Get to know Gaudi
Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi reshaped the face of Barcelona in the early 20th century. If you’ve only time for one of his works, make it the seminal Sagrada Familia (€15; sagradafamilia.org), an extraordinary – yet still unfinished – cathedral. Its elaborate eight-tower exterior starkly contrasts with the serene, minimalist interior. Then see the cathedral from a different perspective at another Gaudi masterpiece, Casa Mila (€22; lapedrera.com), an Art Nouveau apartment building. After poking through the bedrooms and lounges, climb to the ornate roof to peer through an arch that perfectly frames the cathedral in the distance. Round off your day with a meal in one of Gaudi’s earliest works, Casa Calvet restaurant (mains from €19; casacalvet.es), with beautiful tiled interiors and exquisite Mediterranean fare.
Dodge the crowds (and the pickpockets) as you walk down the city’s most famous promenade, the pedestrianised La Rambla in the Gothic Quarter. But for souvenirs, bypass the avenue’s tatty shops and detour to the nearby Calle Avinyó, a smart boutique-filled street, to pick up handmade espadrilles at La Manual Alpargatera (no 7; lamanualalpargatera.es). Then meander through the Gothic Quarter’s medieval lanes, finishing up at Plaça del Pi, a beguiling square lined with cafes, antique shops, a church and occasional artist’s market.
Soak up the sun
Take a break from sightseeing at Barceloneta beach, 20 minutes’ walk from La Rambla. Sip a cerveza one of the pop-up beach bars as you watch people playing beach volleyball, lifting weights and having chess competitions – all on the sand. For a more cultured outing, head to Fundació Joan Miró (€12; fmirobcn.org) in the Montjuic district to see colourful sculptures by the surrealist Spanish artist in the museum’s garden. Or take the metro to the Gaudi-designed Park Guell (€7; parkguell.cat) in the suburbs. From the hilltop mosaic terraces you’ll see Barcelona sprawling out before you.
Shop the markets
Pick up the makings of a picnic lunch at La Boqueria (8am to 8.30pm, Mon-Sat; boqueria.info), the city’s most famous food market, with an entrance off La Rambla. Or stock up nearby at Mercat de Santa Caterina (opens 7.30am until 3.30pm or 8.30pm on alternating days; Mon-Sat; Av. de Francesc Cambó, 16), with stalls selling olives, cheeses and breads beneath an undulating honeycomb-tiled roof. Or browse more than 500 stalls selling everything from vintage t-shirts to antique cutlery at Encants Vells flea market (9am to 8pm, Mon, Weds, Fri, Sat; Av. Meridiana and C/Castillejos).
Taste the tapas
Focus your tapas-bar crawl on the chic Born district, adjacent to the Gothic Quarter, starting at Tapeo (tapas from €2; tapeoborn.cat), where you’ll squeeze in at communal tables for patatas bravas, truffled eggs and calamari. Then choose from 17 stalls at the food-court style Tapa Market at Mercat Princesa (mercatprincesa.com). Finish up at with gastro-tapas at Llamber (tapas from €6; llamber.com) with plates of smoked anchovies and aubergines with honey and lemon.
Get some zzzs
Perfectly positioned on the border of the Gothic Quarter and the Born District, the bijou white rooms at H10 Montcada (doubles from €99, room only; h10hotels.com) have leather and gold accents, making it feel more decadent than its three-star price tag might suggest.