With a unique combination of mountains, culture, and Mediterranean sea, Spain’s Ciudad Condal stands in its own league. Journalist and former Barcelona resident Josie Sexton’s official HAP Barcelona guide awaits below.
Where to Stay:
Located along the fashionable Rambla de Catalunya, Hotel Casa Sagnier offers a 5-star stay with 51 handsome guest rooms, Natura Bissé bath products, and pillow menus at your bedside. Modernist architect Enric Sagnier designed the stately building in 1892 as his family home and studio, and it just reopened lovingly restored this year. The Cafè de l’Arquitecte is a social hub with expert tapas and cocktails, and the plant-lined rooftop is perfect for a sunset hang.
Well-hidden within the maze-like alleys of Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter, the Wittmore is an adults-only haven with a speakeasy feel. 22 guest rooms offer plush furnishings and elegant design. One seasonal special even provides suite guests with the rooftop pool all to themselves for a night. Downstairs, the lobby opens to restaurant Contraban by Alain Guiard, where creative plates pair with local wines in a 19th Century salon that includes an oasis courtyard.
Where to Eat:
For the ultimate Barcelona tapas experience – along with ample cava, vermouth, and wine – Bar Cañete in El Raval is a must-try. The ambiance is raucous, rowdy, but somehow still refined. Traditional small plates such as buñuelos de bacalao (salt cod fritters) and bocatas de calamares (squid sandwiches) are sublime. What sets this restaurant apart, however, is the hospitality from a seasoned staff who makes you feel like family by the end of the night.
This Spanish restaurant with a Northern European bent comes from three former El Bulli chefs, securing its spot among the next wave of Barcelona haute cuisine. The relatively sprawling space at the edge of El Born also makes it prime for people-watching from the patio or window-facing bar. Go for dishes such as bright peach and smoked salmon salmorejo (a chilled Andalusian soup) or hearty tableside escalope vienés (schnitzel, yes you read that right).
Where to Drink:
A closet-sized escape for pintxos and vermút, this teensy bar is located just off the popular local dining drag, Carrer Blai. Do as the Poble-Sec locals do and sample the house vermouth while perusing the walls lined with local wines (what this bar lacks in square feet it makes up for in vertical shelf-space). And if you’re feeling extra parched, an ice-cold caña (or small draft beer) will taste just fine.
In a city known more for wine, vermouth, and generously sized gin tonics, this creative cocktail bar is a welcome sight. It’s also a well-known stop since making it onto the World’s 50 Best Bars list in 2019. If you make it through the line outside, you’ll discover an impressive alchemist’s lab with cold-drips on the bar and bottled infusions atop the shelves. Try the caraway, gentian, and oregano-infused Finca en Quindio featuring a mixture of rums and redistilled green Chartreuse.
Where to Visit:
Start with the Gothic and Born districts’ preserved Medieval alleyways for the most emblematic view of Catalonia’s capital. Taste your way from La Boquería to the Santa Caterina market and Brunells, a circa-1852 pastry shop and coffee house. Visit the Picasso Museum and marvel the Palau de la Música Catalana, an Art Nouveau jewel box and UNESCO World Heritage Site. After walking around the cathedral, wind through the city’s old Jewish quarter. Here, stores such as L’Arca draw antique and vintage shoppers to Carrer dels Banys Nous. There is also a medley of independent boutiques, including Barcelona-based Antonio Miro for womenswear, Etnia Barcelona for modish eyewear, and Mallorca-based casual footwear designer Camper.
Gràcia and Eixample
For more designer shopping, there’s no better place than the Passeig de Gràcia, selling everything from Spanish leather to espadrilles and homegoods. This avenue leads to the trendy neighborhood Vila de Gràcia. And throughout, Gaudí architecture abounds – from Casa Batlló to the Sagrada Familia and Parc Güell. To see and be seen, reserve a table at new restaurants Gala, Compartir, and soon-to-debut Jacqueline. Otherwise, Bar Mut, MutiClub, and Entrepans Díaz have a literal corner on the market for tapas and drinks.
Mountains via Montjuic or El Tibidabo
Funicular rides take you up both of these mountains, offering breathtaking vantages of the old city and sea. Montjuic is home to Barcelona’s Olympic Park as well as the worthwhile Joan Miró foundation. Mount Tibidabo is famous for its century-old amusement park and presiding church, Sagrat Cor. Both mountains feature natural areas to stroll or hike, including the Collserola Nature Park where locals go to escape tourists and crowds.
The beach and Poblenou
You’ll find Barcelona’s creative set among Poblenou’s cultural centers and design hubs. You’ll also avoid the crowds at Barceloneta beach by posting up at Platja de la Bogatell or Mar Bella here. Start by exploring Disseny Hub, which features Catalan-made crafts, clothing, and decor. Next, hit the twice-monthly Palo Market Fest to buy your own locally made art in a converted warehouse. After a siesta and drinks at the just-opened Hoxton Hotel, you’ll want to stick around come nightfall for the late-late party at one of Barcelona’s best nightclubs, Razzmatazz.