Seeking heat and keeping cool on the Catalan coast...
Barcelona, the Catalan capital of Spain, is a rich and varied buffet for the senses: easily explorable, stunningly beautiful, by turns graceful and gritty. It is a place to be strolled, sipped, and savoured. And the best way to do it is on the coast. Yes, there’s a shortlist of cultural can’t-misses and must sees in the heart of the city, especially the modernist-meets-surreal work of architect Antoni Gaudí. But beyond that, glimmering in the distance, is the coastal zone where you can experience the best of the city, from ancient historical sites to an ultramodern superyacht marina and club at Port Vell (Old Port), within a walkable mile or so.
Begin your approach on Las Ramblas, the grand albeit overrun thorough fare best used as a gateway to the sea. Turn and walk through the Barri Gòtic, home to everything from Roman ruins, molecular gastronomy restaurants, tenements, and tattoo parlours. It’s intense in the way only a port neighborhood can be and sets you up for more contrasts that await on the coast.
Despite these varied layers there will always be two main constants in Barcelona: tapas and art. Pay your respects to these traditions with a double dose on the historic Carrer de Montcada. Here a museum dedicated to Spain’s original bad boy Pablo Picasso sits just down the street from one of the city’s finest tapas bars, El Xampanyet, where the house cava and a plate of pulpo (octopus) doused with olive oil and spiked with pimentón will ground you. Make your way to tree-lined squares like the Plaça de la Barceloneta, the site of the 18th century Sant Miquel del Port church. And leave your piety here as you head to the barrio Barceloneta.
Here tapas and history give way to the sultry influence of Ibiza, which reveals itself in the barrio’s clubs, on its beaches and at its marina. Global nightclub group Pacha holds prime real estate here just steps from the sand (its founder is a Barcelona native). Here in the shadow of the massive Frank Gehry sculpture that marks the Olympic Marina built in 1992, you’ll find modern Barcelona beach club life in full swing. Itinerant DJs hold court while club-goers sip champagne and nibble on globalist finger food.
Back at Port Vell is Café del Mar Lounge Barcelona, the local outpost of Ibiza’s pioneering ’80s nightclub. The sprawling 13,000-square foot multilevel club is known for its palm tree- and lounger-lined pool deck that hosts legendary day parties. Back by the beach is the arcing W Barcelona, a shining example of Iberian modernism jutting seaward where the Wet Deck Summer Series of parties affords guests sweeping views of the city and the sea.
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