Catalonia’s vibrant capital, Barcelona is a stunning seaside city that flaunts her beauty and sunny lifestyle. Gorgeous scenery, breathtaking architecture, and superb cultural attractions make for an alluring destination. Of course, the balmy Mediterranean climate adds to the charm. Barcelona has an atmospheric medieval quarter, the Barri Gòtic, with an almost magical old-world ambience, but it’s even more famous for its Modernist architecture. Antoni Gaudí left a lasting mark on Barcelona with his avant-garde Surrealist buildings; several are UNESCO listed
Basilica de la Sagrada Familia
One of Europe’s most unconventional churches, this spectacular basilica is the most famous sight in Barcelona. The UNESCO-listed Basilica de la Sagrada Familia stands in the northern part of the city, dominating its surroundings with its 18 spindly towers soaring high above all other monuments. The Basilica of the Sacred Family is also known in Spanish by its official name: Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família. Antoni Gaudí was commissioned in 1883 to design this basilica as a neo-Gothic church. But instead of following the plans, he created a signature example of his famous surrealistic Art Nouveau architecture. He had no firm ideas in mind, preferring to alter and add to the plans as work progressed. Although Gaudí had originally forecast between ten and fifteen years, the church was never completed. As a result, the main work by the most important Catalan architect of modern times remains just a shell, and nobody knows whether or when it will ever be completed. Visitors are first struck by the lavish exterior with its expressive Nativity facade depicting the birth of Jesus, and the evocative Passion facade that illustrates the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Equally stunning, the interior is an immense space of 90 meters long by 60 meters high. The ceiling sparkles with opulent decorative details, and colorful stained-glass windows allow ethereal light to flow in. The apse features an unusual Crucifix rendered as a canopy with lanterns. The overall effect is jaw-dropping. Gaudí best captured the essence of his architectural masterpiece when he described it as “a work that is in the hands of God and the will of the people.”
Barri Gòtic (Gothic Quarter)
For 2,000 years, the Gothic Quarter has been the spiritual and secular center of the city. Relics of ancient Roman buildings are still found here, but the Middle Ages are best represented by the historic monuments packed into this quarter. A masterpiece of Gothic architecture, the medieval cathedral stands on Monte Tabor, the highest point in the town center. The Gothic Quarter is where Christopher Columbus was received by the Catholic Monarchs after his first voyage to the New World, and since the 14th and 15th centuries, the city administrations have had their seat here. Wander through this delightful maze of narrow cobblestone streets and atmospheric alleyways to discover this magical traffic-free medieval world. Discover picturesque quiet squares, enlivened by the sounds of people chatting and laughing or the strumming of Spanish classical guitar. Children often play a pickup game of soccer in the Gothic Quarter’s hidden corners, and little cafés with sidewalk terraces are found in its courtyards. Along with its inviting little boutiques and restaurants, look in the Gothic Quarter for the Picasso Museum and the Plaça del Rei, a square where outdoor concerts are sometimes held.
Casa Mila (La Pedrera)
In the Eixample district of the elegant boulevard of Passeig de Gràcia, the UNESCO-listed Casa Milà is Antoni Gaudí’s most famous secular building. Casa Mila is also affectionately known as “La Pedrera,” which translates to “The Stone Quarry” because the building resembles an open quarry. Built between 1906 and 1912, this flamboyant avant-garde dwelling looks more like a sculpture than a functional building. Every line of the natural stone facade is curved, with rounded windows and metal balcony railings twining around in plant-like shapes. Even the roof has an undulating shape complemented by the decorative chimneys. The entrance to the building is on the Carrer de Provença, through a remarkable wrought-iron gate that leads to an inner courtyard. The building is supported by ribbed arches that were designed for load-bearing purposes, a feature that reveals Gaudí’s genius as a structural engineer. Visitors may walk around the roof terrace for an up-close look at the strangely shaped mosaic-adorned chimneys. The roof area also rewards visitors with sensational views across the city, with the outlook extending to the Basilica de Sagrada Família in the distance. Casa Mila houses the Fundació Catalunya cultural center that organizes events throughout the year. The monument is open to the public daily for visits, and audio guides are available. A welcome stop for tourists, the Cafè La Pedrera offers a relaxing place for a snack in a setting worthy of the venue.
La Rambla: Barcelona’s Social Hub
The heart of Barcelona’s social life is found on La Rambla, a broad, tree-shaded avenue that divides the Old Town into two parts. La Rambla stretches from the Plaça de Catalunya, where the beautiful Romanesque 12th-century Convent of Santa Anna stands, all the way down to the port. This wide street, featuring expansive pedestrian sidewalks, is lined with shops, restaurants, and outdoor cafés, making it one of the most popular hangouts in the city. During the day, many locals are found here doing their everyday shopping at the Mercat de la Boqueria, and at night, groups of friends and families take their evening paseo (stroll) on La Rambla to enjoy the fresh air and lively ambience Depending on the day, onlookers might be treated to live music, a mime show, or other impromptu street performances. On its northeast side, La Rambla borders the Barri Gòtic, and halfway down the avenue is the Plaça Reial, a lovely palm-fringed square enclosed by historic houses. These elegant buildings have arcades filled with shops, cafés, and restaurants. At the center is the Fountain of the Three Graces with a candelabra designed by Antoni Gaudí. Another important monument on La Rambla (number 3-5) is the Palau Güell, an ostentatious mansion designed in 1886 by Antoni Gaudí. The owner, Eusebi Güell, was a great patron of the arts, and the building was constructed with a large domed hall intended for poetry readings and private concerts. The entire building reflects Güell’s enormous wealth, with sumptuous décor, valuable textiles, and handcrafted furniture created by Gaudí.
Palau de la Música Catalana (Palace of Catalan Music)
Built between 1905 and 1908 as a concert hall for the choral society Orfeó Català, The Palau de la Música Catalana was designed by the architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner, in the Catalan Modernista style. But although the building is characterized by the style’s curving lines and colorful palette, unlike Gaudi’s works, this design puts function ahead of form. Although the interior décor is just as colorful and fanciful as the outside, its shape and decoration are dedicated to choral and other musical performances. The concert hall of the Palau, which seats about 2,200 people, is the only auditorium in Europe illuminated during daylight hours entirely by natural light. The walls on two sides consist primarily of stained-glass panes set in magnificent arches, and overhead is an enormous skylight of stained glass designed by Antoni Rigalt whose centerpiece is an inverted dome in shades of gold surrounded by blue that suggests the sun and the sky. Elaborate sculptures frame the concert stage.
Parc Güell: Gaudí’s Surrealist Park
Colorful, cheerful, and full of whimsy, this splendid surrealistic park is another UNESCO World Heritage Site designed by Antoni Gaudí. Created between 1900 and 1914, the Park Güell is beautifully landscaped and features architectural elements in Gaudí’s signature style. Viaducts, grottoes, a colonnaded hall, winding staircases, and semi-closed conversation seats are scattered throughout the space. These creative structures are decorated in multicolored ceramic fragments. A spectacular terrace offers panoramic views of the city and the sea. Gaudí himself loved this area of the city, and his home was located here. Surrounded by a pleasant garden, the Casa Museu Gaudí occupies the house where Gaudi lived; the collection displays works of art, mostly decorative objects and furniture, designed by Gaudí.
Yet another amazing Gaudí creation, the UNESCO-listed Casa Batlló is one of the most characteristic Modernist buildings in Barcelona. The fantastical mansion was designed as a private residence for the textile manufacturer Josep Batlló i Casanovas. With its freely swinging shapes and ornamental facade, this dreamlike building looks like a castle from a surreal fairy tale. Most of the design details depart completely from any architectural precedent. The window frame on the first floor is bordered by swinging shapes that suggest plants, others resemble entrances to caves. On the facade, decorative glazed ceramic tiles in green, blue, and ochre colors add to the flamboyance. The wave-shaped roof, like that of Casa Milà, has numerous richly adorned chimneys. Gaudí also created the interior decorations, which can be seen in the Casa Museu Gaudí in the Güell Park. For those seeking a superb gourmet meal, the elegant Moments Restaurant, with two Michelin stars, is just a few steps away at 38 Passeig de Gràcia.
The Magic Fountain
One of the favorite things to do in Barcelona at night is to watch the Magic Fountain of Montjuïc, at the beginning of Avinguda Maria Cristina in the Montjuïc neighborhood. The large Art Deco fountain, erected in 1929, delights all ages with its light and water shows choreographed to music. It was designed by Carles Buigas for the 1929 International Exhibition, which took place in Montjuïc. The show lasts for about an hour.
Bursting with fantastic restaurants, most of which seek to promote the wonderful cuisine of Catalonia, Barcelona is a delight for those with a taste for the finest gastronomy. From seafood to tapas, the city’s restaurant scene has a little something for everyone. These are the best restaurants in Barcelona.
Caelis Romain Fornell
First opened in 2004, this restaurant by chef Romain Fornell now lays claim to one Michelin star for its innovative cuisine. It went on to move into Hotel Ohla Barcelona in 2017. Fornell and his team create contemporary dishes that aim to reinterpret tradition. The restaurant offers three tasting menus: Earth and Sea, Celebration and a vegetarian option. A weekly changing lunch menu is also available from Wednesday to Saturday. In the dining room or at the horseshoe-shaped bar facing into the open kitchen, diners can tuck into plates such as beef in vine shoots from the Priorat, shallots, crunchy potatoes and juice reduction, or Joël Dupuch oyster salad with flower, sea granita and lemongrass steam.
This two-star Michelin restaurant is generally considered one of Barcelona’s finest. Situated in the newly constructed pavilion adjacent to the hotel’s gardens, the atmosphere inside can only be described as elegantly sophisticated, with a soothing color scheme of whites and light cream tones, perfectly complemented by tasteful lighting. The restaurant is intimate, with a total capacity of just 56 diners, ensuring that your experience in gastronomic excellence is a relaxing one. As a result of its superb cuisine, beautiful location, and elegant design, ABaC’s reputation among those who prize high-class dining is blossoming.
Alkimia means ‘alchemy’ in Arabic, and this restaurant certainly has a flair for turning exquisite ingredients into meals worth their weight in gold. Its minimalist style has won praise from all corners, and the sumptuous menu on offer, the product of renowned chef Jordi Vila, leads the way in terms of delicious contemporary cuisine, showcasing the very best of Catalonia’s rich culinary tradition, but with a twist. Not afraid to experiment with traditional recipes, Jordi Vila has created a highly innovative menu. A favorite of Barcelona’s elite, the restaurant is equipped with a well-stocked wine cellar that complements the fine food on offer.
Cinc Sentis is one of the top restaurants in Barcelona, and has achieved fame within the city for its selection of only the freshest ingredients from throughout Spain. Cinc Sentits’ fish and seafood is always of the highest caliber, and after it is caught it is couriered directly to the city, while butter from the Pyrenees, veal from Galicia, and foie gras and duck from Bajo Empordán mean that all meals provide diners with a cross section of the finest authentic Spanish cuisine. Located centrally, this delightful restaurant is sure to, as the name implies, appeal to the ‘five senses’.
The culinary branch of Hotel Omm, Roca Moo has established itself as a place to see and be seen on Barcelona’s gastronomic circuit. In addition to excellent food, created by chef Rafa Panatieri and his team, Roca Moo boasts an outstanding wine collection, ensuring diners are satisfied by the wine and food in equal measure.
Run by the extremely talented Martín Berasategui, one of Europe’s most renowned chefs, this three Michelin starred eatery has earned a reputation as one of Spain’s finest restaurants. Having recently reached the three-star threshold, Lasarte’s gastronomic success has kept diners coming back in droves. Elegant decor combines with exquisite food to create a mouth-watering experience you are sure to remember. With popularity high, a reservation is strongly recommended.
Barcelona is known throughout the world for its unique architecture, fashion, and beautiful weather along the northern Spanish Mediterranean coastline. However, beyond the normal tourist attractions and sights, you’ll discover a number of hidden gems tucked away from most visitors. From secrets bars to breathtaking hotels, with a city as old as Barcelona you’ll discover a secret world if you just know where to look. Here are six of the secret hidden gems in Barcelona you absolutely must check out during your next visit.
Labyrinth Park of Horta
Whether in children’s literature or in movies, you’ve likely seen these picturesque hedge mazes. The original corn maze, Labyrinth Park of Horta has been entertaining guests since 1791. It is a fun-filled maze and also brimming with history that you can learn about on the grounds of this unique location. However, if you do decide to come out here make sure you do so early. Only 750 visitors are allowed into the park per day to help maintain its beauty.
Maybe hiking through a maze isn’t your style. Perhaps snacking on delicious gelato is? Gelarto Rosa is a local “chain” of gelaterias where you’ll be served scoops of the frozen treat shaped like beautiful, colorful roses. The snack alone is worth a picture so, whether you’re going for a refreshing bite or just for an Instagram post, you’ll find this spot to be worthy of coming back to (or maybe another one of its other locations in Europe).
You will come to Ayre Hotel not specifically for the beds (although you can), but for the spectacular view of Sagrada Familia and sangria from the rooftop bar. It offers the very best view of the city. So book a stay here, or just swing by for an afternoon cocktail to enjoy spectacular views of the city and architecture of the 17th-century temple.
Gardens from Mossèn Costa i Llobera
The cactus is a plant commonly associated with hot climates, like deserts. Who knew that the most important cactus-specialized park in Europe is in Barcelona? Located in one of the sides of the Montjuic Mountain, the Jardin de cactus de Mossèn Costa i Llobera is a beautiful natural space, a botanical reserve of great variety and a terrific viewpoint to see Barcelona. And just a few minutes away from the city.
Casa de les Punxes Terrace
With more than 600 m2 of extension and inspired in the old Wagnerian castles, this modernist rooftop is a must-see for the architecture fans. Not only because of its historic, architectonic and touristic value, but for its exclusiveness. In reduced groups, you will be allowed to get up to this private terrace to enjoy a great view of Barcelona and taste Champagne and Spanish ham.
Pont del Bisbe
In the Gothic district, one of the medieval areas of the city, we find a bridge that connects the Palau de la Generalitat (The Catalonian Government Palace) with La Casa dels Canonges. The great mystery of this famous landmark is in the lower part where, if you look closely, you find a skull pierced by a dagger. How did it get there? What does it mean? Nobody knows. So, if you want to be the one that solves the mystery, you better check it out.