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An itinerary to enjoy the best of Barcelona in four days

Adriana Setti

Fernanda Frazão, Carles Rojals, Enrique Marco, Getty Images, Publicity

Four days of tapas, wine, bohemia, and art in the Catalan capital

 

Day 1 • Two thousand years of history

9 a.m. - Gothic labyrinth

Barcelona was born over 2,000 years ago as a colony of the Roman Empire. To find marks of this past, wander through the Gothic Quarter, a labyrinth of lanes that's home to such attractions as the municipal cathedral, museums, and town squares. One of the ends of the neighborhood is bordered by Las Ramblas, a pedestrian street lined with palaces and filled with artists and flower stands.

 

1 p.m. - Market food

Belly up to one of the bars inside the Mercado de la Boquería. Quim and Pinotxo are the authorities at this mecca for tapas. Chow down on some of the local icons such as pimentos del padrón (fried bell peppers), patatas bravas (french fries with hot sauce), and artisanal croquettes.

 

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3 p.m. - In fine style

Start exploring the Born neighborhood at the Basílica de Santa María del Mar, browse the shops on Passeig de Born, and visit the 17th-century ruins inside the El Born Centre de Cultura. To relax, hunker down on the grass inside Parc de la Ciutadella.  

 

7 p.m. - Un vermut, si us plau

Sipping a vermouth (wine aromatized with spices) is a religion in Barcelona, and the best place to practice it is at Bodega 1900, run by chef Albert Adrià, who pays homage to the beverage. 

 

Day 2 • Modernist immersion

9 a.m. - Gaudí's legacy

Start your day by viewing the city from above among the mosaics of Parc Güell. The entrance to the space was conceived by architect Antoni Gaudí, the greatest ambassador of Catalonian modernism. After, take bus 24 to Passeig de Gràcia. It's home to name-brand stores and two of Gaudí's most famous houses: Casa Batlló, which resembles a reptile, and the curvy La Pedrera

 

2 p.m. - Eight in one

Take a break for lunch at a place whose glamor matches that of Passeig de Gràcia. El Nacional occupies a modernist building with spectacular decorations, inspired by early 20th-century Barcelona. In a space with an area of 25,830 square feet [2,400 m2], there are four bars – specializing in beer, wine, oysters with sparkling wine, and cocktails – and four restaurants, one of which specializes in tapas.

 

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4 p.m. - Duel of the titans

Buy tickets with a scheduled time to visit La Sagrada Família, Gaudí's unfinished masterpiece. If everything goes according to plan, the church will be done by 2026 after 134 years of work. Standing 393 feet [120 m] tall, the church will one day have several additional towers. The most impressive facade is the Nativity, the only one Gaudí actually worked on (he was killed by a tram in 1926). Four blocks away stands the former Hospital Sant Pau, now a museum, designed by another modernist heavyweight, Lluís Domènech I Montaner. 

 

9 p.m. - The Independent Republic of Gràcia

Like a mini-city inside of Barcelona, Gràcia is a neighborhood with plenty of personality and a bohemian soul. Let your instinct lead you from bar to bar, passing by Plaça del Sol and the lovely Plaça de la Virreina. But don't forget to try a perfect gin and tonic at Bobby Gin, where they serve creative dishes to go with the drinks. 

 

Day 3 • Sea and mountains

10 a.m. - Plaça d'Espanya

Renovated by architect Richard Rogers, Plaza de Toros de las Arenas is a former bullring now home to the Arenas de Barcelona shopping mall, containing such stores as Desigual, Mango, and Sephora. On the roof is a spectacular overlook with a 360-degree view of Plaça d’Espanya. 

 

12 p.m. - Panoramic paella

The coolest address in town to enjoy some paella is Terraza Martínez, the place to be on a sunny day. They serve sangria and the terrace has the best view of the port. With any luck, they'll have a DJ spinning and a crowd of people sipping Aperol Spritzes.

 

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5 p.m. - More than a club

Sports fans shouldn't miss out on taking a pilgrimage to Camp Nou, Barcelona's stadium. The museum and the official store of Coutinho and Messi's team match the club's caliber. The Camp Nou Experience package also includes a tour of the stands, crossing the field and into the locker rooms.

 

7 p.m. - From bar to bar

Cross the city by subway in order to enjoy the late afternoon in Barceloneta, the former fishing neighborhood that borders the beach of the same name. Bask in the breeze on the promenade and, when your stomach starts to grumble, head for the narrow streets lined with excellent tapas bars, like the classic Vaso de Oro, where the caña (draught beer) is poured with perfection, served with spicy tuna and the foie gras on the griddle, the house specialty.

 

Day 4 • Grapevines in the yard

8:30 a.m. - Warm-ups

Since drinking and driving is out of the question, schedule a ride on the Bus Turistic for an immersion in the Penedés region, one of the main wine-producing zones in Spain. The complete tour makes its first stop at Bodega Jean Leon in Torrelavit, less than an hour’s drive away. It includes a visit to the vineyards and a tasting session.

 

11:30 a.m. - The empire of Spanish wine

The second pit stop takes place at Bodega Miguel Torres in Vilafranca de Penedès. It's the headquarters of a Spanish empire that also has vineyards in Chile and California and which produces world-renowned wines like Sangre de Toro and Viña Esmeralda. A visit there includes a tour of the facilities and wine and cheese harmonization.

 

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2 p.m. - Fizz factory

The third winery on the excursion is Freixenet, the country's biggest producer of cava (Spanish sparkling wine, made by the classic method, like champagne). The visit includes a train tour of the cellar, tasting sessions, and an aperitif to wrap things up in grand style. 

 

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