Barcelona has been one of my favorite European cities ever since it renovated its Mediterranean seafront for the 1992 Summer Olympic Games. In recent years, it has become an enormously popular destination, which means that it is sometimes a challenge to avoid the hordes that throng the most popular attractions. But Barcelona is still one of those cities that can't help but enchant visitors. It contains some of the best-preserved medieval structures in Europe, as well as fanciful modernist architecture, and it's tree-lined La Rambla promenade is dotted with animated outdoor cafés and tapas bars.
Located on the eastern coast of the Iberian Peninsula, Barcelona experiences warm summers and mild winters. During summer and early fall, Barcelona is frequently hot and humid. Rainy days are limited, and the Atlantic west winds alleviate humidity except in the warmer seasons. A visit during the shoulder seasons, in April to May or September to October, is preferable.
Visit Gaudí buildings
Many people miss some of the most charming Gaudí buildings, such as the Palau Güell, the residence of Gaudí’s wealthy patron; the Cripta Gaudí, the Tolkien-esque church crypt at the center of Colònia Güell, a utopian planned industrial community just outside Barcelona; and Torre Bellesguard, a private mansion first opened to the public in 2013.
See a Concert at Palau de la Música Catalana
One of my favorite modernist buildings in Barcelona is the ornate Palau de la Música Catalana, a concert hall with a sensational stained glass ceiling created by architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner. I’ll never forget seeing the Berlin Philharmonic perform Brahms in this joyous space, and I try to see a concert here whenever I am in the city. Book seats near the front and center of the balcony.
Explore the Markets
Barcelona contains many of the best markets in Europe. And they’re terrific places to visit even if you’re not food shopping, since there’s no faster way to take the pulse of this food-loving city. Many markets also have restaurants, bars and cafés, which make them ideal for lunch. The most famous is La Boqueria just off La Rambla, but I prefer those in quieter residential neighborhoods where most tourists do not venture.
A short walk from La Rambla, the Mercat de Santa Caterina was renovated in 2005 and has a spectacular undulating polychrome mosaic roof. There are several bars and cafés and a good casual restaurant, Cuines Santa Caterina.
Construction of one of Barcelona’s prettiest markets, Mercat de Galvany, began in 1868 and was finally completed in 1927. Today, this handsome brick building is a listed historical landmark.
Built in 1888, the Mercat de La Concepció is well-known for its florists, a number of which stay open 24 hours a day. There are several popular bars in the food section of the market, which are perfect for a drink and a snack.
Escape to Catalonia's Wine Country
During summer and early fall, Barcelona is frequently hot and humid. A rural escape is provided by Catalonia’s wine country. The best-known wine town is Vilafranca del Penedès, an easy 50-minute drive from the city. Tours and tastings are available at the internationally recognized Torres winery, plus the less well-known Parés Baltà vineyard. Vilafranca del Penedès itself is a pleasant working town that is proudly dedicated to the grape but displays none of the self-conscious airs of similar places in France or Italy. The 16-room Casa Torner i Güell is a sister property to the Mercer Hotel Barcelona and occupies a recently renovated 19th-century townhouse. Though not a true luxury hotel, it is an extremely agreeable place to spend the night.