Where to stay in Barcelona

Find the best places to eat, drink, shop, sleep and play in the colourful neighbourhoods of Barcelona
Park Güell
© Maria Dias
By Time Out Barcelona |
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One of the first things to consider when planning a trip is location. Will you be able to find tasty tapas nearby? Are the best bodegas within walking distance? Are there galleries, museums and attractions aplenty to satisfy everyone from kids to big kids? Well fret not, because we've compiled a list of most fun and fascinating spots in the city. Check out the best places to stay in Barcelona below.

RECOMMENDED: A perfect weekend in Barcelona.

Barcelona's best neighbourhoods

Santa Maria del Mar
© Elan Fleisher / Time Out

El Born

What most locals and visitors to Barcelona call the Born is really a neighbourhood with the long-winded name of Sant Pere, Santa Caterina i La Ribera. It's also sometimes referred to as La Ribera (the Waterfront), a name that recalls the time before permanent quays were built, when the shoreline reached much further inland and the area was contained within the 13th-century wall. The most uptown area of downtown, the Born is a curious blend of the ecclesiastical, the elegant and the edgy, and now commands some of the highest property prices in the city. Label-happy coolhunters throng the primped pedestrian streets, where museums, restored 13th-century mansions and churches alternate with cafés, galleries and boutiques. It's also home to the spectacularly reinvented Santa Caterina market, a great alternative to the oft-overcrowded Boqueria on La Rambla.

EAT

El Mirador del Palau

Signature catering company Singularis manages El Mirador del Palau – the restaurant at the Palau de la Música. The restaurant that's part of this Modernist gem now offers à la carte options as well as set menus that you can get as tasting menus or express dishes, which really helps if you fancy a bite during a concert intermission. And it's all made with local products and lots of personality, with special emphasis on seasonal ingredients. Among the main courses, highlights include the parmentier with truffled scallops, the lamb parfait with spices, and the Mediterranean monkfish. It's great signature cuisine at a price that's better than you might think.

DRINK

Paradiso/Pastrami Bar

Pastrami Bar is pretty much what it sounds like, a sandwich place where you can get a mean pastrami, the likes of which you won't find anywhere else in Barcelona. But if you open the wooden fridge door, which takes up half a wall and gives itself away a bit thanks to its hinges, you'll be transported into El Paradiso – a speakeasy that's not just any cocktail bar. This is an elegant cave lined with wooden slats where Giacomo Gianotti was awarded best cocktail mixologist in Spain in 2014. But don't worry, their aim is to creat signature cocktails at affordable prices, not to cater to the jet set. You'll find outrageous items like a re-distilled whiskey, where they separate the old part of the whiskey that has a woody taste and use it to make a tea sorbet. You drink it, and as it melts with the alcohol, the whiskey ages! And 80 percent of their imaginative and potent house creations cost a lot less than at a highbrow cocktail bar.

DO

Museu Picasso

By no means an overview of the artist's work, the Picasso Museum is rather a record of the vital formative years that the young Picasso spent nearby at La Llotja art school (where his father taught), and later hanging out with Catalonia's fin-de-siècle avant-garde. The founding of the museum is down to a key figure in Picasso's life, his friend and secretary Jaume Sabartés, who donated his own collection for the purpose. The seamless presentation of Picasso's development from 1890 to 1904, from deft pre-adolescent portraits to sketchy landscapes to the intense innovations of his Blue Period, is unbeatable, then it leaps to a gallery of mature Cubist paintings from 1917. The pièce de résistance is the complete series of 58 canvases based on Velázquez's famous 'Las Meninas', donated by Picasso himself after the death of Sabartés, and now stretching through the Great Hall. The display later ends with linocuts, engravings and a wonderful collection of ceramics donated by Picasso's widow.

STAY

Hotel Colonial Barcelona

This four-star hotel stands on the border of the Born and the Barri Gòtic, so you've got the entire centre of Barcelona at your feet. The 81 soundproof rooms feature gorgeous wood floors, cosy furniture and plenty of natural light. The Colonial is pet-friendly, and close enough to local city beaches and the Ciutadella park to take your pup for a good walk. Since you're at the lower end of the busy Via Laietana, you'll never be at a loss for modes of transport, as you're near two metro stops, taxis speed along at all hours of the day and night, and the location is so central that you can walk to many of Barcelona's top sights and attractions. The hotel also offers tourist services, including information and ticket sales.

If you do just one thing…

If you're starting to feel the need for a nature break in Barcelona, get yourself immediately to the Parc de la Ciutadella. Over 17 hectares of green space, museums, the Barcelona Zoo, a lake with rowboats for rent, and a rather majestic waterfall designed by Josep Fontseré and his apprentice, a young Antoni Gaudí. Climb the steps on either side of the fall for a bird's-eye view of the park.

Barri Gòtic

Combined with a wander down La Rambla, a stroll through the medieval alleyways and lovely squares of the Gothic Quarter is the best possible introduction to Barcelona and the starting point for most visitors upon arrival in Barcelona. For a taste of the town's more grandiose architecture, Plaça Sant Jaume is flanked by two government buildings, the Renaissance palace of the Generalitat and neo-classical façade of the Ajuntament. And just around the corner you have the Gothic architecture of the Placa del Rei, the Cathedral, and the magnificent Placa Reial. The Barri Gòtic is busy by day with local business and shops buzzing, and at night it’s slightly quieter than its sister neighbourhood across Via Laietana, the Born, but there are still plenty of lively restaurants, cafés and bars keeping visitors in the area more than happy.

EAT

Can Culleretes

The rambling dining rooms at the ‘house of teaspoons’ have been packing ’em in since 1786. The secret to this restaurant’s longevity is a straightforward one: honest, hearty cooking and decent wine served at the lowest possible prices. Under huge oil paintings and a thousand signed black-and-white photos, diners munch wild boar stew, roasted duck with prunes, veal knuckle with milk cap mushrooms, cava-stewed pig’s trotters and superbly fresh seafood.

DRINK

Bar del Sidecar

The bar at the Sidecar Factory Club is a Barcelona classic that's full of history with a heartbeat that sounds like a guitar solo. From the pavement outside, if you look through the red-lit windows that make a Kubrick-esque contrast with the whiteness of the furniture, stairs and bars inside, you can just make out tables covered with posters announcing concerts that have come and gone. The bar above the club has had its own identity for a while now: with Pablo, Wookie and Juan in charge, the Sidecar bar hosts its own programme of concerts, exhibitions and DJ sessions as well as mixing up good cocktails. Quite the bastion of Barcelona life right here in its own corner of Plaça Reial.

DO

Barcelona Cathedral

The construction of Barcelona's Gothic cathedral began in 1298. However, thanks to civil wars and plagues, building dragged on at a pace that makes the Sagrada Familia project look snappy: the façade and central spire were not finished until 1913. Inside, the cathedral is a cavernous and slightly forbidding place, but many paintings, sculptures and an intricately carved central choir (built in the 1390s) all shine through the gloom. The cathedral is dedicated to the one of the city's patron saints, Eulàlia, an outspoken 13-year-old martyred by the Romans in AD 303; her remains lie in the dramatically lit crypt, in an alabaster tomb carved with torture scenes from her martyrdom. The glorious, light-filled cloister is famous for its 13 fierce geese – one for each year of Eulàlia's life – and half-erased floor engravings, detailing which guild paid for which side chapel: scissors to represent the tailors, shoes for the cobblers and so on. Inside there’s also a lift to the roof; for a few euros you can take it for a magnificent view of the Old City.

STAY

Petit Palace Boqueria Garden

As you may have deduced from the name of the hotel, here you're staying in a small palace very near the famous Boqueria market on La Rambla, and it boasts not just any garden, but one that's a century old and surrounds an outdoor patio where you can have your breakfast or just relax for a while. Located on a quiet street just off La Rambla, you're close to the metro, the Liceu opera house, Plaça Reial, and loads of bars and restaurants. The rooms are spacious and minimalist, with white as a primary colour, and splashes of bold colours here and there. Whether you're on your own, with your partner, friends or family, the rooms accommodate all sizes of groups, and even some pets. If you've got kids, they'll love the bunk beds in the family-size rooms. Contrasting yet complementing the modern look of the rooms are the stone walls, arches and staircase throughout the hotel. You can also rent bikes from the Petit Palace upon availability.

If you do just one thing…

Wander around El Call. Just a minute or two walking from the Cathedral and you’re in the Jewish Quarter. Much less obvious than the Cathedral, the tucked-away Synagogue is a good place to start; branch out from there, noticing the shops that specialise in Jewish religious items.

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The Raval

The Raval is Barcelona's most multicultural neighbourhood. You can see it as soon as you get there, with Indian- and Pakistani-run markets living alongside shops that have been around since the Roman Empire, and restaurants, bars and other venues that are much more modern and doing a hopping business. Once a no-go area for tourists, the Raval has been and is still being transformed. Some of its gems have been around for years – Gaudí's medievalist Palau Güell was an early attempt at gentrification. But others are newer: the revival began in 1995 with Richard Meier's monumental MACBA, housing the city's main collection of modern art as well as serving as a mecca for skateboarders from around the world, and carried on in 2008 with the futuristic Barceló hotel on the Rambla del Raval. From the hotel, by the way, you have easy access to other nearby neighbourhoods, such as Sant Antoni and the Barri Gòtic, and it's a nice walk to the city beaches.

EAT

Suculent

Among the variety (in flavour, price and quality) of food on offer along the Rambla del Raval, this eatery under the cover of a modest tapas bar is noteworthy. It's inside an old Raval bodega, and still has practically the same look and feel about it, maintaining its olden-days charm. You'll enjoy traditional Catalana and Spanish dishes, prepared with new techniques that bring them up to date. Though the menu changes with the seasons, some of the temptations you might find include Iberian pork ribs, rice with duck and eel, grilled octopus with chickpeas, and oxtail croquettes with horn of plenty mushrooms. Just next door is La Taverna del Suculent, an extension of the restaurant where you can get great beers and top tapas.

DRINK

Club Caribbean

The ultra modern have taken over the city, and the cocktail industry has not emerged unscathed. Nowadays if you don't distil your own gin or serve bizarre concoctions in impossible vessels with stick-in-your-eye garnishes, you're nobody in this business. That's why it's so comforting to head in to this bar that looks like you're stepping onto a boat, a creation by Juanjo González who himself happens to be one of Barcelona's most charismatic barmen. A bit older and wiser after experiences with Boadas and Gotarda, González will serve you up a mojito full of nuances as well as any of an endless list of cocktails that make everything seem right with the world.

DO

Gran Teatre del Liceu

Being in the Raval and not going to the Liceu is like being in Rome and not stopping by Trevi Fountain. Since it opened in 1847, two fires, a bombing and financial crises have failed to quash the spirit and splendour of the Liceu, one of the most prestigious venues in the world and a huge success with the public. It was the largest opera house in Europe during its first 100 years of life, and for a century high society gathered here. After the 1994 fire, the concert hall was renovated, staying true to the look it had in 1909, but with some improvements. A restrained façade opens into an elegant 2,292-seat auditorium of red plush, gold leaf and ornate carvings. The latest mod cons include seat-back subtitles in various languages that complement the Catalan surtitles above the stage. Don't let the elitist look scare you off, as this is a venue that welcomes all. Check out the programme and see what strikes your fancy if you're in the mood for opera, ballet, concerts or theatre.

STAY

Barceló Raval

Strolling along the Rambla del Raval, you'll see this hotel right away, and it might even remind you a bit of the Torre Agbar. On the rooftop terrace you can grab a snack and a drink while taking in 360-degree panoramic views of the city – a great way to watch the sun set. Dotted around the terrace are binoculars you can use to pick out Barcelona landmarks: the Mediterranean on one side with the Mapfre Towers; a bit more to the right, the Torre Agbar, lit up in colours; then there's the Sagrada Família; and beyond, the imposing Torre de Calatrava, aka the Montjuïc Communications Tower.

If you do just one thing…

Wander along from one end to the other of C/Joaquín Costa and discover all this busy street has to offer, from a scrumptious cocktail in Negroni to a special gift in Fusta'm or Fantastik to a one-of-a-kind perfume in Les Topettes.

Plaça de la Virreina
© Maria Dias

Gràcia

Beyond the Eixample lies the low-rise barrio of Gràcia. Like workaday Sants and well-heeled Sarrià, it was an independent town that was swallowed up as the city spread, but it retains its own identity and is one of the most popular and vibrant districts in the city. You can't think of Gràcia without thinking of its 'Festa Major', a district-wide weeklong street fair and party that takes over the area every August, complete with neighbourhood decorating competitions that are taken very seriously, and activities all day and into the wee hours. Architecturally, Gràcia can hold its own with the likes of the clock tower in Plaça de la Vila, the modernist Casa Fuster, Gaudí's Casa Vicens and, stretching the boundaries a bit, Park Güell.

EAT

L’Arrosseria Xàtiva Gràcia

Baked rice, together with 'caldoso' soupy rice and paella, holds a place of honour as the most popular of dishes to come out of Valencia. As a recipe traditionally prepared with leftovers from other stews, you'll find it often contains ingredients such as 'morcilla' blood sausage, chickpeas or pieces of different kinds of meat. At L’Arrosseria Xàtiva they follow an original recipe out of a Catalan cookbook called 'Llibre del Coch' (1520), and there are two versions available: a summer one with potato and tomato and a winter with ear of Iberian pig's ear, both with artisanal rice from the Pego-Oliva marshlands in Valencia.

DRINK

La Vermuteria de Tano

OK, so Paris has its pavement bars and quaint lampposts. But we’ve got bodegas like Tano's. A door covered in stickers, marble tables, the smell of long-gone cigars still somehow lingering, and the young woman with the Sunday paper under her arm who chats away as she sips on her vermouth and snacks on anchovies, olives and cockles. They must be starving in Paris.

DO

Park Güell

Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí's brief for the design of what became Park Güell was to emulate the English garden cities so admired by his patron Eusebi Güell. The fantastical exuberance of Gaudí's imagination remains breathtaking. The two gatehouses at the main entrance were based on designs the architect made for the opera 'Hänsel and Gretel'. Pass them and walk up a splendid staircase flanked by multi-coloured battlements, past the iconic mosaic dragon sculpture, to what would have been designed as the the main marketplace. Here, 86 palm-shaped pillars hold up a roof, reminiscent of the hypostyle hall at Luxor. Atop this structure is the esplanade, a circular concourse surrounded by undulating benches in the form of a sea serpent decorated with shattered tiles. The park itself, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is magical, with twisted stone columns supporting curving colonnades or merging with the natural structure of the hillside. Its peak is marked by a large cross, and offers an amazing panorama of Barcelona and the sea beyond.

STAY

Hotel Casa Fuster G.L. Monumento

This five-star Grand Luxury hotel is a monument in itself, housed in an iconic modernista building that was built in 1908 by Catalan architect Lluis Domènech i Montaner. His work, including the hotel, is designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site; so even if you decide your pockets aren’t deep enough to stay here, you’ll definitely want to go by and have a peek, and even enjoy a cocktail from a velvety sofa in the Café Vienés. Casa Fuster’s 105 rooms are decorated in rich fabrics and wood that complement the modernista look yet give them a contemporary feel. With perks a-plenty, you’ll enjoy views of Barcelona’s big shopping street, Passeig de Gràcia, and the Senior Suite even has its own private sauna. With Passeig de Gràcia right outside the door, you’ve got all the top shops as well as high street stores within walking distance, as well as modernista buildings by Gaudí, including La Pedrera and Casa Batlló, not to mention the whole of the bustling Gràcia neighbourhood. Don’t miss a visit to the hotel's rooftop terrace, with a swimming pool and excellent views, and try a meal in the Galaxó restaurant, serving up Mediterranean cuisine, or catch live music every week in the Jazz Club.

If you do just one thing…

Take a break on a bar or restaurant terrace in one of Gràcia’s many spacious, tree-lined squares: Plaça del Sol, Plaça de la Virreina, Plaça de la Vila...

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Sagrada Familia Passion Tower
© Connie Ma

Sagrada Família

As you may have already guessed, Sagrada Família is named after Gaudí's most infamous structure. The magnificent Roman Catholic basilica sits to the west of the neighbourhood and is flanked by the beautifully landscaped Plaça de Gaudí, which makes for a pleasant spot to sit. Given the church's notoriety (it's the most-visited attraction in Catalonia and Spain), it's often very busy around here, but there's plenty more to explore in the area, which forms part of the wider Eixample district. It's easy to navigate, too, as the streets are laid out in a grid. Immediately around the basilica you'll find a lot of chains, but cheaper, traditional cuisine can be had as you venture further out. There are also plenty of bars, shops and other things to do, a lot of which can be found along Avinguda de Gaudí. Also worth checking out is the modernist architecture of Lluís Domènech i Montaner in the Hospital de Sant Pau at Carrer de Sant Quintí.

EAT

Gamba de la Costa

Gamba – meaning prawn in Spanish – is the name of the game here. They are by far the best thing on the menu, and rightly so. Juicy and tender, basted in light but refreshing marinades. The restaurant is intimate and modestly dressed, but the no-fuss surrounds allow you to focus more on your meal. Aside from prawns, you'll find other seafood like monkfish and muscles on the menu, plus squid ink rice, artichoke fries and tuna tartare. The desserts here are a particular highlight too, with sweet treats including crema Catalana, flan de mató, cookie filled mousse and apple fritters.

DRINK

Aigua del Carmen

Aigua del Carmen is an old school remedy that Catalonians once used to ail aches, pains and, erm, boils. Comprising lemon, rosemary, mint, clove and cinnamon, this concoction now inspires the name of a trendy cocktail bar just west of Sagrada Família. The staff have even rustled up their own version of the old medicine, with a twist: lemon juice, sugar, apple liqueur, gin and a few drops of blue curacao. Gin is a favourite at this bar, with a large selection to choose from, if that's your thing. But they also make all the classic cocktails, with a few other innovative inventions on the menu.

DO

Sagrada Família

As we mentioned before, the Basílica de la Sagrada Família is easily Antoni Gaudí's most famous work, with an estimated five million people visiting it every year. This was Gaudí's final labour of love, having spent 40 years of his life working on it (right up until his death in 1926), and he is in fact buried beneath the building. It's a large and winding church that you probably won't be able to explore in its entirety in one trip. We'd recommend beelining for the basement, where you'll see models, plans, drawings and the workshop where sculptors continue crafting on casts. Take the time to climb one of the towers, which are narrow – and terrifyingly high at points – and provide spectacular views of Barcelona. They also offer the opportunity to get up close to the intricate stonework. And don't forget to look up! Gaudí was a sucker for detail and you'll find intricate wonders in every inch of the church, especially in the ceiling on the nave, where you first enter.

STAY

Ayre Hotel Rosellón

This four-star design hotel on Rosselló faces the Basílica de la Sagrada Família, so if you stay here you can get a good ganders at it away from the throng of tourists. Ayre Hotel is contemporary, with cityscapes on the walls of the bedrooms and geometric patterns in the public areas, plus lots of clean lines and glass. Each room offers air-conditioning, bottled water, flat screen TVs and free wifi. Sagrada Família metro station is a few minutes' walk away, plus you can walk to the Sant Pau Art Nouveau Site and the neighbourhood of Gràcia. If it's fun in the sun you're after, and you prefer to stroll through the city, it's a straight shot down C/Marina to the Barcelona city beaches and Port Olímpic.

If you do just one thing…

Stop by the Sant Pau Art Nouveau Site, a former hospital (and UNESCO World Heritage Site) made up of 20 pavilions, abundantly adorned with the colourful Byzantine, Gothic and Moorish flourishes and set in peaceful gardens. Plus, from here you can get another fab view of the Sagrada Família.

Mercat de Sant Antoni
© Maria Dias

Eixample Esquerre & Sant Antoni

The city plan that Ildefons Cerdà came up with ended up with the Eixample being so expanisve that it was divided into two, the Dreta (Right) and the Esquerra (Left), with the latter being segmented yet again into the Nova (New) and the Antiga (Old), though they all work together as one district. The Esquerra is not as bustling as the Dreta – with its modernista buildings – but it's no less interesting: the Esquerra is where you'll find the Joan Miró park, the Novecentista Mercat del Ninot, the University of Barcelona gardens (host to concerts and markets throughout the year), and the prison La Modelo, which stopped serving as a penitentiary and opened its doors to free tours in 2017 until the city starts the works to make it into a blooming green space. We also focus on the Eixample Esquerra neighbourhood of Sant Antoni here, which has become a thriving and hip area with a bar or restaurant every few feet.

EAT

Nectari

Sure it's not a restaurant you'd go to on a daily basis, even though they do have a reasonably priced set lunch menu, considering this is cuisine that's earned a Michelin star for it's chef, Jordi Esteve. His is traditional yet imaginative cooking where local, seasonal products rule. The tasting menu, for example, might see a lobster gazpacho with pickles and caviar, and a trout tartare with salad mousse and false tomato. If none of this makes any sense but you're dying to try it, you know where to go to satisfy your curiosity craving.

DRINK

Bar Calders

Here you'll find one of the most popular terraces in Sant Antoni, and if you can find a spot to sit for a while, you'll understand why. It's tucked away in a little square that the bar livens up any day of the year; the owners and wait staff are lovely; and their menu, while not extensive, is full of tapas and small dishes that are perfect for sharing. If you're there for the midday vermouth hour, hang around for lunch, then have a drink before dinner, which you also eat there, and finish the night with a cocktail, so you never have to leave your new favourite bar.

DO

Mercat de Sant Antoni

The renovation works on this popular neighbourhood market are taking about as long as the construction of the Sagrada Família, but it just might finish first. The estimated date to open is in spring 2018, but even though it's not full of market stalls or vendors who fill it with life, it's still worth stopping by to admire its architecture and all the details of the tiles and ironworks to imagine what it will become. If you go on a Sunday you get the bonus of coming across the weekly second-hand book fair held outside the market so you can go home with a rare volume or unique object.

STAY

TOC Hostel Barcelona

Free your mind of the prejudice against hostels as run-down accommodations for backpacking dreadlocked university dropouts. Many hostels have been given an upgrade, like the TOC Hostel, which you'll find right in the centre of Barcelona, with two types of offerings. First there's the hostel, with rooms shared between up to eight guests in bunk beds with a Nordic design, bathroom, and storage space, or rooms for four, which are the preferred choice for smaller groups or families. The other option is their hotel, with private two-person rooms.

If you do just one thing…

In Sant Antoni there's a bodega where locals come together, whether they're achingly modern hipsters or groups of grandads who have lived in the area for 50 years. They share marble tables and drink beers at the bar, surrounded by barrels of wine, and all under the affable watch of the owner, Rafel, who looks after all his customers with extreme dedication. Try the enormous omelettes, ham that Rafael cuts himself, the variety of croquettes, and the cold cuts from his home town.

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Dreta de l'Eixample

Though they're part of the same district, the two Eixamples, Dreta (Right) and Esquerra (Left), don't have that much in common, whether you're talking about the amount of cultural venues, things to do, or income level of their residents (hint: the Dreta is sometimes referred to as the 'Quadrat d'or', or Golden Grid'). The Eixample Dreta is so called not only because it's located in the eastern part of Cerdà's grid but because it was on that side of the railroad that once ran down from Sarrià to Barcelona along C/Balmés. Nowadays this is where you'll find great shopping along Passeig de Gràcia, bars lining the walking-friendly Passeig de Sant Joan, and the central Plaça de Catalunya as well as quite a few of the buildings that make up the city's Ruta del Modernisme.

EAT

Manairó

Manairó is not just a great place to eat well and experience high-quality gastronomy – this is a place where magic is made. Part-chef part-inventor eccentric Jordi Herrera is in charge of the creative cuisine here, and he also invents special equipment to get the best out of the incredible recipes on his menu and his 14-dish tasting menu. There's his grill with spikes to cook the food on the inside, and a device which uses centrifugal force to reduce the loss of moisture in cooking. This is science in the service of art.

DRINK

Boca Chica

This isn’t a place for cheap beers, but sipping premium cocktails in one of the most trendy spots in town has its price. The luxury surroundings, brand-name furniture and terrace are details that, along with the premium spirits and mixers, have seduced a select, and often famous, clientele. Even the toilets are in another league.

DO

Illa de la Discòrdia

If you choose to stay in the Eixample Dreta, you’ll be neighbours with some of the great buildings in Barcelona that have contributed to the reputation the city enjoys today. In addition to La Pedrera, we recommend you visit the five buildings on Passeig de Gràcia that make up what’s known as the Illa de la Discòrdia, and which shows the rivalry that existed among the architects: Casa Lleó Morera, a work by Domènech i Montaner; Casa Mulleras by Enric Sagnier; Casa Bonet from Marcel·lià Coquillat; Puig i Cadafalch’s Casa Amatller; and Gaudí’s Casa Batlló.

STAY

Hotel Jazz

The Jazz is a good home base for getting to know Barcelona, as it’s very central, right near Plaça de Catalunya, Passeig de Gràcia, La Ramba and Portal de l’Àngel, a great street for shopping. On the rooftop you can enjoy a swimming pool and a terrace with city views that at night becomes a lounge-bar with a chill-out feel. The stylish and modern rooms have all the mod-cons and amenities you could ask for. Enquire about exterior rooms so you can bathe in natural light every day.

If you do just one thing…

Some say that a good way to immerse yourself in a city is to visit a market, blend in with locals, and buy what they do. A good place to do that is at the Mercat de la Concepció, located in a beautiful church-like iron building with three naves that's also home to the Flores Navarro market, which is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Palo Alto

Poblenou

This is another of Barcelona's neighbourhoods that has made a name for itself in recent years as a place to live and work, what with all the musicians, painters, dancers, publishers and other creators who have chosen Poblenou to set up shop. Historically it's been a place for factories – at the end of the 19th century it was the most industrial area in all of Catalonia – which you can see in its architecture, such as at Palo Alto, for example, an old factory that was converted into a workspace for creative studios as well as the location for the eponymous monthly design and craft market that's one of the most popular in the city. Within the Sant Martí district, which Poblenou is a part of, you'll also find the 22@ tech neighbourhood. The Rambla del Poblenou is the area's backbone, full of life and traditional shops, restaurants and bars. Another plus Poblenou has got going for it, is its proximity to the sea and some of the city's best beaches.

EAT

Els Pescadors

In the Poblenou landmark square Plaça Prim, where the old houses of fishermen still stand from when this was a fishing neighbourhood, you'll find Els Pescadors (even the name means 'The Fishermen'). What's on the menu is a mix of traditional Catalan, seafood, and market cuisine – all tied up with a dose of modernity. If you're not sure where to start, just jump in: any of their rice dishes – with Iberian pork, with lobster, with salted cod... – will make you want to come back and try another. But you also won't be able to get enough of the cod or anemone fritters, the 'suquet' fish soup, or the kid with honey and basil. If you're after a set lunch menu with the Els Pescadors name to back it up, head to their Bar Local, where they treat raw materials with the utmost respect.

DRINK

Van Van Var

The folks behind food-truck favourite Van Van Market have opened a bar-restaurant whose cuisine changes every week. Every seven days a different food truck is in charge of the cuisine. In fact, at just 18m2, the Var has the exact measurements of a food truck, plus two entrances. Compensating for the tiny size indoors is the magnificent terrace, and even if you never know what you'll find to eat without checking online first, you are always guaranteed a good draught beer.

DO

Parc Central del Poblenou

This park boasts more than five hectares of green, thematic areas and a cutting-edge design by French architect Jean Nouvel. It was designed with environmental criteria to store and treat water, ensuring irrigation at all points of the park through a groundwater drip. Despite having been born out of difficulties and complaints from neighbours, Poblenou's Central Park has become an ideal spot for walks, bike rides, relaxing, playing with kids, and taking in the greenery, especially the species indigenous to the Mediterranean.

STAY

Hotel SB Icaria

Just 300 m from the Nova Icària beach and a 10-minute walk from the Parc de la Ciutadella, this hotel enjoys an enviable location in Poblenou. In addition to an outdoor swimming pool with a sun terrace and sauna, its rooms are comfortable and elegant, and well-equipped with amenities. When you're visiting a city, especially for the first time, ideally you'll want to get to know it through its restaurants and bars, but if you feel like staying in, the SB Icaria's restaurant offers Mediterranean market cuisine that will send you to bed with sweet dreams.

If you do just one thing…

Take a walk along the Rambla del Poblenou along with the locals, and stop at Tío Che to try one of the best horchatas in Barcelona in warmer weather, or if it's chilly out, snack on comfort food like churros with chocolate or artisan 'turrons'.

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