What are the five best things to see and do in Barcelona?

Ryan Craggs

In Barcelona, the streets themselves are works of art, with the city’s combination of ancient and modern. The coastline, hills and paved roads all juxtapose for a city like few others. Here are the five best things to see and do in Barcelona:
 
1. Picasso Museum. Possibly the world’s most famous artist, Pablo Picasso divided most of his life between Barcelona and Paris. With that in mind, the Picasso Museum explores the master’s relationship with the Spanish city, housing more than 3,500 works, composing the most complete collection of his art of any museum in the world.
 
2. La Sagrada Família. There’s a running joke that when something is running past deadline, it will be done after La Sagrada Família. Under construction since 1882 and originally designed by famed architect Antoni Gaudí, the Basilica I Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família looks different from any basilica you’ll see in the world. Made of 22 different stones, the structure boasts eight towers, though it will have 18 once it’s completed. The iconic pillars and façade appear in all brand of souvenir, and a ride to the top will give you another view of the city and its famous cathedral.
 
3. The beach. Surprisingly, Barcelona didn’t focus much attention on its coastline, for tourism purposes, until a redesign for the 1992 Summer Olympics brought about change to the port and shipping waters. But since then, the Mediterranean seaside has given visitors and residents alike just another reason to love the city and its terrific weather.
 
4. Camp Nou. If you visit between August and May, you’ll likely have the opportunity to catch FC Barcelona, one of the world’s most famous and successful soccer (football, to locals) clubs. Camp Nou is the Catalan soccer mecca, holding nearly 100,000 fans for games. Though FCB lost La Liga in 2011 to hated rivals Real Madrid, the team has been on an unprecedented run through European and domestic soccer in the last five years.
 
5. Parc Güell. Architectural master Antoni Gaudí’s playful mind combines nature with mortar in this Modernist park. Multicolored mosaics abound in the park’s man-made structures, including the tiled dragon in the main entrance’s fountain. The Hall of Columns provides its own photo ops within its 86 Doric pillars, while the central terrace gives you spectacular views out on the city, the sea and the mountains behind.

  • On August 16, 2012
    Ryan Craggs answered the question: Ryan Craggs

    Where is the best nightlife in Barcelona?

    Forbes Travel Guide editors say the best nightlife in Barcelona is in the neighborhood of Eixample. There you’ll have plenty of options to choose from, depending on what sort of evening you’re looking for. If you want to dance, or even to learn to dance, head to Antilla BCN Latin Club, where classes are offered earlier in the evening. If sitting on a veranda and sipping vino is more your scene, there are a handful of upscale wine bars with a great selection of bottles and glasses. Or to see and be seen, VIPs know that Otto Zutz, a local disco with nightly DJs, is the place to go.
     
    And of course, you’ll find a slew of bars and clubs near the sea, including an outpost of Gimlet, a terrific cocktail bar, and CDLC Club, one of Barcelona’s most exclusive clubs, which fills up with yacht owners and jet-setters.
  • On August 16, 2012
    Ryan Craggs answered the question: Ryan Craggs

    What is the best way to see Barcelona in one day?

    The best way to see Barcelona in one day will be jam-packed, so our Forbes Travel Guide editors recommend that you wake up early. That shouldn’t be a problem, though, as the sun will rise over the Mediterranean Sea, beckoning you to start your day.
     
    Head to Cafe de l'Opera (just across from Liceu Opera House) to enjoy a cup of coffee in the heart of Las Ramblas. While you’re in the area, stop by La Boqueria, a public market, and peruse the fresh fruits, vegetables and fish — and if you’re already hungry, grab a snack of fresh olives, meat and homemade pizza slices. From there, beeline to  architectural feat Casa Milà to get your first taste of Gaudí for the day.
     
    After that, go for the gusto and ride to the top of La Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s masterpiece cathedral, before heading up to Parc Güell, a garden complex designed by Gaudí, where you can rest for a bit while looking out toward the sea.
     
    At this point, you’ll need a lunch break; we recommend Passadís del Pep, a relaxed restaurant in Pla de Palau specializing in fresh seafood. From there, head to the Gothic Quarter to check out the Museu Picasso, which houses more than 3,500 works by the prolific artist. If you have time, catch a few afternoon rays by the seaside and enjoy a cup of coffee or a glass of wine. Do a little shopping in the shopping district Portal de l’Àngel so that you have a few things to bring home, then get yourself prepped for a night out.
     
    Consider noshing on a few tapas-style snacks, which aren’t native to Catalonia but have become increasingly popular. Then enjoy a long dinner, and if you can stomach it, get ready to hit the town — the best spots are in Eixample. Relax in a wine bar or lounge or dance in the local clubs. Most people won’t show up until 1 a.m., so don’t worry if you think you’re running late, and don’t hesitate to hop from place to place. As your night winds down, don’t be surprised if the sun is already coming up again over the Mediterranean Sea — such is the way when you’ve only got 24 hours to spare in a city like Barcelona, with so much to do.
  • On August 16, 2012
    Ryan Craggs answered the question: Ryan Craggs

    Where is the best shopping in Barcelona?

    The best shopping in Barcelona isn’t constricted to just one street or area; really, you have a number of different shopping streets to stroll through, and likely not enough time to get to all of them.
     
    In Ciutat Vella, Portal de l’Àngel is a pedestrian street that offers loads of stylish shops such as Zara, Mango and Massimo Dutti, along with a huge El Corte Inglés. El Raval has a really diverse community, and with that comes interesting boutique shopping — so if you desire something wholly unique, this may be your best bet. And many of the highest-end designers calls Avinguda Diagonal home, including Armani and Gucci. If you’re after a more American experience, Diagonal Mar has more than 250 stores, a movie theater and activities for kids, along with a great view of the Mediterranean.
     
    But the best advice our Forbes Travel Guide editors have about shopping in Barcelona is to wander. Each neighborhood and street, even close to the most frequented tourist spots, has its own feel and vibe. Your sense of adventure is the only thing stopping you from coming home with clothes, art or accessories no one else will have.
  • On August 16, 2012
    Ryan Craggs answered the question: Ryan Craggs

    What are the five best things to do with kids in Barcelona?

    The Mediterranean climate, sea front and rich culture in Barcelona add up to an endless wealth of activities for you and your kids. Here are Forbes Travel Guide’s editors’ picks for the five best things to do with your family in Barcelona:
     
    1. The beach. Sure, it may seem simple — but that’s the best part. Dig your toes into the sands along the Mediterranean with a beachfront that stretches from Barceloneta past Vila Olímpica and enjoy a number of water sports in the temperate sea.
     
    2. Rent a bike. Bikes aren’t just for kids getting around the neighborhood. The weather in Barcelona is typically so nice that you can tour the city on two wheels, with loads of rental options throughout the city. And if your kids are a little older, you might even consider renting a Vespa to scoot around in.
     
    3. CosmoCaixa. This interactive science museum makes learning a hands-on experience. Kids will enjoy a number of different permanent exhibits, such as the touch and play exhibit and the planetarium, and temporary exhibits, such as Techno Revolution, which teaches kids all about brain waves.
     
    4. Camp Nou. FC Barcelona has been one of the most successful teams in Europe over the last decade, and you can watch greats such as Andrés Iniesta, Xavi and three-time reigning FIFA Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi.
     
    5. Musical fountains. From May through October, the fountains in Plaça d’Espanya light up in spectacular fashion with shows lasting 30 minutes, starting at 8:30 p.m. and running through 11 p.m. Shows run Thursdays through Sundays only.
  • On August 16, 2012
    Ryan Craggs answered the question: Ryan Craggs

    What do I need to know about Barcelona before visiting?

    It always helps to know a few words in a local language before visiting a place, but language can be a particularly tricky thing in Barcelona. While many signs will include English translations in the more touristy spots and almost all residents speak Castilian Spanish, the official language of the city and its region, Catalonia, is Catalan. This language sounds more like French or Italian in many ways, and is not simply a dialect — be careful about saying that to locals, who would be offended by the notion.
     
    Catalonia offers its own vibrant culture and at times can have an antagonistic relationship with central Spain. Even so, the people are friendly and open, likely a byproduct of the warm Mediterranean climate, abundant sunshine and rich art history. You needn’t look far to see the works of some of Spain’s most famous artists, who lived in Barcelona, including Picasso, Miró and Dalí. Architect Antoni Gaudí’s fingerprints are all over the city, found in some of its most famous sites, including La Sagrada Família, Parc Güell and Casa Milà, or La Pedrera.
     
    You’ll likely need more than a few days to experience the wealth of art, nature and culture Barcelona has to offer, given its mix of the typically Spanish with the distinctly Catalan.
  • On August 16, 2012
    Ryan Craggs answered the question: Ryan Craggs

    What is the best thing to bring home from Barcelona?

    The best thing to bring home from Barcelona would be an artisan work of some sort, which could mean a whole host of things. Find glassworks, pottery and other pieces of art in the Ciutat Vella, or Old Town. Take time to stroll around — you never know what original works you’ll encounter. If those are the sort of souvenirs you enjoy, then also check out artsy areas like Portal de l’Angel, Plaça de la Vila de Madrid and Rambla de Santa Mònica.
     
    For something that exudes the Modernist soul of the city, browse the gift shops of places like La Pedrera, Parc Güell and the Sagrada Família. A model of Gaudí’s anthropomorphic architecture, a ceramic mosaic or a small replica of the iconic dragon of Parc Güell will help you relive your Mediterranean memories years down the road.
     
    And for an eco-friendly and fashionable souvenir, shop around for a pair of espadrilles, the comfortable, rope-soled shoes native to the Pyrenees. You’ll have a whole rainbow of colors and patterns to choose from in the stores lining Barcelona’s streets.
  • On August 16, 2012
    Ryan Craggs answered the question: Ryan Craggs

    What are the five best things to see and do in Barcelona?

    In Barcelona, the streets themselves are works of art, with the city’s combination of ancient and modern. The coastline, hills and paved roads all juxtapose for a city like few others. Here are the five best things to see and do in Barcelona:
     
    1. Picasso Museum. Possibly the world’s most famous artist, Pablo Picasso divided most of his life between Barcelona and Paris. With that in mind, the Picasso Museum explores the master’s relationship with the Spanish city, housing more than 3,500 works, composing the most complete collection of his art of any museum in the world.
     
    2. La Sagrada Família. There’s a running joke that when something is running past deadline, it will be done after La Sagrada Família. Under construction since 1882 and originally designed by famed architect Antoni Gaudí, the Basilica I Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família looks different from any basilica you’ll see in the world. Made of 22 different stones, the structure boasts eight towers, though it will have 18 once it’s completed. The iconic pillars and façade appear in all brand of souvenir, and a ride to the top will give you another view of the city and its famous cathedral.
     
    3. The beach. Surprisingly, Barcelona didn’t focus much attention on its coastline, for tourism purposes, until a redesign for the 1992 Summer Olympics brought about change to the port and shipping waters. But since then, the Mediterranean seaside has given visitors and residents alike just another reason to love the city and its terrific weather.
     
    4. Camp Nou. If you visit between August and May, you’ll likely have the opportunity to catch FC Barcelona, one of the world’s most famous and successful soccer (football, to locals) clubs. Camp Nou is the Catalan soccer mecca, holding nearly 100,000 fans for games. Though FCB lost La Liga in 2011 to hated rivals Real Madrid, the team has been on an unprecedented run through European and domestic soccer in the last five years.
     
    5. Parc Güell. Architectural master Antoni Gaudí’s playful mind combines nature with mortar in this Modernist park. Multicolored mosaics abound in the park’s man-made structures, including the tiled dragon in the main entrance’s fountain. The Hall of Columns provides its own photo ops within its 86 Doric pillars, while the central terrace gives you spectacular views out on the city, the sea and the mountains behind.
  • On June 28, 2012
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    What are the five best places to eat in Barcelona?

    Though Ferran Àdria’s famous El Bulli has closed down, Catalonia and Barcelona in particular still have some of the most whimsical and delicious takes on Mediterranean cuisine. You’ll have to go outside the city limits for the best of the best, but if you’re a foodie, a short drive is an obstacle easily overcome. Here are our Forbes Travel Guide editors picks for the five best restaurants in and near Barcelona:
     
    1. ABaC. On the northern stretch of Barcelona, ABaC grew great fame under chef Xavier Pellicer. Though the chef has passed the torch to chef Jordi Cruz, the new leader carries the flame well, exemplified in such dishes as Mediterranean tuna belly with macaroni in ponzu sauce, kumquat skin, mizuna, crispy artichokes and spicy roots puree, or the caramelized honey brioche with Mató, toffee, roasted pine nuts, St. Felicien cream and Idiazabal cheese.
     
    2. Sant Pau. Though it’s outside Barcelona (about a 45-minute drive), Sant Pau is something of a mecca for Catalan cuisine. Legendary chef Carme Ruscalleda runs the show, with such menu highlights as Parrot Fish 2012, with onion, tender carrot and vinaigrette, and Pluma of Iberian Pork, with Iberian pork sauce and vegetables in tempura, along with desserts like the strawberry, moscatell & parsley or puff pastry cake & pumpkin angel hair.
     
    3. Celler de Can Roca. A little more than an hour away from the city center, Celler de Can Roca is actually in Girona, which has its own airport — and you may want to schedule your trip around dishes such as foie gras, fig, tuna belly and black truffle. The restaurant run by the three Roca brothers is consistently ranked among the world’s best.
     
    4.  Can Fabes. It starts with the menu designed by renowned painter Antoni Tàpies at this restaurant located in Sant Celoni, about 45 minutes northeast of Barcelona. From there, chef Xavier Pellicer takes you on a tour of the region’s finest foods, with such ingredients as truffles from Osona, peas and strawberries from Maresme and fish from Blanes. Set menus will guide you on the Spanish culinary tour, with such dishes as cream of Jerusalem artichokes with truffle and celery or sea cucumber with asparagus and jus de rôti.
     
    5. Moments. Chef Carme Ruscadella brings her culinary talents to the Mandarin Oriental, Barcelona, with a distinct flair added to traditional Catalan cuisine. Dishes such as sea bass with mild curry sauce, mango and vanilla; Iberian pork with parsnip and raisins; or veal cheeks with turnip vegetable ravioli and red fruits will make you wonder how you’ve gone your whole life without uprooting and moving to Barcelona.
  • On June 28, 2012
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    What are the five best places to stay in Barcelona?

    Barcelona is the most cosmopolitan of Spain’s cities, and with that comes an international and diverse audience with refined tastes, many of whom desire to stay in the same trendy parts of town. Here are Forbes Travel Guide editors’ five favorite places to stay in beautiful Barcelona:
     
    1. Hotel Arts Barcelona. This luxury property feels like a work of art in style and presentation, backed by the Ritz-Carlton tradition of service (a subsidiary of the Ritz manages the hotel). A spa, five restaurants and unbeatable views of the Port Olímpic are just a few reasons to stay here.

    2. ABaC Restaurant & Hotel. This Barcelona hotel was built around the award-winning Abac Restaurant under expert chef Jordi Cruz. The small 15-room hotel is decked out with smart contemporary déor in a century-old building with Bang & Olufsen TVs and sound systems and mini-bars. Don't miss the restaurant or full-service spa, complete with a thermal pool and a separate cold-water pool.

    3. Mandarin Oriental, Barcelona. Though it may have just gotten into the game in Barcelona, Mandarin Oriental is a seasoned pro with one of the most sterling résumés of any hotel chain. Situated on Passeig de Gràcia in a mid-20th century building, the interior melds Modernist chic with contemporary and Asian influences.
     
    4. Hotel Gran La Florida. Housed in a historic building dating back to 1924, this boutique hotel has a celeb client roster that includes Ernest Hemingway, Rock Hudson and James Stewart. Check out the stainless-steel lap pool and gardens with wonderful views of Barcelona.

    5. Ohla Hotel. Located in Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter, this design hotel with 74 rooms has a modern, sleek look with views overlooking the city. After a day of sightseeing, relax beneath a private canopy next to the rooftop pool or head to one of the two hotel restaurants or lounges.
  • On June 25, 2012
    answered the question:

    What's the best way to get to Barcelona?

    The best way to get to Barcelona is by taking your own private plane with NetJets — that means no lines at the airport, no delays and no one kicking the back of your seat. Through the private jet company, you can purchase an undivided interest in a specific aircraft; the size of your share is proportional to how many hours you fly in a year (the smallest share you can buy is a 1/16 interest, or about 50 hours of annual airtime). Our Forbes Travel Guide editors’ favorite part about NetJets is that it shortens your travel time a great deal. Say you’re flying NetJets to Barcelona from New York, your flight time will be about seven hours, compared to the usual 10. That will give you more time in one of Spain’s most vibrant cities. So hit up the beach, explore Parc Güell or sit down at an outdoor café on Las Ramblas and watch the locals, tourists and street performers go by.