Vibrant Barcelona, the capital of Spain’s Catalonia region, is never dull. With its astoundingly varied architecture, from medieval to modern, pulsing nightlife that only gets truly going after midnight, and tapas and cava to die for, the spirit of the city easily entices visitors. Simply wandering through the many plazas and markets is a pleasure all its own, but if we have to narrow down our favorite activities, there are four things we love about Barcelona right now.
No visit to Barcelona is complete without paying homage to the somewhat quirky architect Antoni Gaudí. His unfinished construction, the Sagrada Família Basilica and the Casa Batlló, a home he redesigned in the early 1900s, are must-see attractions. The church, which Gaudi began working on in 1883 and didn’t live to see even halfway finished, is still a work in progress. The ambition of the project is astonishing; it’s not slated to be finished until 2026.
The whimsical Casa Batlló, renovated between 1904 and 1906 in the heart of the city, is a delight to explore and is often referred to as Gaudí’s masterpiece. The outside is a tiled mosaic of glass and ceramic, while the rooftop resembles the spine of a dragon.
If you’re lucky enough to be in Barcelona between early June through late September, plan to attend one of the museum’s Magic Nights, when the Dragon Roof Terrace turns into a party with art, live music and drinks.
By far, the best way to eat in Barcelona is to sample tapas as you meander through the city. While you could refer to a list of restaurants, it’s far more pleasurable to make your own discoveries as you explore. When you’re standing at the bar, pondering what to order, invariably locals will offer you their opinions or help you choose the tastiest dishes.
Some of the common small bites you will come across include olives, local ham, tortilla Española (an omelet usually made with eggs, potatoes and onions), patatas bravas (fried potato pieces with a spicy sauce) and gambas al ajillo (shrimp with garlic). The Gothic Quarter is an excellent area to bar (tapas) hop, as is the Sant Antoni neighborhood, but really, anywhere you see a crowd standing around a bar, you can be sure tapas are available.
Cava, the sparkling wine of the region, is ubiquitous in Spain. To learn more about it, a visit to Codorníu Winery is an ideal day trip from Barcelona (the winery even offers bus service). The tour includes descending into the underground cellars, reviewing the history of cava and, of course, sampling cava at the end.
Codorníu boasts the world’s largest underground cellars, and it’s fascinating to hear about the winery’s almost 500-year history. If you’re strategic with your planning, it is possible to combine a visit to the winery with lunch, bike tour, cava-tasting class, and even a visit to the Benedictine monastery at Montserrat, another popular site in the area.
Centrally located on trendy Passeig de Gràcia, the luxurious Mandarin Oriental, Barcelona, is the perfect place to base yourself on a visit. You can even book a room or suite with views of the nearby Casa Batlló. On top of that, your room is within walking distance of both Las Ramblas and the Gothic Quarter (not to mentions shops like Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent and Gucci).
The 120-room property is also home to Moments restaurant, a rooftop pool, a spa and even an outpost of high-end shoe designer Manolo Blahnik. For a truly over-the-top experience, book the two-bedroom penthouse suite, which occupies the entire eighth floor and has an enormous patio with stunning views of the city, as well as its own kitchen and dedicated butler service.