Barcelona is a city of the most pleasant extremes—be it the food, beaches, or people. It’s a place where you can admire world-class architecture by Antoni Gaudi and dine at a century-old café before heading out to experience some of the best nightlife Europe has to offer. A vibrant and proud city, the Catalonian capital buzzes with an upbeat-yet-chill energy that could make any visitor wonder, Would my job let me work remotely?
For now, a four-day weekend centered around the best eats and drinks will have to suffice. Follow this Thursday through Sunday guide and you’ll see why Barcelona is quickly becoming one of the most sought-after travel destinations in the world.
Where to Stay
While it might be tempting to post up at a ritzy beachfront hotel like the W or Arts Hotel, we suggest heading slightly inland and staying in a central location—like the Gothic Quarter or L’Eixample. The entire city is teeming with four- and five-star hotels, from well-known chains to converted townhouse boutique establishments, which fortunately keep prices relatively affordable. The city’s excellent public transportation system also makes it possible to book your stay somewhere farther removed from the city if that’s more your speed, such as the luxurious Gran Hotel La Florida on Tibidabo Mountain or the posh seaside Little Beach House Barcelona in Garraf.
Our pick can be found in Eixample, now inhabiting what used to be a textile factory. The Yurbban Passage Hotel and Spa is located right above an old passage for which the hotel is named—a corridor once used by merchants and craftsmen peddling their wares. Walk in the front door and you’ll be greeted by an inviting lobby with the heady scent of vetiver in the air and uniquely modern amenities such as a photo booth and wine bottle vending machine. Other highlights include an underground organic spa, a boutique in the lobby featuring goods from local designers, and free breakfast in the morning. Oh, and did we mention the rooftop pool? It has a spectacular view.
Start your trip off on the right foot with dinner and drinks in the Gothic Quarter, a short walk away if you’re staying at Yurbban Passage. The Gothic Quarter is the perfect introduction to the winding, charming passageways of the city, with things to see and places to eat and drink at every twist and turn. It’s also home to some of the best nightlife in the city. Opened in 1897, El Quatre Gats is an iconic tapas spot known for once being frequented by the likes of Pablo Picasso. It was also the location of his first exhibition. Fill your stomach with some croquetón de jamón ibérico and wood-fired mussels before hitting the bars. Zim is an intimate wine bar less than 10 minutes away (just keep an eye out for its easy-to-miss iron door). Squeeze in and try a few glasses of their unique selection of a dozen or so wines. Tuck in a little early to ensure you’ll have enough steam for a long, action-packed day tomorrow.
Begin with brunch at local hot spot Picnic, right next to the Parc de la Ciutadella. There, you can find delicious Spanish twists on American brunch classics, like French toast with peanut butter sauce and fried green tomatoes with a fresh corn salsa. Don’t miss a glass or two of their Chipotle Bloody Mary.
While you’re still a little sluggish from brunch, meander over to the Arc de Triomf just up the street for a quick photo opportunity. After, it’s time for Barcelona’s crowning architectural jewel: the iconic La Sagrada Família. Work on the basílica began in 1882. It’s still unfinished, but that doesn’t make it any less of a marvel to behold. Take your time walking around the grounds, then head inside to see stunning columns and stained glass. Pro tip: To skip the long lines, make sure to purchase your tickets ahead of time.
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Following some down time at your hotel, head over to the up-and-coming neighborhood of Sant Antoni in the central district of L’Eixample. This quiet yet charming area will be your perfect respite from a busy day and what could be an even busier night. After exploring the neighborhood, grab dinner at Bodega 1900—a charming tapas and vermouth bar. Once you’re stuffed, check out Paradiso, a hidden gem near the Gothic Quarter that was ranked one of the top 50 bars in the world last year. The dazzling speakeasy is actually located in a pastrami shop. Go through the “fridge door.” The drinks are an experience in and of themselves, served in vessels such as hot air balloons and Trojan horses.
Venture shoreside at the Jefferson Beach Club—an outdoor bar and restaurant located right next to Sant Sebastia Beach. Inspired by the Hamptons, Jefferson is known for delicious frozen cocktails and stellar food served in a casual-but-fun atmosphere that’ll have you in the perfect mindset to hit the waves after.
Luckily the Mediterranean sun shines down on Barcelona about 300 days a year, so the chances of visiting during an off-day are pretty slim. Grab your sunscreen and a towel and get ready to hit the sand. There’s plenty of beaches to choose from, whether you’re going for classic Barceloneta Beach in the heart of everything or one that’s a little off the beaten path.
We suggest starting out at Sant Sebastia by the W Hotel. It’ll be a little quieter when you first get there, but gets lively in the afternoon. If you’re interested, they also host surfing lessons at the Pukas Surf School. Also note that this particular beach is clothing-optional, in case you want to let loose in more ways than one.
Treat yourself to dinner at The Doping Club in L’Eixample, helmed by chefs Mauricio Zillo and Francesco Ruggiero. There’s no menu. Instead, they go to the local markets in the morning and pick ingredients that’ll inspire their creations later at night. Pick and choose which ingredients you’d like to see on your plate and leave the rest to them. The only decision you’ll have to make are which cocktails or glasses of wine to wash it all down with.
After dinner, hit the club and go dancing. Razzmatazz has five different dance floors, each playing a different type of music like electronic and R&B. They charge a cover, as most clubs in Barcelona do, and there’s always a line wrapping around the corner. Hack the system by purchasing your ticket ahead of time, which will ensure your entrance to all five areas of the club. You can also redeem your ticket for a free first drink or shot upon entrance.
In rough shape this morning? Soak up last night’s vodka sodas with a meal from Milk Bar & Bistro near Via De Gracia, a restaurant known for having one of the best brunches in the city. If hair of the dog is necessary, they’ve got you covered with mimosas made with freshly squeezed orange juice and Bloody Marias. The menu features everything from pancake stacks to chorizo hash to breakfast burgers.
Spend a leisurely afternoon strolling around MACBA (The Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art) and its neighborhood of El Raval—a hip area packed with boutique shops, museums, and cafes. Grab a cold brew from nearby Departure Coffee before heading to MACBA, taking some time to watch the skateboarders showing off their skills right outside the museum. Barcelona is often said to be the skating capital of Europe, so you can expect a good show.
It’s almost time to depart, so we’re going to leave you on a high note with your final dinner in the city at the upscale Disfrutar in Eixample—the brainchild of three head chefs from world-renowned restaurant El Bulli. Allow yourself to be wowed not only by the tasting menu, which includes avant-garde dishes all inspired by the Mediterranean, but also by the space itself which pays homage to the colors of the city and its surrounding fishing villages.