Insider's Tip: Take a food tour with Devour Barcelona Food Tours where you are taken to tiny taverns and tapas bars, learning what and how to order and sampling everything from vermouth, cava and cured meats along the way.
Overall impressions: The capital of Catalonia is a bustling city center — especially during high season — but it's also relaxed, with most people (at least in July) wearing shorts, T-shirts and tank tops. In that way, it feels like a beach town, but if you didn't see the Mediterranean, you might not know it was right there, save for the fresh seafood that is in abundance. The Barri Gòtic is romantic, with its winding cobblestone streets and Roman ruins, while other areas are more typically cosmopolitan and full of big-name stores like H&M, Desigual and Loewe. Gaudi's architecture and influence abounds, from performance houses (Palau de Música) and whimsical parks (Parc Guell) to famed churches (La Sagrada Família) and civil buildings (Casa Milà). Food and drink is central to the culture and because of that Barcelona is a foodie's paradise. Though it was high season, the locals were all genuinely happy, helpful and nice—never minding that we couldn't speak a lick of Spanish or Catalan.
Favorite moment: The first stop on our food tour, Gran Bodega del Maestrazgo, a neighborhood wine store where we got our first glass of vermut (vermouth).
Favorite meal(s): The nine-course seafood dinner we had at Passadis Del Pep. There is no menu and the prices are not cheap, but you are welcomed with a complimentary bottle of cava, the seafood keeps coming and the meal ends with complimentary limoncello.
Favorite restaurants, museums or sightseeing: We covered a lot of ground on our Fat Tire bike tour. We were able to discover new neighborhoods we might not have seen otherwise.
Where or what to drink: Take a vermouth at noon; eat a heavy lunch at 2/2:30 p.m. and grab tapas at 9. You can also get food at The Boqueria food market—but good luck choosing what to eat, there is so much!
Neighborhood to explore: The Gothic Quarter, of course, but just beyond that is El Born, where you can shop for clothes and gifts at independent boutiques.
Day-trip suggestion(s): Travel 90 minutes north to explore Costa Brava and stay at Mas de Torrent. The service was impeccable and the grounds are just gorgeous.
Surprising fact or tidbit: You can get vermouth on tap, straight out of the barrel, for as little as 4 Euros a liter at local wine shops.
Brought back/souvenir: A beautiful handbag by Spanish designer Beatriz Furest.
What to pack: If you are there in high season, take shorts, tank tops and breezy dresses. It's a very relaxed, informal city.
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