It’s one of Europe’s most beautiful cities and with a warm climate, beachfront bars and clubs, clothing-optional beaches, great food and some of Europe’s best nightlife and festivals, Barcelona is the perfect city for a weekend trip. Famous for its architectural delights (most notably the works by Anton Gaudi), Barcelona has a little bit of something for every taste. Spanish tapas, international cuisine, late nights, early mornings, hipster hotels and free things to do.
What to do
No trip to Barcelona is complete without a visit to some of the works by Anton Gaudi. The Sagrada Familia towers over the city’s skyline. It’s been under construction for over 100 years and is set to be completed in the next decade or two. Inside, you’ll find incredible stained glass windows providing a rainbow of colors through the interior. Like much of Gaudi’s works, there’s a clear connection between the natural world and the architectural with the Sagrada Familia’s interior mimicking a forest.
The Parc Güell, one of Gaudi’s other masterpieces, is a park of winding pathways, two Disney-esque gatehouses and a terrace famous for its long mosaic bench (and a sculpture of a gecko at the entrance. For a closer look at Gaudi’s works, make sure to check out the Gaudi Exhibition Center—a museum dedicated to his life and work in the city center with a collection spanning his career.
Barcelona’s architectural highlights are scattered throughout the city and one of the best ways to experience it is to simply walk the streets and avenues. If it’s too hot during the day, the Barcelona Hop-On, Hop-Off bus offers a convenient way to catch the highlights—from the Olympic Park at Mont Juic to La Rambla and the Boqueria Market as well as the Gaudi-designed homes of Casa Batlló and Casa Mila (La Pedrera). It’s worth getting lost in the Gothic Quarter where you’ll find Barcelona’s second most famous cathedral, the gothic Barcelona Cathedral, as well as many shops along the medieval, cobblestoned streets. Visit the district of El Born which runs up against the Gothic Quarter where you’ll find a Chocolate Museum, Barcelona’s iconic Triumphial arch and countless hipster shops, independent designers and art galleries. El Born is one of Barcelona’s best areas for shopping.
Don’t miss some of Barcelona’s best art museums. The Picasso Museum has over 4,000 art pieces by Picasso in its collection but be prepared to wait in a queue if you don’t book your tickets in advance. The Joan Miro Foundation features the works of the local artist in an indoor/outdoor space with a sculpture garden overlooking the city.
Where to Eat, Drink and Party
Food in Barcelona is always a treat. As the capital of Catalonia, you’ll find countless restaurants serving local specialties. In the Barceloneta neighborhood, visit the affordable Bar Bitacora for fresh seafood tapas (try the ceviche!) — great for groups but best if you make a reservation. Barcelona Eat Local food tours offer two food and drink tours through Barcelona, including one that takes in a handful of the craft breweries that have recently popped up in Barcelona. It’s a great way to sample the local cuisine effectively and quickly as otherwise you might end up in a tourist trap!
For a more alternative night out, visit the Poble Sec and Raval neighborhoods, just south of the city center. LGBT bars like Madame Jasmine and La Federica offer something for both men and women as they’re small, quirky and social. Both serve quality cocktails (try the gin & tonics at Madame Jasmine) and keep the party going late. But for a big gay night out, visit one of the Arena clubs part of the organization Grupo Arena. Go-go-boys, dark rooms, cheap drinks and sloppy dance floors are the norm here — just watch out for pickpockets!
As one of Europe’s best cities for festivals, Barcelona is also home to a number of great LGBT festivals. Sonar Festival every June features some of the world’s best DJs and electronic artists—regularly bringing queer and female performers in front of over 100,000 festival-goers. In August, the legendary Circuit Festival takes over the city with drug-fueled pool parties, all-night parties and weeks of events featuring topless men. Other noteworthy festivals include Primavera every May attracting fans of indie pop performers, the Bear Pride in March and Barcelona Gay Pride during peak summer each June. Barcelona Pride is relatively small compared to Spain’s biggest pride event in Madrid, but still a fun and social summertime event.
Where to Stay
Barcelona’s gay neighborhood of Eixample is also one of the city’s best for hotels. The beautiful, picturesque streets are lined with cute cafés, small bars and the occasional dog park. The area is home to two gay-specific hotels, the Axel Hotel Barcelona and Axel TWO. Both are popular with gay men, though the rooftop bars often open up to the public for special events and parties (especially around Barcelona Pride and the Circuit Festival).
The Corner Hotel is a new, bright and modern hotel that’s perfectly captured the aesthetic of the area in its design and offerings. A beautiful rooftop terrace offers a sizeable pool and lounge area—one of the largest rooftop terraces in Eixample. Rooms are spacious but it doesn’t matter because you’ll want to spend all your time in the hotel’s ground floor lounge and bar area. A fireplace, cakes, coffee and other snacks are available to purchase and the comfortable, stylish couches and tables make it a great place to meet friends or mingle.
For a more luxurious hotel (and price), the Hotel Claris is a five-star property in a former 19th century palace. One-of-a-kind artworks can be found throughout the hotel and the rooftop terrace features a small pool and beautiful bar. Rooms are luxurious but sleek and modern with suites featuring marble bathrooms. The hotel is centrally located—walking distance between the city center at Plaza Catalunya and La Sagrada Familia.