A city guide to Barcelona

May 24, 2012 at 3:00 p.m. ET

Barcelona perches flirtatiously on the northeast edge of Spain. As wonderfully eclectic and surreal as the art of one of its previous residents, Salvador Dali, it is a city that, quite literally, never sleeps. Whether you’re a culture vulture wanting to stroll down the tree-lined, Gaudi-filled avenues by day or a party animal craving the hedonism so prevalent in this fabulous Catalan capital, there is something for everyone in Barcelona and this is the perfect time of year to visit.

Barcelona

Where to stay

The hip new kid-on-the-hotel-block is the W hotel located down on the water’s edge in the Barceloneta neighbourhood. An avant garde stunner with a sleek outdoor pool, the signature “whatever – whenever” service of the W chain, and sensational food by one of Spain’s most renound chefs (Carles Abellan) in the hotel’s restaurant, Bravo, make for exceptional space. Perfectly located at the base of the world-famous Las Ramblas, this is a central accommodation choice for those not familiar with Barcelona.

Where to eat

Not always the top foodie choice for Barcelona, Cata 181 has gained serious recognition among those in the know. The food menu is designed to suit the restaurant's extensive wine list, yet that doesn’t make for lesser gastronomy. The penne pasta with blood sausage and white chocolate sauce is unforgettable and reflects the innovative creations that used to be found north of the city in the world’s number one restaurant, El Bulli. Open till all hours and with a private wine room in the back that must be enjoyed if it’s available, this small and intimate best-kept-secret is reason enough to visit the city.

Where to drink

The Hotel Omm has long reigned as a trend leader and it’s located on the Rodeo Drive of Barcelona,  the Passeig de Gracia. Underneath its fabulous stone floors lies the nightclub and bar, Club Omm, which is open to non-hotel guests and guests alike. Hip music is played by a DJ and (late at night) it can get rowdy, but it’s a wonderful spot for a pre-dinner aperitif or a post-dinner cocktail before the late-night crowds take over.

What to see

The permanent Picasso exhibition on the edge of the Gothic district is wonderful, whether you’re a die-hard Pablo fan or not. Curated in the midst of a gorgeous little cobbled museum that surrounds a courtyard, the experience of the gallery itself is as enticing as the large and excellently preserved collection of Picasso’s work that reaches across each and every stage of his career. It also has a stunning collection of his drawings and sketches encased in glass amongst the recognizable classics of his Blue and Rose periods. Of course, whether by default or not, one can’t visit Barcelona without seeing the surreal and hypnotic creation that is Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia.

Where to shop

High street favourites such as Zara and H&M are dotted amongst haute couture favourites such as Chanel and Gucci along the Passeig de Gracia. This enormous avenue isn’t that different aesthetically to Paris’ Champs Elysees, but it is a wonderful blend of high-end and bargain fashion interspersed with fascinating buildings such as Gaudi’s Casa Batllo. A stroll along this street with gentle pit stops at any of the wonderful coffee shops is a delightful way to while away an afternoon, even if you’re not after retail therapy. If you are, however, you won’t be disappointed by the choice.

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