Dec 19, 2016
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Destination Guide: Barcelona

Paris is sophisticated. London is urbane. But Barcelona is just plain fun. With its playful modernist architecture, sweeping beaches and free-flowing fizzy cava, this Spanish city invites visitors to stroll, sunbathe and sip at their leisure.

Barcelona is especially delightful in May and June, but you’ll get better hotel rates in the fall and winter. If you go to Barcelona in August, you’ll find that many shops and restaurants have closed their doors as locals go on vacations of their own. Ready for a Spanish adventure? Here’s your five-minute destination guide to Barcelona.

Fun Things to Do in Barcelona

The number-one thing to do in Barcelona is walk. While the city has a metro system that’s easy to use, walking is the best way to experience its charms. Pack your most comfortable shoes and plan your days around exploring different neighborhoods, instead of racing from place to place.

Begin with the Ciutat Vella (Old City). The Barri Gotic (Gothic Quarter) is a neighborhood of cobblestone streets, medieval buildings, and Roman ruins. Adjacent is La Ribera, another ancient neighborhood that’s filled with restaurants, bars, and boutiques. While you’re in the Old City, peek into the Barcelona Cathedral, a Gothic church that’s home to 13 white geese, honoring the martyred 13-year-old Saint Eulalia. End the day with a stroll down La Rambla, a long pedestrian street teeming with peddlers and street performers.

Barcelona Church

Barcelona Cathedral

The next day, leap several centuries into the future with a walking tour of Antonin Gaudí’s quirky, curvy buildings. These include the grand Palau Guell, the Casa Batlló with its colorful mosaic façade and undulating roof, and La Pedrera, an apartment building that resembles a coral reef. Finally, stop to marvel at Gaudí’s Basilica de la Sagrada Familia, a magnificent modernist church that has been under construction for more than 130 years.

Barcelona Museum

Casa Batlló

There are a hundred more fun things to do in Barcelona, like the Museu Picasso and Parc Güell, but if your feet are tired, save one day for sand and sun. Barceloneta Beach is touristy and crowded; for quiet, take the train just out of town to Ocata Beach or Caldetes Beach.

The Best Hotels in Barcelona

Location is everything when you’re deciding where to stay in Barcelona. Don’t exile yourself to the suburbs; instead, choose a hotel in walking distance of some lively neighborhoods. The perfect example is Murmuri, a modern boutique hotel right on the Rambla de Catalunya that has rooms with terraces and a popular bar. The five-star Ohla Hotel boasts postcard-perfect rooftop views and a Michelin-starred restaurant.

One of the best mid-range hotels in Barcelona is the Hotel Astoria, which has a small but inviting rooftop pool and terrace, chic rooms and a prime location in a quiet neighborhood right by the Avenue Diagonal. For travelers on a budget, Travel and Leisure recommends the Room Mate Emma, a stylish new hotel near the Passeig de Gracia shopping district.1

Where to Eat in Barcelona

Barcelona is known for its tapas — small plates and snacks such as olives, patatas bravas (fried potatoes), pan con tomate (bread rubbed with tomato and oil), and deep-fried croquetas. Pinchos (or pinxtos, in Catalan) are tapas served on bread and skewered with toothpicks. Save the picks, because that’s how your waiter will add up your bill.

Barcelona Food

The best tapas bars in Barcelona include the traditional Quimet & Quimet, the experimental Tickets (get reservations a month in advance) and the eclectic La Pepita. But before you fill up on patatas bravas, remember that Barcelona is also home to some outstanding non-tapas restaurants. Disfrutar is a destination for the foodiest foodies, with menu items like “deconstruction of ceviche” and “asparagus with pickled elderflower, eel, and caviar.” Llamber offers a warm interior and modern takes on local specialties, such as Iberian ham, pigeon, and squid.

Ready to spend a week strolling the sunny streets of Barcelona?

Just make sure you protect your vacation with robust travel insurance from Allianz Global Assistance. Travel happy!

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