Barcelona is one of the most popular short-break destinations for Brits. Short travelling time, reasonably priced city, plenty of culture, food and sunshine to enjoy. I have been desperate to write about the Catalan capital for a while now and when I did finally spend a weekend there I had an endless list of must try things to do, see, eat and experience. In three days I dashed to every corner of Barcelona to bring you this varied and fun directory of my favourite things to do.
Mercer Hotel – tucked away in the atmospheric and historic Gothic quarter this hotel is removed from the main tourist streets. There is a luxurious sense of calm and cool inside the grand building. Stylish and minimalist design-led rooms are blissfully comfortable, the rooftop terrace bar and pool is heaven on a hot day and the restaurant downstairs serves seasonal fine dining.
Generator Hotel/Hostel – this affordable option is on the outskirts of central Barcelona. Always full of passionate travellers Generator is a perfect combination of character and comfort. Share a room with fellow guests in the hostel or enjoy the privacy of a hotel room complete with private bathroom and balcony.
La Pepita – tired and hungry this little venue was ideal for a first-night quick meal. With long opening hours La Pepita is great for a snack any time of day. Enjoy a glass of cava and a selection of tasty tapas.
Cornelia & Co – this NYC inspired deli-café is perfect place to pick up picnic supplies, or pop in for a morning croissant and fresh juice. The chic canteen-style design is a pleasure to be surrounded by.
La Boqueria – a favourite with tourists, this large public market in the centre of town is a landmark in Barcelona. Offering a wide range of edible goods I recommend wandering round and quenching your thirst with an exotic fresh pressed juice.
Caelis – an elegant Michelin starred restaurant serving inventive cuisine by Chef Romain Fornell. Try the speciality sharing dessert, “Explosion St. Honore”, a dish to remember.
Tickets – simply the hottest ticket in town. If you are blessed with good luck you may find yourself sitting at this wacky tapas restaurant by prestigious chef Ferran Adria. The famous foodie applies his avant-garde creative and unconventional ideas to create a menu that is both delicious and thrilling.
Caravelle – this trendy café is known to make the best brunch place in town. The minimalist little venue is reminiscent of East London hang-outs, with guests tapping away on macs and shovelling the baked eggs into their mouths enthusiastically.
Cañete – an upmarket and fashionable tapas bistro for those in the know. Cañete serves up a taste of old Spain, I couldn’t fault the food. Always busy, it is best to go along at opening time to ensure you get a table. Sit at the bar so you can see the chefs at work, food envy is inevitable so best to order as you go.
Bacoa– Burgers are increasingly popular in Barcelona and this outlet is the place to try them. Now with several branches Bacoa is never too far away. The team use the best meat grilled to juicy perfection, homemade bread and irresistibly creamy sauces, we shared one burger and wished instantly we had got one each!
La Donuteria – If you can bear to leave the traditional churros snack behind, visit this new sweet-tooth heaven for a donut.
La Cova Fumada – the tapas bar with no name, this scruffy traditional eatery is found nearby to the beach, 56 Carrer del Baluart and is always full with local workers. Said to be the birthplace of the spicy potato bomba it is the best place to try this delicious Spanish specialty.
Eyescream and Friends – ice-cream doesn’t get much friendlier than this. Located near the main Barceloneta beach Eyescream and Friends serves animated homemade ice-cream with toppings of your choice. These need to be seen to be believed.
Satan’s Coffee Corner – now relocated to a bigger venue this coffee place was set up by Marcos Bartolome, who saw a gap in the market serving truly great coffee in Barcelona. Local and visiting caffeine addicts flock to the chic corner café to get their fix and sit in lovely light room.
Nomad – this lab and shop in El Born is for coffee fanatics and devotees. Known for offering the best coffee in Barcelona the Nomad boys use a wonderfully balanced blend… the flat white here was one of the best I’ve tried.
Sirvent – selling the locally loved drink horchata, Sirvent is an institution in Barcelona. Horchata is a unique blend of tigernuts, water and sugar and is a refreshing creamy drink. Family run since 1920 Sirvent often has a long queue of parched customers in summer, each clutching a paper numbered ticket ready to be served.
Barcelo Raval – a glamorous 360 rooftop bar with a lovely relaxed vibe, and spectacular panoramic views of the entire city. Not as well-known as the more popular W Hotel this bar is less busy and consequently much more pleasant for an sundowners drink.
Dry Martini – opened in 1978 and has remained the top place to drink fine cocktail in Barcelona. Owned and created by barman legend Javier de las Muelas this bar is a homage to the celebrated Dry Martini.
Negroni – a small and discreet little bar which barely has a sign indicating its whereabouts, and inside there is no menu to choose from. Sit on the high stools and chat to the experienced mixologist about your preference of flavour and ingredients and minutes later your perfect drink will be placed in front of you.
El Mariachi – this hidden away secret bar in the Gothic area is impossible to find but worth looking for. Manu Chao is sometimes seen jamming here, but if he’s not in the house there will often be other talented musicians entertaining the crowd. Drinks are reasonably priced, but beware there are no English speakers here.
Camp Nou – visit this iconic football stadium and museum to get to grips with the history of Spanish history. See the luscious green pitch where the world’s best players illustrate the beautiful game. We enjoyed an in depth tour with a knowledgeable guide, even I left humming the familiar Barcelona FC fan song.
Fundacio Joan Miro – located on the Montjuic hill this impressive white modern museum honours the work of Joan Miro, a 20th Century Catalan artist. I particularly loved the selection of outdoor sculptural work which are arranged with amazing views of the city as a backdrop.
Recinte Modernista – The Modernista Sant Pau Complex was built between 1905 and 1930 and designed by Lluís Domènech i Montaner as a garden city for nursing the sick. Recently Renovated this incredible collection of buildings is now partially reopened allowing the public to admire the beautiful architecture and design.
Barceloneta beach – when the heat gets too much the Spaniards head to the beach. It is a rare treat to have the seaside so close to the city centre so take advantage of the cool blue waters and fight for your place on the sand. Nearby bars and restaurants provide sustenance when you get peckish, or buy a fresh mojito on the beach.
Picasso Museum – this lovely museum houses one of the most extensive collections of artworks by the 20th-century Spanish artist Pablo Picasso. After paying your dues in the queue wander round and pick your favourite painting from the unrivalled selection.
Els Encants flea market – In a startling mirrored open-sided complex near Plaça de les Glòries Catalanes, the ‘Old Charms’ flea market is the biggest of its kind in Barcelona. Over 500 vendors sell antique furniture, second-hand clothes and other random bits and bobs.
Pink Peony – this adorable little salon gave us a chance to recuperate and relax, for a blissful 2 hours we let the attentive staff pamper our feet and hands. Located very centrally on the famous shopping street Passeig de Gracia, this small salon opened in 2008, the perfect place for shoppers to stop for a beauty break.
La Sagrada Familia – easily the most famous landmark in Barcelona La Sagrada Familia by Antoni Gaudi is a challenge to get into but you’ll regret it if you don’t make the effort. I would advise to book tickets online before you go so you don’t waste time in the queue. Inside the large psychedelic Roman Catholic church is even more remarkable than the exterior. The quirky design, multi-coloured stained glass windows and the terrifyingly tall towers are unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.
Colmado Quilmez – dating back to 1908 this old-school grocery has a spectacular range of local and international food and drink products. Make sure you check out the unrivalled selection of bottled waters, there are over 200 brands to choose from!
Les Topettes – a dinky, daintily designed shop with a range of lovely perfume brands from around the globe, beautifully packaged soaps and scented candles. I particularly loved the fragrances from Madrid-based perfume house Oliver & Co.
Chandal – Can I please live here? I loved it all… a fabulous retro concept store stocking retro stationery, books, cameras, toys, t-shirts and much more. A whole load of things you don’t need, but desperately want.
Fantastik – this mad and magical shop stocks imported items from around the world. Here you can buy brilliantly kitsch décor to add some character and colour to your home… Chinese thermos flasks, Mexican virgins, plastic pandas from Japanese and photos of Indian hairstyles from the 70s.
Vincon – an expansive design emporium on the main street Passeig de Gracia Vincon spans two floors and holds a huge collection of aesthetically pleasing furniture and homeware. At the back the small gallery Sala Vincon showcases intriguing exhibitions.
Oriol Balaguer – where chocolate and design meet. Oriol Balaguer is an award-winning chocolatier and he is renowned in Spain. In his bijou Barcelona store in Barrio Alto presents the fine sweets, pastries, cakes and mousses in a beautifully decadent way. Go along in the morning for an indulgent pain au chocolat.
Holala! – this is vintage heaven, with a handpicked selection of vintage clothes and furniture from USA, Japan and EU. Pick up a second-hand Ralph Lauren shirt, neon sports shorts or a retro pinafore to add to your wardrobe.
Many thanks to the Barcelona Tourist Board for their help with this trip, more information here.