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Barcelonaspain's sleepless city

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Destinations with Mireya Mayor: Barcelona

Port Vell

Photo by Siqui Sánchez

Barcelona’s high art, diverse charm, Mediterranean climate and seaside setting make it one of the most amazing cities in the world. Add its blue waters and sky, parks, beaches and architectural marvels, and Catalonia’s beautiful capital is not to be missed.

One of the things I love most about Barcelona is the city’s dynamics and fast pace, counterbalanced by the embracing of its traditions. The best way to experience this city is to meander its streets, so pack your walking shoes. To that end, Las Ramblas is the first place to which visitors should flock, day or night. Despite the honking taxis and puttering Vespas, this tree-lined pedestrian avenue does not disappoint. With its array of entertainment, including musicians, tango dancers, fire-eaters, mime artists and fortunetellers, it is Barcelona’s version of Broadway.

Once you have your fill of people-watching, enjoy a sumptuous meal at any one of the many pavement cafés. Two of my favorite spots to eat are El Taxidermista and Quim de la Boqueria for its unique breakfast experience. At night, head to Boadas Cocktail Bar, one of the oldest cocktail bars in town, and try a mojito. With so much to see and do, I like to stay at one of the many vintage hotels, such as the Husa Oriente.

Characterized by the sublime and the surreal, Barcelona has inspired renowned artists such as Salvador Dalí, Joan Miró and Pablo Picasso. The same holds true for architect Antoni Gaudí, and if you’re no stranger to Barcelona, you’ve probably visited Gaudí’s La Sagrada Familia church, as it is Spain’s most visited sight. The soaring spires of this futuristic church are a work in progress, so a return visit is always in order. But make sure you leave time to enjoy and gawk at another of Gaudí’s works on the rooftop of La Pedrera.

Catalonia is a major wine-producing region, and taking a winetasting tour of the Penedes region, such as the vineyards of Sant Sadurní d’Anoia, is a wonderful way to see the lovely countryside and enjoy cava, an earthy non-acidic sparkling drink.

Keep in mind that National Geographic named Barcelona the world’s best beach city, so for a bit of sun and fun, spend some time at Port Vell and La Barceloneta. If you’re not in the mood to dive in, then visit L’Aquarium, Europe’s largest aquarium, where sharks glide over your head in the 80-meter-long underwater tunnel. Let the ocean be a reminder that Barcelona is home to some of the most amazing seafood gastronomic experiences in the world. Boo (formerly La Oca Mar) restaurant is built on the breakwater, virtually in the sea. It’s a spectacular place to eat. Also known for its delicious seafood is Barceloneta, where you can watch the fishing boats and yachts while enjoying a traditional dish of paella.

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