Balancing a laid back beach lifestyle with the excitement and glamour of a thriving modern city, whilst still preserving tradition, Barcelona really can claim to have it all. Its during the summer months though, when the days are warm and the nights balmy, that the city really comes to life.
Whilst the summer’s highlight event, the Spanish Grand Prix takes place outside the city center in a small town called Montmelo, Barcelona is the place to stay during the event. The city is divided into different barrios, all of which possess a unique character and a stunning diversity of architecture, from the colorful modernism of Antonio Gaudi to the turrets of Barrio Gotico as well as numerous world-class art galleries and museums packed with art work by all the greats. The Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art (MACBA) is a great place to start, with exhibitions changing frequently to showcase artwork by the modern greats or there’s the Picasso Museum, home to the one of the world’s largest collections of the artist’s work. For the most spectacular views of the city, head to Parc Guell, designed by Gaudi and reminiscent of a colourful fairy-tale land.
Aside from its art, the capital of Catalonia is known for its party reputation, buzzing bars and top-notch restaurants. For the best and most-upmarket paella book a table at Can Sole. The interiors are beautiful and the waiters exceptionally attentive, offering reading glasses to diners, whilst the food is as wholesome and cozy as if it were cooked in your grandmother’s kitchen. Or else eat al fresco at Seven Portes, where tables are arranged under an arched walkway and twinkling fairy lights for a romantic mood. Its one of the oldest seafood restaurants and has welcomed an impressive roster of celebrities over its time, whose visits have been immortalized in little plaques on the chairs. The favorite for tapas is Quimet i Quimet, a tiny wardrobe sized bar which also specializes in wine and has shelves packed with the best vintages. Though less grand than some of the city’s perhaps better known eateries, its a great lunch spot if you’re looking for somewhere less formal and has the advantage of authenticity. Else there’s the two Michelin starred restaurant Enoteca at the Hotel Arts Barcelona, headed by Chef Paco Perez, which is well deserving of its impeccable reputation. The menu is imaginative, supported by a staggering wine list and when the evenings are warm, the terrace, overlooking the super yachts moored at Port Olimpic is opened to enhance the indulgent ambiance.
Barcelona is packed with acclaimed bars, and is particularly known for its vermuterias (vermouth bars). The most refined and applauded of these are Le Bouchon at the Mercer Hotel and Bodega 1900 – both more restaurants than bars in a traditional sense, but in Barcelona food and drink are always completely aligned. The most beautiful bar is undoubtedly Torre Rosa, housed in a 19th century mansion with a palm-tree filled courtyard where you can sip cocktails under the stars. Whilst Solange attracts the smartest crowd, aptly named after Solange Dimitrios one of James Bond’s love interests in Casino Royale. The martinis, of course, are superb. For late night antics, Slow is open till 6am and has its own small nightclub upstairs. The mixologist, Paco Bretau is a true master and it attracts an interesting, eclectic crowd.
The city boasts some very high end and unique retail too. Groc is where you will find luxury women’s fashion by the likes of Dolce & Gabbana as well as elegant suits handcrafted by Barcelona’s best-known tailor, Antonio Miro. La Manual Alpargatera is a famous espadrille workshop turned boutique, with a loyal star-studded clientele, including Catherine Zeta-Jones. Whilst, No te Nom is on the more artsy and modern side, with clothing from designers such as Helmut Lang and Valentino as well as an assortment of glamorous accessories and design objects.
Then as the sun sets, follow the sophisticated crowds to the mariners to sip champagne on deck as the waves shimmer peach and orange, before the ocean turns indigo and night begins to glow.