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Frommer's Barcelona day by day

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Barcelona is one of the "hottest" destinations in travel today, a strong choice by an increasing number of tourists seeking novelty and advances in architecture, cuisine, art and more. This 184-page Day by Day Guide, profusely illustrated with four-color photographs and maps, suggests smart approaches towards allocating your time there: where to go (depending on the amount of your time), in what sensible order, and what to seek out. Its authors are long-experienced experts in Spain, who count Barcelona among their fondest loves.

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15 Favorite Moments

ePub

The modernista apartment building Casa Batlló.

15 Favorite Moments

It’s not really a shock that Barcelona has become such a hot destination. What is surprising is how long it took most of the world to discover Barcelona’s diverse charms, which draw architecture and design fanatics, foodies, culture hounds, history buffs, and those merely in search of an all-night party. Here are some don’t-miss experiences in the thriving Catalan capital.

Joining the throngs on La Rambla. Barcelona’s pedestrian-only boulevard is anything but commonplace; it’s the epicenter of life in the capital, and joining the vibrant street parade is the best way to immerse yourself in the city. Pick up fresh flowers, kick back at a sidewalk cafe, and come face to face with outrageous human statues (but keep an eye on your belongings!). See p 56.

Marveling at Modernista Masterpieces. Beyond the Gaudí must-sees La Pedrera and La Sagrada Família, the L’Eixample grid teems with stunning modernista buildings by dozens of architects, famous and not. Start on Passeig de Gràcia’s stunning Manzana de la Discórdia, and then fan out to see innumerable examples of the modernista craze that took over Barcelona in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. And don’t miss an afternoon relaxing on the serpentine, broken-ceramic benches high above the city at Gaudí’s Parc Güell. See p 27.

 

1 The Best Full-Day Tours: The Best in One-Day, Two-Days or Three-Days

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La Sagrada Família.The Best in One DayThis very full day, a “greatest hits” tour, begins with the best of Barcelona’s modernista architecture in the morning, is followed by a stroll down the epic Rambla, and ends with the highlights of the Ciutat Vella, or Old City. You’ll need your walking shoes. The tour is excellent any day of the week, though La Boquería, Barcelona’s famed food market, is closed on Sundays. START: Metro to Sagrada Família. La Sagrada Família. Antoni Gaudí’s unfinished legacy, the soaring “Holy Family” church, is a testament to his singular vision: the art of the impossible. This mind-altering creation—the best-known, if not necessarily the best example, of modernisme—has become Barcelona’s calling card. Begun in 1882, its eight bejeweled spires drip like melting candlesticks, and virtually every square inch of the surface explodes with intricate spiritual symbols. Gaudí was run over by a tram long before it could be finished, although it is now consecrated and functions as a house of worship. A private foundation works furiously to finish the building—now projected for 2026, the centennial of Gaudí’s death. For the foreseeable future, the church will remain under a forest of cranes.  1 hr. c/ Mallorca, 401.

 93-207-30-31. www.sagradafamilia.org . Admission 15€ adults; 4.50€ audio or print guide. Buy tickets in advance to avoid long lines. Daily Oct–Mar 9am–6pm; Apr–Sept 9am–8pm. Metro: Sagrada Família.

 

2 The Best Special-Interest Tours: Modernista Barcelona, Ciutat Vella-Ancient Barcelona, Barcelona for Modern Art Lovers, Design and Architecture, Gourmet Barcelona, Barcelona for Kids

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The chimneys of La Pedrera.Modernista BarcelonaBarcelona is renowned for the wildly original modernisme, or Catalan Art Nouveau, style of architecture that flourished in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Best known are the stunning works of Antoni Gaudí, but so many talented architects left their mark on Barcelona that it’s a big task even to do a greatest hits tour in a single day. START: Metro to Lessep, then a taxi or 15-min. walk uphill to Parc Güell, the first stop on the itinerary. Parc Güell. In 1900 Gaudí’s lifelong patron, the Catalan industrialist Eusebi Güell, envisioned a real-estate development in a garden setting. Although never completed, the project bears Gaudí’s visionary stamp and reflects the naturalism beginning to flower in his work. The architect set out to design every detail in the park, but much of the work was in fact completed by a disciple, Josep María Jujol, best known for the park’s colorful splashes of trencadis (designs of broken shards of ceramics). Yet the unique man-made landscape is all Gaudí. At the main entrance are fairy-tale-like gatehouses topped with chimneys resembling wild mushrooms. The covered marketplace, with an extraordinary tiled lizard fountain at the entrance, is supported by 86 Doric columns (not the 100 planned). But most famous are those sinuous, mosaic-covered benches that trace the perimeter of the plaza above.  45 min. See p 54,

 

3 The Best Neighborhood Walks: La Rambla and Barri Gotic, La Ribera, L'Eixample

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Take a stroll through the historic Barri Gòtic.
La Rambla
Is there a finer boulevard for strolling in the world? Victor Hugo proclaimed La Rambla “the most beautiful street in the world,” while the Spanish poet Federico García Lorca said it was the “only street he wished would never end.” The tree-shaded, pedestrian-only promenade stretches nearly 2km (1.2 miles) down a gentle slope from the city’s hub, Plaça de Catalunya, to the waterfront. To the left (as you walk down it) is the Barri Gòtic; to the right is El Raval, an emerging artsy neighborhood. START: Metro to Plaça de Catalunya. Café Zurich. At the very top of La Rambla, to the west of Plaça de Catalunya (and at the base of El Triangle shopping mall), is this terrace cafe, the best spot in the city for people-watching and a jolt of coffee before you start your stroll. The cafe was much more atmospheric before it was rebuilt and sanitized a few years back (the mall’s to blame), but it remains a pivotal reference point in Barcelona. Pl. Catalunya, 1.

 93-317-91-53. $.

 

4 The Best Shopping

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The Camper store in El Triangle Plaça de Catalunya.

Shopping Best Bets

Best Dreamy Antiques

L’Arca, c/ Banys Nous, 20 (p 76)

Best Hip Designer Clothing (Men’s)

Antonio Miró, La Rambla de Catalunya, 125 (p 78)

Best Drop-Dead-Gorgeous Designer Clothing (Women’s)

Nunita, c/ del Rec, 6 (p 79)

Best Creative Leather Goods

Lupo Barcelona, c/ Mallorca, 257, bajos (p 81); and Iriarte Iriarte, c/Cotoners, 12 (p 80)

Best Shop for Slaves to Design

Vinçón, Pg. de Gràcia, 96 (p 78)

The treats at Caelum in Barri Gòtic.

Best Barcelona Souvenirs

Vaho Gallery Barcelona, Pl. del Pi, 1 (p 80); and BCN Original Shops, c/ Citutat, 23 (p 80)

Best-Smelling Gourmet Food

E&A Gispert, c/ dels Sombrerers, 23 (p 49, )

Best Wine Cellar Fantasy Shop

Vila Viniteca, c/ Agullers, 7 (p 49, )

Best Dip into Old-World Barcelona

Herbolisteria del Rei, c/ del Vidre, 1 (p 82)

Best Vintage Finds

 

5 The Best of the Outdoors

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Bicycles lined up in Parc de la Ciutadella.

Montjuïc

The largest green space in Barcelona, this gentle hill overlooking the city and out to the Mediterranean is treasured by families for its serene parkland as well as its museums and cultural attractions. First settled by Iberian Celtic peoples and then used by the Romans for ceremonies, Montjuïc has continued to play a central role in modern celebrations, including the 1929 International Exhibition and the 1992 Olympic Games. For other attractions in Montjuïc, see “The Best in Three Days,” p 18, and “Barcelona with Kids,” p 50. START: Aerial cable car or funicular to Montjuïc.

Transbordador Aèri del Port. The best way to get to the green expanse of Montjuïc is to soar over the city in this aerial cable car that travels from the harbor up to the hill—and drops you off near the spectacular cactus gardens of Mossèn Costa i Llobera (Ctra. Miramar, 1), the largest of their kind in Europe. See p 89, .

Castell de Montjuïc. Pass the Plaça de la Sardana (marked by a sculpture of the folkloric Catalan group dance) and continue through the Miramar and Mirador gardens in Parc de Montjuïc. Then head up Carretera Montjuïc to Mirador de l’Alcalde, a viewpoint overlooking the sea. Just beyond is a castell (fortress) built in the 18th century to defend Barcelona. The courtyard is open to the public, and inside the castle is a modest military museum. The views of the sea, though, are the star attraction. Ctra. de Montjuïc, 66. 93-256-44-45.

 

6 The Best Dining

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A menu board at Tapas 24.

Dining Best Bets

Best Traditional Catalan Dining

Agut d’Avignon $$$ c/ Trinitat, 3 (p 98)

Best Upstart Gourmet

Cinc Sentits $$$ c/ Aribau, 58 (p 101); and Dos Palillos $$$ c/ Elisabets, 9 (p 101)

Best Worth the Wait

Cal Pep $$ Pl. des les Olles, 8 (p 100); and Quimet i Quimet $ c/ Poeta Cabanyes, 25 (p 105)

Best Desserts (for All Courses)

Espai Sucre $$ c/ de la Princesa, 53 (p 102)

Best for Foodies, Wine & Design Freaks

ABaC $$$$ Av. Tibidabo, 1 (p 98); and Roca Moo $$$$ c/ Rosselló, 265 (p 105)

Best Comfort Food

Senyor Parellada $$ c/ L’Argenteria, 37 (p 105)

Best Classic Tapas

Alta Taberna Paco Meralgo $$ c/ Muntaner, 117 (p 98); and Lolita Tapería $ c/ Tamarit, 104 (p 103)

Best Designer Tapas

Comerç 24 $$$ c/ Comerç, 24 (p 101)

Best Mammoth Portions (The Antithesis of Tapas)

7 Portes $$ Pg. d’Isabel II, 14 (p 105)

Best Seaside Dining

 

7 The Best Nightlife

ePub

A performance at the Apollo in Barcelona.

Nightlife Best Bets

Best Old-World Atmosphere

L’Ascensor, c/ Bellafila, 3 (p 113)

Best Spot for Outlaw Liquor (Absinthe)

Marsella, c/ Sant Pau, 65 (p 113)

Best Impersonation of a French Port Bar

Pastís, c/ Santa Mónica, 4 (p 113)

Best People-Watching

Café Zurich, Plaça de Catalunya, 1 (p 57)

Best Wine Bar

La Vinya del Senyor, Plaça Santa Maria, 5 (p 117)

Best Pub for Soccer & Swearing in English

The Black Horse, c/ Allada Vermell, 16 (p 112)

Best Classic Cocktails

Dry Martini Speakeasy, c/ Aribau, 162 (p 112)

Best Xampanyería (Cava Bar)

El Xampanyet, c/ de la Montcada, 22 (p 117)

Best View

Mirablau, Pl. Doctor Andreu, 2 (p 113)

Best Beach Disco

Opium, Pg. Maritím de la Barceloneta, 34 (p 116)

Absinthe at Marsella.

Best High-Design Bar/Lounge

Roca Bar/Ommsession Club, c/ Rosselló, 265 (p 116)

 

8 The Arts & Entertainment

ePub

A scene from a Tchaikovsky opera at Gran Teatre del Liceu.

Arts & Entertainment Best Bets

Best Concert Acoustics

L’Auditori, c/ Lepant, 150 (p 124)

Best Jazz Club

Harlem Jazz Club, Comtessa de Sobradiel, 8 (p 127)

Best Flamenco, Flashy Dresses & All

Tablao Flamenco Cordobés, La Rambla, 35 (p 126)

Best Opera House

Gran Teatre del Liceu, La Rambla, 51–59 (p 124)

Best Summer Arts Festival

Grec, Montjuïc (p 128)

Best Sporting Event

Fútbol Club Barcelona, Av. del Papa Joan XXIII (p 129)

Best Theater Performances

Teatre Mercat de Les Flors, c/ Lleida, 59 (p 130)

Best Impression Made by a Concert Hall

El Palau de la Música Catalana, c/ Sant Francesc de Paula, 2 (p 124)

Best All-Around Live Music Venue

Luz de Gas, c/ Muntaner, 246 (p 128)

Best Hipster Live Music Shows

Sala Razzmatazz, c/ Pamplona, 88, (p 129)

Best Unexpected Theater/Music

La Casa dels Músics, c/ Encarnació, 25 (p 124)

 

9 The Best Lodging

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A room at the Hotel 1898.

Lodging Best Bets

Best Old-City Location

Hotel Neri $$$ c/ Sant Sever, 5 (p 142)

Best In-House Restaurants

ABaC $$$$ Av. Tibidabo, 1 (p 136); and Hotel Omm $$$$ c/ Rosselló, 265 (p 142)

Best for Would-Be Aristocrats

El Palace Barcelona $$$$ Gran Vía de les Corts Catalanes, 668 (p 138)

Best Affordable Design

Praktik Rambla $$ Rambla de Catalunya, 67 (p 143); and The 5 Rooms $$ c/ Pau Claris, 72 (p 144)

Best Cutting-Edge Design

Hotel Omm $$$$ c/ Rosselló, 265 (p 142)

Best Antidote to Minimalism

Hostal L’Antic Espai $$ Gran Vía de les Cortes Catalanes, 660 (p 139)

Best Business Hotel

Hotel Arts $$$$ c/ de la Marina, 19–21 (p 139)

Best In-House Museum

Hotel Claris $$$$ c/ Pau Claris, 150 (p 140)

Best Service

Mandarin Oriental Barcelona $$$$ Pg. de Gràcia, 28–30 (p 142)

Best Gay Hotel

Hotel Axel $$$ c/ Aribau, 33 (p 139)

Best Boutique Hotels

 

10 The Best Day Trips & Excursions

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Montserrat Monastery.

Montserrat

A very popular half-day inland trip, this spectacularly jagged peak (the “saw-tooth mountain”), 50km (31 miles) northwest of Barcelona, is home to a Benedictine monastery founded in a.d. 1025 and La Moreneta (the Black Madonna), the patron saint of Catalunya. A sacred place of pilgrimage, Montserrat is overrun on the holy days April 27 and September 8. It’s also a popular place for hiking and hard-core cycling.

Aeri de Montserrat/Rack Railway. The most scenic way to Montserrat is by 1930 cable car. The FGC train leaves from Barcelona and connects to it both ways. However, the more comfortable, panoramic Montserrat rack railway is also a spectacular way to get there, and it leaves you right in the middle of the monastery.  93-205-15-15. www.aeridemontserrat.com or www.fgc.net/eng/bitllets_oci_turisme.asp. Cable car 10€ roundtrip; rack railway 9.80€ roundtrip.

Monestir de Montserrat/La Moreneta. The Benedictine monastery, tucked into the 1,219m (4,000-ft.) ridges of Montserrat, holds a shrine to the famous Black Madonna icon, which according to legend was discovered in the 12th century (and said to have been carved by St. Luke in a.d. 50). The library holds some 300,000 volumes, though many were lost during raids by Napoleon’s forces in 1811 (they also razed the 16th-c. Basilica). About 100 Benedictine monks continue in residence at Montserrat.  93-877-77-01. www.montserratvisita.com. Free admission. Daily 7:30am–8pm.

 

The Savvy Traveler

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The Metro stop near Torre Agbar.

Before You Go

Government Tourist Offices

In the U.S.: 60 E. 40th St., 53rd Floor, New York, NY 10165 (  212/265-8822); 8383 Wilshire Blvd., Ste. 956, Beverly Hills, CA 90211 (  323/658-7188); 845 N. Michigan Ave., Ste. 915E, Chicago, IL 60611 (  312/642-1992); and 1221 Brickell Ave., Ste. 1850, Miami, FL 33131 (  305/358-1992). In Canada: 2 Bloor St. W., Ste. 3402, Toronto, ON M4W 3E2 (  416/961-3131). In the U.K.: 79 New Cavendish St., 2nd Floor; W1W 6XB, London (  207/317-2010; www.spain.info/uk/TourSpain). A full list of Spanish tourist offices worldwide can be found at www.spain.info.

The Best Times to Go

March to May and September to late October are perhaps the best times to visit Barcelona, with fewer crowds than in summer. Weather-wise, however, almost any time of year is the right time to go. Although humid, Barcelona is as hot in summer as Madrid and the south. In August, much of the city shuts down as residents head for the beaches. August is the major vacation month in Europe, and traffic from England, France, the Netherlands, and Germany to Spain becomes a stampede. November to February can be pleasantly temperate, crowds are nonexistent, and prices drop for hotels and airfares. But some coastal resorts, especially on the Costa Brava, shut down during this slow season. The Christmas season in Barcelona, beginning in early December and extending through the first week of January, is especially festive.

 

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