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Cultural Treasures

Contemplate Barcelona’s wealth of wonderful museums and you realize the depth of cultural heritage the city offers. Although legend has it the city was formed by the mythological Hercules, Barcelona was actually founded by the Romans 2,000 years ago and rose to political and economic influence during the medieval period. You’ll find the splendor of this time still reflected in the Gothic Quarter. In the early 20th century, the modernisme movement, with architect Antoni Gaudi at the fore, left a boldly unique mark on the city. All of these cultural wonders, and more, await your discovery.

Casa Batllo in Barcelona

Day

1

MORNING
  • Breakfast with a View.

    Start your day in Café Veranda at Hotel Arts Barcelona, which serves a buffet breakfast of fresh fruits, pastries, crepes, local specialties and hot dishes. In warm weather, soak up the beautiful Mediterranean climate and dine outside on the sunny garden terraces.

  • Explore the Gothic Quarter.

    Head to the Gothic Quarter, center of the Roman city and Barcelona’s oldest quarter. The Barcelona Walking Tours Gòtic starts at the Plaça Sant Jaume, traversing narrow, cobbled streets and delving into the history of the city from Roman times to the medieval period.

  • Survey Architectural Marvels.

    Continue your architectural foray by visiting the Passeig de Gràcia, a street in the Eixample District, and enjoy Gaudi’s modernisme masterpiece Casa Batlló, a building where wood, glass, ceramics and quarried stone mix to produce stunning lights, colors and shapes. Then, make your way to La Pedrera, a residential building designed by Gaudi in the early 1900s that resembles a stone quarry.

MIDDAY
  • Modern Masterpieces.

    After lunch, stroll in the Quadrat d’Or, the central area of Eixample. You’ll see countless examples of Barcelona’s modernisme style from the late 19th and early 20th centuries — buildings featuring floral decorations, neo-Gothic details and stained glass.

AFTERNOON
  • Natural Wonders.

    Ride the Blue Tram to CosmoCaixa Barcelona, where science exhibits include the Flooded Forest, a re-created Amazon rainforest ecosystem (look for the piranhas), and the Geological Wall that illustrates the world’s variety of geological structures.

Evening
  • Tapas Tour.

    Enjoy one of Spain’s great culinary traditions: tapas. Stop in at a bar (or three) serving these small dishes meant to be shared. Have a glass of wine and sample the classic pan con tomate, patatas bravas and numerous seafood specialties.

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Day

2

MORNING
  • Let the Games Begin.

    Barcelona hosted the 1992 Olympic Games, and the event left a lasting impression on the city’s architecture. On Montjuïc, you’ll see the impressive Olympic Stadium and sports complex, and also the communications tower, a stunning, sloping design that evokes the body of an athlete.

  • Art and Soul.

    Located at the base of Montjuïc, Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya is in the Palau National, a neo-Baroque palace. The museum houses a collection ranging from Romanesque to modern art, with works by Picasso, Goya and Rubens.

  • Tour Spain.

    Near the Montjuïc Fountains is the Poble Espanyol, a charming re-creation of a village with more than 100 buildings representing different Spanish regions, and 20 workshops where you can see artisans working with pottery, glass and leather.

MORNING
  • Local Flavors.

    Grab a Spanish-inspired lunch at one of the restaurants in Poble Espanyol or journey to the Barceloneta neighborhood to enjoy fresh seafood on the waterfront.

AFTERNOON
  • Where Columbus Walked.

    Upon his return from America, Christopher Columbus landed at Barcelona; the 197-foot tall Mirador de Colom opened in 1888 to honor the explorer. An elevator transports you to the viewing area at the top, where you’ll have a breathtaking panoramic sight.

  • Set Sail.

    From the Mirador de Colom, it’s a short walk to the Museu Maritim, which shows the history of shipbuilding and navigation between the 13th and 18th centuries. The museum is located inside a former military building dating to the 1200s.

  • Seaside Rides.

    Rent a bicycle to ride along the waterfront to the Sant Marti District’s Vila Olimpica, the Olympic Village from the 1992 Games, where leading architects remade an industrial area into a modern urban neighborhood. Survey the nearby “El Peix,” a striking giant goldfish sculpture by Frank Gehry. 

EVENING
  • A Dinner to Remember.

    Head back to Hotel Arts Barcelona and dine at two-Michelin star Enoteca. The restaurant features Chef Paco Perez’s contemporary Mediterranean cuisine and a selection of more than 700 wines from local winemakers as well as from around the world.

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Day

3

MORNING
  • Market Fresh.

    Start your day with the Barcelona Walking Tours Gourmet, a guided tour of delicious cuisine in Ciutat Vella — from dairy products to cured meats to dried fruits and nuts — with a stop at stalls and shops in Santa Caterina Market.

  • Gothic Beauty.

    Santa Maria del Pi, a basilica built in the Catalan Goth style, has the largest rose window in Catalonia, as well as the Gegants del Pi, giant figures dating to the early 1600s, popularized in a well-known children’s song. From the bell tower, catch breathtaking views over the Plaça del Pi and Plaça del Sant Josep Oriol.

MIDDAY
  • Catalan Crafts.

    Spend some leisurely time browsing in the Gothic Quarter, where you’ll find small niche shops and designer boutiques. On weekends, Plaça del Pi features stalls with locals selling Catalan craft works.

  • Gaudi’s Triumph.

    Take a short metro ride to the Basilica de la Sagrada Familia, a world-renowned Barcelona landmark in the tradition of Gothic architecture. Gaudi dedicated his last years to the project, yet it was only 25 percent complete at his death in 1926 and remains under construction to this day. 

AFTERNOON
  • Garden of Surrealist Delights.

    Stroll through the public Park Güell, another legendary Gaudi masterpiece, that depicts surrealist and playful works such as columns that appear as palm-tree trunks and quilts of ceramic tiles. The site of an unsuccessful residential project, the area became city property in 1923.

  • Tiled Treasure.

    Within walking distance of the park are the narrow streets, squares and shops of the peaceful Gràcia neighborhood. Casa Vicens, covered with vibrant patterns of green and white tiles, dates to the late 1800s and was the first major commission for Gaudi.

EVENING
  • A Final Taste.

    Finish your visit to this enchanting city with dinner at Hotel Arts Barcelona’s Arola restaurant, where Chef Sergi Arola creates innovative interpretations of traditional Mediterranean cuisine, served tapas style. On Sundays, award-winning head bartender Diego Baud mixes exquisite vermouth-based cocktails.