The fifth in our new City Guide series, this travel guide to Barcelona features the most pertinent information about the area. Use the menu below to jump among sections for suggestions on where to stay, insider tips, restaurant recommendations and more.
Barcelona contains some of the best-preserved medieval structures in Europe, as well as a treasure trove of imaginative contemporary buildings. The Passeig de Gràcia is lined with ritzy boutiques and fanciful Modernist architecture. Nearby, Park Güell is an enchanting park created by Antoni Gaudí, the eccentric genius behind the extraordinary Sagrada Família (Church of the Holy Family) in the Eixample district.
Barcelona has been one of Andrew Harper's favorite European cities ever since it renovated its Mediterranean seafront for the 1992 Summer Olympic Games. Over recent years, it has become an enormously popular destination, which means that it is sometimes a challenge to avoid the hordes that throng lovely, tree-lined La Rambla, the city’s most famous thoroughfare — especially when huge cruise ships fill the harbor.
When to visit, tastemaker tips and what to do in Barcelona.
Located on the eastern coast of the Iberian Peninsula, Barcelona experiences warm summers and mild winters. During summer and early fall, Barcelona is frequently hot and humid. Rainy days are limited, and the Atlantic west winds alleviate humidity except in the warmer seasons. A visit during the shoulder seasons, in April-May or September-October, is preferable.
Want to experience Barcelona like an insider? Follow these tips from notable individuals in the travel, design, food, fashion and hospitality industries.
Andrew Harper, Editor-in-Chief of The Hideaway Report, Andrew Harper Travel
If the Barri Gòtic corresponds to New York’s Greenwich Village in terms of its atmosphere and history, the Eixample is Barcelona’s stylish Upper East Side. Located there are the Passeig de Gràcia, the city’s most fashionable shopping street, and many buildings by the Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí, including the Sagrada Família cathedral.
Emily Allen, Marketing Director, Andrew Harper Travel
If you have flexibility in your itinerary, book a private tour of the city with Made for Spain. They suggested the "Barcelona Highlights Walking Tour" on a Sunday. Thanks to their recommendation, we were able to not only bypass the long tourist lines but the streets were less crowded – all of the top sites remained open while many of the stores and restaurants close on Sundays.
Those on a first visit will probably wish to stay in the heart of Barcelona, but the Gran Hotel La Florida, set on Mount Tibidabo just 30 minutes from the city center, offers an entirely different experience.
Exploring the city’s tapas bars is an entertaining way to spend an evening in Barcelona. Begin with the city’s two best traditional bars in El Born district, then head to some of the new places that have opened elsewhere in the city. If you visit four or five tapas bars, you will have no need of dinner.
This friendly place in El Born serves tapas such as deep-fried cuttlefish croquettes and tuna tartare, accompanied by an excellent selection of wines by the glass.
This very traditional establishment in El Born has been owned by the same family since the 1930s. Don’t miss the anchovies, Serrano ham and grilled asparagus.
The dish to try at Carles Abellan’s tapas bar off the Passeig de Gràcia is the “McFoie,” a small hamburger garnished with duck foie gras — you’ll want to eat two. Open evenings only.
This spot is popular with the city’s night owls, who flock here for superb tapas such as deep-fried rabbit ribs with garlic mayonnaise — one of the best things I’ve ever eaten — and “La Bomba del Eixample,” a meat-stuffed ball of mashed potatoes.
Book well in advance for a place at this postmodern take on a vermutería (vermouth bar), a classic Barcelona institution, by chef Albert Adrià, brother of the famous Ferran Adrià.
Also owned by Albert Adrià, this hugely popular modern bar across the street from Bodega 1900 dazzles with some of the most inventive tapas in Spain. Try the “Queso Manchego,” a sphere of Manchego cheese foam with almond oil “caviar.” Book as far in advance as possible (online only).
In addition to the suggestions below, many of the best markets in Europe are to be found in Barcelona. And they’re terrific places to visit even if you’re not food shopping, since there’s no faster way to take the pulse of this food-loving city. Head for markets in neighborhoods off the tourist path such as Mercat de Santa Caterina, Mercat de Galvany or Mercat de la Concepció.
Want to learn more about travel to Barcelona? Read our in-depth articles from The Harper Way, The Hideaway Report and Traveler Magazine on topics such as shopping, food, wine, art, culture and more.
Stay tuned for more from our City Guide series, detailing what to do, eat and see, and where to stay, in Andrew Harper's favorite cities around the world.
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