by Andrew Maness
Nestled up against the Mediterranean Sea, Spain’s second largest city impresses with its approachability. In Barcelona there’s no shortage of elevated spaces with public access, seemingly every hotel has a rooftop with a bar and a pool. However, while these are useful for gaining a different perspective in a particular neighborhood, they don’t give you a look at the big picture. For that one can venture northwest to the highest point in the city atop of Mount Tibidabo, which is home to the Temple Expiatori del Sagrat Cor, an imposing Roman Catholic church, as well as an amusement park that opened in 1889. From this point you can see all of Barcelona stretched out along the coast and form a plan of exploration using the many easily spotted landmarks, like the most famous church in the city, La Sagrada Familia and infamous structures like Torre Glories and The W Hotel Barcelona. Once you’ve soaked up all this visual information you can confidently dive into the city without constantly reaching for your phone. The less time spent looking at a screen the better because there’s something to see on every corner of every block.
Tucked away inside a nondescript old building, this 14 room micro-hotel feels more like crashing at a friends fancy apartment than a hotel. Rooms are tastefully decorated with a muted color palate, have high ceilings, seriously comfortable beds and a shower with great water pressure. There’s a common area with snacks, books and a patio attached. It’s no frills for sure, but you should be out immersing yourself in the city, not phoning for room service.
If you’re on the hunt for a wealth of European labels that are limited or impossible to find in the US a visit to BOO is a must. Go for high quality clothing from brands like Medwinds, Merz. B Schwanen and Norse Projects, stay to hang with ever watchful guard cocker spaniel Arturo.
You won’t get to all the museums, churches or cultural heritage sites. There are simply too many and they require too much time to be fully appreciated. Gaudi’s Casa Mila should be high on the list, however, because of the rooftop views and stunning apartment walkthrough. Buy tickets online ahead of time in order to bypass the long entry lines and thoroughly enjoyed time spent slowly walking the property.
Barcelona is full of boutique gift shops that feature goods handmade in Spain by artisans, Grey Street being one of the best. For an eclectic selection of jewelry, postcards, pins, posters and more swing by this little storefront in the El Raval neighborhood.
Throw a rock in any direction and you’ll find tapas. A comprehensive guide to the citie’s offerings this is not, but for an experience you won’t forget head to Cal Pep, wait for a counter seat and soak it in. When you need a break from tapas (and you will need a break from tapas) make your way to FAN Shoronpo Ramen for outstanding noodles and soup dumplings.
Make time to honor local tradition and take a vermouth at Senyor Vermut (their house recipe is good) around lunchtime. Enjoy slowly, embrace the extended midday break before diving into all your afternoon activities. Later on If you enjoy a bit of theatrics, obsessive attention to detail and a moody atmosphere, swing by Paradiso to end your night. Just don’t leave without getting a pastrami sandwich, that would be a huge mistake.
BOO, Grey Street and Cal Pep images courtesy of respective venues, all other images by Andrew Maness