Where to Stay in Barcelona
Feel instantly glamorous by checking into the Hotel Arts on the waterfront. If you don’t spot a famous face lounging by the rooftop pool or sliding off a stool in the cocktail bar, then you’re just not looking. You can walk out of the hotel and straight into the sea, then take your pick of the beach bars for a cold beer. Or stay at Casa Camper in the hip Raval neighbourhood, which is a haven of intelligent yet fun design. You get your own lounge with a hammock as well as a bedroom, and you can pick up free snacks whenever you get the munchies. Bars, boutiques and arts venues are all within spitting distance, too.
The only drawback of the ubercool Hotel Pulitzer is that you can spend so much time chilling out in the rooftop bar that you may well forget your cultural (or shopping) itinerary altogether. That would, of course, be more than a little unfortunate, as the hotel is right by Placa Catalunya, so you can walk to the Gaudi buildings as well as many of the city's best shops.
Where to Eat in Barcelona
You’ll need to book ahead to sample Tickets, the new gastrobar opened by Ferran Adria and his brother Albert (of El Bulli fame). With a fairground/ice-cream parlour theme going on, the whole thing is quite an experience for all the senses. (Top tip: try the slivers of marinated tuna belly brushed with Iberico ham fat.) You can also snack at the adjoining 41º cocktail bar, which is marginally less difficult to get into.
Rather more accessible, although also very popular, is Tapac 24, a tapas bar run by Carles Abellan, who is one of Spain’s top chefs and used to work with Adria. It's just off the shopping paradise that is Passeig de Gracia (Diputacio, 269; +34 93 488 0977). Must tries? The bikini sandwich and the Mcfoie burger. Smart yet unstuffy, Michelin-starred Cinc Sentis serves superb contemporary Catalan cuisine using seasonal ingredients and is popular with the film and media crowd (C/Aribau, 58; +34 93 323 9490).
Where to Go Out in Barcelona
Marmalade, in the Raval neighbourhood, has morphed from its origins as a furniture warehouse into a sensual salon, and is a pretty good place to kick off the evening with a zingy cocktail (C/Riera Alta; +34 93 442 3966). In the Gothic Quarter, seek out the tiny Zim bar by the Placa Sant Just for great wines by the glass and a friendly, local atmosphere (C/Dagueria 20; +34 93 412 6548). Later on, hit the dancefloor at the Marula Café for an RnB vibe that rocks until 6am at weekends (C/Escudillers 49; +34 93 318 7690). A night at Razzmatazz is pretty much obligatory in Barcelona, too. With five spaces playing everything from indie to techno, as well as regular live bands, it's seriously lively most nights (C/Pamplona, 88; +34 93 320 8200). On a sultry summer night, the outdoor club La Terrazza takes some beating (Avinguda Marques de Comillas, 13; +34 93 272 4980).
Where to Shop in Barcelona
Everywhere, basically. The big-name boutiques – Gucci, Chanel, Burberry, Dior – on the Passeig de Gracia are just for starters. Veer off down the cross streets to find Catalan favourites such as Josep Font (C/ Provenca, 304; +34 93 487 2110), whose beautiful Art Nouveau shop is the perfect showcase for his distinctive print dresses. Go to Antonio Miro (C/del Consell de Cent, 349; +34 93 467 7111) to get the signature pared-down, grown-up Catalan look, and don’t miss design temple Vinçon (Passeig de Gracia, 96; +34 93 215 6050) for the smartest accessories, housewares and all manner of frivolous yet somehow essential purchases..
The lanes of the Born area are packed with boutiques, both mainstream and one-off. Look out for Catalan shoe store Vialis (C/de la Vidrieria, 15; +34 93 319 9491) for funky clogs. In the Gothic Quarter there are several branches of Casas (L'Illa Diagonal; +34 93 302 1112), which stocks Camper, Hispanitas and other leading Spanish brands. For something more traditional, head to La Manual Alpargatera (C/Avinyo, 7; +34 93 301 0172) for handmade espadrilles.
What to Wear in Barcelona
The Catalans love clothes, particularly well-cut pieces in luxe fabrics, and Barcelona is arguably the most stylish city in Spain. In winter, there’s a lot of Japanese-style minimalism in dark sludgy tones, while in summer you’ll look the part in a linen shift or wide-legged trousers with flat sandals. Despite being by the sea, stick to summer-in-the-city looks rather than beachwear.
Beauty SOS – Where to Go for Pampering in Barcelona
Sephora (Avenida Diagonal, Joseph Pla, 2; +34 93 306 3900) on Placa Catalunya is the best place to refresh your make-up bag. For a fast beauty fix, try the Instituto Francis (Ronda de Sant Pere, 18; +34 93 317 7808), a vast space for manicures, facials, massages and much more. The drop-in Raffel Pages chain (C/Padilla, 244; +34 93 301 2599) has branches all over the city for a quick hair makeover. A couple of hours at the Arab-style baths at Aire de Barcelona in the Born will soothe your tired limbs after the inevitable shopping frenzy (Paseo Picasso, 22; +34 902 555 789).
Planning to move on from Barcelona to the Spanish capital? See ELLEuk's Madrid guide.