Barcelona

City break in Barcelona | from Gaudi to gastronomic bliss

City meets beach in Barcelona, where you can enjoy the best of both worlds as you lap up the culture and sunshine.

When I first visited Barcelona it rained. It was still beautiful and there were plenty of sights to keep me occupied, but on my third day, when the clouds finally cleared and the sun began to shine, I discovered everything that is perfect about this cultural city on the beach. In Barcelona, not only can you drink in the endless sights, you can drink in the sunshine, and if you head to a beach-side cocktail bar, you can drink one of those too.

From traditional tapas to modern street food, from classic Barcelona hotels to contemporary residences, from iconic sights to the lesser known gems, I’ll take you through Barcelona so you can make the most of this artistic city, old and new.

SEE | Gaudí and beyond... Barcelona's classic and contemporary sights

Barcelona is all about the big architectural sights, but this artsy city has inspired lots of up-and-coming talent that you can discover too.

Classic

Sagrada Familia

Sagrada Família is probably Barcelona’s most iconic sight. Designed by master architect Antoni Gaudí, It dates back to 1882. It still isn’t fully built, but it’s a captivating sight even surrounded by scaffolding.

Park Guell

Park Guell is my favourite of Gaudí’s Barcelona; it’s a beautiful park looking over the city, with sculptures scattered across the landscape. I also stood staring at Casa Batlló and Casa Milà for quite some time; Gaudi’s creations have such a distinctive style, it’s difficult to tear yourself away.

Romantic park and maze

The hunt was on for Eros the god of love when we visited Laberint d’Horta Park, one of Barcelona’s hidden secrets. It’s a gorgeous neoclassical maze, with an Eros statue at the centre, so it’s often visited by couples on a mission to find the love god. If you avoid an argument while trying to navigate this maze I think you deserve all the Eros bestowed love you can handle.

Contemporary

Carmel Bunkers

The best view of Barcelona can be found at the Carmel Bunkers, a real hidden gem where you will find an incredible 360 degree view of the city. They were built during the Spanish Civil War, but today they provide one of the most peaceful spots to sit and take in the view. We saw lots of locals with picnics, so take your own to enjoy a toast and some tapas at sunset, como un local.

Local talent and cultural space

Discover some local talent with a tour of the Poblenou Urban District. On the surface, it’s an industrial spot lined with warehouses and factories, but look closer and you’ll find them all filled with pop up shops, workshops and design studios.

Rooftop live music

Casa Batlló might be a classic Barcelona sight, but its Magic Nights series is not so well known. From jazz and blues to pop and rock, the Casa’s ‘dragon roof terrace’ plays host to a series of concerts. They even throw in a couple of drinks with each ticket.

Hotels in Barcelona

13716 Hotels
from 43
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STAY | classic grand residences to hidden hotels in Barcelona

From old glories to new design marvels, the hotels in Barcelona are unrivalled.

Classic | Spanish townhouse with a roof terrace and film screenings

1/4

I’d love to take up residence in one of Barcelona’s old townhouses, and Casa Bonay allows you to do just that. A converted 1860s apartment block, this cool hotel has a Spanish townhouse vibe. Old mosaic tiled floors are blended with industrial features like whitewashed brick walls and high ceilings. Each room is flooded with natural light, and there’s a roof terrace that provides a slice of zen in the city. This is also where the hotel hosts film screenings and BBQs.

Hotel Casa Bonay

Top rated
Barcelona, 13.1 km to Airport Barcelona El Prat
8.9 Excellent (437 reviews)
Excellent Service 9.1 / 10
Pets allowed
Restaurant
Hotel bar
Air conditioning
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Classic | sophisticated antique-filled hotel with rooftop pool

1/4

Barcelona’s architecture is one of the things that draws me to the city, and grand old beauty Cotton House shows why this is the home of great design. Set in a neoclassical building – once a wealthy family home and then the cotton guild headquarters – it is crammed with antiques and original features that make me dream of being a fancy pants aristocrat on my holidays. Rooms are white and cottony fresh, and there’s a rooftop pool perfect for those steaming Barcelona summers.

Cotton House , Autograph Collection

Top rated
Barcelona, 12.8 km to Airport Barcelona El Prat
8.7 Excellent (255 reviews)
Excellent Cleanliness 9 / 10
Car park
Pets allowed
Wellness centre / Spa
Gym
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Contemporary | Scandi boutique hotel with views onto Casa Battló

1/4

As soon as I heard about Margot House I knew I had to visit. Not because of its position opposite the beautiful Casa Battló, not because of its intimate offering of just nine rooms and not even because of its pared back Scandi style interiors. This hotel was formed in honour of one of my favourite film characters, the Gwyneth-Paltrow-portrayed Margot from The Royal Tenenbaums. It borrows her refined personality to create a thoughtful and too-cool-for-school space in the heart of Barcelona.

Margot House

Top rated
Barcelona, 12.5 km to Airport Barcelona El Prat
8.8 Excellent (244 reviews)
Excellent Location 9.4 / 10
Car park
Pets allowed
Restaurant
WiFi in lobby
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Contemporary | hidden hotel for an intimate stay in the Gothic Quarter

1/4

Second on my list of must-stays was The Wittmore. With a hidden entrance down an alleyway in the glorious Gothic Quarter, it has a no photos policy and frankly, I was relieved to take a break from all the Instagram-instigated snapping. The Wittmore is a sumptuously designed dream of plush velvet and patterned wallpaper, with old countryside style rooms and topped off by the fabulously portrayed but not actually real Lord Wittmore. Spot his portrait in the hotel lobby.

The Wittmore - Adults Only

Top rated
Barcelona, 12.3 km to Airport Barcelona El Prat
9.0 Excellent (209 reviews)
Excellent Cleanliness 9.6 / 10
WiFi in rooms
Car park
Pets allowed
Wellness centre / Spa
Hotel CTA

EAT | classic cuisine to high art on a plate in Barcelona’s restaurants

Barcelona is a king of cuisine. It’s all about long and lazy dinners here, so take your time to dine and wash it all down with some sangria.

Classic

Tapas - Bar La Plata

If you’re going traditional, try tapas. I’m a serial grazer, so I’m in heaven when I can order a selection of tapas. It’s also a great way to try some of the local specialties. Bar La Plata is the place for classic bites. They serve just four dishes, and it was packed with locals when we went… always a good sign.

Tapas - Quimet y Quimet

You’ll also have to wrestle with the locals for tapas in Quimet y Quimet, it’s standing room only here, and that has been the case for the last 100 years. I challenge you not to spend your whole meal craning your neck to peer at the floor-to-ceiling stuffed shelves.

Best Paella in Barcelona

You cannot go to Spain without sampling some Paella. Cheriff Restaurant, 7 Portes and Rias de Galicia are said to serve the best in the city.

Contemporary

Disfrutar

Splash out with a trip to Disfrutar, the hottest ticket in Barcelona. We’re talking molecular gastronomy here, so expect art on a plate and flavour combos you’ll never have dreamed of. They even serve cocoa and mint cotton that looks just like a cotton plant. There’s a 28-course tasting menu, better start making some room…

Modern Catalan with a view

Barcelona is also famed for its restaurants with a view. My favourite comes courtesy of Melia Sky Barcelona’s 24 Cielos, a restaurant on the 24th floor serving sublime city views with its modern Catalan cuisine.

Plant-based cuisine is Barcelona's next big thing, so try Flax & Kale to discover some flexitarian goodness.

DRINK | the Green Fairy and a modern Old Fashioned

Some of the greatest artists used to drink in Barcelona’s old bars and you can either follow in their footsteps, or you can seek out a modern bar for cocktails.

Classic

Dry Martini

Dry Martini feels like it’s an old drinking den in London. It has been serving martinis since the 70s, and it often appears on the 100 Best Bars in the World list, so this is the place to try a dry martini.

Bar Marsella

I am told by a barman in Bar Marsella that Gaudi, Picasso, Dali and Hemingway used to drink absinthe in this ageing spot. It’s charmingly ancient, with peeling paintwork, chandeliers covered in dust and mirrors that bear no reflection at all, and I promise that wasn’t the absinthe talking…

Underground bar

More drinking den action can be found in Les Gens Que J’aime, a bohemian underground cave filled with red velvet seats and serving classic cocktails.

Contemporary

Gin & Tonic

Where better to find a great G&T than in the Old Fashioned Gin and Tonic bar? But don’t let its name and classic decor fool you, this thoroughly modern bar serves the classics with flair – everything from smoke-filled to flaming.

Beachside bar

Barcelona’s shoreline provides a different pace to the city. We headed to the W Hotel, their rooftop bar boasts the best beach views in Barcelona. Wraparound windows give you full on wow factor; nab a spot by the window for the best seat in the house.

Rooftop bars

Other killer rooftops include La Dolce Vitae at Hotel Majestic, Arola at Hotel Arts and the retro, candy-striped lounger laden Soho House bar.

If you do venture into absinthe drinking territory, let the bartender prep the drink for you. The combo of sugar cubes and water can get confusing (even before a drink).

DO | high style and high culture in Barcelona's barrios

Delve into Barcelona’s ancient neighbourhoods, then wash off the day with a paddle in the sea.

Classic

La Rambla

Barcelona is a very walkable city, most tend to stroll along La Rambla, a bustling street filled with street performers and flower stalls. This is also where you’ll find the Museum of Erotica, the Barcelona Wax Museum and the Boqueria food market.

Barcelona by bike

You can pack in even more sights if you take a bike tour. Take in landmarks such as the Sagrada Família, Montjuïc Castle and the Port Olímpic on two wheels.

Window shopping

Window shopping doesn’t get more stylish than on Passeig de Gracia. Here you’ll find big brand shops slotted next to striking architectural sights like the Casa Bonaventura Ferrer and Casa Milà. I was wowed by the likes of Chanel, Dior and Burberry on this famed shopping street, pity I didn’t come away with a souvenir…

Contemporary

El Raval

The El Raval neighbourhood will give you some authentic Catalan flavour, but served alongside hipster terrace cafes, bookstores, boutiques and galleries. This barrio saw a renaissance inspired by its Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art, which is a must-visit while you’re here.

El Born

El Born is another traditional barrio that has seen an influx of trendy cafes, stylish boutiques and even some Michelin starred restaurants. Archaic churches and old houses tumble across its cobbled alleyways, it’s a delightful place to get lost, and even more so if you end up stumbling upon Museu Picasso.

Bogatell Beach

Once you’ve got your city fill, head to the beach. Barceloneta Beach is a huge stretch of sand lined with seafood restaurants and tapas bars. The locals love Bogatell Beach, we loved both for winding down after some sightseeing.

Most Barcelona museums close on Mondays, apart from the Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art, which closes on Tuesdays - so it’s best to check before you visit.

Laura Feasey Author

I love the extremes of Barcelona. From its street food to its Michelin stars, its cocktail bars to its crowded clubs, its high art to its high fashion, its cityscape to its seaside, Barcelona offers everything you could wish for from a cultural city break. And I experienced it all in the sunshine and the rain, there was no better way.