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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.


ART LOVER

       
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. 


HISTORY BUFF

       
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. 


LUXURY TRAVELER

       
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. 


WITH THE FAMILY

       
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.


HIPSTER

       
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. 

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