Twenty-Four Hours in Barcelona
Barcelona is a dense, sprawling city, with very significant areas each with their own flavor and attraction. It seems a cliché to say there’s something for everyone, but there really is, and so my first, and, in my mind, essential tip is to begin your day at Santa Caterina Market, where under its theatrical colored roof, you will find an array of food stalls to satisfy any breakfast craving.
From here, you are in a perfect position to head northwest up a small alleyway to the Go Car depot, for unique and personal transportation. The two-seat open-topped yellow vehicle is a talking GPS tour car, so you drive at your own pace, guided by a navigation system that also informs you about the sights and imparts local knowledge, such as where to get great tapas. If you see something you like, park up (it fits in a motorcycle bay), hop out and enjoy. Go Car offer several routes, so you can take in the coastal areas, the Olympic park, the city, and the famous landmarks.
A visit to Barcelona has to include some Gaudi, and the inspired architect has presence all over the city, so swing by the Sagada Familia, the famously unfinished cathedral, and the serene (aside from all the tourists) Park Guell, which can be like walking around a Dali painting. Make a stop for tapas whenever you feel hungry – the beauty of Barcelona is that you can get quick, cheap, quality eats wherever you are, and tapas stops are the perfect accompaniment to a busy afternoon shopping, throughout the many boutiques and major stores you will pass.
Of course, the exhausting day so far will probably require a siesta (when in Rome, right?) and late afternoon on the beach is the perfect time. There are more idyllic beaches in the world, so if only passing through Barcelona, there’s no need to schedule this, but if you can kill three birds with one stone – cocktail, ocean, nap – its a great place to do so. You’re going to need the rest, because your evening, if playing like a true Catalan, will start late and end much later. If city beaches are not your thing, head west along the coast to Sitges, a quieter beachside town with an array of chill cafes, bars, traditional shopping, and a quaint marina.
Food with friends is the focus of a spectacular Spanish evening, so you can find a restaurant with some outdoor buzz along the popular but touristy Las Ramblas, or dine with a local’s discretion at the elegant Patagonia Beef and Wine. Here (as the name suggests!) you will be treated to delectable Argentinian beef and Spanish wines in a modern setting, and certain regulars are honored with their own personally engraved steak knife presented to them by the owner. Everything I sampled here was superb, but the standout piece if you like rich taste is the Medallon Rossini, a tenderloin fillet topped with duck foie and Malbec sauce.
With the aftertaste of quality red firmly on your palate, head over to the Gothic Quarter and simply wander around the narrow streets lined with magical architecture, which has unfortunately seen a trend of too much graffiti. These avenues play host to many cavernous and intricate tapas and wine dens, where the settings range from romantic to artsy, and full of conversation, fun, and friendly encounters. This is where your evening will begin, and if you go with the Spanish flow, where you will end up will be exciting and authentic – just keep your wits about you, as where there are tourists there are pickpocketing predators.
When you’re ready to drop, which should be when the sun is coming up, Barcelona has a wonderful array of hotel accommodations, from the traditional to the modern and boutique, such as the big name W on the beach that has rave reviews, to the intimate, classy, and very personally designed Market Hotel, where both the elegance and rustic elements of the surrounding city’s architecture permeate your walls and your dreams.