Since Rio de Janeiro has already given us a sweet taste of the life on the beach (and god it was tasty), we decided to give one of sunny Spain’s most legendary cities a shot. Barcelona. A city that seems to be consequently turning up in any “top city destinations” lists we can get a hold of. So, about time for Berlinagenten to check out what all the buzz was about!
It was easy enough to see when we got there. The city virtually pulses with life and creativity. It’s located right on the mediterranean seaside, features untold cultural treasures such as Gaudi’s Modernisme masterpieces (the most prominent one being La Sagrada Familia, the colorful city architecture and of course a world-class dining and nightlife scene. Star and Celeb-studded bars, easy going cerveserias in downtown (yes, that means beer) or all-night dancing in one of the many discotecas – a Barcelona trip comes with the guarantee of unforgettable nights.
Ever since the city was host to the Olympic Games in 1992 and the Universal Forum of Cultures in 2004, there seems to be not stopping its success story. Authorities have aimed to cause gentrification around high-quality architecture by building museums and promoting cultural sites and have thereby helped to greatly improve rundown districts like El Raval into a new home for trendy restaurants, bars and even the wealthy bourgeois. There’s probably no single city in Europe that has underwent such a radical change in the last decades. The urban renewal transformed Barcelona from a provincial port into a glamorous seaside metropolis that draws tourists from all over the globe. After the rediscovery of its beauty there’s been a steady supply of movies based in Barcelona, such as All About My Mother , Woody Allen’s Vicky Christina Barcelona and The Gunman.
But be advised: the huge amount of tourists also attracts some of Europe’s best pick-pockets! Put some drawing pins in your pockets to find the (now screaming) thieves. And don’t forget the evil laugh afterwards! Also, make sure you don’t forget about the pins when reaching for your wallet yourself. Turns out that happens pretty easily.
Now. Lean back, grab a cerveza and enjoy our tips for a perfect stay under the Iberian Sun!
The Best Hoods
Barcelona holds vast cultural gems. Barri Gotic is the city’s most ancient quarter and home to the historic old town of Barcelona. Expect to see the mesmerising heritage of centuries: monumental buildings, medieval housings, impressive squares and narrow cobbled streets will take you on a trip back to the 15th century. Pablo Picasso lived here for 10 years and his spirit is said to still roam the deserted streets at night. Hah! Nothing scares Berlinagenten! We didn’t feel the need to check it out at night however. No point taking chances.
Eixample or the “Extension” is famous for being home to Barca’s dazzling Art Nouveau masterpieces, Moderniste townhouses and a high-class residential and shopping area. Designed by Catalan engineer Credes in the 1850s, the square feels like a huge Moderniste open-air museum. It boasts a vigorous nightlife scene and a flourishing café culture. The square has become the place to be in Barca, featuring some of the finest upscale cuisines, art galleries and international design shops. This is where the wealthy kids in town slurp on their Cappucinos!
The most fashionable neighbourhood in Barcelona has to be bohemian La Ribera (with El Born as main drag). Gentrification has ensured the constant emergence of cafés, cool restaurants, small design boutiques next to some of the cities most iconic buildings from the Moderniste Palau de la Musica Catalana to the Museu Picasso, which attracts more than a million visitors annually. When your feet start hurting just lean back in one of the many waterfront cafés and enjoy a freshly made coffee before heading over to the beach for a long tanning session!
Gracia is one of the most popular districts of the city. It’s basically a little village of its own which has become a part of Barcelona when the city started to massively expand about a hundred years ago, hence it still bears a lot of its original historical charm and individuality. Garcia always was home the city’s working class and students, making it Barcelona’s unique hippie neighbourhood, known for the highest density of bars in the whole city. We had a great time in Garcia and probably bought more cans of beer form the street sellers than the average tourist does in a year!
When you’re looking for the most multicultural district in town, don’t miss out on El Raval. It has a bad reputation for being dirty and once having been home to Barca’s red light scene. However the district has been partly gentrified and now features a host of hotels, bars and small thrift shops with clothing you won’t find anywhere else in town. If you’re of the daring sort, put on your fanciest clothes and check out the Southern part of the district at night. Don’t forget your bazooka, though. Just in case.
Other districts include:
Montjuic is a hill overlooking the south side of the port. If you’re trying to get away from all energising excitement the city brings, Montjuic offers a very relaxed atmosphere and some must-see sights like the Magic Fountain, the lush Jardins de Mossèn Cinto Verdaguer or the MNAC, one of the cities most important museums. One of the most overlooked districts in Barcelona probably is Poblenou. It’s off the town’s hustle and bustle but still has beach access and an incredible sunny disposition away from the concrete jungle. Swing by here for some relaxed hours at some of the city’s best beaches. Another districts that’s sitting right on the beach is Barceloneta. While it’s relatively uncrowded in winter, summer is guaranteed to bring a steep rise of tourists on the beach and and evenly steep rise of street sellers. You might come for a little sun and ice cream and end up with a bunch of new shirts, bags and a parrot called Diego.
The Best Hotels
Mandarin Oriental (our top pick!)
The home of awesome. Sitting right in the middle of the Catalan capitol, Mandarin Oriental is just a stone’s throw from the classiest high-end boutiques and Barcelona’s most upscale streets. It features a Michelin-starred restaurant, a spectacular spa, a plunge pool on the roof terrace with a great view and a highly stylish interior design. Staying in this hotel will make you feel like a celeb in split second!
The Serras is a brand new 5 star luxury boutique hotel in 2015 near the marina. Historic Barca meets modern chic. The hotel is located right in the heart of a trendy neighbourhood on the seaside, their spacey balconies offering your front row seats to the spectacle going on below. Just like the Mandarin The Serras offers a fabulous culinary variety cooked by a Michelin-Star Chef and a breath taking rooftop terrace. If you like the fresh sea wind gently blowing in your face after waking up, this is the place.
The iconic building was once home to the headquarters of Cotton House Manufactures. Today it’s a high class boasting a very trendy concept and elegantly decorated rooms. The love for detail is what catches the eye from minute one. Naturally there’s a seasonal outdoor pool, an on-site restaurant, a gym and a massage room just waiting for you to swing by!
Where to eat?
Jaimie Beriestain (our top pick!)
Jaimie’s 500sqm store is a crossover between a concept store, an IKEA for the stylish&wealthy and a cozy little eatery. Sit down in the 80-seat café and have a snack as you decide which of the design objects to take home!
Bar 68 is located in a very energetic neighbourhood, where you’re not sure if you want to take a look into one of the bars or take a look into what the next hooker has got to offer. The menu however offers a mix of Latino, Mediterranean and Italian flavors. The food is great – but the famous cocktails are even better. We have no idea how we got home afterwards… good job, Bar 68!
If Picasso was still alive, this is the bar where he’d end up. Just a jump away from the Picasso Museum, you’ll find tasty tapas and antipasti on the menu, along with a choice selection of wines. Perfect way to start your evening.
El Nacional (our top pick!)
El Nacional boasts 3000sqm space and 770 seats dedicated to fresh food, drinks and the joys of the Spanish cuisine. Design tsar Lázaro Rosa-Violán reincarnated the former parking lot with an
airy, laid back cosmopolitan atmosphere. We tried the two main restaurants La Braseria and La Llotja, which come with a considerable price tag, unlike the somewhat cooler La Taperia and La Paradeta, which offer small-plate dining and snacks. The food was delicious – what really stays in your head is the marvellous interior design, though.
The OneOcean Club is located right at the marina front (who would have thought) and offers an elegant comfort without feeling too pompous. We were almost surprised by the interior modesty – until we had a look at the menu. It’s really not inexpensive, but forgivable if you consider the high quality of the ingredients and the delicious taste. It’s not coincidence this restaurant is a direct neighbour to Port Vell – the place where all the superyachts are anchored.
An awesome venue for a tasty afternoon with friends. The place gets packed quickly and the noise level goes up to a point where you have to shout to get the casually dressed waiters to your table. However the food is incredibly good! Kitchen chefs Oriol Casto, Eduard Xatruch and Mateu Casanas learned their showmanship from culinary grandmaster Ferran Adrià and are guaranteed to pamper you for the night.
Where to sip cocktails
Boca Chica (our top pick!)
This marvellous place has been nominated for a place among the popular World’s 50 Best Bars and won 3 national spanish cocktail awards last year, such as best gin&tonic bartender, best cocktail-pairing chef and and best healthy mediterranean cocktail (called “Bloody Sun”). If that hasn’t convinced you yet, the stylish interior will!
Betty Ford is the home of Raval’s hipsters. Locals and tourists alike have taken a special interest in the bar, especially since the drinks are even cheaper during happy hour from 9-11. Swing by the trendy venue and enjoy some Barcelona’s most powerful cocktails. Warning: the chance of addiction is high with this one.
Ocana offers a whole selection of possibilities to spend your time: a top notch restaurant, a cozy café, a cocktail bar and a cool nightlife clubs that feels like a combination of Berlin cool and lenghty Ibiza party nights.
Getting drunk at daytime
La Xampanyeria – hysterical drinking hotspot among tourists and locals from lunch until late afternoon. A must: pink Cava.
The Party Experience
KER Club (our top pick!) The Sunday Party!
The crazy KER parties aren’t always commencing at the same spot, right now they’re occupying the Sunday slot at Danzatoria. They’re hosted by ROW 14, who are known for their former Ibiza-like parties. We’ve had a blast at KER and can honestly say, it was one of the best parties we’ve had in a while. And we party a lot!
La Terrrazza. The Summer Club
This club is only opened in summer, so expect to be surrounded by hot chicas wearing little to no clothing. La Terreza is trying to create a bit of a hype and considers itself as a more glamorous option of spending your clubbing night, which tends to show in your wallet at the end of the night. From local DJ to international big game DJs, there’s everything to be found!
Music on every day of the week! Dance along to pop-rock on Mondays, electro and indie at on Tuesdays, root music on Wednesdays and bassheavy Boombox on Thursdays. Weekends are stacked with world class acts and are even better than the weekday program. Swing by!
Museums & Culture Highlights
Gaudí’s masterpieces, e.g. La Pedrera, Casa Batlló, Park Güell & Sagrada Familia
Gaudi’s famous buildings are shattered all over the city. His distinctive style can be recognized from afar and his legacy is among most popular architecture in the world. Probably his most
famous work, Sagrada Familia, has been under construction since 1882 and counts as one of the most extraordinary interpretations of Gothic architecture since the Middle Ages! His superb craftmanship shows throughout his works: from the beautifully colourful Park Güell to the aesthetical masterpiece that is Casa Batlló, the uniqueness never ends.
Olympic stadium & Montjuïc hill
The Olympic Stadium was home to the Olympic Games in 1992, the games that would bring the turning point in the development of urban Barcelona. In front of the stadium there’s bronze footprints of spanish sport stars in the pavement, reminding of Hollywood’s Walk Of Fame. Though it’s mostly unused these days, it boasts an interesting architecture and comes with a trip back in time guarantee!
While all the other museums are closed on Mondays, the Museum of Contemporary Art of Barcelona is closed on Tuesdays. In other words: the perfect place to go if you’re looking for some cultural activities on a Monday. Renowned for the impressive exterior design by Richard Meier as well as for the impressive collection of about 5000 artworks (not all of which can be displayed at the same time), the MACBA never gets boring.
Barrio Gotic with the Gothic cathedral
Walking along the beach from W Hotel (Barceloneta) to Parque del Forum (Diagonal Mar)
Best Day Trips
Hop on a cable car at Montserrat-Aeri station and drive up to the isolated monastery of Montserrat, which sits on top of mountain with the same name. Apart from a great view there’s also a choice selection of beautiful walks around the mountain, which are just waiting to be discovered and invite you to pleasurable walks in the green.
When you’re done refilling your energy, hop on a train to Sitges to find beautiful beaches, where you can finally tear off your clothes and enjoy some nudist beach tanning! In the evening head over to Catalunya’s No. 1 party town for an endless night of cervesas!
Once your headache has gotten better, Theatre-Museum Dali awaits your visit. The building was designed by Dali himself and his mortal remains are burried beneath the building. If you love surrealism as much as we do, this is the place for you!