Strolling Along La Rambla
Barcelona's most famous promenade pulses with life. The array of living statues, street musicians, performers, hustlers, and eccentrics ensures there is never a dull moment during your kilometer-long stroll. Don't forget to stop and drink the water at the historic Canaletas fountain halfway down. It's said those who drink here will return to the city.
Having a Drink on the Beach at Sunset
The Catalan capital's 6km (4 miles) stretch of new city beaches, where the promenade, jetties, and marinas are lapped by inviting Mediterranean waters, have been transformed from a once-neglected area into a round-the-clock international playground. Their atmospheric chiringuitos (waterside bars and eating spots specializing in seafood dishes) are perfect spots for either lunch or a relaxing end-of-day drink, often accompanied by the music of an in-house DJ.
Exploring the El Born Neighborhood
This compact medieval quarter just inland from Barceloneta was once a labyrinth of earthy artisan workshops. Now a cool crowd converges on its narrow tangle of streets lined with renovated old mansions: by day to check out top museums like the Picasso and smart shops exhibiting the latest in cutting-edge fashion and design; at night to enjoy the plethora of bars and restaurants offering the ultimate in New Catalan cuisine.
Attending a Concert at the Palau de la Música Catalana
This masterpiece of moderniste (Art Nouveau) architecture must be one of the most lavish concert halls in the world. All strains of classical and jazz are played, but even the most finicky music lover will be moved by the Palau's onslaught of decorative detail.
Eating Breakfast at the Boqueria
There are about a dozen bars and restaurants in the city's main food market, one of the largest and most colorful in Spain. It's the height of fashion these days, and in the early morning you can rub shoulders with Barcelona's top chefs and gourmands over coffee and croissants as you watch the day's deliveries coming in.
Bar-Hopping in the Barri Gòtic
Whether it's an iconic tapas bar, a traditional cava bar, or a cocktail lounge filled with minimalist furniture and minimally clad patrons, Barcelona's Ciutat Vella (Old City) is a watering-hole mecca, bar none. One of the best choices is Mam i Teca, a dinky Raval delight with the accent on revamped Catalan specialties.
Spending a Sunday on Montjuïc
The sharply rising hill of Montjuïc is the first sight that greets visitors arriving at the port. Behind the rocky slopes facing the sea are acres of pine-dotted parkland beloved by cyclists, joggers, and strollers on the weekend. Topped by the castle-museum of El Museu Militar de Montjuïc, which has stunning city views, its slopes provide a tranquil alternative to the hustle of the city below and offer welcome breathing space. The most exhilarating way to get up there is by the spectacular Transbordador Aeri cable car, which swings high above the harbor from Barceloneta, giving views over sea and city.
Taking a Trip to Tibidabo by Tram and Funicular
The summit of the city's distinctive inland backdrop is reached in two stages: first by the Tramvía Blau (Blue Tram), which winds past the Sarrià district's elegant houses, and then by a creaky Art Deco funicular lift, which rattles its way up the mountainside to reveal increasingly breathtaking views of the city below. Both of these vintage forms of transport were built over a century ago to transport people to the church and the Parc d'Atraccions del Tibidabo, Barcelona's famous amusement park, on the mountain's peak. The exhilarating journey up to the top is all part of the fun.
Dining at Els Quatre Gats
The original bar at Els Quatre Gats acted as a fraternity house for late-18th-century dandies. It later became the preferred hangout for the young Picasso and his bohemian contemporaries. While most of the art adorning the walls is now reproduction, this classic Catalan restaurant is still alive with history. The resident pianist and general formality only add to the atmosphere.
Taking Your First Glance at the Sagrada Família
Nothing quite prepares you for the first glimpse of Gaudí's most famous work; the cathedral erupts from the center of a suburban city block like some retro-futurist grotto. Look closely at the facade covered in religious symbolism and before stepping over the threshold into the undulating, unfinished interior.
People-Watching outside the Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA)
The forecourt of the Museum of Contemporary Art is a snapshot of the new multicultural Barcelona. Spend some time at one of its outside bars watching the multinational local kids playing cricket, soccer, and skateboarding in a fascinating melting pot of recreational activity.
Staying Up Until Dawn
A long dinner, a few drinks at a bar, on to a club, and then before you know it the sun is rising over the Mediterranean's party capital, throwing a warm glow over Barcelona's palm-filled plazas and streets. Nothing beats a lazy walk home through the Ciutat Vella (Old City) at this magical hour.
Seeing the Torre Agbar Lit Up by Night
Even more controversial than the Sagrada Família when it first appeared, this 140-m (460-feet)-high, multi-hued, phallic-shaped tower erupts surreally from the otherwise bland cityscape around the Plaça de les Glòries. The tower was built by architect Jean Nouvel in honor of the city's Forum, the conference center that opened to great fanfare in 2004. It has over 4,000 multiform, light-reflecting windows and currently houses the offices of the Barcelona Water Board. You get a great view of it from the top of Montjuïc.
Walking in the Collserola Hills
You'd think you were a hundred miles from the city as you wander along endless trails through lush oak and pine forests. That is, until you get one of those breathtaking views of the city way below through the trees. Tucked away in the midst of all the greenery is a tiny museum, once the summer villa of 19th-century Catalan poet Jacint Verdaguer. A half-hour FGC train ride to Baixada de Vallvidrera drops you right on the edge of this leafy wonderland.
Taking a Day Trip to Tossa de Mar
This quintessential Costa Brava resort, complete with tiny intact old town and a perfect pine-fringed crescent beach, has kept its character in spite of the tourist invasion. Some of the Mediterranean magic that the likes of Marc Chagall, Ava Gardner, and James Mason found here in the 1950s still lingers on. It's only an hour away by bus from the Estació Nort, so you'll even have time to take in a short crucero (boat trip) along the rugged coast, popping in and out of sea caves lapped by pellucid waters.
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