WHEN IN: BARCELONA
Spanish series: part one
What to expect
This slice of Spanish paradise has certainly earned its bragging rights as Europe’s third most visited destination after London and Paris (no, really... our walking tour guide even said so).
Fresh (or more accurately - damp) from the UK’s reliably lousy weather, we were hit with the holiday feeling we’d been hankering for as soon as we stepped into the balmy air and spotted the palm trees.
Striking the perfect balance between city break and beach getaway, Barcelona is best in the summertime. Think: lush seaside pool decks, bright and bustling markets, charming Catalonian street walks, irresistible cocktails and you're painting a pretty accurate (albeit envy-inducing) picture.
Here are our top tips to help you bask in all that this brilliant city has to offer...
WHERE TO STAY
Treat yourself - W Hotel Barcelona
Towering elegantly over the iconic Barceloneta Beach, the W Hotel Barcelona is everything you'd expect from the global luxury hotel chain. From the penthouse bar to the cabana-laden pool deck overlooking the horizon, there is plenty of opportunity to spoil-yourself-Spanish here. It is slightly removed from the buzz of tourist-ridden Las Ramblas, about half an hour walk or 10 minutes by cab, which could either be a good or bad thing depending on the experience you're after.
If, like us, one night here would blow your travel budget for the week but you still want to get in on the glamour - don't fret. From June - September the W Hotel hosts a Summer Series of pool parties that are open to the public, attended by locals (always a good sign) and a LOT of fun. Head to http://www.w-barcelona.com/en/wetdecksummerseries to get your hot little hands on a ticket or two.
From EUR 265 / night.
Plaça de la Rosa dels Vents, 1, 08039 Barcelona, Spain email@example.com
Cheap & cheerful - Hostal BCN Ramblas
Centrally located in the city's cannot-miss Las Ramblas, this hostel is simple, clean and quiet; the perfect crash pad for travelling young folk looking to experience the best of Barcelona by day and be close to their bed after a big night. As it's only small the rooms can go quickly (especially the cheaper ones during peak season, naturally) so the sooner you reserve your space the better.
Being a top tourist target, Las Ramblas' cafes and bars are generally overpriced so it's definitely worth taking a few extra strides from the hostel into the Old Town district to discover the more authentic and affordable)tapas and sangria spots (see our pick for 'where to eat' below). There is a shuttle bus service from the airport so if you're lugging your life around in a suitcase/backpack be sure to take advantage and have the hostel arrange it in advance.
From EUR 65 / night.
Passatge Gutenberg, 7, Ciutat Vella, 08001 Barcelona, Spain firstname.lastname@example.org
Like a local - Airbnb Las Ramblas view XXXL Room
As always, Airbnb gets our vote for facilitating a bonafide Barcelonian experience at a completely affordable price. A simple search on the website brings a plethora of worthy potentials, but we opted for the loco of Las Ramblas and found this fabulous room.
Complete with a hammock and private terrace overlooking the sun-drenched street, it features a double bed, futon and plenty of suitcase space. Thanks to its central location - the best of Barcelona is right outside your door. Host Claudio also lives in the flat but the room is perfectly private, there is ample space and the shared bathroom was never an issue in our experience. One small watch out is that there are no lifts - but the incidental stair-climbing exercise is well worth it.
From EUR 35 / night.
WHERE TO EAT
Our pick - Milk
This place was so delicious we went back twice. Offering what is arguably the best brunch spread in Barcelona by day, Milk transforms into a quirky cocktail spot in the evening. It is tucked away in the city's Barri Gothic - Old Town district, so you can tick off some tourist to-do's on your way there.
The extremely popular "Recovery Brunch" menu is available daily between 9:30am and 4pm. We couldn't go past the Huevos Rancheros or Penny Farthing Pancakes. Be warned: no reservations are taken for brunch and on weekends the line spills out into the narrow street, so get in quick. Trust us, a meal at Milk is worth rolling out of bed and braving your sangria-induced hangover for. They don't call it recovery brunch for nothing.
WHERE TO PLAY
- Las Ramblas
- Old Town
- W Hotel Wet Deck Pool Party (*during summer only*)
- Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria
- Park Guell
- Sagrada Familia
- Explore Gaudi & Modernisme
- Free historical walking tour