Discover a metropolis on the beach, cocooned by mountains, with a medieval heart and Roman heritage. A cosmopolitan city with a traditional culture where you will find one of the world’s most famous football clubs and it is almost always sunny. A millionaire’s playground where many high-net-worth individuals flock to enjoy ample opportunities to shop, dine in first-class restaurants and stay in five-star hotels.
Delve deeper and you can savour the local Catalan culture, explore the labyrinth-like old town districts of the city on foot and admire the ancient buildings. One can appreciate art at the Picasso Museum then unwind in the glorious summer sun-drenched square whilst enjoying a glass of wine and delicious Catalonian cuisine under swaying palms. This is Barcelona.
Situated on the northwest coast of Spain, Barcelona is a fun and flirty city on the beach and a dreamy bolthole for a weekend break. Celebrities adore it. Footballers bring their wives who appreciate the amazing shopping opportunities while they play at the famous Camp Nou stadium. And in the evening, the glitterati play in Barcelona’s exclusive bars and clubs. It is true to say that Barcelona captivates the imagination with its amazing architecture, ancient heritage and passionate culture.
Spend time in the vibrant cafes and bars and out in the streets engaging with the warm and friendly locals, who are keen to tell you all about their Catalan cultural heritage. Barcelona is a tapestry of time built over thousands of years and one of the most exciting districts of the city is El Born where one can get lost in the labyrinth of narrow medieval streets. This fashionable neighbourhood pulses with infectious energy and feels alive as old and new worlds collide.
San Caterina Market feeds the city with authentic and local food stalls and the tourist shops are full of trinkets and souvenirs to reflect the rich heritage of this spellbinding place.
Unravel the history of a mesmerising city
Barcelona is a Roman city that adjoined with the Kingdom of Aragon in the Middle Ages. Today Catalonia is an important and proud nation within Spain which is completely autonomous. Barcelona is the official capital of the region, and the city has two cathedrals, The Catedral de la Santa Creu I Santa Eutalia, a great Catalan place of worship constructed in the 13th Century and a gothic construction in the heart of the city built by Gaudi known as La Sagrada Familia.
History buffs will love the gothic quarter and Calle Motcad in the medieval streets of El Born. Meanwhile, unearth some of the past secrets of 18th Century Barcelona at El Born entre De Cultura. Sport is also a huge part of Barcelona’s identity. The city played host to the 1992 Summer Olympics and was one of the host cities for the FIFA World Cup a decade earlier. The people are passionate about football and FC Barcelona is one of the biggest and most famous clubs on the planet.
Where to stay, dine and spa
Yurbban Passage Hotel and Signature Organic Spa and the Yurbban Trafalgar Hotel
The Yurbban Passage Hotel and Signature Organic Spa in the heart of El Born is the perfect place for well-heeled travellers to rest their weary heads. Unpack your suitcase and then head up to the rooftop pool for some sun, this is voted one of the best rooftop terraces in the whole of Barcelona and it is easy to see why. The hotel boasts enviable views as you recline on a lounger and behold Barcelona at your feet.
The spa is the perfect place for a pamper to escape the stresses of the city. There are three categories of rooms, all of which radiate old-world charm with gramophones and all the amenities one would expect from a luxury establishment. The hotel is built around a passage used by merchants. Each evening there is a cocktail bar in the passage to hang out and soak up the cool vibes in the early evening before dinner.
On the other side of the passage is The Yurbban Trafalgar Hotel, voted the best eco-friendly hotel in Barcelona. The bedrooms are quirky and all feature huge beds, walk-in showers, and vanity tables, with great views of the city from the upper floors. Downstairs in the lobby is a communal area for working and relaxing with plenty of seats to lounge on and lighting shaped out of trumpets.
The two hotels share a restaurant, which serves up the most delicious breakfast. Feast on Catalan sausage and white beans with eggs cooked to your taste, or select from a buffet spread of cereals, cured meats, yogurts, cheeses and all kinds of milk and juices, as well as bread, while coffee and tea flow freely.
El Palace Barcelona
Step into a world of glamour at El Palace Barcelona, one of the city’s classiest and most prestigious establishments. The grand entrance, with its trio of red velvet curtains make a huge statement and it feels like you are in a Hollywood movie. The hotel opened its doors in 1919 as the former Ritz of Barcelona and exudes roaring 20s glamour. It is the place to be seen in Barcelona and has been graced by the great and the good, from politicians to royalty and rock stars. The iconic rug has been well-trodden by important guests like Ella Fitzgerald and Freddie Mercury. Meanwhile, Rolling Stones legend Ronnie Wood has a suite at the hotel and Salvador Dali once resided here in the Royal suite.
This is one of the oldest luxury hotels in the city and even outlived the Spanish Civil War. Enjoy the tinkle of the piano with a cocktail before dinner and then bridge the old world with the new as you step through the golden tunnel to the chic Amar restaurant, for a late dinner. The refined surroundings and the ambience envelop you. Prepare to be treated like royalty. Amar means love in Spanish and it is true that much affection goes into cooking the food here.
Head chef Rafa Zafra invites you to sample his sublime seafood. Start with the caviar toast and proceed to oysters. For the main course, the Ritz classic Lobster Cardinale is simply divine. Be prepared to be amazed when they bring the whole crustacean topped with truffles, which is not only a feast for the eyes, but also the stomach. The fries here are perfectly seasoned while the fruit salad is fresh. For dessert, the tower of profiteroles is to die for.
Barcelona is renowned for its beach, so where better to catch the rays than by the pool at the prestigious W Hotel, gazing out at the super yachts? You’ll feel like a superstar as you enter the sail-shaped five-star establishment where guests can enjoy the infinity pool, rooftop bar and luxurious rooms which feature avant-garde design and all come with a chaise lounge, flat-screen TV, iPod docking station and rainfall shower.
Sit beside the palm tree-lined pool at the stylish gourmet restaurant Fire, where one can enjoy grilled food by the pool overlooking the beach. Guests can also sip a cocktail with panoramic views over the city and sea at Eclipse rooftop bar on the 26th floor. Cocktails are also offered in the W Lounge. The Salt Beach Club and Restaurant has a menu of innovative burgers, accompanied by specially designed cocktails to live the ultimate burger-by-the-beach experience. The hotel also has direct beach access and facilities at the W Spa include a hot tub, sauna and steam room, and a relaxation area. A wide range of relaxation and beauty treatments are also available.
Cooking classes and healthy eating in the city
Stop for lunch at the hip and trendy Flax and Kale Passage which is at the forefront of sustainability in restaurants throughout Barcelona. Championing the latest trends in veganism and healthy eating, enjoy plant-based food and fruit and vegetables. If you are still hungry, the Paella Club introduces newcomers to the city to the art of cooking one of Spain’s most treasured dishes. Paella is the ‘food of love’ traditionally cooked by men for their wives and daughters.
Two passionate chefs, who have worked for the late Queen Elizabeth II and Gordon Ramsay respectively, share their own secrets of cooking paella as the bubbles flow. Budding chefs get a groove on to samba and reggae tunes while stirring up Spain’s most delicious dish. The atmosphere gets competitive as everyone strives to create a perfect paella. Then the excitement mounts when everyone sits around the table and gets to know each other while sampling each other’s creations.
Nightlife in the city
Barcelona buzzes in the evenings, so why not get dressed up to the nines and go in search of some pre-dinner entertainment? The Milano Jazz Club is one of Barcelona’s best-kept secrets. Slip through the doors into an elegant speakeasy with daily jazz concerts and the soothing tones of the sax as you sip on your cocktail. A few hours here will leave you feeling super chilled and will warm you up nicely for a fashionably late dinner.
Gala restaurant is a joyful space where you can channel your inner child, from the merry-go-round in the foyer to the flamboyant stripes in the main room and plush seating. A meal at Gala guarantees a fun night out. This is an elegant eatery featuring the most sublime sushi bar with an extensive range. Enjoy a starter of ussuzukuri salmon with yuzu sauce, quinoa and marinated salmon roe, followed by a range of sashimi, maki or nigrini options for the seafood connoisseur.
For meat lovers, wagyu beef is full of flavour, while those with a sweet tooth will enjoy the giant cookies combined with a coffee, decorated with the head of Barcelona FC legend Lionel Messi cleverly etched on the top of the froth. Downstairs is a nightclub for those who want to party, and given its exclusivity, you might just bump into a celebrity or two.
Drive around Barcelona in style
Everywhere in this city is a mere walk away but, alternatively, you can zip around the streets conspicuously in an all-new electric car. The Seat Cupra Born is perfect for driving up and down the steep hills of Barcelona and getting from A to B when you need to get somewhere fast. This beautiful vehicle is manufactured in Barcelona and is Cupra’s first 100 per cent electric vehicle. The Born offers drivers a driving range of up to 340 miles with a 35-minute five to eighty per cent battery charge. The sleek vehicle combines sophisticated performance with the latest innovative technology and sustainable design.
Parc Guell is a short drive uphill which saves the legs for exploring the vast open space by foot when you arrive. It is the perfect family day out and one can admire the striking mosaics and strange, twisted sculptures that depict a fairy-tale land.
Park Ciutadella is an open-air museum with a monumental waterfall, 19th-century buildings and a lake for rowing boats. Also, just a short drive away, at the top of the city, is the Gardens of Mossen Costa i Llobera which is an amazing place to appreciate the panoramic views of the coastline and port perched high on Mount Martinez. Take a window seat at Tereza Martinez as live Spanish bands play and you sip on a glass of Sangria. Tuck into fresh langoustine as you watch the cruise ships dock.
Alternatively, the Miramar is set high up so you can enjoy a cocktail looking out over the city before taking a stroll down to the gardens as the sun sets. Up here, the microclimate is two degrees cooler than the rest of the city, allowing for the growth of 800 species of cacti.
A day out in Montserrat
If you fancy escaping the city, take an hour’s drive to the Montserrat Bascillia, which is a fascinating Benedictine monk mountain retreat with stunning views over the Catalonian countryside. Take the train to the top and arrive in a beautiful alpine village characterised by the 11th-century Santa Maria de Montserrat abbey, which plays an important role in the cultural and spiritual life of Catalonia. Catalan dancers create a jovial atmosphere as people mill around the holy building, basking in the sunshine there is such a serene atmosphere and a sense of peace surrounded by the mountains with such amazing views.
This is the home of the famous Black Madonna, believed to have been carved in Jerusalem and declared the Virgin of Montserrat the patroness of Catalonia in 1844 Pope Leo XIII. As you gaze at the altar, prepare to be astounded by the angelic sounds of the Escolonia Montserrat Basilica Choir. Established in the 14th Century, this boy’s assemble is one of the oldest in Europe.
This is a place where you can feed the soul and rejuvenate. Art aficionados will also appreciate the art gallery, which contains works by Salvador Dali and Claude Monet, in the adjoining museum. On the drive back to the city, enjoy lunch at the Nou Urbisol which is a hidden gem outside of the busy city. Enjoy exceptional local cuisine, from lobster soup to duck and gourmet Catalonian dishes inside or on the newly created terrace.
In a nutshell
Barcelona is a place like no other. Visitors are captivated by its energy and verve. There is so much to do here that you simply can’t cram it all into a weekend, she will leave you longing to visit again.
Couples will love to share passions together in this city which has a wonderful football heritage, places to learn to cook paella, places to shop, places to view art, theatres and live opera as well as vibrant bars, tapas and gourmet restaurants. Families will love it too with all its open spaces to play and relax in and of course Barcelona Zoo.
Overall, the city has a proud heritage rooted in its ancient Catalonian culture as well as opulent hotels which hail back to a more elegant era and modern vibrant hotels and restaurants which are frequented by celebrities. Escape to the sunny city of Barcelona for a city and beach break in one which will leave you feeling refreshed and inspired. The memories will last a lifetime.
Donna flew to Barcelona with EasyJet from Gatwick. She stayed in the Yurbban Trafalgar hotel, one of Barcelona’s most eco-friendly hotels. Accommodation costs £125 for a double room. There are six categories of rooms from Yurbban Tiny, Yurbban Double, Yurbban Triple, a Junior Suite, and tiny and double rooms with terraces.
Next door the Yurbban Passage rooms start from £187 and rise to £528 for a suite. The Yurbban Passage hotel has 60 rooms and is the luxury option. Both of the hotels have some of the best rooftop pool views in the city.
Address: Trafalgar 26, 08010 Barcelona
Phone: +34 938 828 977