The Coolest Things to Do in Barcelona Now
We're going to come out and say it: Barcelona tops our list of best cities in Europe. It's got incredible architecture and food, great shopping, an amazing nightlife, nearby mountains to explore, AND and a decent city beach. The coastal capital gets better everyday, with new experiences to try, foods to taste, and architectural wonders to see. Here, the coolest things to do in Barcelona now.
Chelsea is Brooklyn-based travel writer, editor, and photographer. When not home eating her way through NYC, she's gallivanting across the globe, sailing the coast of Croatia or hiking the peaks of Peru. Her superpowers include booking flight deals and sleeping in small plane seats.
SOFIA Be So
Barcelona’s hotels have been upping their dining game, and the stunning SOFIA is no exception. Reopened as part of The Unbound Collection by Hyatt, this grand dame features a Mediterranean eatery, a book café cheekily called Philosofia, and a dinner theater (more on that later). But its crown culinary jewel is chef Carles Tejedor’s restaurant, SOFIA Be So. Opt for one of the two haute cuisine tasting menus, which feature inventive dishes like scallops au gratin with smoked cauliflower purée; hake and lemongrass pil pil with steamed veggie ravioli; or duck foie gras with rum-toffee infused banana. There’s also an aromatic experience, where a sommelier will give you seven perfume bottles and recommend wines to match the scent you like best.
Below the airy, sophisticated SOFIA Hotel is its darker alter ego: Zuu, a sultry dinner theater and burlesque-style nightclub. The subterranean den is done up with red velvet seating areas and a color scheme of deep black, violet, and gold. The staged cabaret show is coordinated with each course: small starters are playfully called sparks of desire, and entrees have names like Lust for Life (sea bass ceviche) or Kill Bill (ox steak tartare). After the dinner-show, the Zuu transforms into a nightclub with live music and craft cocktails, such as the 7 Deadly Sins.
Sagrada Família. Parc Güell. Casa Batlló. You can’t go to Barcelona and not marvel at Antoni Gaudí’s iconic architectural masterpieces. After three years of restoration, there’s another wonder to see: Casa Vicens, a 130-year-old house that was Gaudí’s first design. An Andorran bank bought the four-story property and did extensive renovations to bring the UNESCO World Heritage site back to its original glory. Take a tour to see the Catalan architect’s signature style: teal-and-orange ceramic tile façades, an organic nature-oriented design, and ornate ceilings painted with trompe l’oeil images of flora and fauna.
TOUR TO BOOK: On this Gaudí tour and local art workshop, you’ll visit several of the architect’s most important works as a professional art historian provides context and background. After, use his style as inspiration as you craft your own mosaics in his trencadís technique under the guidance of a local artisan.
In this sexy seaside city, you’ll want to make sure you get some bird’s-eye views. Head to Azimuth, a swank rooftop bar at the Almanac hotel in the Passeig de Gràcia district. The Art Deco-inspired space features a panoramic terrace overlooking the Sagrada Família and Mount Tibidabo, an outdoor swimming pool, and a glass-enclosed cocktail lounge serving summer spritzes, sangrias, and Spanish small plates like homemade escalivada with goat cheese. On weekends, Barcelona’s beautiful set mingles on the red-and-white lounges and dances all night to DJs.
With Michelin-starred chef Nandu Jubany at the helm, it’s no wonder why this Eixample restaurant is a district hotspot. PUR—Catalan for “pure”—puts the focus on refined, locally-sourced plates, such as figs grilled with Iberian ham and grated mullet; Escala anchovies on stracciatella and candied almonds; grilled sea cucumber and pork belly; or cognac-fried lobster fried with onion from Figueres. The best part: the open-concept kitchen allows diners to watch the chefs in action. If you still have room left after the feast, make your way downstairs for a nightcap at the Impur cocktail bar.
This shopping center in the intersection of Gran Via and Avinguda Diagonal has been a major retail hub since it first opened in 1995. Here, you’ll find more than 130 brand-name stores, an eight-screen cinema, and a food hall called El Mercat, which specializes in Catalan cuisine and Spanish tapas. However, the coolest part may arguably be the mall’s architecture and design. Its layout is a nod to urban planner Ildefons Cerdà, who drew Barcelona’s grid in the 19th century, and its public spaces feel like the streets of the glam Eixample neighborhood. A set of towering colorful structures at each entrance add to the fun atmosphere.
Just steps from the cathedral and Santa Caterina Market in the trendy El Born neighborhood, the Barcelona EDITION follows in the footsteps of famed designer Ian Schrager’s other ultra-luxe properties, offering a sprawling rooftop cocktail lounge and saltwater plunge pool, a chic lobby bar, and two restaurants. Touching on Catalan culture, Schrager incorporated priceless furniture designed by Salvador Dalí and Antoni Gaudí throughout the main areas of the hotel, contrasted by contemporary fixtures like a striking sapphire blue Eric Schmitt chandelier. These style notes continue in the guest rooms, which are done up with walnut wall paneling, Spanish leather headboards, and white oak herringbone parquet floors.
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