Forget the bucket list for once, because Barcelona—that captivating capital of Catalonia and the epicenter of a creativity that springs forth and slaps you across the face along every street, every building, every culinary creation and fabulously unique fashion donning both shop windows and locals—shouldn’t be just another destination to be checked off on your way to Madrid, Paris, or Rome. This is a hot Mediterranean destination that needs to be thoroughly enjoyed, savored, and strummed. And once you think you’ve seen and done it all in this fantastically delightful city, then go for another round and you’ll realize you’ve yet to even begin to become acquainted with this classic city whose history stretches far back—you’ll even find the remains of Roman walls here—but where, nonetheless, there’s an ever-present modern vibe. This is a city that exhausts—there are so many elements coming at you from all angles—and at the same time, fills you with boundless energy and a renewed take on life.
According to Neomie Menahem, managing director, Escapade Vacations (escapadevacations.com), Barcelona has always been a top draw as a tourist destination, “because of Gaudi, the wonderful museums, the history, the shopping, the Marina, the Tibidabo amusement park, the singing fountain, La Bouqueria food market, the wineries in the region, the seaside resorts, the Jewish heritage towns of Girona and Figueres, Montserrat and the Black Madonna, and last but not least, the gastronomy that’s inspired so many Michelin-star restaurants in Catalonia.” And it will continue to be a must-visit for 2012 and beyond because, she adds, “As a major port of call, as well as an embarkation point for many cruise itineraries, Barcelona is constantly re-inventing itself. With each visit one will find something new to discover, whether it be in the arts, the architecture, the gastronomy or the nightlife. Barcelona strives to offer something for everyone—it has an edge few cities can replicate. Barcelona is a constantly evolving city.”
Barcelona is a dream of a destination, and we invite you to take a journey with us as we take a stroll to discover some of its most enchanting sights. You’ll see why this European destination should always stay on your radar, for first-timers and repeat visitors alike.
take a stroll
This city is made for walking, and some of our favorite spots for a stroll are…
- The Gothic Quarter, with its labyrinthine street plan, is made for getting lost in its oh so narrow streets, and amidst its medieval buildings. This is the center of the old city of Barcelona, a charming neighborhood full of unique boutiques, beautiful old buildings, delightful chocolate shops, and lovely cafes along streets that open out onto squares. It’s here, too, where visitors will come upon the beautiful Cathedral (note: tell clients women must cover their shoulders and shorts are not allowed). Built during the 13th to the 15th centuries, this cathedral is a sight to behold—a true architectural gem. While in this quarter, we recommend you stop in at a tapas bar—you can’t go wrong at any of these types of dining venues—and people-watch. One of our favorites is Origins, a lively cafe with family-style servings and with fresh, flavorful and ample portions.
- The fabulously chic Passeig de Gracia is a fashionista’s dream—think Chanel, Hermes, Yves Saint Laurent—designed to be the city’s grand avenue with ornate benches and streetlights and some of the city’s most notable architectural works. A must-see is Gaudi’s La Pedrera, part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site “Works of Antoni Gaudi.”
- The circus-like Las Ramblas is quite touristy, but it’s one to check off the list—especially for first-time visitors—for its liveliness, due in part to living statues, kiosks, caricaturists…in other words, a hodge-podge of uniqueness. We recommend a nighttime visit, when it’s really at its best and most congested (that’s a good thing!). While on this promenade, don’t miss a peek at the Gran Teatre de Liceu, the city’s opera house founded in 1847.
- And while strolling anywhere and everywhere, visitors should not be afraid to look up and around at the beautiful buildings lining the streets—the balconies, and in some cases their delicate and intricate ironwork, in this city are just magnificent, and the myriad styles of architecture are astounding.
we just can’t live without…
To visit Barcelona and not visit at least one of its Gaudi masterpieces is a true sin. This architect’s visionary creations are everywhere, but perhaps two of the most iconic are Parc Guell and La Sagrada Familia, a basilica that has yet to be completed and to which Gaudi devoted the last 40 years of his life. If your clients opt to visit the basilica, tell them to pack lots of patience as the lines to enter can swirl around the block.