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Barcelonaspain's sleepless city

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1 City 5 Ways

Barcelona by Siqui Sánchez

Photo by Siqui Sánchez

Strolling down La Rambla to La Boqueria, the famous covered market, it sometimes seems as if half the world is strolling along with you. Barcelona was once the Mediterranean’s great secret, a hidden treasure of modernist architecture and wonderful, Gothic neighborhoods. Today it’s one of the most popular cities in the world. Now you’ll find great restaurants—as well as a distinctively Catalan charm—in previously unexceptional barrios such as Poble-Sec or Poblenou. Barcelona may have captured the world’s heart during the 1992 Olympics, but it hasn’t stopped growing and changing since.


Hotel Arts.        

Where to Stay: Hotel Arts
Look out of the window from Hotel Arts and you’ll see Frank Gehry’s 52-meter steel sculpture “Fish,” changing color with the light. Inside there are more than 500 works of art in this luxurious, skyscraper hotel. 

Morning: Museo Picasso
At 15, Picasso was already an incredible artist. This museum allows you to follow his progress, from perfecting his technique to going beyond figurative art to create a whole new style. 

Afternoon: Fundació Joan Miró
Take the funicular up to Montjuïc Park, where Barcelona is laid out below like a work of art itself. At the top is a quiet museum devoted to the city’s “second-best” 20th-century artist, Joan Miró. 

Dinner: Pakta
The brightly colored cords stretched across the ceiling represent a traditional Peruvian weaving loom. The rest of the décor is Japanese and the cuisine, nikkei, is a perfect fusion of both.

Night Out: Palau de la Música
This gold-leafed concert hall was designed by Lluís Domènech i Montaner, one of the greats of modernist architecture. You can pay for a tour, but it’s often cheaper and more enjoyable to buy a ticket for a show. 


Bodega 1900.        

Where to Stay: Mercer Hotel Barcelona
Lean on the stone walls at the recently renovated Mercer Hotel and it’s not always clear whether you’re touching one of the new bits or the original Roman wall. Happily, all this history comes with modern comforts, including a terrace bar with views over the Gothic Quarter. 

Morning: Granja Viader
The Gothic Quarter’s granjas are tiny cafés famous for their hot chocolate. Try the el Suizo (the Swiss), which comes with an enormous dollop of cream. 

Lunch: Bodega 1900
Owned by Ferran and Albert Adrià, whose el Bulli was dubbed the “best restaurant in the world,” this vermouth bar is Albert’s homage to the simpler pleasures of ham, oysters, calamari and, of course, vermouth. 

Afternoon: Cathedral
Barcelona’s cathedral may have been overshadowed by Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia, but it has its own Gothic grandeur. Check out the gardens in the cloisters, complete with the 13 geese who traditionally served as its alarm system. 

Late Drink: Boadas
Barcelona’s oldest cocktail bar opened in 1933, stayed open during the civil war and hasn’t changed since. It’s a tiny place of polished wood and gleaming bottles. The founder’s daughter still serves behind the bar. 


Dry Martini photo by Jordi Poch.        

Where to Stay: Hotel Mandarin Oriental
Patricia Urquiola’s design for the Mandarin Oriental uses Chinese artworks and natural light to create an ambience that’s as serene in the gorgeous dining rooms and suites as in the deeply luxurious spa. 

Shopping: The Outpost
With décor that incorporates dark wood and armchairs, this is a shop for men who don’t feel properly dressed unless they’re wearing the right accessories.

Lunch: ABaC
Chef Jordi Cruz uses typically Catalan experimentalism for a purpose—not just to impress the critics. For evidence, try the balls of “liquid Parmesan gnocchi,” which explode delightfully in the mouth. 

Afternoon: La Sagrada Familia
La Sagrada Familia, now officially consecrated as a church even though it’s not finished, is even more spectacular from the inside than it is from out. Gaudi’s fluid design still seems futuristic almost 90 years after his death. 

Cocktails: Dry Martini
With its “English gentlemen’s club” stylings of oak and leather, Dry Martini is like stepping into a bar from another age. However, the cocktail that lent this bar its name will never go out of fashion. 


Barceloneta; shutterstock.com.        

Where to Stay: Cocoon
Cocoon Barcelona has a range of apartments available, from New York loft-style chic right on La Rambla (The Manhattan) to relatively inexpensive places in the Gothic Quarter (the Gotic suite). 

Morning: Park Guell
Gaudi enthusiasts can be a serious breed, but at Park Guell you can see the legendary architect’s sense of fun. The pavilion at the entrance looks like it’s made out of polished chunks of delicious ginger candy. 

Lunch: Pudding
Pudding starts with the premise that if children are happy, their parents probably will be, too. It serves sandwiches, pastries and great coffee, while kids can play with books, games and even iPads. 

Play Time: Tibidabo
From many parts of Barcelona, you can see the spires of the Sagrat Cor church at the top of Tibidabo Mountain. Of more interest to children, perhaps, is the gentle yet charming amusement park alongside. 

Afternoon Dip: Barceloneta
This beach is one of several that make up the once-neglected shoreline of Barcelona, which now features a five-mile strip of sand imported from Egypt after the 1992 Olympics.


The Dog is Hot photo by Rodrigo Stocco.        

Where to Stay: Hostal Poblenou
Poblenou could well be the next cool barrio in Barcelona. This small B & B is just around the corner from the quarter’s lively main drag and its six rooms, named after Catalan artists, have elegant, tiled floors and charming wooden shutters. 

Morning: Vincon
At this art and design store, even the bags have become collectable. Style lovers will want to fill them with everything from the fabulous metal bookends (the man reading a paper is particularly cool) to the alphabet candles and elegant fondue set. 

Afternoon Coffee: Caelum
The upstairs space here features a brightly feminine café and a small shop stocked with sweets and cakes made by nuns. Downstairs, in what was once the city’s Jewish baths, are great stone arches and candlelit tables for two. 

Quick Dinner: The Dog is Hot
With its graffiti-covered walls, The Dog is Hot stands out even in the cool, grimy Raval neighborhood. It’s all about hot dogs and, if anything, the veggie tofu dog is tops. 

Drink: Bharma
The spiritual home of the city’s subculture of “frikis”—geeks—is here at Bharma. Designed as a homage to the TV show Lost, it also shows screenings of classic sci-fi flicks such as Star Trek. 

1 City 5 Ways: Barcelona

Hotel Pulitzer

Hotel Pulitzer. Photo by My Umbrella Studio.

Barcelona may be known for its beaches and the Sagrada Família, but there is much more to this Mediterranean metropolis, the capital of Catalonia. Fiercely proud of its culture and heritage, the city is an eclectic mix of traditional and modern—with a vibrant arts and music scene and nightlife to indulge your inner night owl like no place else. Mostly walkable but also with excellent public transport, bicycle lanes and affordable taxis, Barcelona is made for sightseeing by day and bona vida—wine-and-tapas-fueled time with family and friends—by night.



Where to Stay: El Palace Hotel
Having hosted Salvador Dalí, Ella Fitzgerald and Placido Domingo, the hotel’s Classic Arts Suites—each named after an artist— will enthuse your explorations of Barcelona’s lively arts scene. 

Morning: Bellesguard
Designed by Antoni Gaudí and inspired by a medieval castle, Bellesguard takes its name from the sweeping views of the city. Visit the manor house and the gardens to learn how its long history influenced Gaudí’s creation. 

Midday: Mosaiccos and 4 Gats
Learn trencadis, Gaudí’s mosaic method. Using broken tile, make your own mosaic piece and then head to 4 Gats—a city icon and the place of Picasso’s first exhibition—for lunch.  

Afternoon: Casa de les Punxes and Casa Amatller
Both buildings are examples of Catalan modernism, the former inspired by the Middle Ages and the latter commissioned by a chocolatier. After a tour, enjoy Amatller chocolates in the café.  

Evening: Carrer d’Enric Granados
Stroll this pedestrian street full of galleries, antiques shops, small boutiques and café terraces. Have a snack at café/gallery Cosmo before heading to Palau de la Música Catalana for a concert.



Castells de Catalunya         
Castells de Catalunya.        

Where to Stay: Cotton House Hotel
Occupying the former headquarters of the Cotton Textile Association, the hotel preserves many of the building’s original elements, including L’Atelier, where your measurements can still be taken for made-to-order garments. 

Morning: Sandeman’s New Europe Free Tour
For a city exploration that mixes history with storytelling, take this walking tour. A tip-based payment structure ensures a guide who will entertain while sharing facts about the city you won’t hear anywhere else. 

Midday: Museu d’Història de Barcelona
This museum offers a glimpse into the life of medieval Barcelona, and nearby Restaurant 7 Portes serves dishes that have evolved over 181 years.  

Afternoon: Castells de Catalunya
Watch rehearsals and partake in building human towers, a Catalan tradition inscribed on UNESCO’s Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. 

Evening: Just Royal Bcn
Experience what it was like to be among Barcelona’s most notable citizenry—and their servants—by cooking and then eating your dinner in a 16th-century house of the nobility. 



Mastinell Cava & Hotel         
Mastinell Cava & Hotel.        

Where to Stay: Mastinell Cava & Hotel
Built to resemble cava bottles on a rack, the hotel has 12 rooms, most with views of surrounding vineyards. Guests are welcomed with a bottle of cava and chocolate-covered almonds. 

Morning: Vinseum
Occupying the former palace of the kings of Aragon, the museum’s collection explores the history of viticulture and of Penedès, the Catalan wine region. 

Afternoon: Freixenet
To learn more about cava, drop by Freixenet, Codorniu’s bitter rival and the maker of iconic Christmas commercials. 

Midday: Codorniu
The oldest family business in Spain, Codorniu was the first to make cava using Penedès grapes. Visit the vineyards and underground cellars to understand cava-making—followed by lunch or a cava-tasting course. 

Evening: Hotel Pulitzer
Wrap up the day enjoying #Buenas TardesPulitzer on the terrace with a glass of cava, live music or a DJ, a view of nighttime Barcelona and a selection of tapas. 



Open Camp Barcelona        
Open Camp Barcelona.        

Where to Stay: Barcelona Apartment
These properties offer convenient locations complete with kitchens—and many include features such as a pool, mosaic floors, exposed brick walls and large, solid, wooden shutters. 

Morning: Open Camp Barcelona
Be it soccer, archery or basketball, this sports-central leisure park uses virtual reality to help visitors feel, experience and understand what it’s like to be a professional athlete. 

Midday: Park Güell
Pack a picnic and explore this enchanting park designed by Antoni Gaudí and featuring mosaic-covered animals, cavelike walkways and enclosures, fairy-tale houses and sweeping views. 

Afternoon: Museu de la Xocolata
Occupying the former Sant Agustí monastery, this museum recounts the history of chocolate’s arrival in Europe and organizes activities that include creating your own chocolate sculpture. 

Evening: Kasparo
Kasparo’s terrace is located on a traffic-free square next to a playground. With a menu offering Mediterranean cuisine, artisanal beer and tapas made from seasonal produce, it’s the perfect place to end the day. 



Cuines. Photo by Olga Planas.        

Where to Stay: Hotel Praktik Bakery
Wake up to the smell of fresh bread in this minimalist, white wood and ceramic hotel. For breakfast, enjoy artisan loaves baked on the premises. 

Morning: Aborígens
Self-described as “unconventional,” Aborígens’ Food Market Tour foregos touristy places in lieu of markets where locals shop and eat. 

Midday: Bubo
For a sweet treat, stop at Bubo pastry shop and enjoy the creations of the Catalan pastry chef whose Xabina cake won the Press Prize for the “world´s best chocolate cake.” 

Afternoon: Formatgeria La Seu
Whether it’s cheese ice cream you crave—smoked or blue—or a wine-fueled tasting, this shop offers several ways to appreciate Catalan and Spanish farmhouse cheeses. 

Evening: Cuines
This restaurant sources its ingredients from the Santa Catarina market where it’s located and features an open-plan kitchen. Sit inside or on the terrace while trying modern and classic Catalan tapas and enjoying the kind of evening for which Barcelona is famous.  

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