Catalan is the language and the culture of Barcelona, a great destination for lovers of art, architecture and food.
The city’s modernist architecture is world famous. Antonio Gaudi is the renowned practitioner of the form and his works are found throughout the area, from his masterpiece, La Sagrada Familia cathedral, to the uniquely detailed and curving stonework at Park Guell.
Both structures, designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites, served as locations in Woody Allen’s “Vicky Cristina Barcelona.” Follow the characters’ forays throughout the metropolis via the website Barcelona Movie Walks (barcelonamovie.com). (Locations for Pedro Almodovar’s “All About My Mother” are also detailed.) Walking is a preferred pastime and Barcelona rewards the ambler. The tree-lined, pedestrian-friendly Las Ramblas has everything: shops, tapas joints, street performers, gypsies and is typically crowded with visitors. Pavement designs and mosaics are by Joan Miro.
Fellow Spanish artist and former resident Pablo Picasso also had long ties to Barcelona; the Picasso Museum holds donations from Picasso’s personal collection and that of his family. A popular attraction, the museum is less crowded in the morning hours. Trendy shops dot El Born, the Medieval-era neighborhood close to the Picasso Museum. Excellent examples of modernist architecture and designer boutiques are found on the grand shopping avenue of Paseo de Gracia.
A miles-long boardwalk fronts Barceloneta beach. The youth of the world populates the area and its beach bars in warmer months, which results in quite the international mixer. Espit Chupitos caters to that crowd with its wacky selection of potent and fiery shots.
Music in the clubs run the musical gamut — Barcelona is a quick flight from Ibiza, headquarters of Europe’s house music scene. At the salsa-infused Mojito Club join in or just observe the crowded dance floor and live band. A more refined atmosphere pervades the Cafe Vienes at the historic Hotel Casa Fuster. It’s the jazz club where Woody Allen sat in during sets while shooting “Vicky Cristina Barcelona.”
Cuisine reflects the Mediterranean location. Seafood paella is a must; Con Majo’s terrace overlooking the beach helps add a salty air to the dish. Tapas vary but try patatas bravas (fried potatoes with garlic aioli and Spanish ketchup). Owned by Ferran Adria (of now-closed El Bulli) and his brother Albert, Tickets offers a sampling of El Bulli-influenced flourishes such as pickled lobster, foamed mayonnaise and a cotton candy tree dessert. The brothers are reportedly opening a Mexican-style eatery in the coming months.
Barcelona’s late nights require a relaxing stay. Close to the beach, the Ritz-Carlton’s Hotel Arts Barcelona has expansive suites and apartments (a favorite of visiting high-profile talent), a spa on the 42nd and 43rd floors and a club lounge whose guests have use of a Smart car. The newly opened 30th floor Arts Suite comes with butler service and the opportunity to book lunch tours to several out-of-town Michelin-starred restaurants via helicopter.
Cafe Vienes Jazz Club, Hotel Casa Fuster
Passeig De Gracia 132
Phone: +34 932 55 30 06
Almirall Aixada 23
Phone: +34 932 21 54 55
Carrer d’Aribau 77
Phone: +34 699 77 36 74
Hotel Arts Barcelona
Phone: +34 932 21 10 00
Phone: +34 933 52 87 46
Avinguda Paral-lel 164
Phone: +34 93-292-4253