Barcelona is a dynamic and extraordinary city, with lots to attract visitors. Many cities stand out for either their historical heritage, for a particularly unique architectural structure, for being right on the beach, for its culture, or perhaps for its avenues and boulevards; but only Barcelona offers all these characteristics together and normally under a blue sky with dazzling sunshine!
Ciutat Vella (Old City)
This part of the city encompasses the Raval, Gothic, Ribera and Barceloneta neighbourhoods. The heart of Barcelona, the Gothic neighbourhood, preserves its Medieval charm in all its streets and plazas, small churches and spectacular palaces. In this part of the city, be sure not to miss:
- Las Ramblas, Barcelona’s par excellence boulevard.
- The Santa Maria del Mar church.
- The Cathedral Barcelona and its cloister garden.
- Plaza del Rei and its monument.
- Montcada St, where you’ll find the Picasso Museum.
- Plaza Sant Jaume, bordered by the City Hall and Catalonian Regional Palace.
Barcelona has always been a modern and fashionable city. Always at the forefront and up on the latest trends, Barcelona’s got the best the world of fashion has to offer. You can shop Vogue, Vendome, Furest, Lacoste, Hermès, Burberry, Loewe, Mango, Vinçon, Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Armand Basi, Carolina Herrera, D&G, Zara, Valentino, Gucci, Marithe Francois Girbau, Tous, Montblanc, Lladró, Mandarina Duck, Adolfo Domínguez, Purificación García, Antoni Miró and more in the commercial districts of Portal del Ángel, Plaza Catalunya and the Paseo de Gracia.
The historical neighborhoods of Gracia, Sants and the Born also serve as authentic fashion centers, thanks to the small designer and accessory shops that line their lively and colorful streets.
True to its spirit, the Catalonian capital maintains plentiful symbolic small neighborhood markets, like the famous Boqueria market, the recently remodeled Santa Caterina market, and the historical Sant Antoni market, which sells books, CDs and clothes, in addition to food items.
Gaudi and Art Noveau
If you had to choose just one artist to represent the entire city of Barcelona, it would have to be Antoni Gaudí. The work of this ingenious architect, born in 1852, undoubtedly makes for some of Barcelona’s most famous images. Among his work, which does not limit itself to Barcelona, as he also worked in other regions of Catalonia and Spain, the Casa Batlló and the Casa Milà stand out for their beauty and innovation, the magnificently awe-striking temple of The Sagrada Familia and the beautiful and green Park Güell.
Casa Batlló is famous for the colour and shine of its facade and its dragon-like rooftop design. The Battló family commissioned Gaudí to build over an already existing building, completely remodeling it to make it their new residence.
Casa Milà, also called La Pedrera, was Gaudí 's last project before he dedicated himself exclusively to the great and still unfinished Sagrada Familia. It is undoubtedly a very unique structure, and for that very reason enjoys special status among Barcelona’s buildings; for its artistic value, it remains exempt from several municipal construction regulations.
THE TRENDY ONE
General advice on eating along the tourist-thronged Ramblas street: avoid, avoid, avoid… The exception is shiny new Ultramarinos, a funky, cavernous space of feathery palms, regally striped bar stools and danceable disco jangles. Throw back a couple of passionfruit Margaritas or cucumber G&Ts at the island bar before tucking into croquettes stuffed with porcini, or plump garlic prawns.
Les Rambles des Caputxins 31, Raval; ultramarinossantamonica.com; tapas about £5
THE LOCAL ONE
A favourite among local chefs and winemakers, the tiniest tapas bar in town is the place for small-production Spanish farmhouse cheeses and organic charcuterie from the little-known north Catalonian Garrotxa region. Bag a stool at the marble-topped bar and work your way through a regularly changing list of 12 boutique Spanish wines, all available by the glass, paired with goodies such as soft sobrasada sausage and creamy Valdeón blue cheese.
Carrer de la Dagueria 20, Barri Gòtic; tapas about £3.50
THE BOOZY ONE
Want to ‘aperitif’ like the locals? That’ll be vermouth, then, and delightfully low-key Bodega 1900 — part of an empire of bars and restaurants owned by the Adrià brothers — excels in the art. Pair a dusky vermouth over ice (with an olive and an orange slice) with gossamer-thin slices of charcuterie served on sheets of butchers’ paper, or El Bulli-style futuristic snacks such as rice-popped seaweed ‘crisps’. Carrer de Tamarit 91, Sant Antoni; bodega1900.com; tapas about £5
THE EXPERIMENTAL ONE
La Taverna del Clinic
There’s little reason to set foot in this part of town, so most visitors miss what may well be the best, longest and most inventive list of tapas in town: more than 60, and not a dud among them. Sit outside to escape the strip lighting and TV glare, and come with an appetite to do justice to inspired creations such as slow-baked local artichokes with cockles, or octopus ‘igloo’ — slices of octopus beneath a potato dome.
Carrer del Rosselló 155, Eixample; latavernadelclinic.com; tapas about £5
THE OLD-SCHOOL ONE
La Pubilla del Taulat
Opened in 1886, La Pubilla doubles as a wine store, but the real reason to come is to revel in the atmosphere of a proper old-fashioned tapas bar, the way God intended them. Think ancient beams and terracotta-tiled floors, wine barrels, crisp fried fish, luscious pimientos de padrón and just-spicy-enough patatas bravas. If you’re lucky, you might even arrive to find an impromptu flamenco-jazz band. Locals flock here at weekends, making it one of the jolliest experiences in town.
Carrer de Marià Aguiló 131, Poble Nou; lapubilladeltaulat.com; tapas about £3.50
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