can be arranged through any of the agencies listed below.
Local Apartment Agencies
| Bertran 150, Sant Gervasi | 93/2127550 | www.hotelbertran.com | Station: El Putxet.
| Bisbe Sivilla 7, San Gervasi | 93/2531563 | www.bonanovasuite.com | Station: El Putxet.
| Nàpols 116, Eixample | 93/2464573 | www.abapart.com | Station: Tetuan, Arc de Triomf.
| Paris 207, 5-2, Eixample | 93/4813577 | www.apartmentbarcelona.com | Station: Diagonal.
| 93/3017678 | www.only-apartments.com/apartments-barcelona/html.
Barcelona for Rent.
| Bailén 120, Eixample | 93/4586340 | www.barcelonaforrent.com | Station: Verdaguer.
| Grau i Torras 17, Barceloneta | 93/2214225 | www.barcelonetasuites.com | Station: Barceloneta.
| Balmes 28, Eixample | 93/1503176 | www.localnomad.com | Station: Universitat.
Flats By Days.
| Bellafila 5, Barri Gòtic | 93/3426481 | www.flatsbydays.com | Station: Jaume I.
| Pasaje Sert 1-3, bajos, Eixample | 93/2688051 | www.friendlyrentals.com | Station: Urquinaona.
| Paral.lel 91, Poble Sec | 93/2781156 | www.gobcn.com | Station: Paral.lel, Poble Sec.
Derby Hotels Collection.
| València 284, Eixample | 93/4510402 | www.barcelona-apartment.com | Station: Passeig de Gracia.
| Roger de Llúria 50, 1a, Eixample | 93/4673779 | www.gowithoh.com/vacation-barcelona-apartments/ | Station: Girona.
Rent a Flat in Barcelona.
| Ronda Guinardó 2-4, bajos, Horta | 93/3427300 | www.rentaflatinbarcelona.com | Station: Urquinaona.
If you would like to exchange your home for someone else’s, join a home-exchange organization, which will send you its updated listings of available exchanges for a year and will include your own listing in at least one of them. It’s up to you to make specific arrangements. Home-exchange directories sometimes list rentals as well as exchanges.
HOTEL | Despite its name, the “Oriental Baths” has, for the moment, no spa, but what it does have is chic, high-contrast design, with dark stained wood and crisp white bedding, and strategic location at a reasonable price. Elegant touches in some rooms include queen-size four-poster beds (most have twin beds, which move around a bit too easily). The rooms themselves are on the small side, but bathrooms are truly ample. Carrer Argenteria gets little vehicle traffic, but is one of the city’s liveliest pedestrian arteries; rooms overlooking the street can be noisy. Just steps from Santa Maria del Mar, the port, the Picasso Museum and the Born area, this hotel is a good base camp for exploring the Ciutat Vella’s finest treasures.The popular Senyor Parellada restaurant is next door. Pros: central location; tasteful design; good value. Cons: no pets; no parking; no laundry service; communal fridge on each floor, but no room minibars. | Rooms from: €115 | Argenteria 37, Born-Ribera | 93/268–8460 | www.hotelbanysorientals.com | 43 rooms, 14 suites | No meals | Station: Jaume I.
Hotel Chic & Basic Born.
HOTEL | A revolutionary concept best illustrated by the middle-of-your-room glass shower stalls, the Chic & Basic chain is a hit with young hipsters looking for the combo package of splashy design with affordable prices. Rooms are awash in white giving them a certain serenity; that is unless you hit the color LED lights and it becomes a minirave. The restaurant, called the White Bar for its completely albino decor, serves excellent Mediterranean cooking. Designer Xavier Claramunt has come up with a winner here. Pros: perfectly situated for Barcelona’s hot Born-Ribera scene; clean-lined sleek design. Cons: tumultuous nightlife around the hotel requires closed windows on weekends; rooms and spaces are small. | Rooms from: €150 | Carrer Princesa 50, Born-Ribera | 93/295–4652 | www.chicandbasic.com/hotel-barcelona-born/en | 31 rooms | No meals | Station: Jaume I.
Fodor’s Choice | H1898.
HOTEL | Overlooking La Rambla, this imposing mansion, once the headquarters of the Compañiá General de Tabacos de Filipinas, couldn’t be better located—especially with the Liceu just around the corner, for opera fans. Named for the fateful year when Spain was stripped of its final colonial outposts (the Philippines among them), the hotel’s elegance evokes those bygone imperial days. The lobby spaces are spectacular, with marble barrel vaults and coffered ceilings, stained glass and subdued lighting, sink-in comfortable leather armchairs and sofas. Rooms have free Wi-Fi, hardwood floors, and high ceilings. The huge roof deck, with bar and heated pool, affords wonderful 360-degree views of Montjuïc, the Mediterranean, and the Barrí Gòtic. Pros: impeccable service; equally ideal for families and romantic couples. Cons: subway rumble discernible in lower rooms on the Rambla side. | Rooms from: €255 | La Rambla 109, Rambla | 93/552–9552 | www.hotel1898.com | 166 rooms, 3 suites | No meals | Station: Catalunya, Liceu.
Duquesa de Cardona.
HOTEL | A refurbished 16th-century town house, this hotel on the port is a 10-minute walk from everything in the Barri Gòtic and Barceloneta, and no more than a 30-minute walk from the main Eixample attractions. The decor is contemporary, in soothing neutral tones. Exterior rooms have views of the harbor, the World Trade Center, and the marina. The hotel’s miniature rooftop plunge pool, more for a dip than a swim, provides a stunning backdrop. Pros: great combination of traditional and contemporary; key spot near the port; ample roof terrace. Cons: rooms on the small side; no gym or spa; Passeig de Colom is a busy, noisy artery. | Rooms from: €150 | Passeig de Colom 12, Port | 93/268–9090 | www.hduquesadecardona.com | 35 rooms, 5 junior suites | No meals | Station: Drassanes.
Hotel DO Plaça Reial.
HOTEL | Just at the entrance to the Neoclassic Plaça Reial, this 2012 addition to Barcelona’s growing collection of boutique hotels—with its with two restaurants, La Terraza (under the arcades on the square) and La Cuina (downstairs under graceful brick vaulting)—is a find for foodies and lovers of tasteful design. Rooms have high ceilings with wooden beams, wide-plank wooden floors, touches of velvet, and an urban-rustic feel. Luxury extras like Molton Brown toiletries and a “pillow menu” add to the indulgence. The rooftop terrace boasts a small plunge pool. Pros: walking distance from everything you will want to see in the old city center; perfect soundproofing; helpful multilingual staff. Cons: hard on the wallet; neighborhood can be rowdy at night. | Rooms from: €280 | Plaça Reial 1, Rambla | 93/481–3666 | www.hoteldoreial.com | 18 rooms | Breakfast | Station: Liceu.
Fodor’s Choice | Le Méridien Barcelona.
HOTEL | There’s no dearth of hotels along La Rambla, in the heart of the city, but few rival the upscale Méridien. Rooms are tastefully decorated in neutral tones, with rich wood trim and accents of red, and big flat-screen TVs. The black stone bathrooms have frosted glass doors to the showers, safety bars, and futuristic scales. Amenities include fluffy robes, a trouser press, and a coffee maker. The best rooms are on the upper floors, overlooking the promenade; those on the opposite side, unfortunately, have no view at all. The soundproofing is near-perfect. The Méridien is popular with businesspeople and visiting celebrities alike. Pros: central location; spot-on professional service; gym open 24 hours. Cons: no pool; rooms just a tad small for the price; €55/day surcharge for pets. | Rooms from: €250 | La Rambla 111, Rambla | 93/318–6200 | www.lemeridien.com/barcelona | 190 rooms, 40 suites | No meals | Station: Catalunya.
Casa Camper Barcelona.
HOTEL | A marriage between the Camper footwear empire and the Vinçon design store produced this brainchild, a 21st-century hotel halfway between La Rambla and the MACBA (Museum of Contemporary Art). The philosophy here is luxury-in-the-details and green sustainability, which leads to lots of fun perks including a free 24-hour snack facility and bicycle rentals. Rooms use a lot of splashy red accents, but they’re mellowed out by a minimalist style and lounging hammocks. The Dos Palillos restaurant next door serves some of Barcelona’s finest Asian-fusion cuisine. Pros: handy location in mid-Raval; just steps from MACBA and the Boqueria; hip, friendly staff. Cons: no pets; no way to get a car close to the hotel door; a bit pricey for what you get. | Rooms from: €195 | C. Elisabets 11, El Raval | 93/342–6280 | www.casacamper.com | 20 rooms, 5 suites | Breakfast | Station: Catalunya.
Fodor’s Choice | Hotel España.
HOTEL | This recently renovated Art Nouveau gem is among the oldest and best of Barcelona’s smaller hotels. And for location, decor, and price, it can’t be beat. Abutting the Liceu opera house and 100 yards from the middle of La Rambla, the España dates to 1857 but was renovated in 1904 by architect Lluís Doménech i Montaner, who also designed the Palau de la Música. The decorative and sculptural detail is remarkable: don’t miss the alabaster fireplace in the bar lounge, by Eusebio Arnau. Rooms are ranged around a breathtaking top-to-bottom skylit corrala (central gallery) with wrought-iron railings. Accommodations are a bit small, but are handsomely decked out in grays and dark browns, with iPod docks, wood floors, comfortable desks, and office chairs. Pros: strategic location; steeped in artistic history; friendly staff; excellent restaurant ($$). Cons: the lower rooms on Carrer Sant Pau get some street noise despite the double-glazing; rooftop pool, spa, and gym only open April 23 through mid-October. | Rooms from: €180 | Sant Pau 9–11, El Raval | 93/550–0000 | www.hotelespanya.com | 81 rooms, 1 suite | No meals | Station: Liceu.
HOTEL | Wallet-friendly and design-conscious, this boutique hotel is named for the Mercat de Sant Antoni a block away. On a little alleyway and walking distance from all of El Raval and the Gothic Quarter sites and attractions, this high-tech designer property is one of Barcelona’s best bargains. Rooms are simply but solidly furnished with dramatic, ebony-stained wood headboards and beams setting off bright white bedspreads and red lacquered surfaces. The hotel restaurant offers good Catalan cuisine at an excellent value. Pros: well equipped, designed, and positioned for a low-cost Barcelona visit; young and friendly staff. Cons: rooms are a little cramped. | Rooms from: €69 | Carrer Comte Borrell 68, entrance on Passatge Sant Antoni Abat 10, El Raval | 93/325–1205 | www.markethotel.com.es | 59 rooms | No meals | Station: Sant Antoni.
HOTEL | In a leafy square just off La Rambla, the Sant Agustí bills itself as the oldest billet in Barcelona—built in 1720 as a convent and reborn as a hotel in 1840. Rooms are small but pleasantly designed, with sunny blond wood, cream white bedspreads and hardwood floors; some rooms have the original beams and brickwork exposed. Avoid the rooms on the lower two floors: shell out just a little extra instead, for the top-floor loft, with a skylight and breakfast table. Pros: central location near the Boqueria market, La Rambla and the Liceu opera house; traditional design with modern comfort; good value for price; family-friendly. Cons: Plaça Sant Agusti can be a homeless hangout; soundproofing less than best; so-so breakfast; service is hit-or-miss. | Rooms from: €135 | Pl. Sant Agustí 3, El Raval | 93/318–1658 | www.hotelsa.com | 72 rooms, 8 suites | Breakfast | Station: Liceu.
BARCELONETA, PORT OLÍMPIC, AND FÒRUM
Fodor’s Choice | Hotel Arts.
HOTEL | This luxurious Ritz-Carlton-owned, 44-story skyscraper overlooks Barcelona from Port Olímpic, providing stunning views of the Mediterranean, the city, the Sagrada Família, and the mountains beyond. True to its name, fine art—from Chillida drawings to Susana Solano sculptures—hangs everywhere. Rooms are equally glamorous, decorated in contrasting beige and dark-wood accents and stocked with Acqua di Parma toiletries. On the Club floors, a “Cava concierge” dispenses complimentary flutes of bubbly every afternoon. The apocalyptically pricey apartments have a private elevator, separate reception desk, and butler service—and fully equipped kitchens where you can have the hotel’s chefs prepare your meals en suite. Sergi Arola’s tapas restaurant is a chic, postmodern culinary playground; Paco Pérez’s starred Enoteca is the hotel’s excellent flagship dining room. Pros: excellent views over Barcelona; impeccable service; fine restaurants; minutes from the beach; family-friendly. Cons: a 20-minute hike, at least, from central Barcelona; hard on the budget. | Rooms from: €535 | Calle de la Marina 19–21, Port Olímpic | 93/221–1000 | www.hotelartsbarcelona.com | 365 rooms, 44 suites, 28 apartments | No meals | Station: Ciutadella–Vila Olímpica.
Fodor’s Choice | W Barcelona.
HOTEL | This towering sail-shape monolith dominates the skyline on the Barcelona waterfront. Locally known as Hotel Vela, architect Ricardo Bofill’s W is a stunner, inside and out. Rooms are an elegant, minimal wash of blond-on-beige wood and textiles; no amenities have been neglected. Features like the infinity-edge WET pool, the fully equipped gym and spa, and the Whatever/Whenever concierge service add to the feeling of luxury here. Master chef Carles Abellán adds to this with the superb cusine at his Bravo 24 restaurant. Pros: unrivaled views and general design excitement and glamour; excellent restaurants; rooms are bright, clean-lined, with nonpareil views in all directions. Cons: the high-rise icon could seem garish to some; a good hike from the Barri Gòtic or the nearest public transportation. | Rooms from: €310 | Pl. de la Rosa del Vents 1, Moll de Llevant, Barceloneta | 93/295–2800 | www.w-barcelona.com | 406 rooms, 65 suites | No meals | Station: Barceloneta.
Fodor’s Choice | Claris.
HOTEL | Acclaimed as one of Barcelona’s best hotels, the Claris is an artful icon of design and tradition, as is evident from the building itself: the glass-and-steel upper floors seem to have sprouted from the 19th-century town house below. The lobby is a welcoming, uncluttered space, in marble and brown leather, with a Japanese water garden for that extra touch of tranquillity. Every room has a different décor, some with restored 18th-century English furniture, some with contemporary furnishings from Barcelona’s playful legion of designers, and each with an accent piece or two from the owner’s remarkable collection of Classical and Oriental antiquities. (Spend a fraction more, and book one of the wonderful duplex semisuites—especiallly No. 204.) Junior suites have stone sinks, Jacuzzi baths, and showers with huge cascade fixtures. The rooftop terrace has a first-rate restaurant, la Terraza, and a pool you can actually swim in. Pros: elegant service and furnishings; central location for shopping and Moderniste sightseeing; spot-on friendly service. Cons: bathrooms are designer chic but a bit cramped; no spa. | Rooms from: €245 | Carrer Pau Claris 150,Eixample | 93/487–6262 | www.hotelclaris.com | 82 rooms, 42 suites | No meals | Station: Passeig de Gràcia.
Fodor’s Choice | Condes de Barcelona.
HOTEL | One of Barcelona’s most popular hotels, the Condes de Barcelona is perfectly placed for exploring the sights (and shops) of the city’s most fashionable quarter, and—for the priveleged location—offers exception value. The building dates to 1891; the columns and courtyard are original. Rooms are decorated in contemporary neutral tones, with hardwood floors; superior doubles have CD players, espresso machines, huge keyhole-shaped baths and multi-jet shower cabinets. The newest rooms have hot tubs and terraces overlooking interior gardens. An affiliated fitness club around the corner offers golf, squash, and swimming. Chef Martín Berasategui’s two restaurants, Lasarte and Loidi, are among Barcelona’s most sought-after dining spots. Reserve rooms well in advance—demand is high, and early reservations score bargain rates. Pros: elegant Moderniste building with subdued contemporary furnishings; prime spot in the middle of the Eixample. Cons: no spa; substantial surcharge (€45) for pets; restaurant Lasarte difficult to book. | Rooms from: €165 | Passeig de Gràcia 73-75, Eixample | 93/4674780 | www.condesdebarcelona.com | 125 rooms, 1 suite | No meals | Station: Passeig de Gràcia.
Fodor’s Choice | Continental Palacete.
HOTEL | This former palatial family home, or palacete, provides a splendid drawing room, a location nearly dead center for Barcelona’s main attractions, views over leafy Rambla de Catalunya, and a 24-hour free buffet. Follow the red carpet up the marble stairs to what must be the quirkiest little boutique hotel in town. It looks like grandma’s house, if grandma was a very wealthy 19th-century Catalan who’d been to Versailles and had a passion for pink: it has floral tapestry wallpaper, and crystal chandeliers, silk flowers in painted vases, putti on the ceilings, giltwork everywhere. The buffet is stocked 24/7 with fruit, salads, sandwiches, pastas, and desserts. Pros: family-friendly; attentive staff; ideal location; microwaves in all the rooms; good value. Cons: room decor is relentlessly pink and over-draped; bathrooms are a bit cramped and lack amenities. | Rooms from: €143 | Rambla de Calatunya 30, at Diputació, Eixample | 93/445–7657 | www.hotelcontinental.com | 20 rooms, 2 suites | Breakfast | Station: Passeig de Gràcia.
Hotel El Palace Barcelona.
HOTEL | Founded in 1919 by Caesar Ritz, this is the original Ritz, the grande dame of Barcelona hotels, renamed in 2005. The imperial lobby piles on the glitz with marble, gilded columns, and a massive crystal chandelier. Guest rooms continue the white-glove treatment with Regency furniture and decorative fireplaces; some rooms have Roman-style mosaics in the baths. The restaurant, Caelis, serves first-rate French cuisine. Pros: equidistant from Barri Gòtic and central Eixample; excellent service; old-world elegance throughout. Cons: no pool; painfully pricey. | Rooms from: €575 | Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes 668, Eixample | 93/510–1130 | www.hotelpalacebarcelona.com | 119 rooms, 6 suites | No meals | Station: Passeig de Gràcia.
HOTEL | A short walk from La Rambla, this Eixample design hotel offers impeccable midcity accommodations with cheerful avant-garde décor and luxurious details. Rooms take the standard neutral hotel palate and add a splash of orange, yellow, and red, giving it a hint of ‘60s mod. Most have balconies. Bathrooms have high-pressure shower heads and full amenities. The rooftop terrace has a small pool. Pros: dazzlingly designed; strategic location; smart and friendly staff. Cons: Aribau is a major uptown artery, noisy at all hours; rooms are a bit small for the price; no gym or spa; no pets. | Rooms from: €228 | Carrer Aribau 54, Eixample | 93/216–7700 | www.hotelcram.com | 65 rooms, 2 suites | No meals | Station: Universitat, Provença (FGC).
Fodor’s Choice | Hotel Granados 83.
HOTEL | Designed in the style of a New York City loft on a tree-shaded street in the heart of the Eixample, this hotel blends exposed brick, steel, and glass with Greek and Italian marble and Indonesian tamarind wood to achieve a downtown cool. Touches of Buddhist and Hindu art add a sense of Zen tranquillity. Rooms have a certain masculine aesthetic, with black leather sofas and headboards, chrome, and dark bedding. Interior-facing rooms have private balconies. The first-rate Mediterranean and Asian fusion restaurant and the rooftop solarium add the final pampering touches. Pros: quiet strategic location; polished professional service; wide variety of good casual restaurants nearby; excellent value. Cons: rooms a bit small; pricey buffet breakfast. | Rooms from: €170 | Carrer Enric Granados 83, Eixample | 93/492–9670 | www.hotelgranados83.com | 70 rooms, 7 suites | No meals | Station: Provença.
FAMILY | Fodor’s Choice | Hotel Murmuri.
HOTEL | British designer Kelly Hoppen took this 19th-century townhouse on Rambla de Catalunya and transformed it in 2008 into a chic, intimate urban retreat. Room decor is done in velvety brown, beige and black, with big mirrors, dramatic bed lighting, arresting photography, and romantic dimmer switches. Bathrooms have both cascade and standard shower heads, towel warmers and full amenities (robes and slippers complementary on request for standard doubles). The cozy little bar on the ground floor, with sink-in sofas and armchairs, is a perfect place to unwind at the end of the day. The Murmuri’s five apartments, in a separate building around the corner on Passeig de la Concepción, are truly huge, with fully equipped kitchens, en suite master bedrooms and private terraces: perfect billets for families. Pros: warm, professional service; strategic Eixample location; child-friendly; excellent value for price. Cons: no pool, gym or spa (though guest privileges at the nearby affiliated Hotel Majestic); no pets. | Rooms from: €169 | Rambla de Catalunya 104, Eixample | 93/550–0600 | www.murmuri.com | 51 rooms, 2 suites, 5 apartments | No meals | Station: Diagonal, Provença (FGC).
FAMILY | Fodor’s Choice | Hotel Omm.
HOTEL | The lobby of this postmodern architectural stunner tells you what to expect throughout: perfect comfort, cutting-edge design, and meticulous attention to every detail. The minimalist decor is done in soothing tones of grey, purple and orange; there’s a gas fireplace in the lounge, and nooks for intimate conversation. Superior doubles have long private decks; suites have modern four-poster beds, antique wooden desks, and armchairs with reading lamps. Rooms on the upper floors, and the huge rooftop terrace, overlook Gaudí’s Casa Milá. The restaurant, Roca Moo, serves modern cuisine orchestrated by the Roca brothers—Joan, Josep, and Jordi—who achieved international prestige with their Celler de Can Roca near Girona. Pros: perfect location for the upper Eixample; spot-on, attentive service; oyster bar in the lobby; superb spa; family-friendly. Cons: small plunge pools; restaurant pricey and a little precious; parking is expensive; no pets. | Rooms from: €330 | Roselló 265, Eixample | 93/445–4000 | www.hotelomm.es | 83 rooms, 8 suites | No meals | Station: Diagonal, Provença (FGC).
Fodor’s Choice | Majestic Hotel & Spa.
HOTEL | With an unbeatable location on Barcelona’s most stylish boulevard, steps from Gaudí’s La Pedrera and a stone’s throw to the boulevard’s swankiest shops, this hotel is a near-perfect place to stay. The building is part Eixample town house and part modern extension. Rooms are a tasteful palate of white, beige, and dove gray textiles, set off by ticking stripes or, in some, a sky-blue accent wall. Bathrooms have towel warmers, Bulgari toiletries, and separate toilets. Pros: very professional service; rooftop terrace with views of the ocean, Montjuïc and the Sagrada Família; 24-hour room service; good value. Cons: classic furniture a little dated; no pets; parking fees are a bit steep. | Rooms from: €189 | Passeig de Gràcia 68, Eixample | 93/488–1717 | www.hotelmajestic.es | 271 rooms, 32 suites | No meals | Station: Passeig de Gràcia.
FAMILY | Mandarin Oriental Barcelona.
HOTEL | A carpeted ramp leading from the elegant Passeig de Gràcia (flanked by Tiffany and Brioni boutiques) lends this hotel the air of a privileged—and pricey—inner sanctum. The public spaces have Asian touches that reference the Mandarin Oriental group’s Eastern origins; standard guest rooms are light and airy, done in ivory with clean, minimalist lines, with hardwood plank floors and accent carpeting. Extra touches include iPod docks and spare cables for your laptop, but no coffee maker. Junior suites have huge round bathtubs and towel warmers. There’s a plunge pool on the rooftop terrace and another, larger pool in the spa, which, with its eight ultra-luxurious treatment cabins, is really the jewel in the crown here: there’s even a separate elevator directly to it, so guests can come and go in their robes. The hotel’s gourmet restaurant Moments is under the direction of superstar chef Carme Ruscalleda. Pros: central location; babysitters and/or parties for the kids, on demand. Cons: rooms fairly small for a 5-star accommodation; wardrobes lack drawer space; lighting a bit dim; very pricey breakfast. | Rooms from: €440 | Passeig de Gràcia 38–40, Eixample | 93/151–8888 | www.mandarinoriental.com | 120 rooms | No meals | Station: Passeig de Gràcia, Diagonal, Provença (FGC).
Fodor’s Choice | Casa Fuster.
HOTEL | This hotel offers one of two chances (the other is the Hotel España) to stay in an Art Nouveau building designed by Lluís Domènech i Montaner, architect of the sumptuous Palau de la Música Catalana. This was his last project, built in 1911 at the bottom edge of the village of Gràcia; the lobby, with its Gaudí-designed chairs, door handles and fixtures, its trencadís (polychrome broken-tile mosaic) floors, marble and stone pillars, vaulted ceilings, and Art Nouveau–inspired lamps, is Moderniste to the core. The room decors are classical, with tufted headboards, striped linens and tall French windows (which don’t open); bathrooms have towel warmers, Loewe toiletries, and big picture-frame mirrors. The hotel’s Café Vienés (jazz on Thursday evening) was a historic meeting place for Barcelona’s movers and shakers in the early 20th century. Pros: well placed for exploring both Gràcia and the Eixample; ample-size rooms; polished, professional service. Cons: rooms facing Passeig de Gràcia could use better soundproofing; no pets; hard on the budget, for what you get. | Rooms from: €500 | Passeig de Gràcia 132, Gràcia | 93/255–3000 | www.hotelescenter.com/casafuster | 86 rooms, 19 suites | No meals | Station: Diagonal.
SARRIÀ, SANT GERVASI, AND PEDRALBES
Fodor’s Choice | Primero Primera.
HOTEL | The Perez family converted their apartment building on a leafy sidestreet in the quiet upscale residential neighborhood of Tres Torres and opened it as an exquisitely designed, homey, boutique hotel in 2011. (Primero primera refers to the flat on the first floor, where the matriarch of the family still lives.) Daughter Nuria Perez and her designer-architect colleagues did an awesome job on the makeover, keeping essential features like the spiral central stairwell and creating a retro-modern ambiance that invites you to sink into one of the leather armchairs and relax. Rooms have twin or king-size beds and ample wardrobes; bathrooms have black slate floors, stretch-out tubs, and Gilchirst & Soames toiletries. Ask for No. 42, with a balcony and view of the street, or A-6 on the top floor, with access to the rooftop terrance. Two charming patios out front, and a garden in back with a small wading pool—perfect for kids—completes the ensemble. Pros: warm, professional service; family-friendly (babysitter service available); great value. Cons: bit of a distance from the action downtown. | Rooms from: €190 | Doctor Carulla 25–29, Sant Gervasi | 93/417–5600 | www.primeroprimera.com | 22 rooms, 8 suites | Breakfast.
Fodor’s Choice | Turó de Vilana.
HOTEL | In an upscale residential neighborhood above Passeig de la Bonanova, this boutique accommodation can make you forget you’ve come to a prime tourist destination in Spain. With good reason: the Turó does much of its business with the families of patients in the nearby Dexeus and Teknon hospitals, and with participants in medical conferences. But the generous-sized sunlit rooms have hot tubs and coffee makers, parquet floors and simple, contemporary furnishings. The staff is pleasant and attentive; there’s room service until 10:30 at night. The Turó de Vilana is a 10-minute walk from the Sarrià train that connects you with the city center in 15 minutes. All in all: a bargain. Pros: quiet surroundings; very good value. Cons: something of a trip (30 minutes in all) to the center of town; no pool or spa. | Rooms from: €115 | Vilana 7, Sant Gervasi | 93/434–0363 | www.turodevilana.com | 22 rooms | Breakfast | Station: Sarrià.
FAMILY | Gran Hotel la Florida.
HOTEL | Two qualities set this luxurious mountaintop retreat apart: its peace and privacy, and its stunning panoramic view. Built high above the city in 1925 by the pharmaceutical magnate Dr. Salvador Andreu as a retreat for Barcelona’s well-to-do, the Gran Hotel la Florida was acquired in 2003 by the Stein Group and extensively remodelled. Guest rooms are done in soothing tones of beige, white and brown, with the original hardwood plank floors, Art Nouveau furniture and Gaudí-esque headboards on king-size beds. Bathrooms have double sinks and showers the size of walk-in closets. Lay back and savor the view from the sprawling garden terrace, laid out with box hedges into intimate private spaces, with access to the L-shape indoor-outdoor pool. Be aware: unless you come by car, you are a captive clientele. It’s a pricey 20-minute taxi ride into Barcelona, and the hotel’s own shuttle bus to the top of Passeig de Grácia runs only three times a day, with the last return at 4:30 pm. There is literally nothing anywhere nearby the hotel itself but the Tibidabo amusement park, which cuts both ways: great if you have youngsters in tow, but a bit of a noisy intrusion if you’ve come for a romantic weekend. Pros: first-rate spa and fully equipped gym; Club Luna is the hotel’s own jazz night spot; friendly and attentive front staff. Cons: old building with occasional maintenance problems; pricey food and beverage add-ons; pets accepted with an €80 surcharge; décor in the “Design Suites” a bit over-the-top. | Rooms from: €220 | Ctra. Vallvidrera al Tibidabo 83–93, Tibidabo | 93/259–3000 | www.hotellaflorida.com | 62 rooms, 8 suites | No meals | Station: Tibidabo.
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Performing Arts | Nightlife
Barcelona’s art and nightlife scenes start early and never quite stop. To find out what’s on, check “agenda” listings in Barcelona’s leading daily newspapers El País, La Vanguardia, and El Periódico de Catalunya. The weekly Guía Del Ocio (Leisure Guide), published on Thursday, has a section in English and is available at newsstands all over town. Weekly online magazine Le Cool (barcelona.lecool.com) preselects noteworthy events and activities. Look also for the free monthly English-language Barcelona Metropolitan magazine in English-language bookstores and hotel lobbies. Barcelona city hall’s website (barcelonacultura.bcn.cat) also publishes complete listings and highlights, and has an English edition. Activitats, available at the Palau de la Virreina (La Rambla 99) or the Centre Santa Monica (La Rambla 7), lists cultural events.
Fodor’s Choice | El Grec (Festival del Grec).
Barcelona’s annual summer arts festival runs from late June to the end of July. Many of the concerts and theater and dance performances take place outdoors in such historic places as Plaça del Rei and the Teatre Grec on Montjuic, as well as in the Mercat de les Flors. | 93/301–7775 | www.bcn.es/grec.
Festival Ciutat Flamenco.
This festival, organized by the Taller de Músics (Musicians’ Workshop) and held in the Mercat de les Flors in May, offers a chance to hear the real thing and skip the often disappointing tourist fare available at most of the formal flamenco dinner-and-show venues around town. | 93/443–4346 | www.ciutataflmenco.com.
From its modest beginnings in the Poble Espanyol, this event has evolved into one of the biggest and most exciting music festivals in Spain, attracting more than 100,000 visitors a year from all over Europe. Concerts are organized in small venues around the city during the weeks leading up to the event, but the main stint takes place for five days in late May or early June at the Parc del Fòrum. Everybody who’s anybody, from Blur to Nick Cave, have played here, and you can rest assured that whoever is doing the big festival circuit this summer will pass through Primavera Sound. Full-festival tickets can be bought online. | Parc del Fòrum, Poblenou | www.primaverasound.com | Station: El Maresme Fòrum.
CASTELLERS AND SARDANAS
The Sunday-morning papers carry announcements for local neighborhood celebrations, flea markets and produce fairs, puppet shows, storytelling sessions for children, sardana folk dancing, bell-ringing concerts, and, best of all, castellers (www.bcn.es has listings in English). The castellers, complex human pyramids sometimes reaching as high as 10 stories, are a quintessentially Catalan phenomenon that originated in the 17th century, in the Penedés region west of Barcelona. Castellers perform regularly at neighborhood fiestas and key holidays: in Plaça Sant Jaume during the Festes de la Mercé on Sunday in late September, in Sarrià during the Festes de Sarrià in early October, in Plaça Sant Jaume during the Festes de Santa Eulàlia in February, and during other big feast days during the year.
Sardanas are performed in front of the cathedral at 1 pm every Saturday and Sunday.
The basilica of Santa Maria del Mar, the church of Santa Maria del Pi, the Monestir de Pedralbes, Drassanes Reials, and the Saló del Tinell, among other ancient and intimate spaces, hold concerts.
Fodor’s Choice | Palau de la Música Catalana.
Barcelona’s most spectacular concert hall is a Moderniste masterpiece, largely regarded as Domènech i Montaner’s best work, just off the bustling Via Laietana. Performances run year-round. While the focus is generally on classical (the Palau de la Música Catalana is the historic home of the Orfeó Catalá, or Catalan Choir), major music festivals—such as Barcelona’s Jazz Festival and even Sónar—generally have a date or two on the Palau’s magnificently ornate stage. A sensitive extension to the original building by local architect Oscar Tusquets accommodates the Petit Palau, a smaller venue for recitals and shows for children. Tickets for most classical and family concerts can be bought at the box office, where you can also book a guided tour of the building. | Carrera Sant Pere Més Alt 4–6, Urquinaona | 902/442882 | www.palaumusica.cat | Box Office daily 9:30–3:30 | Station: Urquinaona.
L’Auditori de Barcelona.
Functional, sleek, and minimalist, the Rafael Moneo-designed Auditori schedules a full program of classical music—with regular forays into jazz, flamenco, and pop—near Plaça de les Glòries. Orchestras that perform here include the Orquestra Simfònica de Barcelona i Nacional de Catalunya (OBC) and the Orquestra Nacional de Cambra de Andorra. The excellent Museu de la Música is situated on the first floor. | Lepant 150, Eixample | 93/247–9300 | www.auditori.cat | Station: Marina, Monumental.
Ballet troupes, both local and from abroad, perform at the Liceu Opera House with some regularity; contemporary dance troupes perform in a variety of theaters around town. The Mercat de les Flors theater is the city’s main dance center.
El Mercat de les Flors.
An old flower market converted into a modern performance space, theater, and dance school, the Mercat de Les Flors is the home of the Institut de Teatre and is set on lovely, expansive grounds at the foot of verdant Montjuïc. Modern dance is the mercat’s raison d’ être, but theater is also performed here as well, particularly during the summer Grec festival. Sunday is kids’ day, with theater or musical concerts starting at midday. A great on-site café and plenty of wide, open space outside make it an excellent morning out for the family. | Lleida 59, Eixample | 93/426–1875 | www.mercatflors.cat | Station: Espanya.
Though many foreign films are dubbed, Barcelona has a full complement of original-language cinema; look for listings marked “v.o.” (versión original).
A five-minute walk from the Plaça de la Universitat, this cinema is a good choice for recently released English-language features of all kinds, primarily of the indie ilk. | Floridablanca 135, Eixample | 91/542–2702 | www.cinesrenoir.com | Station: Universitat.
Gràcia’s movie center—and a great favorite for the pre- and postshow action in the bars and restaurants in the immediate vicinity—unfailingly screens recent releases (with a preference for serious-minded cinema) in their original-language versions. The sister cinema Verdi Park is just around the corner, and also shows films in v.o. | Verdi 32, Gràcia | 93/238–7990 | www.cines-verdi.com | Station: Gràcia, Fontana.
In a barren shopping mall, the Icaria Yelmo offers a solid mix of blockbusters and the latest releases in v.o., with many screenings in 3-D as well. | Salvador Espriu 61, Port Olímpic | 93/221–7585 | www.yelmocines.es | Station: Ciutadella–Vila Olímpica.
In Catalunya, flamenco, like bullfighting, is regarded as an import from Andalusia. However, unlike bullfighting, there is a strong interest in and market for flamenco in Barcelona.
This small, basement boîte spotlights some of Andalusia’s best flamenco in 30-minute shows of dance, percussion, and song. Think of them as flamenco “tapas” as opposed to a full-course meal of dance. At only €10 a pop, they’re a good intro to the art and feel much less touristy than most standard flamenco fare. | Pl. Reial 17, Barri Gòtic | 93/304–1210 | www.masimas.com/en/tarantos | Performances nightly at 8:30, 9:30, and 10:30 | Station: Liceu.
El Tablao de Carmen.
Large tour groups come to this venerable flamenco dinner-theater venue in the Poble Espanyol named after, and dedicated to, the legendary dancer Carmen Amaya. Die-hard flamenco aficionados might dismiss the ensembles that perform here as a tad touristy, but the dancers, singers, and guitarists are technically excellent and put on a good show. Visitors can enjoy one of the two nightly performances over a drink or over their choice of a full-course, prix-fixe meal. Reservations are recommended. | Poble Espanyol, Avda. Francesc Ferrer i Guàrdia 13, Montjuïc | 93/325–6895 | www.tablaodecarmen.com | Shows Tues.–Sun. at 7 and 9:30 | Station: Espanya.
For about a half-century, this venerable dinner theater has thrived by catering to tour groups: visitors who may or may not know that flamenco is a cultural import here in Catalunya but relish a good show when they see one. El Cordobès maintains a high standard of professionalism, booking well-known and respected performers from all over Spain; the program changes regularly, and there are performances throughout the evening, from an early show with tapas to dinner presentations. | Rambla 35, Rambla | 93/317–5711 | www.tablaocordobes.com | Station: Drassanes.
Fodor’s Choice | Gran Teatre del Liceu.
Barcelona’s famous opera house on La Rambla—in all its gilt, stained-glass, and red plush glory—runs a full season September through June, combining the Liceu’s own chorus and orchestra with first-tier, invited soloists. In addition, touring dance companies—ballet, flamenco, and modern dance—appear here. The downstairs foyer often holds early-evening recitals, while the Petit Liceu program sees child-friendly opera adaptations (though not always held in the Liceu itself). The Espai Liceu in the opera house annex includes an excellent café and a gift shop for music-related DVDs, CDs, books, instruments, and knickknacks. A tiny 50-seat theater projecting fragments of operas and a video of the history of the Liceu can be viewed as part of a tour of the building (tickets available online or in the Espai Liceu). Seats for performances can be expensive and hard to get; reserve well in advance. | La Rambla 51–59, La Rambla | 93/485–9900 | www.liceubarcelona.cat | Tours daily at 10 am (subject to performances and rehearsals). Espai Liceu weekdays 11–8. Box office weekdays 1:30–8 and 1 hr before performances on weekends | Station: Liceu.
For most of the 20th century, this venue was the most legendary of all the cabaret theaters on Avinguda Paral.lel. Modeled after Paris’s Moulin Rouge, it closed in the late 1990s as the buidling was becoming dangerously run-down. After an ambitious refurbishment, El Molino opened again in 2010 as one of the most stunning state-of-the-art cabaret theaters in Europe. The building now has five, instead of the original two, stories, with a bar and terrace on the third; the interior has been decked out with complex lighting systems that adapt to every change on the small stage. What has remained the same, however, is its essence—a contemporary version of burlesque, but bump-and-grind all the same. You can purchase tickets at the box office before performances, which start at 6:30 and 9:30. | Vilà i Vilà 99, Poble Sec | 93/205–5111 | www.elmolinobcn.com | Station: Paral.lel.
Teatre Nacional de Catalunya.
Near Plaça de les Glòries, at the eastern end of the Diagonal, this grandiose glass-enclosed classical temple was designed by Ricardo Bofill, architect of Barcelona’s airport. Programs cover everything from Shakespeare to avant-garde theater. Most productions, as the name suggests, are in Catalan. | Carrer l’Art 1, Eixample | 93/306–5700 | www.tnc.cat | Station: Glóries.
Music Clubs: Jazz and Blues
Harlem Jazz Club.
This small but exciting live music venue is a five-minute walk from Plaça Reial. The name is a bit deceiving; everything from Senegalese song to gypsy soul can be heard here, too (check website for details). Most concerts start at 10 and finish around 1 am, with musos and aficionados hanging around after ten until closing. | Comtessa de Sobradiel 8, Barri Gòtic | 93/310–0755 | www.harlemjazzclub.es | Tues.–Sun. 8 pm–3 am | Station: Jaume I, Liceu.
La Vinya del Senyor.
Ambitiously named “The Lord’s Vineyard,” this excellent wine bar directly across from the entrance to the lovely church of Santa Maria del Mar is etched into the ground floor of an ancient building. The best table is up a rickety ladder on the pint-sized mezzanine, or head outside on the terrace for people-watching. | Pl. de Santa Maria 5, Born-Ribera | 93/310–3379 | www.lavinyadelsenyor.com | Tues.–Thurs. noon–1 am, Fri. and Sat. noon–2 am, Sun. noon–midnight | Station: Jaume I.
In a tiny street off the bottom of La Rambla, this tiny hole-in-the-wall is a city treasure. Since 1947 Bar Pastis has provided a little slice of Paris deep in the Barrio Chino—the nicotine-stained walls, dusty shelves filled with ancient bottles, and bohemian patrons are all genuine. It holds acoustic gigs most nights of the week (generally starting around 10 pm) of tango, cançon, soft jazz, or anything that fits with the bar’s speakeasy groove. | Santa Mònica 4, Rambla | 634/938422 | www.barpastis.com | Daily 7:30 pm–2:30 am | Station: Drassanes.
Jamboree-Jazz and Dance-Club.
This pivotal nightspot, another happy fiefdom of the imperial Mas siblings, is a center for jazz and blues and turns into a wild hip-hop and R&B dance club after performances. Local jazz greats Randy Greer, Jordi Rossy, Billy McHenry, Gorka Benítez, and Llibert Fortuny all perform here regularly, while on Monday night the popular WTF jam sessions hold sway. | Pl. Reial 17, Rambla | 93/301–7564 | www.masimas.com/jamboree | Mon.–Sun. 8 pm–5 am. Concerts at 8 pm and 10 pm, club starts at midnight | Station: Liceu.
The twisted wooden fronds framing the bar’s mirror and Art Nouveau touches from curvy door handles to organic-shape table lamps to floral chair design make this one of the most authentic bars in Barcelona, and also the second-oldest, dating from 1860. (The oldest is the Marsella, another Raval favorite.) It’s a good spot for evening drinks after hitting the nearby the MACBA (Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona) or a prelunch vermut on weekends. | Joaquín Costa 33, El Raval | 93/318–9917 | Mon.–Thurs. 6 pm–2 am, Fri. 6 pm–3 am, Sat. noon–3 am, Sun. noon–1 am | Station: Universitat.
With heavy wooden tables, stone floors, and some cozy nooks and crannies to drink in, “the Black Sheep” is the city’s top student tavern, especially for the barely legal. Aromas of brews gone by never completely abandon the air in this cavernous hangout; the raucous crowd is usually a good match for the surroundings, though even they often get drowned out by the volume of the TV when a major-league match is on. | Sitges 5, El Raval | 93/317–1037 | www.ovellanegra.com | Weekdays 9 pm–3 am, weekends 5 pm–3 am | Station: Catalunya.
The trapeze (often in use) suspended above the bar adds even more flair to this Art Nouveau circus haunt in the Barrio Chino. Stop in at least for a look, as this is one of the Raval’s old standards, which has entertained generations of Barcelona visitors and locals with nightly gigs of jazz, blues, and occassionaly a hairy head-banger outfit. Concerts start at 10:30. | Nou de la Rambla 34, El Raval | 93/318–5261 | Weekdays 10 pm–3 am, weekends 6 pm–3:30 am | Station: Liceu, Drassanes.
Music Clubs: Jazz and Blues
Jazz Sí Club.
Run by the Barcelona contemporary music school next door, this workshop and (during the day) café is a forum for musicians, teachers, and fans to listen and debate their art. There is jazz on Monday; pop, blues, and rock jam sessions on Tuesday; jazzmen jamming on Wednesday; Cuban salsa on Thursday; flamenco on Friday; and rock and pop on weekends. The small cover charge (€5–€9, depending on which night you visit) includes a drink; no cover charge Wednesday. Gigs start between 7:30 and 8:45 pm. | Requesens 2, El Raval | 93/329–0020 | www.tallerdemusics.com | Daily 7 pm–11 pm | Station: Sant Antoni.
BARCELONETA AND PORT OLÍMPIC
Fodor’s Choice | Eclipse Bar.
On the 26th floor of the seaside W Hotel, Eclipse is undoubtedly the bar with the best view in all of Barcelona. Owned by a London hospitality group experienced in satisfying a demanding clientele, its slick interior design and roster of international DJs attract scores of beautiful people, Euro nighthawks, and local VIPs. Dress rules (i.e., your best glad rags) apply. | Pl. de la Rosa dels Vents 1,Barceloneta | 93/295–2800 | www.w-barcelona.es | Mon. and Wed. 7 pm–2 am, Tues. and Thurs. 7 pm–3 am, Fri.–Sun. 7 pm–4 am.
Gran Casino de Barcelona.
Situated on the shore underneath the Hotel Arts, Barcelona’s modern casino has everything from slot machines to roulette, plus restaurants, a bar, and a dance club. The casino regularly plays host to Texas Hold ‘em poker tournaments, which add an air of Vegas-style excitement. | Marina 19–21, Port Olímpic | 93/225–7878 | www.casino-barcelona.com | Mon.–Sun. 9 am–5 am | Station:Ciutadella–Vila Olímpica.
Surely the glitziest of Barcelona’s waterfront clubs, the Carpe Diem Lounge Club embraces all the clichés of Ibizan over-the-top decor: replica terra-cotta Chinese warriors, golden Buddhas from who knows where, Moorish filigreed arches, VIP divans compartmentalized off with billowy white drapes. The music is electronic; cocktails are exotic—and pricey. If there are celebrities in town, sooner or later they show up here. | Passeig Maritim 22, Marina Beach, Port Olímpic | 93/224–0470, 647/779 VIP services | www.cdlcbarcelona.com | Mon.–Sun. midnight–5 am | Station:Ciutadella–Vil.la Olímpica.
The hottest of the glitzerati spots below the Hotel Arts and the Frank Gehry fish, this is the place to see and be seen in Barcelona these days. The excellent restaurant morphs into a disco around midnight and continues until the wee hours of the morning, with all manner of local and international celebrities perfectly liable to make an appearance at one time or another. | Passeig Marítim de la Barceloneta 36, Port Olímpic-Barceloneta | 93/225–9200 | www.shoko.biz | Restaurant daily noon–midnight. Lounge club daily midnight–3 am | Station: Ciutadella–Vila Olímpica.
High ceilings, billiards, designer tapas by Carles Abellán, and a solid community of late evening prowling partiers contribute to the lively scene at this popular spot just below the Diagonal. Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, Velódromo is popular with a the pre- and post clubbing crowd looking to gain some strength from their excellent burgers. | Muntaner 213, Eixample | 93/430–6022 | Daily 6 am–3 am | Station: Hospital Clinic, Provença.
Dry Martini Bar.
The namesake drink of this stately and discreet establishment is the best in town, though there’s not much the adept barmen can’t shake up. This is a popular hangout for mature romantics: husbands and wives (though not necessarily each other’s) in an environment of genteel wickedness. | Aribau 162, Eixample | 93/217–5072 | www.drymartinibcn.com | Mon.–Thurs. 1 pm–2:30 am, Fri. 1 pm–3 am, Sat. 6:30 pm–3 am, Sun. 6:30 pm–2:30 am | Station: Provença.
Just off Plaça Catalunya, this basement bar is an unexpected gem in an area dominated by student bars and tourist traps. Indeed, there’s something naughty and exciting about stepping into Milano, as if by crossing the doorstep you were transported back to a Prohibition-era speakeasy of the more glamorous type: the large room with wooden floorboards and red velvet sofas, the waiters in white livery, and the large variety of whiskeys behind the bar. Live jazz and be-bop most nights (generally starting at 8:30 pm) keeps the genial vibes flowing. | Ronda Universitat 35,Eixample | 93/112–7150 | www.camparimilano.com | Daily noon–3 am | Station: Catalunya.
La Vinoteca Torres.
Miguel Torres of the Torres wine dynasty has finally given Passeig de Gràcia a respectable address for tapas and wine, with more than 50 selections from Torres wineries around the world. The menu runs from selected Spanish olives to Ramón Peña seafood from the Rías de Galicia to stick-to-your-ribs lentejas estofadas (stewed lentils) or diced chunks of Galician beef with peppers from Gernika. | Passeig de Gràcia 78, Eixample | 93/272–6625 | www.lavinotecatorres.com | Daily noon–4 and 7–1 | Station: Passeig de Gràcia.
Fodor’s Choice | Monvínic.
“Wineworld” in Catalan, Monvínic offers 3,500 wines ranging in price from €10 to a mind-popping €5,000, ordered up from their wine cellar via a tablet or explained by the exceptionally friendly staff in a sleekly designed space, concevied by veteran local desinger Alfons Tost. Small plates of perfect jamón and creative riffs on classical Catalan cuisine complement the vino, and full meals are available at the restaurant in back. | Diputació 249, Eixample | 93/272–6187 | www.monvinic.com | Weekdays 1 pm–11 pm | Station: Passeig de Gràcia.
Antilla BCN Latin Club.
This exuberantly Caribbean spot sizzles with salsa, son cubano, and merengue from the moment you step in the door. From 10 to 11 each night, enthusiastic dance instructors “teach you the secrets of the hips” for free. After that, the dancing begins and rarely stops to draw breath. This self-proclaimed “Caribbean cultural center” cranks out every variation of salsa ever invented. Thursday, see live concerts while on Friday and Saturday, the mike gives way to animated Latin DJs. | Aragó 141, Eixample | 93/451–2151 | www.antillasalsa.com | Wed. 10 pm–5 am, Thurs. 11 pm–5 am., Fri.–Sat. 11 pm–5 am, Sun. 7 pm–5 am | Station: Urgell, Hospital Clinic.
This sleek megaclub, which was reborn as part of L’Illa shopping center, boasts the best sound system in Barcelona. A smaller sala puts on concerts of emerging and cult artists—the Nigerian singer-songwriter Asa, local soulsters The Pepper Pots, and Gil Scott-Heron in one of his final performances are just some of the more memorable Bikini performances of recent years. When the gigs finish around midnight the walls roll back, and the space ingeniously turns into a sweaty nightclub for the postgrad crowd. | Diagonal 547, Eixample | 93/322–0800 | www.bikinibcn.com | Club Thurs.–Sat. midnight–6 am; concert times vary | Station: Les Corts.
Open Thursday through Saturday, midnight to dawn, this hip and happening disco just above the Diagonal has DJs that spin pop, funk, and dance music until 5 am. Though popular with the young college crowd (particularly on Thursday for University Lifestyle night), postgraduates still manage to find some dance-floor turf. | Aribau 230, Eixample | 93/414–7195 | www.grupocostabreve.com | Thurs.–Sat. midnight–5 am | Station: Provença.
Luz de Gas.
This always-wired, faux–music hall hub of musical and general nightlife activity has something going on every night, from live performances to wild late-night dancing. Though the weekly schedule varies with the arrival of international names and special events, you can generally plan for world music and Latin sounds in the live sets, while the club music is focused on soul and standards. | Muntaner 246, Eixample | 93/209–7711 | www.luzdegas.com | Club: Tues.–Sun. midnight–5 am. Live performance times vary, but shows generally start around 9 pm | Station: Muntaner, Provença.
One of the original bars diseny (designer bars) that proliferated the city in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, sadly little of Nick Havanna’s ground-breaking postmodern decor—which included a giant pendulum swaying over the dance floor—remains. The clientele has modified, too, with a young, postgrad crowd instead of the former creative class. Regulars throng to this mid-Eixample bar from Thursday onward, kicking up their end-of-week heels to thumping feel-good standards and Latino hits. | Rosselló 208, Eixample | 639/471679 | www.nickhavannabcn.com | Thurs.–Sat. midnight–6 am, Sun. midnight–5:30 am | Station: Provença.
Just off Via Augusta, above Diagonal, this nightclub and disco is a perennial Barcelona favorite that keeps attracting a glitzy mix of Barcelona movers and shakers, models, ex-models, wannabe models, and the hoping-to-get-lucky mob that predictably follows this sort of pulchritude. Hip-hop, house, and Latino make up the standard soundtrack on the dance floor, with mellower notes upstairs and in the coveted Altos Club Privé (or VIP section, to you and me). | Lincoln 15, Eixample | 93/238–0722 | www.ottozutz.com | Wed.–Sat. midnight–6 am | Station: Sant Gervasi, Plaça Molina.
The only item or furniture recalling the times when this Gràcia bar was a traditional bodega is the large wooden fridge behind the bar. As for the rest, the Catalan chansons have been replaced by funk and soul music and the occassional football match on the TV, the elderly men at the bar by cheerful thirtysomethings, the cheap wine by elaborate gin-tonics. What remains, however, is a distinctly local and honest atmosphere, rejecting all pretense of “see-and-be-seen” and inviting everyone, regardless of age or nationality, to come in and have a good time. | Santa Rosa 14, Gràcia | 93/218–8796 | Mon.–Sat. 4 pm–3 am | Station: Fontana.
Fodor’s Choice | Viblioteca.
Viblioteca is the latest project of the owners of the bohemian Gràcia cocktail bar La Baignore, and here they’ve moved things up a notch. Dazzling white interiors, a large assortment of cured meats, cheeses, and salads, a few choice liquors—plus a selection of exquisite wines, each in limited supply, personally sourced and served together with the story behind it. Come for a quick glass at the bar or have a bottle or two at your table. It is best to reserve in advance since the small space fills up quickly. | Vallfogona 12, Gràcia | 93/284–4202 | www.viblioteca.com | Weekdays 6 pm–1 am, Sat. 1–4 pm and 6 pm–1 am, Sun. 1–4 pm and 7–midnight | Station: Fontana.
Razzmatazz stages weeknight concerts featuring international draws from James Taylor to Moriarty The small-format environment is extraordinarily intimate and beats out sports stadiums or the immense Palau Sant Jordi as a top venue for concerts. It shares its Friday and Saturday club madness with neighboring sister venture the Loft, around the corner, and has four other smaller salas where anything could happen, from an indie film shoot to Jarvis Cocker spinning discs at a private party. | Almogavers 122, Poblenou | 93/320–8200 | www.salarazzmatazz.com | Concert times vary (but shows generally start around 10 pm) | Station: Marina, Bogatell.
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Biking | Soccer
Bike Tours Barcelona.
This company offers a three-hour bike tour (in English) for €22, with a drink included. Just look for the guide with a bike and a red flag at the northeast corner of the Town Hall in Plaça Sant Jaume, outside the Tourist Information Office. Tours depart at 11 am and 4:30 pm, daily from April 1 to September 15. The company will also organize private guided tours through the Barri Gòtic, parks, Port Olímpic and Barceloneta, the Moderniste Route and other itineraries on request. | Carrer Esparteria 3, Barri Gòtic | 93/2682105 | www.biketoursbarcelona.com | Station: Jaume I.
Just off pivotal Plaça Catalunya, bicycles are available for rent here every day of the week from 9:30 am to 8 pm. The 24-hour rate is €15; take a bike in the morning and return it by closing time for €12; or ride for two hours for €6. | Tallers 45, El Raval | 93/317–1970 | www.classicbikes.es | Station: Pl. Catalunya.
If you’re in Barcelona between September and June, a chance to witness the celebrated FC Barcelona play soccer (preferably against Real Madrid, if you can get in) at Barcelona’s gigantic stadium is a seminal Barcelona experience. Just the walk down to the field from the Diagonal with another hundred thousand fans walking fast and hushed in electric anticipation is unforgettable. Games are played Saturday night at 9 or Sunday afternoon at 5, though there may be international Champions League games on Tuesday or Wednesday evenings as well. A worthwhile alternative to seeing a game is the guided tour of the FC Barcelona museum—the city’s most visited tourist attraction—and facilities. | Arístides Maillol 12–18, Les Corts | 93/496–3600 for museum, 902/189900 for club office | www.fcbarcelona.cat | Museum €23, combined ticket including tour of museum, field, and sports complex | Museum Mon.–Sat. 10 am–6:30 pm (until 8 Apr.–Oct.), Sun. 10–2:30. On match days, the museum closes 3 hrs early, and stadium tours are not available. | Station: Collblanc, Palau Reial.
Futbol Club Barcelona.
Founded in 1899, the Futbol Club Barcelona attained its greatest glory in May 2009, when its victory over Manchester United in Rome sealed the club’s third European Championship and Spain’s first-ever triplete (triple), taking home all of the silverware: League, Cup, and European titles. Even more impressive, to friend and foe alike, was the way they did it, playing a wide-open razzle-dazzle style of soccer rarely seen in the age of cynical defensive lockdowns and muscular British-style play. Barça, as the club is affectionately known, is Real Madrid’s perennial nemesis (and vice-versa) as well as a sociological and historical phenomenon of deep significance in Catalonia. Ticket windows at Access 14 to the stadium are open Monday though Saturday and game-day Sunday 10–2 and 5–8; you can also buy tickets at Servicaixa ATMs at Caixa de Catalunya banks, through ticket agencies, and directly online. | Camp Nou, Aristides Maillol 12, Les Corts | 93/496–3600, 902/189900 | www.fcbarcelona.com | Station: Collblanc.
Spain Ticket Bureau.
This company can score seats for Barça home games, as well as other sporting events, concerts, and musicals, in Barcelona and elsewhere in Spain. Booking ahead online is a good idea, especially for headliner events, but expect to pay a healthy premium. | Rambla de Catalunya 89, Entl. A, Eixample | 93/4882266, 902/903912 | www.spainticketbureau.com | Station: Passeig de Gràcia, Catalunya.
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Shopping Districts | Barri Gòtic | Born-Ribera | La Rambla | El Raval | Eixample | Poblenou
Between the surging fashion scene, a host of young clothing designers, clever home furnishings, rare and delicious foodstuffs, and art and antiques, Barcelona might just be the best place in Spain to unload extra ballast from your wallet.
Barcelona’s prime shopping districts are the Passeig de Gràcia, Rambla de Catalunya, Plaça de Catalunya, Porta de l’Àngel, and Avinguda Diagonal up to Carrer Ganduxer.
For high fashion, browse along Passeig de Gràcia and Rambla Catalunya and along the Diagonal between Plaça Joan Carles I and Plaça Francesc Macià. Bulevard Rosa is a fashion and shopping mall off Passeig de Gràcia. For old-fashioned Spanish shops, prowl the Gothic Quarter, especially Carrer Ferran. The area surrounding Plaça del Pi, from the Boqueria to Carrer Portaferrissa and Carrer de la Canuda, is thick with boutiques, jewelers, and design shops. The Barri de la Ribera, around Santa Maria del Mar, especially the Born area, has a cluster of design, fashion, and food shops. Design, jewelry, and knickknacks shops cluster on Carrer Banys Vells and Carrer Flassaders, near Carrer Montcada. The place to go for antiques is the Gothic Quarter, where Carrer de la Palla and Carrer Banys Nous are lined with shops full of prints, maps, books, paintings, and furniture. An antiques market is held in front of the Catedral de la Seu every Thursday 10–8. Carrer Tuset, north of the Diagonal, has lots of small boutiques. The Maremagnum mall, in Port Vell, is convenient to downtown. Diagonal Mar, at the eastern end of the diagonal, and the Fòrum complex offer many shopping options in a mega-shopping-mall environment. Les Arenes, the former bullring at Plaça Espanya, has reopened as a shopping mall with FNAC, Mango, Desigual, and Sephora among other stores, as well as 12 movie theaters, restaurants, and the Museu del Rock. Carrer Lledó, just off Plaça Sant Just, in the Barri Gòtic behind Plaça Sant Jaume, is a lovely little street lined with shops selling clothes, gifts, and design items. For art, browse the cluster of galleries on Carrer Consell de Cent between Passeig de Gràcia and Carrer Balmes and around the corner on Rambla de Catalunya. The Born–Santa Maria del Mar quarter is another art destination, along Carrer Montcada and the parallel Carrer Banys Vells.
Not to be overlooked are Barcelona’s many street markets and fairs. On Thursday, a natural-produce market (honey, cheese) fills Plaça del Pi with interesting tastes and aromas. On Sunday morning, Plaça Reial hosts a stamp and coin market, Plaça Sant Josep Oriol holds a painter’s market, and there is a general crafts and flea market near the Columbus Monument at the port end of the Rambla. Sarrià holds a farmers’ market with excellent cheeses, sausages, cavas, and vegetables from the Catalonian hinterlands in Plaça de Sarrià on the second and fourth Sunday of every month.
Bric-a-brac is piled high in this workshop near the middle of this slender artery in the medieval Jewish Quarter. This master craftsman restores and sells antique furniture of all kinds. Stop by and stick your head in for the fragrance of the shellacs and wood shavings and a look at one of the last simple carpentry and woodworking shops you’ll encounter in contemporary, design-mad, early-21st-century Barcelona. | Carrer Sant Domènec del Call 9, Barri Gòtic | 93/301–0045 | Mon.–Sat. 10–2 and 5–8 | Station: Liceu, Jaume I.
The dean of Barcelona’s art galleries, this place opened in 1840 as an art-supplies shop; as a gallery, it dates to 1877, and has shown every Barcelona artist of note since then. Picasso and Miró showed here, as did Casas and Rossinyol before them. Nowadays, Catalan artists like Perico Pastor and Miquel Macaya get pride of place. | Petritxol 5, Barri Gòtic | 93/318–7020 | www.salapares.com | Mon. 4–8, Tues.–Fri. 10:30–2 and 4–8, Sat. 10:30–2 and 4:30–8:30, Sun. (June–Oct. only) 11:30–2 | Station: Liceu, Catalunya.
BOOKS AND STATIONERY
Exquisite hand-printed papers, marbleized blank books, and writing implements await you and your muse at this tiny, medieval-tone shop. | Baixada de la Llibreteria 2, Barri Gòtic | 93/310–5242 | www.papirum-bcn.com | Weekdays 10–8:30, Sat. 10–2 and 5–8:30 | Station: Jaume I.
Ceramic pieces from all over Spain are on display at this large store across the street from restaurant Los Caracoles; more than 140 different artisans are represented, with maps showing what part of Spain the work is from. Wine, cheese, and ham tastings are held downstairs, and you can even throw a pot yourself in the workshop. | Carrer Escudellers 23–25, Barri Gòtic | 93/412–6801 | www.escudellers-art.com | Daily 11–11 | Station: Liceu, Drassanes.
Whether you’re planning a trek through the Pyrenees or a beach yoga session, this mega–sports emporium should be your first port of call. From waterproof clothing to footballs to bike repairs, it caters to every conceivable sport and active hobby. Affordable and always busy, Decathlon is the best place to pick up practical travel clothing, such as that forgotten fleece jacket for a sudden cold snap. | Canuda 20, Barri Gòtic | 93/342–6161 | www.decathlon.es | Mon.–Sat. 9:30–9:30 | Station: Catalunya.
L’Arca de L’Àvia.
As the name of the place (“grandmother’s trunk”) suggests, this is a miscellaneous potpourri of ancient goods of all kinds, especially period clothing, from shoes to gloves to hats and hairpins. Despite the found-object attitude and ambience of the place, they’re not giving away these vintage baubles, so don’t be surprised at the hefty price tags. | Banys Nous 20, Barri Gòtic | 93/302–1598 | www.larcadelavia.com | Weekdays 11–2 and 5–8, Sat. 11–2 and 5–8:30 | Station: Liceu.
Fodor’s Choice | The Outpost.
A shop dedicated exclusively to men’s accessories of the finest kind, the Outpost was created by a former Prada buyer who considers it his mission to bring stylishness to Barcelona men with this little island of avant-garde. The constantly changing window displays are little works of art, providing a first taste of what’s to be found inside: Christian Peau shoes, Albert Thurston suspenders, Roland Pineau belts, Yves Andrieux hats, Balenciaga ties. | Rosselló 281, bis, Eixample | 93/457–7137 | www.theoutpostbcn.com | Mon.–Sat. 10:30–2:30 and 4:30–8:30 | Station: Diagonal.
The local Catalan designer Sita Murt produces smart, grown-up women’s wear under her own label in this minimalist space near Plaça Sant Jaume. Colorful chiffon dresses and light, gauzy tops and knits characterize this line of clothing popular with professional women and weddinggoers. | Mallorca 242, Eixample | 93/215–2231 | www.sitamurt.com | Mon.–Sat. 10–8:30 | Station: Passeig de Gràcia.
At the corner of Carrer de la Palla and Banys Nous, this tearoom and coffee shop sells crafts and foods such as honey and preserves made in convents and monasteries all over Spain. The café and tearoom section extends neatly out into the intersection of Carrer Banys Nous (which means “new baths”) and Carrer de la Palla, directly over the site of the medieval Jewish baths. | Carrer de la Palla 8, Barri Gòtic | 93/302–6993 | www.caelumbarcelona.com | Mon.–Thurs. 10:30–8:30, Fri.–Sat. 10:30 am–11 pm, Sun. 10:30–9 | Station: Jaume I.
A browser’s bonanza, this interesting if somewhat pricey Thursday market for antique clothing, jewelry, and art objects occupies the plaza in front of the cathedral. | Pl. de la Seu s/n, Barri Gòtic | www.mercatgotic.com | Station: Jaume I, Urquinaona.
Fodor’s Choice | La Manual Alpargatera.
If you appreciate old-school craftsmanship in footwear, visit this boutique just off Carrer Ferran. Handmade rope-sole sandals and espadrilles are the specialty, and this shop has sold them to everyone—including the Pope. The flat, beribboned espadrille model used for dancing the sardana is available, as are newly fashionable wedge heels with peep toes and comfy slippers. | Avinyó 7,Barri Gòtic | 93/301–0172 | www.lamanual.net | Mon.–Sat. 9:30–1:30 and 4:30–8 | Station: Liceu, Jaume I.
CLOTHING AND JEWELRY
Coquette specializes in the kind of understated, feminine beauty that Parisian women know to do so well. The now three shops (two in the Born, one uptown) present a small, careful selection of mainly French designers, like Isabel Marant, Vanessa Bruno, Laurence Doligé, and Chloé. Whether it’s a romantic or a seductive look you’re after, Coquette makes sure you’ll feel both comfortable and irresistible. | Rec 65, Born-Ribera | 93/319–2976 | www.coquettebcn.com | Weekdays 11–3 and 5–9, Sat 11:30–8:30 | Station: Jaume I.
Fodor’s Choice | Cortana.
A sleek and breezy Balearic Islands–look for women is what this designer from Mallorca brings to the fashion scene of urban Barcelona in a whitewashed shop reminiscent of an art gallery. Her dresses transmit a casual, minimalistic elegance and have graced many a red carpet in Madrid. | Flassaders 41, Born-Ribera | 93/310–1255 | www.cortana.es | Mon. 3–8, Tues.–Sat. 11–2 and 3–8 | Station: Jaume I.
Ever since Custido Dalmau and his brother David returned from a round-the-world motorcycle tour with visions of California surfing styles dancing in their heads, Custo Barcelona has been a runaway success doling out clingy cotton tops in bright and cheery hues. Now scattered all over Barcelona and the globe, Custo is scoring even more acclaim by expanding into coats, dresses, and kidswear. | Pl. de les Olles 7, Born-Ribera | 93/268–7893 | www.custo-barcelona.com | Daily 10–9 | Station: Jaume I.
Fodor’s Choice | Casa Gispert.
On the inland side of Santa Maria del Mar, this shop is one of the most aromatic and picturesque in Barcelona, bursting with teas, coffees, spices, saffron, chocolates, and nuts. The star element in this olfactory and aesthetic feast is an almond-roasting stove in the back of the store—purportedly the oldest in Europe, dating from 1851, like the store itself. But don’t miss the acid engravings on the office windows or the ancient wooden back door before picking up a bag of freshly roasted nuts to take with you. | Sombrerers 23, Born-Ribera | 93/319–7547 | www.casagispert.com | Tues.–Sat. 9:30–2 and 4–8:30, Sat. 10–2 and 5–8:30 (also Mon. late Oct.–Dec.) | Station: Jaume I.
This coffee emporium just up the street from Santa Maria del Mar is famous for its sacks of coffee beans from all over the globe. Coffee to go is also available—enjoy it on the little bench outside. | Carrer Argenteria 64, Born-Ribera | 93/319–3975 | www.cafeselmagnifico.com | Mon.–Sat. 10–8 | Station: Jaume I.
Mey Hofmann, a constellation in Barcelona’s gourmet galaxy for the last three decades through her restaurant and cooking courses, has a sideline dedicated exclusively to pastry. Everything from the lightest, flakiest croissants to the cakes, tarts, and ice creams are about as good they get in this sweets emporium just off the Passeig del Born. | Flassaders 44, Born-Ribera | 93/268–8221 | www.hofmann-bcn.com | Mon.–Wed 9–2 and 3:30–8, Thurs.–Sat. 9–2 and 3:30–8:30, Sun. 9–2:30 | Station: Jaume I.
La Botifarreria de Santa Maria.
This busy emporium next to the church of Santa Maria del Mar stocks excellent cheeses, hams, pâtés, and homemade sobrasadas. Botifarra, Catalan for sausage, is the main item here, with a wide range of varieties, including egg sausage for meatless Lent and sausage stuffed with spinach, asparagus, cider, cinnamon, and Cabrales cheese. | Santa Maria 4, Born-Ribera | 93/319–9123 | www.labotifarreria.com | Weekdays 8:30–2:30 and 5–8:30, Sat. 8:30–3 | Station: Jaume I.
Fodor’s Choice | Vila Viniteca.
Near Santa Maria del Mar, this is perhaps the best wine treasury in Barcelona, with tastings, courses, and events meriting further investigation, including a hugely popular street party to welcome in new-harvest wines (usually late October or early November). The tiny family grocery store next door offers exquisite artisanal cheeses ranging from French goat cheese to Extremadura’s famous Torta del Casar. | Carrer Agullers 7, Born-Ribera | 93/777–7017 | www.vilaviniteca.es | Mon.–Sat 8:30–8:30 | Station: Jaume I.
Mercat de La Boqueria.
The oldest of its kind in Europe, Barcelona’s most colorful and bustling food market is a must-see for anybody interested in food, and especially Catalan cuisine. Predictably, the front stalls cater more to tourists with juices to go, bags of candy, and the like. Make your way to the center to the remarkable sea-creature stalls, bloody-offal sellers, and many stand-up bars where famous chefs on their daily sourcing missions sit cheek-by-jowl with banana vendors taking a break. Standout stalls include Petràs, the wild mushroom guru at the back of the market on Plaça de la Gardunya, and Juanito Bayen of the world-famous collection of bar stools known as Pinotxo. | Rambla 91, Rambla | 93/318–2017 | www.boqueria.info | Mon.–Sat. 8–8 | Station: Liceu, Catalunya.
La Central del Raval.
This luscious bookstore in the former chapel of the Casa de la Misericòrdia sells books amid stunning architecture and holds regular cultural events. | Elisabets 6, El Raval | 902/884–990 | www.lacentral.com | Weekdays 9:30–9, Sat. 10–9 | Station: Catalunya.
Bulevard dels Antiquaris.
Look carefully for the stairway leading one flight up to this 73-store mother ship of all antiques arcades off Passeig de Gràcia. You never know what you might find here in this eclectic serendipity: dolls, icons, Roman or Visigothic objects, paintings, furniture, cricket kits, fly rods, or toys from a century ago. Haggle? Of course—but Catalan antiques dealers are tough nuts to crack. | Passeig de Gràcia 55, Eixample | 93/215–4499 | www.bulevarddelsantiquaris.com | Daily 10–2 and 4–8 | Station: Passeig de Gràcia.
Galeria Joan Prats.
“La Prats” has been one of the city’s top galleries since the 1920s, showing international painters and sculptors from Henry Moore to Antoni Tàpies. Barcelona painter Joan Miró was a prime force in the founding of the gallery when he became friends with Joan Prats. The motifs of bonnets and derbies on the gallery’s facade attest to the trade of Prats’s father. José Maria Sicilia and Juan Ugalde have shown here, while Erick Beltrán, Hannah Collins, and Eulàlia Valldosera are among the regulars. | Rambla de Catalunya 54, Eixample | 93/216–0920 | www.galeriajoanprats.com | Tues.–Sat. 11–8 | Station: Passeig de Gràcia.
One of Barcelona’s most prestigious galleries, Joan Gaspart and his father before him brought Picasso and Miró back to Catalunya during the ‘50s and ‘60s, along with other artists considered politically taboo during the Franco regime. These days you’ll find leading contemporary lights such as Joan Pere Viladecans, Rafols Casamada, or Susana Solano here. | Pl. Dr. Letamendi 1,Eixample | 93/323–0748 | www.galeriajoangaspar.com | Mon.–Sat. 10:30–1:30 and 4:30–8 | Station: Universitat.
An old timer in the established Consell de Cent gallery scene, Sala Dalmau shows an interesting and heterodox range of Catalan and international artists. | Consell de Cent 349, Eixample | 93/215–4592 | www.saladalmau.com | Mon.–Sat. 11–1:30 and 5–8:30. Closed Sat. in July and Aug. | Station: Passeig de Gràcia.
This midtown Eixample bookstore is a prime address for books in English. | Roger de Llúria 118, Eixample | 93/457–7692 | www.bcnbooks.com | Weekdays 10–8, Sat. 10–2 | Station: Verdaguer, Diagonal.
Casa del Llibre.
On Barcelona’s most important shopping street, Casa del Llibre is a major book feast with a wide variety of English titles. | Passeig de Gràcia 62, Eixample | 902/026–407 | www.casadellibro.com | Mon.–Sat. 9:30–9:30 | Station: Passeig de Gràcia.
Fodor’s Choice | Lladró.
This Valencia company is famed worldwide for the beauty and quality of its figures. Barcelona’s only Lladró factory store, this location has exclusive pieces of work, custom-designed luxury items of gold and porcelain, and classic and original works. Watch for the cheeky figurines by Jaime Hayon, a young Spanish designer put in charge of injecting the 60-year old company with some colorful postmodernism. | Passeig de Gràcia 101, Eixample | 93/270–1253 | www.lladro.com | Mon.–Sat. 10–8:30 | Station: Diagonal.
One of Barcelona’s longtime fashion giants, this is one of Spain’s leading clothes designers, with many locations around town. Famed as the creator of the Iberia Airlines uniforms, Adolfo Domínguez has been in the not-too-radical mainstream and at the forefront of Spanish clothes design for the last quarter century. | Passeig de Gràcia 32, Eixample | 619/660–277 | www.adolfodominguez.com | Mon.–Sat. 10-8:30 | Station: Passeig De Grácia.
Occupying the ground floor of Lluís Domènech i Montaner’s Casa Lleó Morera, Loewe is Spain’s answer to Hermès, a classical clothing and leather emporium for men’s and women’s fashions and luxurious handbags that whisper status. Farther north along the Passeig de Grácia at No. 91, the Galería Loewe holds stylish, sporadic shows on fashion and costume. | Passeig de Gràcia 35,Eixample | 93/216–0400 | www.loewe.es | Mon.–Sat. 10–8:30 | Station: Passeig de Gràcia.
Known as a gifted fabric expert whose creations are invariably based on the qualities and characteristics of her raw materials, Galicia-born Purificación García enjoys solid prestige in Barcelona. Understated hues and subtle combinations of colors and shapes place this contemporary designer squarely in the camp of the less-is-more school, and although her women’s range is larger and more diverse, she is one female designer who understands men’s tailoring. | Provença 292, Eixample | 93/496–1336 | www.purificaciongarcia.com | Mon.–Sat. 10–8:30 | Station: Diagonal. | Av. Pau Casals 4, Eixample | 93/200–6089 | www.purificaciongarcia.com | Mon.–Sat. 10:30–8:30 | Station: Muntaner
El Corte Inglés.
This iconic and ubiquitous Spanish department store has its main Barcelona branch on Plaça Catalunya, with an annex 100 yards away in Porta de l’Àngel. You can find just about anything here—clothing, shoes, perfumes, electrical gadgets—and there is a wonderful supermarket on the lower-ground floor. | Pl. de Catalunya 14, Eixample | 93/306–3800 | www.elcorteingles.es | Mon.–Sat. 9:30–9:30 | Station: Catalunya | Av. Diagonal 617, Diagonal/Les Corts | 93/419–2828 | Station: Maria Cristina | Pl. Francesc Macià, Av. Diagonal 471, Eixample | 93/419–2020 | Station: La Bonanova | Portal de l’Àngel 19–21, Barri Gòtic | 93/306–3800 | Station: Catalunya.
Fodor’s Choice | Mantequeria Can Ravell.
Can Ravell is one of Barcelona’s best, and certainly most charming, fine-food and wine emporiums. Open for the good part of a century, it is a cult favorite with local and visiting gourmands and has a superb selection of everything you ever might want to savor, from the finest anchovies from La Scala to the best cheese from Idiazabal. Through the kitchen and up the tiny spiral staircase, the dining room offers a memorable, if pricey, lunch, while the tasting table downstairs operates on a first-come, first-served basis. | Aragó 313, Eixample | 93/457–5114 | www.ravell.com | Tues.–Sat. 10–9, Sun. 10–3 | Station: Girona.
GIFTS AND SOUVENIRS
Jaime Beriestain Concept Store.
The concept store of one of the city’s hottest interior designers provides mere mortals the chance to appreciate the Beriestain groove. Reflecting his projects for hotels and restaurants, the shop offers an exciting mixture of midcentury-modern classics and new design pieces, peppered with freshly cut flowers (also for sale), French candles, handmade stationery, and the latest international design and architecture magazines to dress up your coffee table. The in-store café is worth a visit. | Pau Claris 167, Eixample | 93/515–0779 | www.beriestain.com | Mon.–Sat. 10–9 | Station:Diagonal.
Fodor’s Choice | Vinçon.
A design giant some 70 years old, Vinçon steadily expanded its stylish premises through a rambling Moderniste house that was once the home and studio of the Art Nouveau artist Ramón Casas. It stocks everything from letter openers to Eames furniture, and has an interesting front-of-house section for chic, locally made knickknacks. If you can tear your eyes away from all the design, seek out the spectacular Moderniste fireplace on the first floor (in reality the furniture department), designed in wild Art Nouveau exuberance with a gigantic hearth in the form of a stylized face. | Passeig de Gràcia 96, Eixample | 93/215–6050 | www.vincon.com | Mon.–Sat. 10–8:30 | Station: Diagonal.
Els Encants Vells.
One of Europe’s oldest flea markets, Els Encants has recently been gifted with a new home—a stunning, glittering metal canapy that protects the rag-and-bone merchants (and their keen customers) from the elements. Stalls, and a handful of standup bars, have become a bit more upmarket, too, although you’ll still find plenty of oddities to barter over in the central plaza. | Plaça de Les Glóries Catalans s/n, Eixample | 93/246–3030 | www.encantsbcn.com | Mon., Wed., and Fri.–Sat. 9–8 | Station: Glòries.
HOUSEHOLD ITEMS AND FURNITURE
bd (Barcelona Design).
This spare, cutting-edge home-furnishings store has just moved into a former industrial building near the sea. Cofounder Oscar Tusquets, master designer and architect, gives contemporary design star Javier Mariscal plenty of space here, while past giants such as Gaudí with his Casa Calvet chair, or Salvador Dalí and his Gala love seat, are also available—if your pockets are deep enough. | Ramón Turró 126, Poblenou | 93/457–0052 | www.bdbarcelona.com | Weekdays 9–6 | Station: Llacuna, Bogatell.