Barcelona is a feast for the senses. The architecture is vibrant, the temperature always feels just right and the smell of the sea air wafting though the l city calls visitors out from their hotel rooms each day. This massive seaport and beach town has been attracting visitors since ancient times, which shows in much of the medieval architecture. It is a magical city that has inspired the creative minds of Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso, Joan Miro and Antoni Gaudi, to name just a few.
Passeig de Gracia is the second most famous street in Barcelona, second only to La Rambla. This is the street where people with serious cash go to watch their salaries fly from their hands. While walking past quaint little boutique after quaint little boutique, designer labels like Chanel, Luis Vuitton, Dolce & Gabbana and Diesel wink invitingly from the windows. As the street also hosts several Gaudi buildings and Modernist monuments, browsing for Prada one minute than gawking at Gaudi the next can be counted as a cultural activity.
Those who want to find the boutiques housing Spanish designed labels should head on down to The Eixample. This hip district is the life of the soul of the party in Barcelona and showcases plenty of fashion talent. Check out shop like Antonio Miro for the very top of Catalan haute couture. Of course, a shopping trip wouldn't be complete without a stop at the long-time fashion giant Adolfo Dominguez store. And finally, for a more unique look at fashion, be sure to stop by the hot El Ganso store. The two brothers that started this shop are just utterly enamoured with 70s’ British fashion.
Spain is famous for its leather goods, and in Barcelona they put that leather to work in beautiful shoes. For those who appreciate old-school craftsmanship in footwear, head to La Manual Alpargatera in the Gothic district. It provides handmade rope sole sandals, hard sole leather boots, dress shoes and cowboy boots. The espadrilles are a particular specialty. Farrutx in The Eixample district has a similar reputation for high quality leather shoes. However, the most famous shoes in Spain come from Camper. Visitors come from all over the world go to Barcelona just to pick up a pair of Camper shoes.
Wine enthusiasts should pick up a bottle of Spain's answer to Champagne before leaving – Cava. Around 90 per cent of all Cava in Spain is produced in the Penedes region, just under an hour from Barcelona. La Cave in the Sarria district is an internationally-renowned Cava purveyor. Visitors can browse the wines on offer and sample them with tapas in La Cave’s small restaurant.
Take To The High Seas
There are an extraordinary amount of tour operators ready and willing to take people out for a fun day on the Mediterranean.
Private Sail says it all with its name; it is a private charter company that takes guests out for a day of fun on the seas. The charter boats are best enjoyed with friends, as they host an open bar with unlimited beer, sangria and soft drinks.
Though not as spacious, Private Sails party yacht, Catamaran Orsom is still a fun experience for private parties, or even for a couple seeking a little romance. Travellers can lie on the nets or sip Sangria at the back of the boat while a saxophonist plays smooth jazz.
For the captain who would rather pilot his or her own boat, Barcelona Charter provides rentals of sailing and motor boats out of Marina Port Vell. It offers boats for two-hour ventures, half days, weekends or weeks. So whether seafaring visitors want to see just a little bit of the Spanish coast or a lot of it, there are options for everyone.
Enjoy Eclectic Dining
Between the rustic Catalan fare and the innovative avant-garde cuisine on offer, foodies in this city will not want for choice.
Casa Leopoldo is in a hard to find pocket of the Ravel district, but it is well worth the search. It serves fine seafood as well as traditional Catalan fare. Signature dishes include the eggs scrambled with garlic and shrimp and its famous Cap-i-Pota.
For Mediterranean food with a twist head down to The Eixample district and pay a visit to Dos Cielos. Twin chefs Javier and Sergio Torres saw their restaurant quick hop to the top of Barcelona's A-list when they opened it only a few years ago on the 24th floor of the modern Hotel Me. The panoramic dining room offers up a vast open kitchen, as well as views of the city that are very romantic at dusk. Their cuisine is a mixture of Spanish, Mediterranean, Brazilian and Valencian, with just a dash of French technique. This fusion makes eating at Dos Cielos an adventure. Some of their most recommended dishes include pasta with sun dried tomatoes and olives, cream of Brazilian white carrot with pearls of sago palm, and foie gras ravioli with chestnut broth.
A Luxury Stay
Built in the 18th-century in the Gothic Quarter’s most charming square, the Hotel Neri looks old –intriguingly so – but the interior is designed in a hip, contemporary way that matches the now trendy district it is surrounded by. The extensive use of wood and stone in the decor, combined with occasional splashes of red or green really make the rooms pop.
With only 22 rooms, each one is treated like a piece of art in its own right, and as the staff does not have many customers to cater to, the quality of service is exquisite. However, the best part of any stay at the Hotel Neri is enjoying its rooftop, where breakfast is served in the morning and cocktails are served at night.
Located right on La Rambla is Hotel 1898, this beautiful mansion style hotel that embodies the elegance of days gone by. However, it's elegant yet modern design marries itself with technology for a perfectly luxurious stay. The rooms, while having the occasional maritime decoration like nautical stripes or bamboo, are done in a hip contemporary style. The window provides great views overlooking La Rambla and, in the distance, the Mediterranean. With doting service and complimentary use of the spa, guests at 1898 truly feel like royalty.
Related content on Canadian Traveller