With a stunning location on the Mediterranean Coast with mountains nearby, Barcelona offers inviting weather for much of the year. For the most comfortable temperatures and the smallest crowds, plan a visit for May, June, September, or October. Barcelona can get cold in winter but days are often sunny. April sees the most rain of the year, and summer—especially July and August—can be quite hot and humid. If you go in summer, remember that the city is on the water and the sea is great for swimming. August is a tricky time for a visit; on the one hand, Barcelonese leave the city for their own holidays, so visitors have the city to themselves. The downside is that some shops and restaurants also take off so there aren’t as many choices as throughout the rest of the year. Barcelona’s popularity has grown enormously in recent years, making it a year-round destination for tourists as well as international conventions, trade shows, and conferences.
Barcelona is one of those cities where the cityscape itself is an attraction. In Barcelona, the urban project is a visual spectacle and buildings are art. There is much to see and do. Consider getting a Barcelona Card for discounts on transportation and attractions. Some of the top sights include La Sagrada Familia, a giant temple begun in the 19th century and still under construction. To get a feeling for traditional Spanish life visit Poble Espanyol de Montjuic, the “Spanish Village” featuring several different houses from Spain’s regions alongside craft shops. Stay for the flamenco at tablao de Carmen. For a taste of Antonio Gaudi’s work stop at La Pedrera (“quarry”) by Antonio Gaudi. If you want to see where many players on the 2010 World Cup winning Spanish team play, check out the Barcelona FC Museum and Stadium Tour. Don’t miss the Picasso Museum, dedicated to the Catalan artist’s oeuvre in chronological order. Make time as well for the Joan Miró Museum for examples of the artist’s paintings, sculptures, tapestries, and early sketches. The National Museum of Art of Catalunya is an equally important visit on the Barcelona art trail. Try also to see the Magic Fountain of Montjuic and Barcelona’s most famous street, Las Ramblas.
Travel with Kids
Spain in general is exceedingly kid-friendly, and Barcelona is a great place for the young ones. Head for the Barcelona Zoo located in the Parc de la Ciutadella and the L’Aquarium de Barcelona at Port Vell. Bigger kids will love the IMAX cinema next to the aquarium. Casa Batllo is a Gaudi design for kids to enjoy inside and out. Take the stairs to the roof—but get there early because it gets crowded! For a park also touched by Gaudi’s hand visit Parc Guell and “draco,” the mosaic dragon. Bring a picnic to enjoy near the hall of columns. If your little ones have a sweet-tooth, Barcelona is the right place to be. Around the city look for chocolate shops, or bomboneria that contain all kinds of chocolate in wonderful shapes and sizes, from old fashioned trains to ferris wheels. If it’s cold out you might want to take a xocolata amb xurros break—hot chocolate and churros. Granja Viader and Chocolateria Valor are two recommended shops. For delectable pastries, just spot the nearest forn de pa (barkery) for estrellas, madalenas, ensaimadas, and buñelas.
Barcelona has a swift and sensible public transportation system, but there are two main operating organizations. Visitors can read about getting around the city in advance on the TMB (Transports Metropolitans de Barcelona) and Ferrocarrils de la Generalitat de Catalunya websites (tmb.cat and fgc.net). These sites—one run by the city and the other by the regional authority—have pages dedicated to tourists planning a visit with instructions, maps, online ticket purchasing, and timetables. There is frequent train service to and from Le Prat airport. Once in city center, you will find that sights are relatively close together and within easy walking distance. Consider renting a bike to see the Old City and port areas—with the city’s many bike lanes, it’s a great green option. If you can avoid renting a car, do so—parking is complicated and hard to come by in Barcelona with many one-way streets. If you use the metro, be sure to pay attention to schedules: during the week service stops at midnight, but there is some night service on Friday and Saturday. You can always try the bus, which runs all night and covers some areas not serviced by the metro. Taxis in Barcelona are all black and yellow and can be the best way to travel to and from the airport if you have a lot of luggage or if travelling at night. There are also private car services and express buses for airport transfers.
An intimate luxury boutique hotel in the heart of Barcelona’s Gothic quarter, the Neri has 22 rooms that combine echoes of history with a sophisticated and contemporary style. The hotel was created by joining two buildings: a magnificent Medieval palace and a stone building that was partially destroyed during the Civil War and renovated in 1958 by Adolf Florensa. Standard and Deluxe rooms contain features such as minimalist artisan wood furniture treated with Renaissance patinas, large murals with a silver and gold coating, and headboards made of canvases with floral motifs. The bathrooms come with showers tiled with quartzite, a natural stone with beneficial properties that help release negative energy. Bathrooms also have infrared lamps with relaxing and anti-inflammatory properties. Junior Suites offer private terraces; the Neri Suite is the largest space on the property with high ceilings, large windows, and lush red velvet Italian sofas. Neri Restaurant is an intimate, welcoming place to enjoy Mediterranean creative cuisine. It has an attractive private room for 10 people, ideal for group or company dinners, as well as for board meetings. A 12th-century stone wall with two great arches separates the restaurant from the Lounge-Bar, which features cocktails and a snack menu. The Neri Terrace is surrounded by impressive and majestic tipuanas of which, in spring, bring a carpet of beautiful yellow flowers, making the Neri terrace an experience difficult to forget.
Rafaelhoteles by Casanova
Rafaelhoteles by Casanova is a 124-room, 4-star, luxury boutique hotel set in a renovated 18th-century limestone building. Offering the best of cosmopolitanism and elegant Spanish style, Casanova’s design was inspired by the surrounding Gaudi architecture and fine arts scene. Design highlights include the angular sun-lit lobby with a pistachio backlit bar, whimsical lighting fixtures, and sculptural chairs. From the hotel guests have easy access to any point in the city by metro, bus, or taxi. At this hip Barcelona hotel guests will find a variety of services and facilities at their disposal, including a breakfast buffet, free internet access (charge for wifi), virtual business center, guided tours, and more. Suites are spacious with large windows, upgraded beauty and health amenities, special welcome attention, hydrothermal bathtub and shower, pillow menu, coffee and infusions service, turn-down service, and games console. At Mexiterranée, the hotel’s restaurant, guests can taste the innovative fusion of Mexican and Mediterranean cuisines with exclusive service and warm ambiance. For a relaxing break, Casanova offers the Stone Spa, which offers a rich menu of treatments to achieve a balance of the chakras. For guests who need an ideal Barcelona location for meetings and events, Casanova has 10 rooms fully equipped with state-of-the-art technology.
Hotel Barcelona Princess
Situated at number 1 Avenida Diagonal, the Barcelona Princess is a 364-room, 5-star, luxury hotel. The building, located in front of the Fórum, contributes to the great architecture of the vibrant city. The congress palace, harbor, and city center are all easily accessible from the hotel and the tourist bus stops right outside the hotel. Rooms are equipped with the latest technology and services. Plan a luncheon or business dinner at the elegant N1 restaurant or reserve a more intimate meal at Estrella Restaurant. For drinks with a view, sit in the Corner Bar and enjoy views of the entry to the Fórum. The hotel’s proximity to the International Center of Conventions (CCIB) makes it an ideal business hotel. If you go to the third-floor Gym Bar, you can sit on the terrace for higher views. On the same level you will find the spa and fitness center.
Hotel Omm Barcelona
Just a stone’s throw from Gaudi’s Casa Milà you will find Hotel Omm Barcelona, a 91-room, 5-star, luxury boutique in the Eixample district. Decorated in a chic minimalist style, guestrooms feature luxury bedding, handmade rugs, and parquet floors. Book the spacious Suite Paseo to enjoy breakfast while looking out over the Paseo de Gracia. For Catalan cuisine with a creative twist, dine at the award-winning Restaurant Moo. The hotel also features Restaurant Moovida, an all-day, cafeteria-style venue with a breakfast buffet of freshly baked pastries, farmhouse cheeses, as well as cocktails and teas. For evening cocktails, wine, beer, and light fare visit the Lobby Lounge for an ambiance of sofas, fireplace, and live music. The Poolside Bar, located on the rooftop terrace, is open in summer. The Spa offers guests a luxury retreat with natural light and special, personalized treatments. For meetings and business events, there are two meeting rooms for up to 20 people, equipped with wifi, projector and audio system. The staff can also organize private parties or presentations at the Ommsession nightclub and the poolside terrace.
Hotel Arts Barcelona
The Hotel Arts Barcelona is a 483-room, 5-star, luxury boutique just one block from the Olympic Port and beaches. A stunning Ritz-Carlton property, this hotel boasts magnificent views of the sea and the city. On the upper Club Level floors of the hotel, the Club Concierge team can provide for the greatest privacy and personalized service for business or leisure. Book the Mediterranean Suite for a private dining room, adjoining kitchen with direct access door for service staff, and a spacious lounge with an elegant baby grand piano. There are also larger apartments available displaying the powerful architecture of Bruce Graham and the warm and elegant interior decor designed by Antoni Puig and José Juanpere, and created by Jaume Tresserra. The hotel features a variety of restaurants, including Arola by Chef Sergi Arola; Enoteca, which was awarded a Michelin Star under the direction of Chef Paco Pérez; the informal Bites; Café Veranda with buffet breakfast and Sunday brunch service; the afternoon Marina restaurant; and the the Champagne Bar, with over 40 champagnes and sparkling wines and a selection of freshly prepared Asian dishes. The hotel also features a Six Senses Spa.
Some other Barcelona accommodations worth highlighting include Hotel AC Martorell, a new 4-star in the Martorell district about 20 minutes from downtown Barcelona. It’s perfect for business travelers looking to explore the outskirts of Barcelona, such as Tarragona, Montblanc, and the Monasteries of Santa Creus and Poblet. Last, but definitely not least, is the Mandarin Oriental Barcelona, which enjoys a superb address on the city’s famous Passeig de Gràcia, near the Casa Batlló by Gaudi with its fabulous façade. This luxury hotel is situated in an elegant mid-20th-century building, recreated with a highly stylized contemporary interior by Spanish-born designer Patricia Urquiola.
Visitors to Barcelona are spoiled for choices when it comes to city dining. If you are new to Spanish cuisine, make sure you experience tapas—those small bites, often best in bar/cafés, that are simple, great for sharing, and go well with cocktails, wine, or beer. Favorite spots include La Estrella de Plata and Taberna Basca Irati. For the full dining experience, you can sit for an eight-course Sensations menu at Cinc Sentits where each creative course is accompanied by a well-chosen wine. Find out why the ABaC hotel and restaurant received two Michelin stars. If you are in the El Born area, check out Comerç 24, where the renowned chef Carles Abellán designs avant-garde cuisine with fresh seasonal ingredients and balanced sauces. From baked eggplant with Roquefort, pine nuts, and fresh mushrooms, to tuna marinated and diced in ginger and soy sauce, Comerç 24 is a gastronomic treat. If you want to try something innovative, discover a fresh approach to tapas at Cal Pep, featuring fish and shellfish prepared with fresh ingredients. Everything is flavored with Pep’s characteristic and personal contribution. Also part of the New Catalan cuisine begun by Ferran Adrià is Jordi Vilà’s Alkimia (“alchemy”) with colorful dishes prepared with minimalist style.
Barcelona has long been a trading city due to its strategic Mediterranean coastal location. Now the city still is filled with both imported and local goods to suit all tastes. The good news is that your Euro goes relatively far here. Be sure to visit one of the locations of Camper shoes, made on Majorca. Visit Vinçon, a symbol of Barcelona’s place as the design capital of Spain, with thousands of household items—all extremely stylish. Don’t miss a branch of the funky chocolate shop chain Xocoa—who knew chocolate was that cool? You will find several Zara locations since it’s a Spanish brand. Shopping is good in the Eixample district and along the Passeig de Gràcia where you’ll find Chanel, Max Mara, and Loewe near Benetton and Diesel. With lots of outdoor cafés, taking a break is not a problem. For a taste of old-time shops and unique retail outlets go to the Ciutat Vella (El Raval, El Born, and the Barri Gòtic). In the Old City you can pass dozens of intimate galleries and boutiques. For a fun if crowded shopping experience, walk through La Rambla and its cross streets for lots of old emporiums of yesteryear. At some point, stop at El Corte Inglés, just to get a feel for the staple Spanish department store, and keep in mind while shopping that most stores are closed on Sundays. Also—don’t forget siesta!! Shops, restaurants, and services will often be closed for the midday siesta, so remember to check opening hours if you are heading out in the early afternoon.
Barcelona has a unique flavor to its architecture and art—it’s stylish, unique, ubiquitous, and fun. There is a feeling of abundant culture and pride in this Mediterranean coastal city. There are just so many historical sites, landmark buildings, and beautiful examples of urban design to study that most find it difficult to keep up. But try to have fun discovering Barcelona’s best museums, many of which are pieces of architectural art in themselves. Here are only a few:
Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Barcelona
Fundació Joan Miró
Museo Frederik Marés
Museo de Historia de la Ciudad
Pavellon Mies Van Der Rohe
Barcelona comes alive at night—dinners are late, and dancing goes on until the morning. The city often hosts major concert tours (see what’s on at the Palau Sant Jordi), and there are a number of wonderful theatre (check Teatre Nacional de Catalunya) and other music venues, with music festivals occurring in summer. Nightclubs are everywhere, but many choose to talk and drink the night away at small tascas, or taverns, where, especially in the summer months, people take their time and enjoy everything they eat, drink, and share with friends and family. In early 2006, Barcelona law called for nonsmoking areas in most bars, but the smell of smoke still travels well enough. For some wonderful outdoor drinking head for Plaça del Sol in Gràcia and Passeig del Born, Plaça del Pi, and Plaça Reial in the Old Town. Because the city is a beach destination, you can get a drink at one of the chiringuitos, or beach bars, and people watch in the sand. In general Barcelona nightlife runs on a very late schedule—dinner at 9 or 10pm, drinks with friends after midnight, and clubbing that begins around 2am. Many clubs have an entrance fee so ask if the cover includes a drink (amb consumició). The club scene is rather fluid, so to find out what’s going on visit lecool.com. Some club recommendations include: Gimlet, Carpe Diem Lounge Club, and Shôko.
The pre-Lenten Carnival in Barcelona includes a lavish parade and mock funeral to bury the Carnival King for another year. In March the Grácia district hosts the Fiesta de San Medir, with a parade and fireworks. Every year (March 6) the Barcelona Marathon sends runners through the city’s streets. Palm Sunday is a major event in the city with a somber procession from La Seu Cathedral. If you see it, take note of the impressive sculptures carried—they can be works of art over 10 feet high with detailed designs. Saint George’s Day (April 23) is Barcelona’s Valentine’s Day when men offer their sweetheart a rose and receive a book in return. Corpus Christi / L’ou com Balla is celebrated every June with parades and strange carnival creatures. In July there is a balloon festival (July 8-11) that draws pilots from around the world. In summer the Tall Ships race (July 10 – 13) up the coast of Barcelona. In August the Feast of the Assumption (Aug 15) takes over Gràcia with live music, street entertainers, and crazy decorations, serving as a precursor to the Festa Mayor de Sants in the Montjuic district of Barcelona with a week-long festival of street parties. September features the National Day of Catalonia (Sep 11). For a slice of Catalan culture, go for the Festes de la Mercè (Sep 24), a celebration for the Virgin of Mercy that is nothing less than spectacular. To celebrate the grape harvest there is the Catalan Wine and Cava Show in autumn (with lots of tastings!). The rest of the year also brings the Barcelona International Short Film Festival (April 8-17), the Barcelona International Jazz Festival (in May), the Record Collector’s Fair (October) , and the Fira de Santa Lucia (December), a Christmas fair with hundreds of stalls on the grounds of the Barcelona Cathedral.