Barcelona is easy to visit in a weekend. As a foodie mecca, a palm-tree paradise and a vibrant art scene, Barcelona has all the makings of the perfect vacation spot. Here is a short guide to one of the most chilled-out cities we’ve been:
1. Breakfast at La Boqueria Market
Escape the rising heat and cobblestone streets of La Rambla into the mouth of this sprawling daytime market, where you can find anything from fresh watermelon juice to meat-on-the-hoof. Travelers mingle with locals in the crowded aisles that weave the more than 75 stalls into a patchwork of sights and smells. Seek out Pinotxo Bar and saddle up to one of the ten grill-facing stools, where breakfast is savory. “Menu, por favor?” we ask. Our server (one of four guys who multitask as bar hands, servers and chefs) shakes his head no and taps his chest with a grin, “I’m the menu.” He gestures to the white bins in front of us, “Baby squid? Jamon? Steak? Prawns…?” Everything is procured from the surrounding market stalls. The first thing off the grill is easily one of the best dishes I’ve ever tasted: chickpeas and baby squid grilled with sea salt, pepper, specks of flat parsley, olive oil and balsamic and a hunk of toasted baguette. Don’t be surprised when your neighbor orders a frothy beer to wash it down. La Boqueria Market, Rambla, 91 08001, tel: 93 318 23 84, open Mon – Sat 8:00 – 20:30).
2. Late morning with Picasso
Nestled in the narrow streets of the neighborhood of El Born is the airy brick museum housing the largest Picasso collection in the world. Picasso lived in Barcelona through his apprenticeship as an artist and maintained strong links to the city throughout his life. It’s fascinating to walk the progression of his art, from the masterful portraits and landscapes he rendered as a young boy to the almost rudimentary, beautifully warped style he pioneered as an adult. His blue period pieces were my favorite, but we joked he may have peaked at 15 years old. The museum is contains a permanent collection and a temporary exhibition; go for the collection. Montcada 15-23, 08003. tel: (+34) 93 256 30 00, open Tues – Sun 9:00 – 19:00, Thurs 9:00 – 21:30, closed Mon, collection: 11 euros, collection + temporary exhibition: 14 euros.
3. Get lost in El Born
Wander the boutique-laden boho streets of Barri del Born, where around every corner you find a scene out of an indie movie. The neighborhood is dense with cafes and shops and has a hip vibe, yet feels hidden from the tourist track. Pause for an apertif at Super Super, where they serve a salty snack menu paired with the beverage of the moment: vermouth (vermut). If you are extra thirsty, stay for a glass of Montenovo. A white wine that is both fruity and dry, Montenovo is from the region Valdesil and made of 100% godello grapes. It is claimed to be the oldest grape variety in the Spanish region, one that survived phylloxera, and according to our server there is nothing else like it. We agree – I couldn’t find it again on the trip. Before you depart give some love to the resident dog perched on the seat next to the bar, then step out into the sun for some more retail therapy. Super Super, Esparteria 14 (on the corner at Calders), tel: (+34) 932 680 610.
4. Seaside at Barraca
Overlooking the beach, Barraca is the perfect lunch or dinner place for a relaxed but memorable meal. Their signature paella with its carmelized Bomba rice and sea-fresh fare will leave you scraping the bottom of the pan. Just remember, dinner in Barcelona doesn’t start until after 8pm, so arriving early may mean you have to kick back and pass the time with cava and house-made olives like we did. Restaurante Barraca, Basseig Maritim de la Barceloneta 1.
5. Dinner at Mont Bar
For a slightly elevated dining experience free of pretention, book at Mont Bar. The beautiful menu is a mix of modern and rustic tapas dishes with a Catalan-countryside flair, served up by their “young, eager and creative cooking team.” The ingredients are seasonal, fresh, local and organic (often from their own farms) and the staff will help you navigate the fabulous wine list for a perfect pairing. Mont Bar, Carrer de la Diputacio, 220. Reservations recommended.
6. Late-night gin and tonics at Hotel Arts
Barcelona is a late city; they rise late in the morning, they eat late dinners, and they stay out late into the evening. If after dinner you in the spirit, stay out late and head to one of the top roofdeck destinations at the Hotel Arts Barcelona. Perched on the waterfront and underneath a glittering giant fish (Frank Gehry’s Peix sculpture), the lounge setup is quite comfortable. Here you can choose from a menu solely dedicated to gin and tonic with variations such as cucumber , ginger, and lavender. Hotel Arts Barcelona, Marina 19-21. tel: (+34) 93 22 11 000.
Apertif break at Super Super.