The capital of Catalonia
The capital of Catalonia has its own distinct identity that can be discovered in its food (pintxos), its architecture (Catalan Modernism) and, of course, its tiki-taka football.
Many cities claim to offer something for everyone but very few actually live up to this promise. A combination of stunning beaches, whimsical architecture, world-class sports, and food to die for ensures that Barcelona more than delivers.
What to do
Antoni Gaudi has left a lasting legacy on Barcelona with his Catalan Modernism movement greatly influencing the unique aesthetics of this city. First time visitors will be mesmerised by the design of Park Guell – which includes imaginative viaducts and colonnades as well as the Gaudi dragon – and the Casa Batllo houses featuring the famous “skull and bones” balconies and coral inspired façade. Returning visitors, however, will never tire of gazing upon Sagrada Familia. Gaudi’s masterpiece still has an estimated 10 years left until completion, with each passing year offering something new to discover. From architecture to art, Barcelona is a highly creative city. Although the Catalan capital boasts museums showcasing the magnificent works of former residents Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso, it is the thriving contemporary art scene at the MACBA (Barcelona’s museum of contemporary art) and CCCB (the Centre for Contemporary Culture in Barcelona) that really stands out. Barcelona is also home to one of the most successful football teams in modern history. Take a stadium tour of the Nou Camp and see the five European Cups on display in the impressive trophy room. Better yet, coincide your trip with a home game and witness the majestic brilliance of global superstars such as Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Andres Iniesta in the flesh.
Where to stay?
We were excited when the hip and trendy vibes of Soho House arrived into Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter in 2016 and that excitement hasn’t dwindled since. Incorporating many popular features of its other successful venues, Soho House Barcelona also includes a basement speakeasy bar, a 36-seat private cinema, an indoor swimming pool as well as a rooftop pool overlooking the sprawling Port Vell marina. Alternatively, overlooking Frank Gehry’s Golden Fish sculpture and the glistening Mediterranean seafront, Hotel Pullman Barcelona Skipper and Hotel Arts Barcelona are both perfectly situated for a relaxing vacation.
Where to eat and drink?
When dining in Barcelona, small plates are paramount. Many of the bars serve a wide variety of hot and cold pintxos on toothpicks with patrons helping themselves to whichever delicious treats take their fancy and only paying for the number of toothpicks they have acquired in the process. These bars can get incredibly busy but also provide a lively and sociable evening scene. Start your night at Euskal Etxea – one of the oldest pintxos bars in the city – with a glass of txakoli (a distinctive local white wine). Bar hopping around the Gothic Quarter is also highly encouraged. However, those not wanting to venture far from the beach should dine at La Fonda del Port Olimpic. Despite its tourist-leaning location along the seafront, this charming traditional restaurant is as equally popular with the locals. Order the seafood paella to share for a Catalan take on the Valencian classic.
Anyone with even a fleeting interest in football will want to coincide their trip with a home game. Although the team are not the driving force they once were under Pep Guardiola, the individual brilliance of Lionel Messi alone is well worth the entry fee – whatever the price.
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