Barcelona is one of those cities that you won’t want to leave. Ask around and you’ll regularly hear that it’s a firm favourite for weekend breaks and longer stints. Of the millions who’ve scratched the surface and dug deeper, a huge number will pin the Catalonia capital as a destination to revisit more than once. Year on year, it bags a spot among the myriad of lists that offer up Europe’s top destinations and the visitors keep coming for the city that’s huddled between mountains and ocean, with a sun-soaked climate, a wealth of architecture and history, vibrant culinary scene and a thriving music scene. If it’s on the list for 2020, read on for our top picks for things to do in Barcelona.
Time and time again, visitors are advised to head beyond Las Ramblas and main tourists spots for quality tapas. Heed this advice and head to Born restaurant Bodega La Puntal for authentic tapas made with quality ingredients, with the patatas bravas consistently getting high praise with diners. In Eixample, budget-friendly O Retorno dishes up generous portions, with the recommended specialty being the octopus. If hungry for seafood, Bar Cañete’s specials will hit the spot with their fresh prawn tortilla or tuna tartare, among other delicious, vibrant dishes.
Whether you’re adding fuel to the belly before sightseeing or in need of a hangover fix post-clubbing, Barcelona is here for you. Head to the Gothic Quarter and get cozy at Milk Bar & Bistro, a spot that comes highly recommended for its Recovery Brunch. They’re also known for pushing a decent cocktail, and if it’s recovery mode, make yours a Bloody Mary. Make a beeline for Caravelle, with a menu that packs in inspiration from far-flung corners of the world. Recommends include home-toasted muesli with passion fruit yogurt, Moroccan-style baked eggs and the coconut French toast with fresh strawberries & ice cream. One for the veggies is Flax & Kale, which promotes eating better, being happier and living longer. There are four BCN restaurants and you’d be encouraged to reach for their vegan pear-chocolate muffins, coconut chia pudding and avocado toasts.
Barcelona has nurtured its own booming, independent brewing scene, with more specialist microbreweries and beer bars shooting up around the city. Garage Beer Co has a rep for pioneering Barcelona’s beer revolution with them producing over ten beers, including a recently added imperial stout with vanilla pods and pistachios. BlackLab Brewhouse opened up shop in 2014 down by the port with beers on tap including best seller Claudio Passion, packed with passion fruit, and the Asian-inspired food menu packs spice. Jazz is considered the granddaddy of beer bars in the city, opening in 1992 and a connection with pioneering force Mr. Steve Huxley puts this one on the map with craft beer connoisseurs.
If knowledge and culture is your fuel, your itinerary will be packed with choice. An obvious one is the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (MNAC), from where you’ll get a great shot of the city from its front steps. Opened in 1929, it’s home to the most comprehensive collection of Romanesque mural painting in the world and the most representative artists of Catalan Modernism in Gaudí or Casas. Art enthusiasts will likely have the Picasso Museum on their list, with it being home to over 4,000 Pablo Picasso works and unveiling his deep relationship with Barcelona. The Museu d ‘Història de la Ciutat (City History Museum) in the Gothic neighbourhood offers visitors an insight into Barcelona’s history as a former satellite city of Ancient Rome.
Consider ditching the high street and designer stores even if you don’t have many opportunities to jump into these. Instead, head off down the winding side streets in search of boutiques unique to Barcelona and Spain. Ailanto in the Eixample district specializes in bold colour combinations, weaving them through geometric patterns and good quality fabrics. Hand-embroidered, elegant dresses can be found in the Born at Natalie Capell, who takes inspiration from her Israeli and Spanish heritage to create sophisticated, timeless women’s fashion. Purveyors of luxe vintage threads Le Swing is a golden find for accessories, sunglasses, costume jewellery, bags, silk scarves and more. Owner Renier Guerra is a discerning selector when it comes to adding special pieces to the store’s collection.