Year–round pleasant weather, stellar dining and eye–catching buildings make Barcelona a favourite with just about any type of traveller. Here’s how to make the most of one day in the Spanish city by the Mediterranean Sea.
In the Catalan capital, it’s always a good day for architecture, tapas and the beach.
It’s an icon for a reason, so beat the crowds and make a morning visit to the Sagrada Família. This impressive church and UNESCO World Heritage Site is so magnificently detailed that it’s been under construction for 140 years. Before he died in 1926, Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí saw to the construction of one of the 18 towers he had envisioned for his masterpiece. Today, nine of them have been completed and you can even climb to the top of two of the towers for some epic city views.
A 15–minute walk from the church, you will find Biocici, a little gem of a café with a fascination for bikes, the recycled parts of which dangle from the ceiling. Order a fresh pressed juice or a cortado and a croissant.
On your way to Passeig de Gràcia, the city’s most stylish street, you’ll take a quick detour to Casa Mila, also known as La Pedrera. This curvy Gaudí–designed building, also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a museum and performance space worth coming back to at night, if you can score tickets to one of the rooftop concerts.
Pop into shops along Passeig de Gràcia before reaching the Block of Discord, a single block with three more marvels of architecture: Casa Lleó i Morer, Casa Amatller and Casa Batllo. The latter, another masterpiece by Gaudí, features a fantastical marine–inspired facade of stone, glass, ceramics, recycled materials and colourful objects.
Put your comfy walking shoes to good use in La Rambla, a tree–lined pedestrian street that stretches for 1.2 kilometres from Plaça de Catalunya to Port Vell. Before you get to the port, pop in at Mercat de la Boqueria, a massive public market that’s popular with locals and tourists alike. Inside, there are hundreds of food stalls selling everything from jamon Iberico to veggies, juices and pastries. Grab a seat at Pinotxo Bar and try its famous tortilla or gazpacho.
After all that walking, hop in a taxi and head to Barceloneta, a fishing district with one of the city’s oldest and most popular beaches. It features lifeguards and public showers, sun loungers and umbrellas for rent. Slap on some SPF, kick back and enjoy the view.
The Teleférico del Puerto offers a bird’s–eye view of the city, but the experience, which begins with an elevator ride to the top of the cable car tower, is not for the faint of heart. The ride is a mere seven minutes, but on a clear day the views of the entire city are nothing short of spectacular.
For a taste of the city’s culinary and nightlife scene, head to Barri Gotic, a neighbourhood of tiny winding alleyways and centuries–old buildings. Book a table at Proper BCN, where the kitchen is run by Argentinian chefs and, as expected, the menu offers delicious meats and vegetables that come perfectly grilled from a wood–fired oven. Vibe the night away at El Paraigua, a cozy basement bar that serves potent cocktails and often features live music and flamenco dancing.
Stay the Night
The stunning blue glass and steel structure that is Hotel Arts offers jaw–dropping views of Olympic Port marina and Canadian architect Frank Gehry’s Golden Fish sculpture, which you can take in from a terrace with an infinity–edged swimming pool. Rooms are spacious and bright and feature original works of art by Spanish artists. There’s a luxurious spa on the 43rd floor and a two Michelin–starred restaurant, Enoteca Paco Pérez.
Steps from Passeig de Gràcia is Cotton House Hotel, a hip boutique property set in a former private residence that became the headquarters of the Cotton Textile Foundation in the middle of the 20th century. It offers 83 rooms, many overlooking a cheerful interior courtyard. Don’t miss cocktail hour or English afternoon tea in the library. And, if you’re feeling fancy, let the tailors at the in–house atelier help you select a fabric, take your measurements, and create a garment to your specifications.