Barcelona Travel Guide

Barcelona Travel Guide

Enchanting visitors with her sultry Mediterranean shores and assortment of historical riches dating back to Roman times, Barcelona is a city for the ages. Home to boldly distinctive architecture, world-class cuisine and a diverse cultural playground bursting with museums, live performance and endless possibilities, the Queen of Catalonia delivers a bountiful adventure. Scour for treasure in her open-air markets, slurp up fideuà – Paella’s lesser-known noodly cousin – at any number of traditional tapas eateries before exploring the architectural feats of the Gothic Quarter. Annual unmissable parties include the summer Circuit Festival, Easter Matinee and of course Pride Barcelona – arguably one of the world’s best pride parades. For gay nightlife action any time of year, choose between the classy bars and clubs of ultra-fashionable L’Eixample district (widely known as Gayxample), seaside clubbing in Vila Olimpica, or, the designer digs of Barça’s rapidly emerging 22@ district. Wondering what to do in Barcelona? Read on for Mr. Hudson’s complete Barcelona gay city guide.

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The best hotels in Barcelona

Amid Barcelona’s infinite cultural attractions and esteemed architecture, you’ll also be glad to find some amazing accommodation options. Understated sophistication best describes the décor of The Serras, an upscale boutique lodging by the sea. Featuring just 30 luminous rooms, the vibe is intimate and decidedly urban; hardwood floors, symmetrical-patterned wallpaper and neutral-toned furnishings are the dominant characteristics, with occasional splashes of colour for good measure. Revel in 5-star luxury all the way; whether with cocktails on the tree-lined rooftop, cosy conversation at Le Nine mezzanine bar, or smart-yet-casual cuisine at the Michelin-starred restaurant, Informal. Equally as elegant is the Alma Barcelona situated in L’Eixample district, a minimalist chic luxury hotel with a 40s twist. Design aficionados will love this one for its sculptural staircase, stylish heated pool and spa as well as its sexy rooftop bar with Gaudi-glam views. A refreshing combination of practical design, welcoming staff and comfy beds is served up by Brummell, a new concept in casual luxury – less bling and more soul. This hotel puts into practice what it calls “tropical modernism”; a combination of exotic elements and a Nordic aesthetic without losing its connection to its Mediterranean origins.

Hotel Alma

Hotel Alma

Brummell

Brummell

Brummell

Brummell

Another top accommodation in our definitive Barcelona gay travel guide is TWO Hotel Barcelona by AXEL, sat within L’Eixample gay district and offering all the amenities in an edgy yet elegant environment with morning views to die for. Those looking for creative inspiration among a hip, likeminded crowd should book a stay at the Yurbban Trafalgar Hotel, an urban boutique for the new age. Combining modern stylings with an industrial edge, this hotel also features the obligatory rooftop pool with a view, edged by sleek glass panelling so as to provide an uninterrupted vantage point over Barcelona’s cityscape. For some morning sun with your breakfast, try the grey-wood terrace or the pool-side couples’ loungers. As well as your usual hotel, how about an apartment stay to fully immerse yourself in city living? DestinationBCN has exactly what you need, offering magazine-worthy designer apartments just 5 minutes from Plaza Catalunya. While each is kitted out with a fully-equipped kitchen and striking original features to compliment the stylish décor, book ahead for a room with classy bay windows and a private terrace.

DestinationBCN

DestinationBCN

Yurbban Trafalgar Hotel

Yurbban Trafalgar Hotel

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Recommended hotels in Barcelona
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As a result of the merger between four different museums, the city now brings you Museu del Disseny, home to a sizable collection of graphics and decorative art pieces gathered throughout the ages

Things to do in Barcelona

If you’re looking for Barcelona points of interest, rest assured: this city offers up a treasure trove of treats to keep you busy. Hidden medieval corners, decorative street art and bizarrely beautiful buildings showcase cultural, architectural and artistic diversity at every turn. Done Gaudi-ing? All Picasso-ed out? No worries, there’s plenty more to see. The Fundació Joan Miró for one, offers cutting-edge art in a welcoming space that also features an open courtyard and terraces. Located on the hilly inclines of Montjuïc, this modern art museum – founded by Catalan artist Joan Miró and designed by Josep Lluís Sert in the style of modernist daddy Antoni Gaudí – is one of Barcelona’s most popular museum for its dynamic, inter-disciplinary exhibits and artsy open spaces perfect for chilling amongst nature.

As a result of the merger between four different museums, the city now brings you Museu del Disseny, home to a sizable collection of graphics and decorative art pieces gathered throughout the ages. Covering numerous periods and stretching back to the 4th century, here you’ll find medieval fabrics, 16th century Catalan enamelled glass and Alcora ceramics among other historically significant designs. From aesthetics to theatrics, our next stop in this Barcelona travel guide takes us to L’Antic Theatre, a brilliantly low-key theatre and tranquil oasis just a minute’s walk from the famous Palau de la Música. Boasting a huge courtyard and an open-air terrace bordered by the stunning architecture of the Old Town, this is the ideal place to kick back among a young, laid-back crowd while waiting for the show to begin. Another amazing place to get your fill of drama is the Liceu Theater, found right in the heart of Las Ramblas. With varied performances spanning Shakespeare and orchestral concerts, the theatre also offers guided tours through the building, revealing it’s little-known cultural history.

Liceu | Photo: Christian Machío Estiu

Liceu | Photo: Christian Machío Estiu

Seen upon the tippy tops of Tibidabo mountain, alongside the iconic Sagrat Cor basilica, is the Tibidabo Amusement Park. The oldest functioning in Spain, open since the 1900s, this amusement park takes its concept to the next level offering unmatched 360º -views of the city amid vintage charm. While mixing its old school attractions with more modern, adrenalin-fuelled rides, part of the beauty of this park is the journey here – on the 20th century Tramvia Blau, a retro tram that also stops off at the summit’s neo-Gothic church.

Catalonia’s rolling landscape is hard to get enough of, which is one of the reasons why a visit to the mountain of Montserrat is considered a must-do day trip, just 38 miles northeast of Barcelona city. Come dressed for an adventurous day climbing or hiking through the craggy cliffs, or, alternatively, take the rack railway to the peak where the Benedictine monastery, Santa Maria de Monserrat, provides some of the best panoramic views of the region. After exploring the religious artefacts of the abbey museum, the various caves and the Santa Cova chapel at a slightly lower altitude, top off your day trip with a wander through Colonia Guell, a perfect – yet wholly more underrated – nearby destination.

Tibidabo | Photo: Biel Morro

Tibidabo | Photo: Biel Morro

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Recommended experiences in Barcelona
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Sagrada Familia | Photo: Zidonito Mcbrain

Sagrada Familia | Photo: Zidonito Mcbrain

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What to see in Barcelona

The question of what to see in Barcelona will be answered the moment you taxi through its charming streets. A veritable open-air museum as much as a functioning metropolis, keep your eyes open for architectural stunners, medieval alleys and numerous pedestrian-only squares where you can soak up the urban ambience sans-traffic. The Gothic Quarter, in particular, is a labyrinthine marvel, its old-world, winding streets filled with trendy bars, clubs and traditional restaurants. As well as the site of the Museu d’Història de Barcelona, the Barcelona Cathedral and countless antique buildings, you’ll also find various street-food vendors and flower stalls lining the busy avenue of La Rambla. On the weekend, make your way to the Plaça del Pi – adjacent to a gothic church of the same name – for a browse through the lively, pop-up art market.

By far the most impressive park in the city is Park Güell, the perfect place to go for peaceful walks surrounded by the some of the best architectural designs of national treasure Antonio Gaudí. Take a tour of the site at leisure, enjoying the open-air museum of colourful and playful Gaudí designs before visiting the tiny on-site museum and gift shop, dedicated to and designed by Gaudí himself. For more of Gaudí’s life works, move on to the Casa Batlló, a former townhouse constructed for the Batlló family in the 19th century. Nicknamed the House of the Dragon, for its unusual curved, natural forms and reptile-like tile exteriors, Casa Batlló is one of Gaudí’s crowning masterpieces, remaining unique within the Modernist and Art Nouveau style while also being central to the movement. Look for the rounded feature to the left of the structure topped with a turret and cross, which is said to represent the lance of Saint George, the patron saint of Catalonia, as he plunges it into the dragon’s back.

Photo: Angela Compagnone

Photo: Angela Compagnone

Those searching for more of Barcelona’s unbeatable architecture will be happy heading to the beautiful Sant Pere district, where the Palau de la Música is located. Built in the early 20th century by Lluís Domènech i Montaner, as a home for Orfeó Català, this structure is one of the finest examples of Catalan Art Noueau, listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and now serving as a concert venue and landmark of cultural and social Catalonian life. While normally we’d not recommend a dash to a medical establishment, the Sant Pau Hospital is an exception, now open to the public as a cultural centre and museum since being shut down in 2009. Designed by Domènech i Muntaner in the 1930s, a visit here is not to be missed for its spectacular modernist design.

Heading out of doors to bask in the Barcelonan sunshine, visit the Bunkers del Carmel to fill up on pinnacle city views while also learning about the history of the Spanish Civil War. Known as the ‘bunkers’ and home to anti-aircraft warfare facilities, this spot is a popular hangout upon the foothills that encircle the city, above the Turó de la Rovira in the Carmel neighbourhood, offering an escape from the chaos down below and awesome 360º views. Back down at sea-level, lose yourself in The Horta Labyrinth, an 820-yard long, real-life labyrinth built in the 18th century under the orders of maze-loving Marquis Joan Antoni Desvalls d’Ardena. Costing just €2, get here early in the day to ensure you are one of the lucky 750 people admitted daily.

Park Güell | Photo: John Fornander

Park Güell | Photo: John Fornander

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In a setting resembling mum’s well-oiled dining nook, guests can choose between enjoying an exceptional Mediterranean meal or cooking one

Where to eat in Barcelona

Creative and sinfully flavourful, Catalan cuisine consistently ranks among the best in the culinary world. Arguably, the secret is in the genius combination of fresh regional ingredients with just the right alchemy of tradition, innovation and international influences. But as if that weren’t enough, Barcelona reigns scandalously close to two reputable wine regions; Penedes and Priorat, producing award-winning cava (Catalonia’s bold answer to champagne) and full-bodied reds, respectively. And let’s not get started on lively cocktail culture overtaking various parts of the city. Truth be told, there is no lack of global dining options in cosmo-centric Barcelona. The trick to finding exceptional gourmet experiences is to venture far from the beaten path. The adventurous are oft times rewarded with upscale joints serving the latest molecular morsels, often found next door to cosy mama y papa eateries in quaint locals-only neighbourhoods.

Notable out-of-the-wayers include, Uma, whose tiny and tidy kitchen invites unsuspecting diners on a gastronomic journey far beyond its perceivable means, leads the pack in the latest wave of “at home” style eateries. And in that same vein, Spoonik recently inaugurated their own high-end kitchen after the two Michelin-trained chefs triumphed with an elaborate 19-course sensory menu at a uniquely-decorated secret residence in bohemian Gracia. And if home is truly where the heart is, then Santa Rita is the culinary experience for you. In a setting resembling mum’s well-oiled dining nook, guests can choose between enjoying an exceptional Mediterranean meal or cooking one.

A must for wine aficionados, stylish Monvinic boasts over 3,500 international wines on offer via tablet. Dry Martini salutes the classic British martini bar (here, the namesake cocktail is served to perfection) right down to the brass and wood fixtures and dapper barmen attired in white coat and tie. The reigning spirit du jour, vermouth, has defiantly overcome its traditional Sunday afternoon routine rut and is experiencing an impressive resurgence as a headliner in Contempo venues like Casa Martino.

Spoonik

Spoonik

The delightfully colourful Boqueria Market is a must for visiting foodies, but for a delectable local fare ranging from chocolates to delicatessen bites and olive oils away from the masses, you’ll fare much better at the lesser known Santa Caterina Market or upmarket shops such as Andreu and Chök the Chocolate Kitchen.

Coffee lovers rejoice! Barcelona is quickly becoming a hot spot for café-connoisseurs. Old school in look and philosophy, Cafés el Magnifico sources top-quality coffee beans for their resto clients but saves the very best blends for their own intimate space. Onna Café, by contrast, features a minimalist décor, top-notch service and premium coffee served with fresh, homemade treats. Caelum offers the perfect marriage of classic kava and delectable pastries – lovingly created by dedicated monks and nuns.

Caelum Barcelona

Caelum

Shopping in Barcelona

A break from the ordinary will revolutionise your shopping experience; forgo all international name brands and chain stores and opt instead for bespoke and well-made classics. Nino Alvarez offers custom-tailored fashions; the Outpost and Bow-Tie are all about accessorising distinguished gentlemen with a penchant for mischief, while Uniqbrow makes exclusive, made-to-measure eye frames. Home design shops run the full gamut, from the urban-hip gallery Amato Sole, the vintage-charm of Polaroid shop and gallery Impossible, and ultra-modern Pilma. On a time-crunch? Then venture to the posh-centric La Comercial concept store (situated in the beautiful Born district) for high-end fashions, accessories, fragrances and home design.

La Comercial

La comercial

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Evenings usually begin with a cocktail (or three) followed by tapas or a full-on meal before the party (read: dance clubs) really begins

Barcelona nightlife

And now for Mr Hudson’s Barcelona gay scene guide. In Barcelona, the law of the land dictates a night time be dedicated to social hobnobbing, every night of the week. Evenings usually begin with a cocktail (or three) followed by tapas or a full-on meal before the party (read: dance clubs) really begins. Fortunately for some, venues like the flamboyant Ocaña are a one-stop destination allowing patrons to experience a full night out, with the added bonus of a quick getaway for a decent night’s sleep. Swank cocktail bars can also provide low-key entertainment. Two venues of note include the Mandarin Oriental’s ritzy Banker’s Bar or James Bond-inspired Solange Cocktails & Luxury Spirits. If live music is your thing, black-tie is often the norm at the opulent 19th century Liceu Opera house. For a more up-close-and-personal experience, cool cat Harlem Jazz Club or cabaret-style Milano Cocktail Bar seldom disappoint.

Solange

Solange

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