Everyone from fashionistas and architecture buffs, to foodies all agree that Barcelona is a top destination for amazing shopping, and food to make you swoon, all laid out as if on a movie set with Antonio Gaudi as the set designer. Style is everywhere in this coastal Catalan city from the grand boulevards to the tapas bars, permeating every aspect of life.
The best shopping in Barcelona is concentrated along the Passeig de Gràcia, with its designer boutiques from Gucci to Prada, and high-street outposts of internationally renowned Spanish brands Zara, Mango, Adolfo Dominguez and Desigual.
The Ravel district offers up indie boutiques with local designers and inviting vintage and antique shops. In the El Born district head to the shop of designer Beatriz Furest for her gorgeous bags, belts and scarves. Worth seeking out is Les Topettes for its amazing collection of soaps and perfumes. They make perfect souvenirs to remind you of your trip. Stock up on cult-favorite Spanish skincare brand Natura Bissé, especially their C+C Vitamin Complex for the face.
Another great souvenir and gift – if you can restrain yourself until you get home, is artisanal chocolate. World-famous chocolatiers Xocoa offers their unique flavor combinations such as green tea, ginger, and Jamaican Pepper, in presentation-ready wrapping. Almost to cute to eat!
For the best churros, or “xurros” in Barcelona, head to Comaxurros at Muntaner 562 for crispy pastries made for dipping in hot melted chocolate. Eating only one is impossible, and you might as well have a few as you will most definitely walk them off. One of the busiest tapas bars, and for good reason, is Xampanyet, on the Carrer de Montcada 22, in the El Born District where you can experience the local social life and an irresistible array of tapas all at the same time.
A short scenic train ride along the coast is the ancient city of “Tarraco”, now called Tarragona. This ancient Catalonian city with its well-preserved Roman ruins and sandy beaches has been declared a Unesco Heritage site. If you happen to travel there the third week of September, catch the Santa Tecla Festival, legendary for their “human towers”, music, food and street fair celebrations. Be ready for a party!
Don’t leave Barcelona without visiting the port and the beach. Take the cable car up to Montjuic and walk through the gardens and museums. The cable car ride itself is a spectacular way to see the views of Barcelona and the coast. Back down to the city center, head to Placa Reial next to Las Ramblas for restaurants and clubs. Immerse yourself in the world of Antonio Gaudi and tour the houses he built in the early twentieth century, La Padrera and Casa Batillo. Parc Güell in El Carmel in Gràcia is Gaudi’s other-worldly respite from the city with it’s tall cathedral ceilings and mosaic medallions, and winding pathways made of rock. Take time to marvel at Gaudi’s unfinished basilica La Sagrada Familia which is covered inside and out with dramatic religious symbolism. It is the centerpiece of Barcelona, and what Gaudi considered his masterpiece.
Barcelona has so much to see and do, endless photo ops, and style to spare. Come prepared with extra luggage for all the shopping finds and souvenirs, cool walking shoes, and an appetite for great food and culture. I can’t wait to go back!