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Barcelona, Park Güell
Photograph: ShutterstockPark Güell

The ultimate guide to Barcelona

Barcelona is more than Gaudí and tapas – make this magical city your next stop

Written by
Time Out editors

It can be a challenge to absorb everything a culturally vibrant city like Barcelona has to offer but we’ve pared it all down to seven of the musts. From Gaudí and Picasso to tapas and pintxos here’s what you can’t miss in Catalonia’s capital.

Discover the city on foot

Spend a day away from the metro and the tourist bus and stroll around the city instead. Visit some of its most impressive buildings and parks like the Parc de la Ciutadella, Parc de Joan Miró and the Montjuïc castle. Go off the beaten path and head up to Horta, the charming Sant Andreu district or the lesser-known side of Eixample.

Explore Gaudí and modernisme

Admire the city’s modernista architecture and the works of Antoni Gaudí in particular. The most famous are the Sagrada Família, Park Güell and La Pedrera but don’t miss other Gaudí buildings such as Palau Güell, Casa Batlló, Torre Bellesguard, Casa Vicens and – if you have time to venture outside Barcelona – the crypt of Colònia Güell in Santa Coloma de Cervelló.

Els 4 Gats

Picture the city of Picasso’s youth

Picasso’s Barcelona, where he spent his early years, was beautiful and vibrant. Follow in the footsteps of the artistic genius as you visit the landmarks that shaped his youth. Walk down C/Reina Cristina and then cross over to number three on C/Mercè to see where his family lived – though the actual building has been destroyed. Make like a bohemian at Els 4 Gats, a café where artists, including Picasso and Salvador Dali, gathered to eat and chat about art. Finally, visit the Museu Picasso, a gallery that houses works from the artist’s formative years.

Fill up on tapas and pintxos

Pintxos, in essence, are Basque tapas – plates of bite-sized goodies served atop a piece of bread – and they’re also a culinary trend in Barcelona. One of the best places to give it a try is Euskal Etxea, which has ham empanadillas (a type of pie), chicken tempura with saffron mayonnaise, melted provolone with mango and ham, and a mini-brochette of pork. But if what you want tapas, your options multiply – some of the essentials are Quimet i Quimet, La Esquinica and El Jabalí.

Climb up the magical Montjuïc

Montjuïc mountain is the perfect place for a leafy stroll with great views but it does take some legwork to get there. Don’t let that deter you. Aside from the natural surroundings and spectacular vistas, you’ll find buildings from the 1992 Olympic Games, including the Palau Sant Jordi and the telecommunications tower designed by Santiago Calatrava. Plaça Espanya, at the foot of Montjuïc, is the most common access point to the mountain.


Walk on the arty side

In Barcelona, taking a walk in the park is not only a way to relax, it can also lead to some great art. Head to the lush gardens of the Teatre Grec and then walk over to the Fundació Joan Miró, one of the largest museums in the world and home to a collection of over 225 paintings, 150 sculptures and graphic pieces by the Spanish surrealist painter, along with a number of works by his contemporaries. Listing all the museums and art galleries in the city would take quite a bit of time but one of the jewels is the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, with pieces that represent Catalan art from the Romanesque period to the mid-20th century.

Revel in the Raval

Like Paris, Barcelona also has a literary flavour. Many a writer has been inspired by the lower Raval, which was once called the ‘Barrio Chino’, a name coined by an American journalist due to its underworld feel in the 1920s. Haunted by drifters and prostitutes – and, more recently, hipsters and their ilk – the Raval is now where local businesses thrive. Explore shops like Les Topettes, Chandal and Fusta’m. The Raval is also a gathering spot for urban culture, music and good food – the likes of which you’ll find in Bar Kasparo, Lo de Flor and Dos Palillos.

How to get there

Singapore Airlines offers return flights to Barcelona El Prat Airport from $1,399.

Where to stay

Value for money

Go cheap and unfussy with Andante Hotel, a three-star hotel conveniently located close to Raval equipped with a rooftop infinity pool. From $123 a night;

Middle of the road

Grand Hotel Central is a stunning property set in the middle of Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter and is a short walk to the Sagrada Família. From $288 a night;

The big splurge

For a truly luxe experience, the Mandarin Oriental Barcelona has butler service, jacuzzis and the complete works to make your stay an unforgettable one. From $848 a night;

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