- Sant Antoni
With its fantastical architecture, innovative dining, and legendary nightlife, it's no surprise Barcelona is one of Europe's most popular destinations. (So popular, in fact, that the larger region of Catalonia could function as an independent country thanks to the revenue generated by the seaside city alone.) Savvy travelers from around the world flock to the locale in search of its celebrated chefs (the Adrià brothers are just two of many), perfect climate, architectural diversity, edgy hotels, and truly unique Catalonian culture. Here, we share where to go, what to see, and how to most enjoy the cosmopolitan destination.
Barcelona is one of those rare destinations in which there really isn’t a bad time to visit—temperatures seldom dip below 60 degrees and there are major events like music and cultural festivals virtually every month of the year. June, when the average high is 75 degrees and the days are long (and when Primavera Sound Barcelona, one of the premier music festivals in Europe, takes place) is a particularly lovely time to visit.
Barcelona’s El Prat International Airport has two terminals: Terminal 1 is 2.5 miles from Terminal 2 so it’s very important to know which terminal you’re flying out of. Seventy percent fly out of the newer Terminal 1. The airport is about 15-minutes by car from the city’s downtown.
1. Work on Antoni Gaudi’s La Sagrada Familia began in the 1880s and it continues to this day. Don’t pass up a chance to stand in awe under the church’s 150-foot tall vaults in the central nave. (Carrer de Mallorca, 401; 34-9/3080-0414; sagradafamilia.org)
2. Shopping on Passeig de Gràcia, Barcelona’s most glamorous avenue. Peruse architectural handbags at Loewe (Passeig de Gràcia, 35; 34-9/3200-0920; loewe.com), Art Nouveau jewelry at Bagues Masriera (Passeig de Gràcia, 41; 34-9/3481-7054; bagues-masriera.com), and the best men’s and women’s fashion at the historic department store Santa Eulalia (Passeig de Gràcia 93; 34-9/3215-0674; santaeulalia.com), which also offers a bistro where shoppers can break for a glass of Louis Roederer Champagne and French macarons.
3. While it would be a shame to visit only one museum in Barcelona, if you have to pick one make it the sprawling Picasso Museum, spread across five adjoining medieval palaces and offering one of the most comprehensive looks at the famed 20th-century artist’s long and illustrious career. (Carrer Montcada, 15-23; 34-9/3256-3000; museupicasso.bcn.cat)
The fantastical Parc Güell is so popular, more than 9 million people visit each year, the city decided to regulate access several years ago in order to better preserve the UNESCO World Heritage Site. A ticket is required to enter the Monumental Zone where most of the Antoni Gaudí designed structures are like the Dragon Stairway decorated with brightly colored shards of tile, but it’s still worth visiting. The contrast between the rustic pine tree filled park and modernist structures make it one of the world’s most unique urban green spaces and the views of the city are breathtaking. (Carrer d'Olot, main entrance on Carrer de Larrard; 34-9/3409-1831; parkguell.cat)
Charred calçots, spring onions that grow in the countryside, are devoured by Catalans from December to May. A very traditional way to enjoy them is grilled on a hot BBQ, but Monvinic Wine Bar serves a much more elegant take. When in season the calçots are fried in a light tempura batter and served with homemade ricotta cheese. (Carrer de la Diputació, 249; 34-9/3272-6187; monvinic.com)
The long held tradition of enjoying a vermouth as an aperitif is alive and well in Barcelona. Cocktail bars and restaurants, not just tavernas, have begun concocting their own house made versions of the fortified wine. Bodega 1900’s (Carrer de Tamarit, 91; 34-9/3325-2659; bodega1900.com) caramel-colored vermouth is just sweet enough with notes of herbs and orange peel.
WINTER: In the winter visit the Fira de Santa Llúcia Christmas Market (34-6/4714-6688; en.firadesantallucia.cat) in front of the Barcelona Cathedral and shop for presents on Passeig de Gràcia.
SPRING: In spring take in the sunset from one of Barcelona’s fabulous rooftop hotel bars.
SUMMER: During the warmer summer months charter a yacht and cruise the Mediterranean. (34-9/1448-7275; madeforspainandportugal.com)
FALL: In the fall see some live music. The International Jazz Festival (theproject.es) begins in late September with artists like Diana Krall and Béla Fleck performing at venues throughout the city.
Catalans eat late, very late. Many shops and restaurants observe siesta hours and some restaurants don’t start serving dinner until 8 p.m. A prime dinner reservation would be around 9:30 or 10 p.m.