Barcelona is a veritable feast for the senses. With an exhilarating diversity of architecture ranging from the gaudy Gaudí to the dark corners of the Barrio Gótico, Barcelona is a city where you risk neck pain from all the craning you will do!
The city has so much to offer to the legions of tourists who visit every year yet it manages to retain pockets of escape amongst even the most popular of neighborhoods. The sprightly Barcelona is alive at all hours of the day and night so get ready for a whirlwind trip that will leave you dreaming of the next time you’ll return.
This Barcelona guide is meant to give you a taste, like the first tapas bar you visit of the evening, of the wonders that lurk where you wander.
Where to Stay
chic&basic Born Hotel Barcelona
Housed in a 100-year-old building, the chic&basic is a modern Barcelona hotel that gives you plenty of room to breath with its seven-meter ceilings and delightfully surprising spaces and decor. Change your room color based on your mood and enjoy their bicycle rentals, walking tours of Barcelona and the intimacy of having a glass shower smack in the middle of your room. Located in the fashionable and cool Born district, you’ll be surrounded by chic boutiques, artistic Barcelonistes and a lively nightlife scene.
Grand Hotel Central Barcelona
Sandwiched between the ancient city walls of the Barrio Gótico and the trendy El Born, the Grand Hotel Central is a unique luxury lifestyle hotel in the pulsating heart of Barcelona. Large windows and sleek decor make up their beautiful rooms all equipped with WiFi. Both stylish and elegant, their famous rooftop infinity pool with drop-dead-beautiful views is reason enough for booking a stay here.
Steps away from the most luxurious of Barcelona’s neighborhoods is the most luxurious of Barcelona’s hotels, The Claris. Housed in the ancient Palacio Vedruna, which dates back to the 12th century, the hotel has all the modern amenities you could ever want including a spectacular terrace with awe-inspiring views. Each room is decorated with one-of-a-kind pieces of priceless art- everything from 18th century English furniture, Roman mosaics and sculptures, original etchings commissioned by Napoleon, and 5th century Burmese and Indian sculptures. You’ll be sleeping in a plushy art gallery!
Where to Eat
Barcelona isn’t just tapas bars and black coffee with cigarettes- although there is a fair bit of that as well. With a huge selection of diverse international food in secret cobbled alleys, it’s hard to figure out where to begin, especially once the midday hunger settles in. Keep in mind, the Barcelona set eats late — so don’t expect any dinner before 8:30 p.m.
This light and flower filled beautiful interior of the Federal Café is an ideal place to start your day. With three levels of large windows, a rooftop terrace and minimalist design, it’s the perfect place to enjoy a quiet eggs Florentine and one of their many delicious coffee selections with fresh milk while people-watching.
Milk Bar & Bistro
If you’ve indulged in the Barcelona nightlife (as you should!) head to Milk Bar & Bistro for their famous recovery brunch. The bright decor is sure to get your blood coursing back through your body. The delicious array of food like huevos rancheros, eggs benny, pancakes and smoothies might not be “typically” Catalan, but your stomach will be ever so grateful and prepared to take on that midday beer.
Bar del Convent
Frequented mainly by Barcelona families, the Bar del Covent is a little cafe/bistro that offers drinks as well as delicious salads and quiches in the quiet confines of the cloisters of a former monastery. The big comfy couches will encourage you to sink in, relax and maybe even sneak a post-lunch nap to get your energy levels back up.
The simple menu at key Barcelona restaurant La Flauta manages to offer one of the widest selections of typico’ tapas in Barcelona including their house specialty, the las flautas — minuscule sandwiches rolled up in to the shape of flutes. The restaurant is dedicated to working with the freshest seasonal produce so the menu is ever-evolving depending on when you visit.
Michelin star Chef Paco Pérez’s favorite local product is eggs, so fittingly L’Eggs is the first gastronomic restaurant in Barcelona in which the menu is centered around the humble egg. Try the Egg parmantier of Iberian ham with artichoke confit or the Cod fish and pil-pil sauce omelette. They also have an excellent selection of cocktails created by the legendary Barcelona mixologist Javier Caballero.
A guide to Barcelona wouldn’t be complete without a true tapas recommendation. Head to Quimet Quimet where you will stand or perch, have a quick drink, a couple of bites and move to the next bar, just like the locals. Here you’ll want to be drinking their tantalizing selection of local vermouths and munch on the montaditos (tiny open faced sandwiches) in variations like salmon, yogurt and honey, prawns and roasted red pepper or smoked sardine and sun-dried tomatoes.
What To Do
Barcelona was made for wandering on foot. The neighborhoods of El Gótico and El Born are not only some of Europe’s oldest and most beautiful, but also some of the easiest places to get lost — but do not despair as you never know what beautiful architecture, cafes and shops are lurking along these dark, twisting roads.
Mercat del Encants
The Mercat del Encants is Barcelona’s largest market, filled to the brim with both rubbish and riches, depending on how you look at it. It’s the perfect place to find vintage clothes, kitsch, books, old photographs and cameras, or, if you’re so inclined, even kinky old adult movies and magazines. Come early (before 7 a.m.) or late (after 12 p.m.) to get the best selection or the best deals.
Take the outdoor escalators up to the magnificent Park Güell. Designed by Barcelona’s architectural bad boy Antoni Gaudi, the park was originally intended to become housing for Barcelona’s elite. With stunning views of Barcelona, this colorful park is one thing (of many) that makes this city so unique and is worth the struggle through the throngs of tourists who frequent the park.
While the concept of hanging out in a cemetery might seem a bit creepy, the Montjuïc Cemetery is a gem. This cemetery, located on the sea facing side of Montjuïc, not only boasts beautiful views onto the city and the sea, but also an enormous amount of beautiful sculptures celebrating the life, loves and virtues of Barcelona’s dead who rest there. This is an ideal place to escape the tourist hoards for a quiet walk.
Entrance into the Sagrada Familia is expensive and the excessively long lineups to get inside can be a real test of your nerves. However, once you get inside, you float away into the dream world of Gaudi’s Cathedral, which should finally be finished in 2026. You won’t know where to look first with details erupting from every inch of space. Give yourself plenty of time to take in both the inside and the outside of this Gothic and Art Nouveau smoothie.
Fundació Joan Miró
Worth a visit for the view from the terrace alone, the Fundació Joan Miró also contains an incredible collection of modern art both by the artist himself and others. Hailed by locals as highly superior to the tourist hotspot that is the Picasso Museum, the Fundacio Miró was built with the intention of encouraging younger artists to experiment with contemporary art. Located atop the Montjuic, you get double the fun by riding the cable car to the top!
Where to drink & dance
Barcelona is famous for its abundant and late (early?) running nightlife. With no lack of cute taverns, bars and nightclubs, the winding streets stay lively till well into the wee hours of the morning. Start your night off after dinner with a couple of drinks before hitting the dance floor till the sun rises over the city.
Pepino might be the ultimate hipster bar, but its cool for a reason. The interior can only be described as cool- interesting lighting, crash test dummies and old monitors sit alongside modern furnishings. There is also a small dancefloor upstairs if you get the urge to boogie early — which may well happen considering just how delicious and reasonably priced their cocktail list is.
This converted sweet shop has delightfully remained pressed between the pages of time, retaining much of it’s original decor and ephemera. La Confitería is a quiet bar and the perfect place to grab a drink with a friend and delve into intimate conversations before heading to the clubs. If the interior looks at all familiar, it’s likely because you recently watched Woody Allen’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona — the bar had a small cameo!
If you take your dance music seriously, head to Moog which is respected both locally and internationally as one of the best clubs in Barcelona. With decor swathed in wood and iron, Moog features two floors: upstairs expect more upbeat house and pop, go downstairs and get ready for dark techno. This club might be tiny but its an unpretentious authentic Barcelona clubbing experience where no one goes home till the sun rises over the city. This is definitely where the cool kids are partying.