pop 1.59 million
Stylish Barcelona is a forward-thinking place, on the cutting edge of art, design and cuisine but with an equally rich past stretching back to Roman days. Whether you explore its medieval palaces and plazas, gawk at the modernista masterpieces, shopfor designer duds along its stylish boulevards, sample its exciting nightlife or just soak up the sun on the city beaches, you'll be hard-pressed not to fall in love with thisvibrant city.
Central Plaça de Catalunya marks the divide between historic and modern Barcelona. From here, the long pedestrian boulevard La Rambla shoots southeast to the sea, with the busy old town Barri Gòtic (Gothic Quarter) and El Raval districts hugging it on either side. To the northwest of the plaza spreads L’Eixample, the vast gridlike district, laced with modernista marvels, endless shopping options and plenty of restaurants and bars mixed in with the turn-of-the-20th-century apartment and office blocks.
Casa del Libro (Tel 902 02 64 07; http://www.casadellibro.com/?gclid=cmu48j-qs6kcfueb4qodiunllg; Passeig de Gràcia 62; mPasseig de Gràcia) Good English section.
Guardia Urbana (City Police; Tel 092; La Rambla 43; mLiceu) Mossos d’Esquadra (Catalan police; Tel 088; Carrer Nou de la Rambla 80; mParallel)
Bornet (Tel 93 268 15 07; www.bornet-bcn.com; Carrer de Barra de Ferro 3; per 1/10hr €2.80/20; h10am-11pm Mon-Fri, noon-11pm Sat, Sun & holidays; mJaume I) easyInternetcafé (http://www.easy.com/; La Rambla 31; per hr €2.50; h8am-2.30am; mLiceu)
Lavaxpress (http://www.lavaxpres.com/; Carrer de Ferlandina 34; h8am-11pm; mSant Antoni) An 8kg wash costs €3.50; drying is €3.50 for 30 minutes. There are other branches around town.
24-hour Pharmacy La Rambla (La Rambla 98; mLiceu); Passeig de Gràcia (Passeig de Gràcia 26; mPasseig de Gràcia) These are two of several 24-hour pharmacies in the city. Hospital Clínic (Tel 93 227 54 00; http://www.hospitalclinic.org/; Carrer Villarroel 170; mHospital Clínic) Modern hospital with good services.
Main tourist office (Tel 93 285 38 32; http://www.barcelonaturisme.com/; Plaça de Catalunya 17-S underground; h9am-9pm; mCatalunya)
Spain’s most famous boulevard, the partpedestrianised La Rambla explodes with life. Stretching from Plaça de Catalunya to the waterfront, it’s lined with street artists, newsstands and vendors selling everything from mice to magnolias.
The colourful Mercat de la Boqueria (La Rambla; h8am-8pm Mon-Sat; mLiceu), a fresh food market with a modernista entrance, is one of La Rambla’s highlights. Nearby, stop for a tour of the Gran Teatre del Liceu (Tel 93 485 99 00; http://www.liceubarcelona.cat/; La Rambla dels Caputxins 51-59; admission with/without guide €8.50/4; hguided tour 10am, unguided visits 11.30am, noon, 12.30pm & 1pm; mLiceu), the city’s opera house.
Also stop at the Plaça Reial, a 19th-century square surrounded by arcades lined with restaurants and bars. At the waterfront end of La Rambla stands the Monument a Colom (Tel 93 302 52 24; Plaça del Portal de la Pau; lift €2.50; h9am-8.30pm Jun-Sep, 10am-6.30pm Oct-May; mDrassanes), a statue of Columbus atop a tall pedestal. A small lift takes you to the top for panoramic views.
Just west of La Rambla is the Museu Marítim (Tel 93 342 99 20; http://www.mmb.cat/; Avinguda de les Drassanes; adult/student €6.50/3.25; h10am-8pm; mDrassanes), a gorgeous Gothic creation. Housed in the city’s once mighty medieval shipyards, the museum takes an in-depth look at Catalonia’s seafaring past. The full-scale replica of Don Juan of Austria’s royal galley from the Battle of Lepanto is the highlight.
Barcelona’s Gothic Catedral (Tel 93 342 82 60; Plaça de la Seu; admission free, special visit €5; h8am- 12.45pm & 5.15-8pm, special visit 1-5pm Mon-Sat, 2-5pm Sun & holidays; mJaume I) was built on top of the ruins of an 11th-century Romanesque church. The facade is a neo-Gothic addition tacked on in the 19th century. Highlights include the cool cloister, the crypt tomb of martyr Santa Eulàlia (one of Barcelona’s two patron saints), the choirstalls (€2.20), the lift to the rooftop (€2.20) and the modest art collection in the Sala Capitular (chapterhouse; admission €2). You only pay the individual prices if you visit outside the special visiting hours.
Not far from the cathedral is pretty Plaça del Rei and the fascinating Museu d’Història de la Ciutat (Tel 93 256 21 00; http://w3.bcn.es/V64/Home/V64XMLHomeLinkPl/0,4468,335907851_335943991_1,00.html; Carrer del Veguer; adult/student €6/4; h10am-2pm & 4- 7pm Tue-Sat, 10am-3pm Sun; mJaume I), where you can visit a 4000-sq-metre excavated site of Roman Barcelona under the plaza. The museum encompasses historic buildings including the Palau Reial Major (Main Royal Palace), once a residence of the kings of Catalonia and Aragón, and its Saló del Tinell (Great Hall). In summer, outdoor concerts are often held in Plaça del Rei.
To the west of La Rambla is El Raval district, a once-seedy, now-funky area overflowing with cool bars and shops. Visit the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (Macba; Tel 93 412 08 10; http://www.macba.cat/controller.php; Plaça dels Àngels 1; adult/concession €7.50/6, Wed €3.50; h11am-8pm Mon & Wed, 11ammidnight Thu-Fri, 10am-8pm Sat, 10am-3pm Sun & holidays late Jun-late Sep, 11am-7.30pm Mon & Wed-Fri, 10am-8pm Sat, 10am-3pm Sun & holidays Oct-late Jun; mUniversitat), which has an impressive collection of international contemporary art.
Home to medieval Barcelona’s bustling textile industry and to its wealthy merchants, La Ribera was once the city’s most prosperous quarter. Now it’s a trendy district exploding with boutiques, restaurants and bars.
A series of palaces where some of those wealthy merchants once lived now house the Museu Picasso (Tel 93 256 30 00; http://www.museupicasso.bcn.es/; Carrer de Montcada 15-23; adult/student €9/3, temporary exhibitions €5.80, 1st Sun of month free; h10am-8pm Tue- Sun & holidays; mJaume I), home to more than 3000 Picassos, most from early in the artist’s career.
The heart of the neighbourhood is the elegant Església de Santa Maria del Mar (Plaça de Santa Maria del Mar; admission free; h9am-1.30pm & 4.30-8pm; mJaume I), a stunning example of Catalan Gothic.
The opulent Palau de la Música Catalana (Tel 902 47 54 85; http://www.palaumusica.org/; Carrer de Sant Francesc de Paula 2; adult/student incl guided tour €10/9; h50min tours every 30min 10am-6pm Easter & Aug, 10am-3.30pm Sep-Jul; mUrquinaona) is one of the city’s most delightful modernist works. Designed by Lluís Domènech i Montaner in 1905, it hosts concerts daily.
La Ribera is bordered to the east by the sprawling Parc de la Ciutadella (h8am- 6pm Nov-Feb, 8am-8pm Oct & Mar, 8am-9pm Apr-Sep; mBarceloneta), a park ideal for strolling or picnics. It’s home to a small zoo (Tel 93 225 67 80; www.zoobarcelona.com; Passeig de Picasso & Carrer de Wellington; admission €15.40; h10am-7pm Jun-Sep, 10am-6pm mid-Mar–May & Oct, 10am-5pm Nov–mid-Mar; mBarceloneta), which holds about 7500 living thingies, from gorillas to insects.
Modernisme, the Catalan version of art nouveau, transformed Barcelona’s cityscape in the early 20th century. Most modernista works were built in l’Eixample, the grid-plan district that was developed from the 1870s on.
Modernisme’s star architect was the eccentric Antoni Gaudí (1852–1926), a devout Catholic whose work is full of references to nature and Christianity. His masterpiece, La Sagrada Família (Tel 93 207 30 31; http://www.sagradafamilia.cat/; Carrer de Mallorca 401; adult/student €10/8; h9am- 8pm Apr-Sep, 9am-6pm Oct-Mar; mSagrada Família), is a work in progress and Barcelona’s most famous building. Construction began in 1882 and could be completed in 2020.
Eventually there’ll be 18 towers, all more than 100m high, representing the 12 apostles, four evangelists and Mary, Mother of God, plus the tallest tower (170m) standing for Jesus Christ. Climb high inside some of the towers (or take the elevator, €2) for a different perspective.
Gaudí’s La Pedrera (Tel 902 40 09 73; http://www.fundaciocaixacatalunya.es/osocial/redirect.html?link=http://www.fundaciocaixacatalunya.es/CDA/ObraSocial/Home/0,3423,1x1y,00.html; Carrer de Provença 261-265; adult/ student €8/4.50; h9am-8pm Mar-Oct, 9am-6.30pm Nov-Feb; mDiagonal) is his best-known secular creation. Inside, you can visit a museum about Gaudí and his work, a modernista apartment and the surreal rooftop with its bizarre chimneys.
Just down the street is the unique facade of the Casa Batlló (Tel 93 216 03 66; http://www.casabatllo.es/; Passeig de Gràcia 43; adult/student €16.50/13.20; h9am- 8pm, occasionally hrs shortened; mPasseig de Gràcia), an allegory for the legend of St George (Sant Jordi in Catalan) the dragon-slayer. On the same block are two other modernista gems, Casa Amatller (Passeig de Gràcia 41) by Josep Puig i Cadafalch and the Casa Lleó Morera (Passeig de Gràcia 35) by Lluís Domènech i Montaner. This mishmash of architectural styles gave the block its nickname, the Manzana de Discordia (Block/Apple of Discord, a play of words on an ancient Greek myth – manzana means both apple and block).
High up in the Gràcia district sits Gaudí’s enchanting Park Güell (Tel 93 413 24 00; Carrer d’Olot 7; admission free; h10am-9pm Jun-Sep, 10am- 8pm Apr, May & Oct, 10am-7pm Mar & Nov, 10am-6pm Dec-Feb; mLesseps or Vallcarca, g24), originally designed to be a self-contained community with houses, schools and shops. The project flopped, but we’re left with a Dr Seuss–style playground filled with colourful mosaics and Gaudí-designed paths and plazas.
The website http://www.rutadelmodernisme.com/ is a great resource on modernisme in Barcelona.
Barcelona has two major ports, Port Vell(Old Port) at the base of La Rambla, andPort Olímpic (Olympic Port) 1.5km up thecoast. Shops, restaurants and nightlife optionsare plentiful around both marinas,particularly Port Olímpic. Between thetwo ports sits the onetime factory workers’and fishermen’s quarter, La Barceloneta. It preserves a delightfully scruffy appearanceand abounds with crowded seafoodeateries.
At the end of Moll d’Espanya in Port Vellis L’Aquàrium (Tel 93 221 74 74; http://www.aquariumbcn.com/AQUARIUM/index.php; Moll d’Espanya; admission €16; h9.30am-11pm Jul& Aug, 9.30am-9.30pm Jun & Sep, 9.30am-9pm Mon-Fri &9.30am-9.30pm Sat & Sun Oct-May; mDrassanes), withits 80m-long shark tunnel.
Barcelona boasts 4km of city platjas(beaches), including the gritty Platja de laBarceloneta and continuing northeast, beyondPort Olímpic, with a series of cleaner,more attractive strands.
A hill of gardens southwest of the centre, Montjuïc serves as a Central Park of sorts and is a great place for a stroll overlooking the city. It is dominated by the Castell de Montjuïc, a onetime fortress. Buses 50, 55 and 61 all head up here. A local bus, the PM (Parc de Montjuïc) line, does a circle trip from Plaça d’Espanya to the castell. Cable cars and a funicular line also access the area.
Several city museums and attractions are here:
CaixaForum (Tel 93 476 86 00; http://www.fundacio.lacaixa.es/ in Spanish; Avinguda del Marquès de Comillas 6-8; admission free; h10am-8pm Tue-Fri & Sun, 10am-10pm Sat; mEspanya) Housed in a remarkable former modernista factory designed by Puig i Cadafalch; puts on major art exhibitions.
Fundació Joan Miró (Tel 93 443 94 70; http://fundaciomiro-bcn.org/; Plaça de Neptu; admission €8; h10am-8pm Tue- Wed, Fri & Sat, 10am-9.30pm Thu, 10am-2.30pm Sun & holidays Jul-Sep) The definitive museum showcasing Joan Miró’s works.
Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (Tel 93 622 03 76; http://www.mnac.cat/index.jsp?lan=001; Mirador del Palau Nacional; adult/student €8.50/6; h10am-7pm Tue-Sat, 10am-2.30pm Sun & holidays) A broad panoply of Catalan and European art. Poble Espanyol (%93 508 63 30; www.poble-epanyol .com; Avinguda del Marquès de Comillas; adult/student €8/6; h9am-8pm Mon, 9am-2am Tue-Thu, 9am-4am Fri & Sat, 9am-midnight Sun) A showcase of typical Spanish architecture, with shops, restaurants and nightlife.
Festivals & Events
The Festes de la Mercè (http://www.bcn.cat/merce/ca/index.shtml), around 24 September, are the city’s biggest party, with four days of concerts, dancing, castellers (human castle-builders), fireworks and correfocs – a parade of firework-spitting dragons and devils. The evening before the Dia de Sant Joan (24 June) is a colourful midsummer celebration with bonfires and fireworks.
Barcelona is foodie heaven. Although the city has a reputation for being the hot spot for ‘new Spanish cuisine’, dishes like shellfish paella, pigs’ trotters, rabbit with snails and butifarra (a tasty local sausage) and other traditional dishes are still the backbone of many eateries.
La Rambla & Barri Gòtic
Skip the over-priced traps along La Rambla and get into the winding lanes of the Barri Gòtic. Self-caterers should explore the Mercat de la Boqueria.
Bagel Shop(Tel 93 302 41 61; Carrer de la Canuda 25; meals €10; h9.30am-9.30pm Mon-Sat, 11am-4pm Sun; mLiceu; n) Top your bagel with anything from turkey and cheese to Mallorcan sobrassada (soft, tangy sausage) or butifarra at this informal cafe.
Bar Celta (Tel 93 315 00 06; Carrer de la Mercè 16; meals €20; hnoon-midnight; mDrassanes) Bar Celta specialises in pulpo (octopus) and other seaside delights from Galicia. The waiters waste no time in serving up bottles of crisp white Ribeiro wine to wash down the raciones (large tapas serving).
La Ribera & Waterfront
La Barceloneta is the place to go for seafood; Passeig Joan de Borbó is lined with eateries but locals head for the back lanes.
Orígen 99.9% (Tel 93 310 75 31; www.origen99.com; Carrer de la Vidrieria 6-8; meals €15-20; h12.30pm-1am; mJaume I; n) A shop-restaurant combo, Origins boasts that 99.9% of everything it sells is from Catalonia. The ever-changing daily menú features local specialities such as escalivada (roasted veggies on bread) and Catalan sausages.
Can Maño (Tel 93 319 30 82; Carrer del Baluard 12; meals €15-20; hMon-Sat; mBarceloneta) You’ll need to be prepared to wait, before being squeezed in at a packed table for a raucous night of raciones (posted on a board at the back) over a bottle of turbio – a cloudy white and pleasing plonk.
El Raval Organic
(Tel 93 301 09 02; http://www.antoniaorganickitchen.com/; Carrer de la Junta de Comerç 11; meals €14-20; hnoon-midnight; mLiceu; n) A long sprawl of a vegetarian diner, Organic is always full. Choose from a limited range of options that change from day to day, and tuck into the all-you-can-eat salad bar in the middle of the restaurant.
Bar Pinotxo (Tel 93 317 17 31; Mercat de la Boqueria; meals €15-20; h6am-5pm Mon-Sat Sep-Jul; mLiceu) Of the half-dozen or so tapas bars and informal eateries scattered about the market, this one near the Rambla entrance is the most popular. Dig into tapas and raciones of hearty market food.
La Rita (Tel 93 487 23 76; Carrer d’Aragó 279; mains €6-10, menú €7.90; mPasseig de Gràcia) For a bit ofstyle, this popular restaurant does the trick.Be prepared to wait in line for samples of itspastas, seafood and traditional dishes.
Cervesería Catalana (Tel 93 216 03 68; Carrer deMallorca 236; mains €6-15; mPassieg de Gràcia) Arriveearly to try the delicious tapas and flautas(long skinny sandwiches) at this classic tavernoff Rambla de Catalunya.
Amaltea (Tel 93 454 86 13; http://www.restaurantamaltea.com/; Carrer de la Diputació 164; meals €10-15;hlunch Mon-Thu, Fri & Sat; mUrgell; n) Theweekday set lunch (€10) offers a seriesof dishes that change frequently with theseasons. Savour the empanadillas (pastrypockets stuffed with spinach or hizikialgae and tofu).
You won’t go thirsty in Barcelona. The cityabounds with day-time cafes, laid-backlounges and lively night-time bars. Closingtime is generally 2am Sunday to Thursdayand 3am on Friday and Saturday.
Club Soul (Carrer Nou de Sant Francesc 7; mDrassanes)Club Soul is one of the hippest club-stylehang-outs in this part of town. Each nightthe DJs change the musical theme, whichcould range from deep funk to deeperhouse.
La Clandestina (Baixada de Viladecols 2bis; h10am-10pm Sun-Thu, 9am-midnight Fri & Sat; mJaume I) Optfor tea, a beer or a Middle Eastern narghile(the most elaborate way to smoke). You caneven get a head massage or eat cake in thischilled tea shop.
Casa Almirall (Carrer de Joaquín Costa 33; mUniversitat)In business since the 1860s, this cornerdrinkery is dark and intriguing, with modernistadecor and a mixed clientele.
London Bar (Tel 93 318 52 61; Carrer Nou de la Rambla34; mDrassanes) A popular hang-out and open since 1909, London Bar has modernistatouches and the occasional music actway out back.
La Fianna (Carrer dels Banys Vells 15; mJaume I) There is something medieval-Oriental about this bar, with its bare stone walls, forged iron candelabras and cushion-covered lounges.As the night wears on, it’s elbow room only.
L’Eixample & Gràcia
Les Gens Que J’Aime (Carrer de València 286; mPasseigde Gràcia) This intimate relic of the 1960s offers jazz music in the background and a cosy scattering of velvet-backed lounges around tiny dark tables.
Michael Collins Pub (Plaça de la Sagrada Família 4;mSagrada Família) To be sure of a little Catalan-Irish craic, this barn-sized, stormingpub is just the ticket.
Sabor a Cuba (Carrer de Francisco Giner 32; mDiagonal) A mixed crowd of Cubans and fans ofthe Caribbean island come to drink mojitosand shake their stuff in this home of ron yson (rum and sound).
Gay & Lesbian Venues
Barcelona’s gay and lesbian scene is concentrated in the blocks around Carrers de Muntaner and Consell de Cent (dubbed Gayxample). Here you’ll find ambience every night of the week in the bars, discos and drag clubs.
Party hard at classic gay discos such as Arena Madre (http://www.arenadisco.com/frame.htm; Carrer de Balmes 32; mUniversitat) and Dboy (www.dboyclub.com; Ronda de Sant Pere 19-21; hFri-Sun; mUrquinaona).
Harlem Jazz Club (Tel 93 310 07 55; Carrer Comtessa de Sobradiel 8; mLiceu) Here you’ll find a guaranteed dose of quality jazz and enough smoke to cook a sausage.
Tablao Cordobés (Tel 93 317 57 11; http://www.tablaocordobes.com/; La Rambla 35; show only €35, with dinner €68; mLiceu) Although Barcelona is not the best place to see flamenco, you can catch a reasonable show here.
A popular cinema for subtitled foreign films is Verdi (Tel 93 238 79 90; http://www.cines-verdi.com/barcelona/; Carrer Verdi 32; mFontana). There are plenty of places to kick on after the film here.
Football fans can see FC Barcelona play at Camp Nou (Tel 902 18 99 00, from abroad +34 93 496 36 00; http://www.fcbarcelona.com/web/index_idiomes.html; Carrer Arístides Maillol; mCollblanc). Even if you can’t score tickets, stop by for a peek at the museum (admission €8.50; h10am-8pm Mon-Sat, 10am-2.30pm Sun & holidays mid-Apr–mid-Oct, 10am-6.30pm Mon-Sat, 10am-2.30pm Sun & holidays mid-Oct–mid-Apr).
Most theatre in the city is in Catalan. There are quite a few venues that stage vanguard drama and dance, including the Teatre Nacional de Catalunya (Tel 93 306 57 00; www.tnc.es; Plaça de les Arts 1; mGlòries).