Barcelona is one of the great European cities. Standing on Roman foundations dating back 2,000 years, the city today is an eclectic mix of ancient, medieval, and contemporary styles reflective of the personality of a people known for their creative spirit.
It is, after all, the city that inspired many of the 20th century’s greatest artists who leave traces of their legacy at every turn. Picasso designed the menu card at Els Quatre Gats, Miró’s surrealist sculptures fill his self-named park, and Gaudí’s intricately patterned concrete tiles pave the Passeig de Gr?cia. That’s not to mention the fantastic houses that he created in the Eixample, spawning an entire movement known as modernisme.
You’ll also see contemporary works like Botero’s Cat on the Rambla del Raval, and Lichtenstein’s Woman’s Head on the Port Vell, interspersed with space-age skyscrapers like Ricardo Bofill’s W Hotel, and Jean Nouvel’s glowing Torre Agbar.
Barcelona then is not so much a city of sights, but a sight in its own right, and the very best way to get to know it is to simply wander around soaking it up.
Head for a nightcap at Boadas (C/Tallers 1, +34 933 188 826), the city’s most emblematic cocktail bar and beloved of Sophia Loren in her day. Still can’t sleep? Club Fellini (C/La Rambla) keeps the city’s movers and shakers grooving until dawn.
Get to the Boqueria food market early to avoid the crowds and rub shoulders with the city’s top chefs picking up supplies. Fuel up on espresso and a clam omelette at the iconic Bar Pinotxo (C/La Rambla) before a day of sightseeing.
Gaudì’s most famous work and his resting place, the Sagrada Familia is not to be missed. Admire the contrasting facades of the Nativity and the Passion, before exploring the winding staircases and vertigo-inducing bridges of the turrets.
The Parc Güell was designed by Gaudì as a residential enclave for the city’s upper classes between 1900 and 1914. They rejected it, and it became a public garden of fairy-tale terraces and colourful trecalis (smashed tile mosaics) decorations.
Back by the sea, lunch is a seafood arroz (rice dish) on the terrace at Can Majo (C/Almirall Aixada 23, +34 932 215 455). Stroll it off with a walk past the yachts and gin palaces of the Port Vell, also home to Europe’s largest aquarium.
Say hello to the resident geese in the cathedral cloisters, then hop across the Via Laietana and ponder the architectural brilliance of the more austere 14th-century Iglesia (Basilica) de Santa Maria del Mar.
Zip around the small but perfectly formed Picasso museum in one of the Born’s old merchants palaces, before a rejuvenating steam and massage at the Aire de Barcelona hammam (Passeig Picasso 22, +34 902 555 789).
Take the weight off your feet with a cool, crisp cava (the local champagne) on the terrace at La Vinya del Se?or (Pla?a Santa Maria 5, +34 933 103 379), while watching locals pass by on their evening paseo (leisurely stroll).
Clandestine restaurant Tapioles 53 (C/Tapioles 53, +34 933 292 238) has no sign on the door, but legions of fans travel from far and wide for their top-notch, modern Mediterranean fusion. Tasting menu changes daily.
Say goodnight to Barcelona on the cactus-planted rooftop of the swanky Hotel Claris (Pau Claris 150, +34 934 876 262). Live jazz, bossa nova, and boleros are perfect for dancing under the stars.
Barcelona, Spain> Book Now
Distance: 4,865 km
Flight Time: 7 hours, 25 minutes