Sitting between the sea and the mountains, Barcelona expresses its vibrant nature through unique architecture, culture and gastronomy. The Spanish city, both lively and historic, inspired Gabriel Garcia Marquez to describe it as “a mythical memory” and many will find this to be true today. Rebeca Vaisman shares an insider's guide.



Barcelona pavilion, designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe © Rebeca Vaisman


Bathed by the Mediterranean Sea breeze, with views of Mount Tibidabo, Barcelona is one of Spain most important cities. With hot but fresh summers and sunny, mild winters, its touristic relevance and cosmopolitan vibe haven’t dimmed that small-town energy that makes it delightful and inviting to wander around, discovering charming terraces, small shops and architectural treasures.

Famed for diverse architectural periods - Romanic, Gothic, Baroque, Modernist - Barcelona is synonymous with Gaudí, and home to the main Miró and Picasso museums. Contemporary Barcelona is an exciting arts and design hub, with plenty to enjoy in between vermouth, tapas and a creative gastronomy.


Pedralbes Monastery, Barcelona © Rebeca Vaisman 


Where to stay

Wittmore Hotel: Hidden in an alley of the Gothic Quarter, this boutique hotel was recently refurbished with a concept inspired by the cultural salons where the city's brightest used to meet. The design is cozy and inviting, while the rooms, dressed in rich textiles and wallpaper, have fun retro details like rotary phones.

El Palace Hotel: Born as the Barcelona Ritz, this is Barcelona's oldest luxury hotel, towering over Gran Via since 1919. Unashamed of its inherited opulence - marble columns, gilded furnishings and a mirror-walled reception - the hotel hosts rooftop garden parties, film nights and live jazz. Its restaurant Amar Barcelona, presided by chef Rafa Zafra, offers a modern vision on Catalonian seafood.

Mirlo Hotel: While it is nice and practical to stay in the heart of such a spirited city, an urban refuge is always a great discovery. Situated in the upscale residential neighborhood of Sarrià-Sant Gervasi, Mirlo is a small boutique hotel with a long story. The building was born as a 1918 summer residence and showcases modernist and sophisticated features, with a unique intimacy.

What to See & Do

Casa Vicens by Gaudí: Perhaps one of the lesser-known stops in the Antonio Gaudí tour of Barcelona, but Casa Vicens has the merit of being the first project designed and built by the renowned architect. Its colorful façade of red bricks and turquoise and floral tiles stands out, with the palette and ornaments spreading inside.

Mies Van de Rohe's Pavilion: The German Pavilion for the 1929 Barcelona International Exhibition, designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Lilly Reich, became a groundbreaking reference for the Modern Movement, even if it was disassembled in 1930. The pavilion was rebuilt in the mid-80s using the same materials (glass, steel and stone) and reinstalling its forceful sleekness.

National Art Museum of Catalonia: Above the Mies Van de Rohe's Pavilion and the fountain of Montjuïc, rises the main art museum of Barcelona, located in the Palau Nacional (a 1920s palace in whose restoration Gae Aulenti took part). The collection includes Romanesque church paintings, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque art.


German pavilion designed by Mies van der Rohe, Barcelona © Rebeca Vaisman  


Poblenou galleries: Highly recommended visits in this artistic neighborhood are Side Gallery, devoted to collectable design, with a catalogue of Latin American masters (Lina Bo Bardi, Oscar Niemeyer, Luis Barragán) and contemporary design; and VASTO, with exciting emerging art and an elegant approach to the concept of house-gallery.

Iconic design showrooms: The BD Barcelona showroom is where the 50-year-old Spanish manufacturer exhibits its catalogue, which includes Gaudí and Dalí furniture, as well as pieces from local and referential creators, like Óscar Tusquets and Jaime Hayón.

Palace of Catalan Music: A modernist auditorium built in the early 1900s. The hall, staircase and stained-glass skylight are a spectacle in themselves, but the Palau has a solid musical programming too. You can also just visit the building; there’s a special tour that goes up to the rooftop where you can enjoy some cava.

Where to Eat

Gresca: Rafa Peña’s restaurant is one of the most celebrated in the gastronomic circle, and rightfully so. With an open kitchen, seasonal Catalan cuisine, casual atmosphere and superb wines, dishes like the veal brain with butter and the sweetbread with wild mushrooms are a must-try.

El Xampanyet: Founded and administered by four generations of the Ninou family since 1929, this traditional tapas bar is a city landmark in the neighborhood of El Born. You can expect fresh produce, great flavor, picturesque painted tiles and very friendly service – no matter how busy they are.

Terraza Martínez: Up in Montjuïc, this is a place for seafood, paella and sangria, with a fresh and casual atmosphere, and great views to the port and the city.

Queviures Múrria: This 1898 historic colmado is the place to buy wines, artisan cheeses, charcuterie, canned food and other delicacies. After a renovation (that preserved the shop’s modernist décor), it has made room for a marble counter and a few tables to properly taste the quality of the products in conceived by one-Michelin star Jordi Vilà.


Nomad Coffee Lab & Shop, Barcelona © Rebeca Vaisman 


Dos Palillos: Asian-Mediterranean fusion with a notable sake bar. Chef Albert Raurich (ex El Bulli) and sommelier Tamae Imachi’s one-Michelin star restaurant is celebrating 15 years with retrospective menus that revisit their explorations on Japanese, Chinese and Southeast Asian concepts and flavors.

Bisavis: A small, cozy room with a counter that surrounds the chef and host, Eduard Ros, who cooks only for 12 people. The menu is guided by seasons, inspiration and mood, with a commendable selection of wines. On weekends, it opens only for Friday lunch: on Saturday and Sunday the restaurant is closed.

Món Vínic: As part of a growing natural wine scene (that includes specialists like Bar Brutal and L’Ànima del vi), Món Vínic is a sophisticated, Nordic-designed shop and bar in L’Eixample, with a large cellar and a variety of artisan cheeses, excellent jams, sausages, tapas and dishes to be enjoyed at subtly illuminated tables.

Where to Shop

Nomad Coffee: This roastery founded by award-winning barista, Jordi Mestre, has a wide range of coffee blends and various types of beans. It was chosen as Best Specialty Coffee Roaster in Spain, by the BCN Coffee Awards 2023. They have three shops, but a visit to Nomad Coffee Lab & Shop, in Passatge Sert, is worth it if you want to learn more about their processing methods and experience a great coffee.

Foix de Sarrià: An iconic patisserie from 1886 in the neighborhood of Sarrià. For artisanal desserts, chocolates, croissants, turrones (nougats) and their own petxines.

Libraries: Terranova is an old shoe shop turned into a small, delightfully decorated library that specializes in art and even has a backroom for monthly exhibits. Finestres is a library for reading: its main shop is warm and luminous, with a lovely terrace; across the street, a smaller venue is dedicated to art and graphic publications. Both have numerous reading places and invite you to stay as long as you want.


House-gallery Vasto, Barcelona © Eli Apezteguía


Subirá Candle Shop: The oldest existing candle shop in Barcelona has been crafting wax with traditional methods since 1761. You’ll find all kinds of candles (aromatic, figurative, traditional), as well as enjoy the charming store, that has a double stairway flanked by statues, original of the 1850s building.

La Manual Alpargatera: Handmade espadrilles are crafted in this atelier and shop since the 1940’s. Commonly made of cotton, raffia and silk, La Manual Alpargatera also uses a variety of textiles from Africa and Asia, to create both traditional and innovative pairs.

Santa Eulalia: Modern luxury multi-brand shop in Paseo de Gràcia with over 180 years of being at the center of Barcelona’s fashion scene. Local and international brands, plus an exclusive bespoke tailor, a pop-up store and a terraced café.

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