Barcelona is the capital of Catalonia and is located on the northeast coast of Spain, next to the Mediterranean Sea. Over a million people call the city home. The city benefits from the warm climate and sea breezes. It has been home to some of the most famous artists in the world, such as Picasso, Gaudi and El Greco. The city is the cultural and economic center of the region, and draws many tourists to visit each year. It is a bustling place with hundreds of things to see and do.
Often crowded with people sight-seeing, it is still possible to experience the essence of Barcelona in a more privileged fashion. The key is to use the private services such as tour guides and professional drivers to see the most popular places. Discovering some of the less traveled gems is also one of the best ways to enjoy the luxuries this intriguing city, and its surrounding regions, has to offer.
Here are 10 luxe things travelers can do in Barcelona that they won’t soon regret.
Private Limo to the Sagrada Família and Gaudi Highlights
An excellent way to see the Guadi highlights without the typical tourist walking and waiting in line are in a private, customized tour. These feature an air conditioned vehicle which will provide hotel pick up and drop off at the start and end of the tour, plus a professional guide for the day. Considered by many to be the jewel of the Gaudi creations is the Sagrada Familia.
The Temple of the Sagrada Familia was designed by Antoni Gaudi; the architect famous worldwide. He worked on the temple 43 years until he died on June 10,1926. His funeral cortege, processed through Barcelona and ended in the Sagrada Familia. Gaudi was then buried in the crypt of the Sagrada Familia. He is regarded in Barcelona as the greatest of architects. Gaudí did not finish the temple, but a foundation exists that is dedicated to its completion, following Gaudi’s original, precise directions.
Avoid the hours of waiting in line that are common at this historical site by purchasing tickets online in advance. Consult the private tour provider for advice. Other popular Guadi designed masterpieces to visit include Park Guell, and Casa Batllo.
Tapas and Vermouth at Bodega 1900
To indulge in tapas in Barcelona, is to share in a dining tradition which has been part of the Spanish culture for generations. Barcelona has hundreds of tapas bars, offering the luxurious flavors of these traditional small plates in most every neighborhood. Some have been doing so for decades, while others offer modern versions of the classic favorites. Anyone visiting Barcelona should sample many recommended tapas bars to enjoy the flavors.
One favorite in particular, which comes highly recommended by locals, is the Bodega 1900. It is the establishment of Albert Adria, and his status as icon in Spanish cuisine brings many there. Adria has nestled into a turn of the century building, and recovered the tradition of meeting for small tapas and a drink. This gathering, the heritage of bodegas, is fully realized in the masterful combination of delicious bites and in-house vermouth at Bodega 1900.
It is recognized as a newer version of the traditional vermuterias and the recipes served are traditional ones from the 1900s, elevated with modern touches. As the country is currently swept in a revival of vermouth, “vermut” in Catalan, this popular favorite from yesteryear is top of the list refreshment for many now. The practice of meeting to share food and drink is viewed as distinguishing Catalan identity and the culture of Spain, and guests at Bodega 1900 can enjoy it and period décor, as well.
The Picasso Museum Experience
Pablo Picasso lived in Barcelona from 1895 to 1905. He studied art, attended school, socialized with other contemporary artists and created art. Many tourists visit the Picasso Museum, but reserving a personal guide to accompany a visit is the best way to learn not only about the museum collection, but about all the places Picasso frequented while living in the city.
Viator offers a two hour, guided walking tour which begins in the center of Barcelona, and stops to visit the sites famously linked with Picasso. The tour culminates with the Picasso Museum, and includes expedited, skip-the-line museum entry. The English speaking tours depart at 3pm. For those who want to walk in the steps of Picasso, this is one of the best ways to do it.
A Concert at Palau de la Musica Catalana
Experiencing a concert at this auditorium is a must for passionate music lovers. It was designed by Lluis Domenech i Montaner, and is considered to be masterpiece of modernist style. It is filled with colorful stained glass, mosaics, tiles and sculpture. It is unique in the world of concert halls for its beauty and ambiance. It is possible to purchase concert tickets online in advance. Insiders recommend taking a private tour of the building, though, and this requires contacting the Palau de La Musica in advance to set up a time with one of their official, licensed guides. It is not possible to tour the inside without reserving a guide in advance, being sure to choose an English speaking guide.
Exclusive, Secret Barcelona Wine Tastings
Barcelona is situated between the Mediterranean Sea and a coastal mountain range. It is part of the Penedes region, which is known for its delicious wines. Visiting Barcelona would not be the same without sampling some of the region’s fine wines. But for some, taking a winery tour is old news. Wine lovers are seeking out unexplored territory. For those looking to experience the best, an exclusive opportunity to taste wines where tourists rarely go cannot be missed.
Two companies, Sitges Wine Tastings and Barcelona Wine Tastings host monthly events which are capped at 20 guests at locations kept secret until the invitations are issued. Four glasses of wine and food are included, and guests are welcomed to stay until the bottles are finished. The tastings focus on small batch products which are not readily found outside of the vineyards of the Penedes region. Tickets to each monthly tasting are 25 euros. Details for the events are found at the company website.
Drive A Ferrari
The tour company Barcelona Life understands what a luxury tour of the area can be. The company offers supercar fans the chance to drive a Ferrari rather than walk or take a taxi. There are several routes available. One that fits perfectly with the Ferrari is Formula 1 Racing Track experience. Drivers can put the Ferrari to the test with some racing experiences on the official track of the Spanish Grand Prix, the Circuit de Catalunya. A professional instructor is provided, and reservations must be made in advance.
Other route options include visiting the famous Gaudi sites, cruising past the beach in the Barceloneta district or taking the car to Montserrat mountain. Other sports cars, such as the McClaren 650s, Lamborghini, Maserati or Porsche are also available for certain routes, with varied pricing.
Shop the El Born Boutiques
This is Barcelona’s answer for those who want to shop in unique boutiques or art galleries, enjoy some pampering in a hair salon or relax in one of the neighborhoods bars. It is also the location of the beautiful Santa Maria del Mar church, with its lovely rose window crafted of stained glass. It is a lively neighborhood just east of La Ribera.
For those wishing to avoid the tourists, a visit to Notenom, the shop with “No Name”, is one excellent alternative. This store is for sophisticated shoppers. The stilettos of Juan Antonio Lopez, a shoe designed based in Barcelona, are displayed here; as are many street-smart designer brands.
Explore Parque del Laberinto de Horta
Built by Joan Antoni Desvalls of d’Ardena in 1791, the 9 hectares of park includes waterfalls, sculptures of figures from mythology, and a labyrinth. The maze is created from spectacularly maintained hedges. It was the center of 19th century cultural events. With reservations, guided tours of this elegant property are available. Plan to spend an hour or two enjoying its historical beauty.
Slip Away to Sitges
This quick side trip to Picasso’s favorite village is easily accessible by private car or taxi cab. It was once a fishing village, but it is now a resort area. It is filled with winding streets, cafes and delightful shops. The waterfront is a favorite place for soaking up the sun. The Museu Cau Ferrat offers paintings by Picasso, Santiago Rusinal, and El Greco.
Dine at La Vinateria del Call
This tiny restaurant located in the area of Barcelona that once was the Jewish quarter, serves the most delicious Iberian dishes. Traditional Catalan escalivada with its roasted peppers, onions and eggplant comes with anchovies, while chorizo cooked with cider or octopus Galician style is on the menu. The wine selection is very good, and the portions are designed to share. It is a magical spot.