Four volumes of SUITCASE Magazine, with a new issue delivered to your door each quarter
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Four volumes of SUITCASE Magazine, with a new issue delivered to your door each quarter
After a nine-year, £70million revamp, Mercat Sant Antoni – which first opened in 1882 – is officially back in business. While tourists flock to La Boqueria by Las Ramblas, the 52 fresh food stalls here are bustling with locals buying olives, cheese, locally-grown produce and the like. It’s a fascinating glimpse into the lives of the denizens of sun-dappled Sant Antoni.
For serious desert vibes deep in the city, stroll among the 800 different types of cacti that form the Mossèn Costa i Llobera Gardens. This under-the-radar park’s position on the warmer, port-facing slopes of Montjuic mountain allow the non-indigenous plants to thrive in their foreign home – plus, the abstract landscape makes for a striking backdrop. Don’t be surprised if you pass local photographers and their muses as you explore.
Self-proclaimed plant collectors Jesús and Pancho run Casa Protea, a glorious florist in Gracia, behind with their plant-loving grandmothers serve as inspiration. This summer, this temple to botany will hold a number of English-speaking workshops including plant printing, where attendees can print their own silk scarf using leaves and petals, plus macramé, ceramics, botanical illustration and even tea ceremonies (from €45; email to book).
Miss Kleckley on Sant Antoni’s busy Carrer del Parlament fills a gap in Barcelona’s shopping scene with its racks of streetwear from Fila, Champion, Lazy Oaf and Ellesse. Vintage pieces are labelled with the city they were discovered in – Paris, Budapest and more – and owner Marina Jimenez upcyles bold boilersuits as part of the shop’s own clothing line. Polish your new look with a manicure at Miss Kleckley’s nail bar.
An old car repair workshop in Gracia has become the city’s new space devoted to photography. Mecànic is lined with tomes by local and international photographers and holds four major exhibitions each year on trending topics. Visit during the day and peruse the shelves with a coffee. When the sun sets, the café evolves into a laidback wine bar.
Designed in Barcelona’s intricate Modernist style with stained glass windows, sculptures and metalwork, a performance in this concert hall is an unforgettable experience. Be sure to check their website to see who’s playing while you’re in town.
Locals seeking an escape from the city head to Collserola, a 80-sq-km park in the hills. It’s located a half-hour drive from Barcelona’s centre, or you can take the S5 ferrocarril line from Plaça de Catalunya. There’s a smattering of cafés and snack bars in the park but it’s more common to find families picnicking or barbecuing at the weekends. There are a lot of hiking and biking trails that go up and down the mountains, and there are also organised astronomy nights twice every month.
The Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art – MACBA – is where everyone heads for art in the city, but while the building is cool, the permanent exhibition is rather lacklustre. The CCCB is the MACBA’s cooler sibling (and has a better gift shop).
It might come as a surprise that a city as rich in culture as Barcelona has only recently established a coffee scene. Nømad Coffee has three branches across the city and places a strong emphasis on sourcing quality coffee from fair trade farmers. Satan’s Coffee Corner was founded by Marcos Bartolomé, a native of La Rioja from a family of coffee-makers. Unpretentious and minimalist in appearance, Satan’s now has two outlets in the city. Other options include old school roasters el Magnifico for a taste of Barcelona’s coffee history, Onna coffee in Gracia for a caffeine hit with the cool kids or el Born’s Black Remedy.
The Modernist architect Antoni Gaudí has left his mark all over Barcelona. A tour spanning his most celebrated buildings is hardly unique or off-the-beaten-path, but it’s important to do in order to understand the city. The Sagrada Família church is the big one – an ode to weirdness on the outside and a sanctum of bizarre beauty inside, the queues can be horrendous so it’s best to book in advance or queue before the 9AM opening. Casa Batlló and La Pedrera are both located on Passeig de Gràcia, so you can squeeze in some shopping between visits. We strongly suggest going inside La Pedrera but you could skip Casa Batlló and just take a photo outside. Carry on walking north to Grácia and find Casa Vicens, an enchanting family home that most tourists seem to forget. If you’ve got the energy, continue walking up to Park Güell – it’s free, constantly busy and has great views over the city. Phew.
Both locals and tourists rejoice in Barcelona’s beaches. Even in the winter you’ll find hoards of people trawling the boulevard at the weekend, but in the summer the struggle to find a spot of sand is real. The best beaches are outside of the city but if you don’t want to travel then go to the stretch of Barceloneta by the W Hotel – you’ll find a few nudists but won’t be judged for wearing a swimsuit either. Playa Chernobyl by the metro station Sant Adrià de Besòs is a good option too. If you’re happy to make the 10km journey out of the city then then Badalona is beautiful. Be sure to eat at the newly opened L’Estupendu and try their seafood rice.
A collection of museums, galleries and Gothic churches arranged along cobbled roads, Girona is an ideal day-trip destination from Barcelona (40 minutes by train). Begin at the bathhouses, where a pathway following the course of the ancient walls will lead you high above the city to an outlook with spectacular views. Then stroll down towards the Cathedral of Girona – the imposing exterior will soon become familiar to Game of Thrones fans, as part of series six was filmed here. Wander through the Jewish Quarter, laced with narrow switchback streets that are home to cafés, boutiques and bookshops. Finish up at Café le Bistrot, which offers rustic Catalan cuisine in a setting of clouded mirrors, mismatched chairs and eclectic hat stands.
This seaside neighbourhood has come to life in recent years with young businesses setting up shop. During weekends it’s quiet, but during the week you’ll find its cafés and boutiques buzzing with students and creatives. The ‘plant concept store’ Joliu has dreamy displays of cactuses and succulents standing between independent magazines, as well as a cute café in the back. Poblenou’s cemetery is a beautiful, peaceful spot and is just down the road from Els Pescadors if you’re looking for a lunch or dinner spot.
Take some Catalan culture home with you with a cooking course at bcnKITCHEN. If you can speak some Spanish then there’s a wide variety of classes available (including creative pintxos and Spanish fusion) but if you’re limited to English then opt for the market visit and Spanish cooking workshop. Each class begins with a visit to the Boqueria market or if you’re lucky the less crowded Santa Caterina market, followed by a day learning to cook gazpacho, Spanish tortilla, paella, crema Catalana and pá amb tomáquet, the simple but delicious Catalan way of eating bread with fresh tomatoes.
Born in Barcelona, Joan Miró was a painter, sculptor and ceramicist associated with the Surrealist movement. Located in Montjuïc Park, the Fundació Miró is a dynamic centre housing around 220 of Miró’s paintings, 180 sculptures, some textiles and more than 8,000 drawings. The building itself was designed by the architect Josep Lluís Sert and is considered one of the world’s most outstanding museum structures. Find a shady spot for a picnic in the gardens after a long day of sightseeing.
A true homage to art’s most notorious weirdo, this museum is located in Salvador Dalí’s home town of Figueres, just a short train ride (40 minutes) from Barcelona. The painting collection is decent but it’s the building itself that offers an immersive insight into the Surreal artist’s perspective on the world – giant white eggs adorn the roof, while golden bread sculptures line the red walls of the façade. Set aside a good three to four hours to wander the exhibition rooms and courtyards – you’ll find there’s a lot more to Dalí than melting clocks, deserts and tigers.
The hillside neighbourhood of Poble-sec is often left out of visitors’ itineraries, but it shouldn’t be. Running from Avenida Parallel up to the hill of Montjuïc, the area is particularly appealing in the summer, when the shady streets are a few degrees cooler than the city below. Don’t miss the Fundacio Miró or lunch at Xemei, and make sure to attend the fortnightly electronic music festival Brunch-In Barcelona, often held in the area’s event space, Poble Espanyol.
A rigorous restoration process meant that late 2017 saw Gaudí’s oldest building become Barcelona’s newest museum, as Casa Vicens opened to the public for the very first time. The private house joins Casa Battló and Casa Milà (often referred to as La Pedrera) as the architect’s most lauded residences. Whichever you explore, opt for the brilliant audio guide to enjoy a virtual reality tour of Gaudí’s world. If you don’t make it inside, join the paparazzi of adoring tourists who line the outside streets – a photo in front of one the jaw-dropping façades will make the perfect souvenir.
Perched 262 metres above the city, this old military site was once used as an anti-aircraft defence point during the Spanish Civil War. Today it is Barcelona’s worst kept secret, offering panoramic views over the city. Pack a picnic or some beers and enjoy the sunset amid guitar strumming locals and selfie snapping tourists.
Barcelona weekends are a tale of two brunches. The first, a classic egg laden affair first popularised in 2010 by Australian cafe Federal, has gained momentum to include must-visit spots such as Picnic, Flax & Kale, Caravelle and Brunch and Cake. The second is an eponymous day-party, fortnightly hosting world class DJs in unique locations around the city. For a sure-fire Sunday, combine the two – you’ll still be in bed by 11.
Atop the city’s highest peak of Mount Tibidabo perch a curious pairing of a neo-Gothic cathedral and Spain’s oldest amusement park. Rather than catching the funicular, enjoy the puff-inducing hike to the top before securing a spot on the big wheel. Our tip – make time for the sensational city views from restaurant Mirablau, located next to the lower funicular stop. Watch the sun set with a cocktail or rise with a coffee, after a night spent dancing at the weekend club.
An hour’s train ride from the city, the gnarled turrets of this majestic mountain range are instantly recognisable and home to the revered Benedictine monastery of the same name. Seen as the cradle of Catalan identity, this area attracts a steady slew of visitors, many paying homage to the monastery’s La Moreneta (‘Little Brown One’, or ‘Black Virgin’), one of Spain’s most revered icons. Escape the crowds and soak up the spirituality of the area on one of the many glorious hikes – at just over 4,000ft, the highest peak of Sant Jeroni offers the most rewarding vistas.
As the world’s largest producer of sparkling wine, Catalonia is second only to the Champagne region. One of the best places to sample some fizz is at the historic Vila Viniteca, whose shop contains more than 4,000 labels. City based alternatives include La Xampanyeria and El Rincon de Cava, while venturing further afield brings you to the slopes of organic winery Alta Alella. For the true aficionados, head for cava country in Freixenet, where tours and tastings include a train ride through the cellars.
You know how you have that one incredible friend who knows their city inside out? That’s us. We take the world’s most dynamic destinations, hand-pick the best bits and give them to you in one place. This is the kind of guide that you don’t need to run by a local – it was written by one. Eat your heart out, shop until you drop, drink like a fish, dance your socks off, sleep – then repeat.
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