From a flamenco show at El Tablao de Carmen to a walk through a frightening shark tunnel to museums galore, Barcelona BECKONS WITH ITS MULTIPLE CHARMS.
If You Go
Camp Nou, FC Barcelona
Calle Aristides Mallol, S/N
Avda. Francesc Ferrer I Guardia, 13
El Tablao de Carmen (reservations recommended)
Avda. Marques de Comillas, 13
L’Aquàrium Barcelona, from $6.50
Moll d’Espanya del Port Vell, S/N
Bus Turístic, from $31
Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, General Admission: $16 (valid for two days)
Palau Nacional, Parc de Montjuïc, S/N
Magic Fountain Montjuïc
Pl Carles Buïgas
Casa Batlló, General Admission: $26-$47
Passeig de Gràcia, 43
Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona, General Admission: $12
Plaça dels Àngels, 1
La Sagrada Família
Basilica, visit: $18
Correr Mallorca, 401
Hotel Arts Barcelona, from $516
Passeig de Gràcia, 100
Rambla, 91 Mercat de la Boqueria
(Edifici Direcció, 2a planta)
Carrer d’Enric Granados, 34
Nestled between mountains and the Mediterranean Sea, Barcelona, Spain, is home to multiple UNESCO World Heritage sites, sumptuous food and an array of beaches. Munch seafood tapas along La Rambla, view more than 2,200 years of architecture and culture as you wander the cobblestone streets or catch a futbol match at FC Barcelona’s very modern Camp Nou.
DO: Dig through the more than 8,000 bottles of wines in Vila Viniteca’s floor-to-ceiling bins. Better yet, book a tasting to learn more about Spain’s local varietals. Wander through the 100-plus buildings, streets and squares of the open-air model village of Poble Espanyol, built in 1929 for the International Exposition. Located on Montjuïc hill, it also happens to be near El Tablao de Carmen (named after famed dancer Carmen Amaya), where flamenco shows begin at 7 and 9:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays (reservations recommended). The L’Aquàrium has 21 tanks along the sides of a wide, curving corridor; view sea horses and sea dragons before walking the shark tunnel.
SEE: Barcelona’s Bus Turístic double-deckers stop at major city landmarks and offer detailed commentary in 10 languages. Hop off at the castlelike Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya to learn about Catalonia’s history; afterward, see the nearby Magic Fountain of Montjuïc’s light-and-water displays from 9 to 11 p.m. (Thursdays through Sundays, May to September). Bus Turístic’s blue route runs past Antoni Gaudí’s Casa Batlló; now a museum, this former residence with a dragon-scale roof and undulating facade is nestled among a row of buildings designed by architects in the Modernisme style during the early 1900s.
Located in the old Gothic Quarter, Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona houses a collection of mid-20th-century art by Antoni Tàpies, Paul Klee, Francesc Torres and Zush. Gaudí’s nature-inspired La Sagrada Família is still under construction more than 130 years after its groundbreaking. Inside, a forest of angled pillars sprout supporting branches as they reach the 60-meter-high ceiling, creating the effect of a forest canopy.
STAY: Hotel Arts Barcelona’s 44-story glass-and-steel tower combines whimsy and contemporary design: Guests enter near Frank Gehry’s giant fish sculpture before making their way to any one of the 483 luxuriously minimalist rooms, many with views of Barceloneta Beach. Sip local cava from the champagne bar on the seafront terrace before feasting on tapas at Michelin-starred Arola.
SHOP: The original Camper shoe store opened in Barcelona in 1981; each pair of the cobbler-made footwear carries a two-year guarantee. La Boqueria originated as an open-air market in the 13th century when fruit and vegetable growers congregated in front of one of the old city wall gates. Ranked one of the world’s best markets by Food & Wine and CNN Travel, it bursts with the flavors of Catalonia: Tocineria Montse (stalls 173-74), founded in 1780, sells Iberian ham, while Xocolatl (stalls 190-91) serves high-quality dark chocolates.
EAT: Silvestre chef Guillermo (Willy) Casañé and his wife, Marta Cabot, serve modern, farm-to-table cuisine in their eatery’s multiple dining rooms. The silky tuna tartare pairs well with the house wine. Alba Granados is known for its fresh ingredients and protein-heavy plates, like chuletón de buey (ox T-bone steak).
Save the Date:
This month, Barcelona celebrates the Festival la Mercè, which originated on Sept. 24, 1218, when the Virgin of Mercy reportedly appeared before King James I of Aragon, Saint Peter Nolasco and Saint Raymond of Penyafort and ordered the men to free the Christians held captive by the Saracens. Today’s main event still occurs on Sept. 24, but festivities span nearly two weeks and include more than 500 events. Castellers build human towers at the Plaça de Sant Jaume; correfoc (fire-breathing monsters) parade on the Via Laietana at twilight; giant queens, kings, nobles and saints march and dance through the streets.