Passeig de Gràcia is the Rodeo Drive of Barcelona. With stores such as Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent and Gucci, this wide, tree-lined avenue offers every imaginable designer thread you could desire. Rambla de Catalunya runs parallel and is a mecca for shoe shopping. The narrow road leads north from the city’s central Plaça de Catalunya and is also home to gorgeous independent boutiques, all peppered between lovely, local tapas spots. If imported labels such as Paul Smith are what you’re hankering after, head down to the port where the El Born and Barceloneta intersect and you’ll discover a haven of retail goodies sitting not far from the sea.
For the most far-reaching view of Barcelona’s rooftop maze, head to Tibidabo mountain, which towers majestically behind the city. If heights are no problem, Barcelona’s cable car, the Transbordador Aeri del Port, cuts from the port right across to Montjuïc, a mountain where a sunny afternoon can easily be lost in the mesmerising Joan Miró Foundation (www.fundaciomiro-bcn.org). For an interior view that should not be missed, visit Palau Música Catalana (www.palaumusica.org), considered to be a landmark of Spanish architectural Modernism. Its central glass dome and hypnotic blend of light and colour is breathtaking. Another must-see is Gaudí’s Parc Güell, a testament to the artist’s obsession with all things organic. His mosaic dragons, rock pillars and ornate ceilings frame a sensational view across Barcelona.
Art and architecture
Set around a peaceful courtyard in the heart of the city, the Picasso Museum (www.museupicasso.bcn. cat) is an essential stop. Including paintings, sculptures, pottery and personal letters, the museum documents the artist’s early childhood years and charts his work clearly in decades. A large amount of new material has been donated in recent years, so it’s worth a revisit even if you have been before. And a visit to Barcelona wouldn’t be complete without seeing Gaudí’s La Sagrada Familia, if only by default, as it looms high and proud. The iconic, spired cathedral, with its irregular, unfinished construction and endless detail, is an assault on the senses and a true tribute to the city’s surreal artistic history. Gaudí’s other distinctive project is the Casa Batlló (www.casabatllo.es), a neighbour of Mandarin oriental, Barcelona. The balconies of this bizarre apartment block are reminiscent of segments of skulls, their support pillars like bone fragments, yet the overall effect couldn’t be more beautiful. Similarly surreal, but no less impressive, is the permanent Salvador Dalí exhibition (www.daliabarcelona.com) at the Real Círculo Artístico Museum of Barcelona in the heart of the Gothic district.