Popular and off-the-beaten path travel tips to make your visit unique and memorable in the land of whimsical modernista architecture, endless tapas, and the monumental Sagrada Familia.
STAY: If you’re looking for the 5-star treatment, it’s a no-brainer that you should pick the Mandarin Oriental Barcelona — a stunningly luxurious haven located in the bustling business district on Passeig de Graça. Cosseted in one of its sprawling suites with butler service, you might be seduced into never stepping out. But you’ll still catch breathtaking 360-degree view of the city including the modernist Casa Battló from the rooftop where a an elegant bar, Terrat, and pool await. The hotel is also home to Blanc restaurant where the impressive 7 Michelin star Chef, Carme Ruscalleda creates her culinary magic in an elegant room, as well as the Banker’s Bar with its old world glamor and coveted whiskeys. Mandarin Oriental Barcelona – Passeig de Gràcia, 38-40 08007 Barcelona Spain.
Another good option, especially if you’re LGBTQ, is the 4-star, “heterofriendly” Axel Hotel Barcelona & Urban Spa (not to be confused with the chain’s Two Hotel Barcelona) which is located in the hip, gay district of l’Eixample. The room to get is the corner Premium Superior with a stained glass balcony where you can enjoy your coffee and look out onto the awakening city. Please note that you’ll have to specify this as not all Premium Superior Rooms have this amenity. Want to meet some locals? The hotel’s rooftop Skybar is the hottest spot for the young and beautiful, and the convivial staff goes above and beyond the niceties to make you feel like a new friend. Axel Hotel Barcelona & Urban Spa – Aribau 33, 08011 Barcelona Spain.
EAT: Blanc located in the Mandarin Oriental Barcelona, is the grand and luminous restaurant under a vast glass-roofed atrium where 7 Michelin star chef, Carme Ruscalleda seduces your palate. The restaurant serves breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner, offering a cornucopia of Spanish, Catalan, and Asian dishes. Here you’ll find the staple appetizers like Patatas Bravas and standout mains like scallops with spinach and quince, seafood rice (paella), and beef tenderloin. Blanc at the Mandarin Oriental – Passeig de Gràcia, 38-40, 08007 Barcelona
What’s Barcelona without the tapas? While there are myriad choices, all with little apparent variation, there are some which remain the favorite of both locals and tourists, and Cerveceria Ciutat Comtal is top on that list. If you don’t have a reservation, be prepared to wait at least an hour or you could hover around the first-come-first-serve counter seating where you can witness your server coolly juggle orders. Cerveceria Ciutat Comtal – Rambla de Catalunya, 18, 08007, Barcelona.
There’s always a queue outside of Brunch & Cake, but once you’ve tasted their Eggs Benedict with Salmon on a classic charcoal sweet corn waffle, you’ll cease being surprised. It’s an intimate, cottage-like restaurant in the l’Eixample district, and locals and tourists alike flock to it for breakfast and lunch. Service can be a little slow for Americans, but strike up a conversation with the diner next to you and enjoy the meal and an insta-friendship. Brunch & Cake – Carrer d’Enric Gramados, 19, 08007, Barcelona
SEE: Sagrada Familia The Basilica of the Holy Family started by Gaudí in 1882 is still a work-in-progress, but don’t let that stop you from seeing this gothic masterpiece. Save yourself the long wait by purchasing tickets in advance through the link, and reserve a minimum of 2 hours for the tour (available in pre-recorded English). You could easily spend the whole day ambling around the Barri Gotic, the historical core of Roman Barcino. Meander through the maze of narrow, twisting lanes and squares, and you’ll find such archaeological treasures as the city’s old Roman wall, remains of the Temple of Augustus, the baroque, Placa de Sant Felip Neri, the lesser known 12th Century wonder, Casa de l’Ardiaca as well myriad trendy stores and noteworthy eateries like the almost impossible-to-find Hofmann Pastisseria, where you can score the must-have mascarpone croissant.
GETTING THERE: The quickest and most affordable option nowadays can be had on Norwegian Air with fares as low as $600 in Economy and $1,900 Premium.