With international hotel brands, homegrown hot spots and a city beach to rival California’s, it’s time to make Barcelona your next stopover
Words by ANDREW BARKER
“Barcelona, such a beautiful horizon, Barcelona, like a jewel in the sun.” So sang Queen vocalist Freddie Mercury with opera singer Montserrat Caballé in their single named after the city, released in honor of the 1992 Olympics, an event that helped transform Spain’s second city into the bucket list mainstay we know today.
Aside from Gaudí’s mind-bending masterpieces, the historic food markets and the monolithic Design Museum of Barcelona, it is the neo-Brutalist concrete boardwalk and sandy beaches — which exist thanks to the Olympic urban regeneration project — that, in my mind, are the No. 1 must-sees.
Stroll from the former fishermen hamlet of La Barceloneta to El Poblenou (the erstwhile Athlete’s Village) in the summer and you’ll see deft-handed volleyball players kicking back at the chiringuitos (beachside bars). In Spain, beach drinking seems to be a national sport. As a regular visitor but feeble volleyballer, no trip for me is complete without a visit to Xiringuito Escribà (xiringuitoescriba.com), one such chiringuito, for a pan of paella and an Estrella Damm. It’s an ideal prelude to a siesta on the sand.
Three years ago, Soho House (sohohouse.com) opened its first property in the Southern Mediterranean near the foot of Las Ramblas; any Angeleno in search of a home-away-from-home experience can head to its Cecconi’s restaurant for some charcoal-grilled turbot washed down with a glass of Rioja. Last year, Little Beach House Barcelona (littlebeachhousebarcelona.com) opened in Garraf, a 45-minute drive down the coast and an easy day out if you’re in need of a break from the bustle of Barri Gòtic (Gothic Quarter).
Call it the Soho House effect, but a second slick hotel brand, Edition Hotels, has just opened next to the Santa Caterina food market near the less touristy but well positioned El Born District. At The Barcelona Edition (editionhotels.com/barcelona) you’ll find fantastic restaurants such as Bar del Pla (bardelpla.cat) where the chicken canneloni is a must and Cal Pep (calpep.com) for cuttlefish flame-grilled before your very eyes. Edition Hotels are synonymous with sleek design, masculine interiors, low lighting and an emphasis on fun times — what else would you expect from hotelier and Studio 54 co-founder Ian Schrager? — and the Barcelona property is bang on brand. There, you can kick off the evening at the rooftop bar before heading to Cabaret in the basement for dinner and entertainment conceived by the team behind Ibiza superclub Manumission.
Edition Hotels emphasize fun. What else would you expect from a Studio 54 co-founder?
Unlike in Madrid, most Barcelona bars don’t stay open all night. There comes a point around 1 a.m. when you must decide whether you want to brave some Latin beats or call it a night. So a tip from the Edition concierge about Paradiso (paradiso.cat), a speakeasy accessed via the fridge of a Pastrami Bar and serving labour intensive cocktails such as a Salvador Dalí Manhattan, was well received. A different gem to the one Freddie sang about, but something tells me he would have thoroughly approved.
This story originally appeared in the April 2019 issue of C magazine.