GREAT ES­CAPE

Taste & Flavors - - CONTENT - by Amy E. Robertson

Bud­get, mid-price & luxe guide to Barcelona fea­tur­ing chef Al­bert Adria

Where the sea air wafts through the streets along with a spirit of creativ­ity

Home to the fan­tas­ti­cal ar­chi­tec­ture of An­toni Gaudí, Barcelona is Spain’s se­cond-largest city, with its own lan­guage (Cata­lan) and of course, its own culi­nary spe­cial­ties: an­chovies (try them pick­led), es­queix­ada (a salt cod and tomato salad), cured meats and sausages, and a hearty stew called es­cud­ella. To drink, try the lo­cal ver­mouth, cava (sparkling wine) or a beer from the bur­geon­ing craft beer scene.

BUD­GET STAY

The cen­tral Gothic Quar­ter is Barcelona’s old­est neigh­bor­hood and the city’s cul­tural heart. Wan­der the labyrinthine streets to find cul­tural sites, bou­tique shops and of course, mouth­wa­ter­ing food. Ho­tel Can­tón ( hotel­can­ton-bcn.com, dou­bles from $110) is ideally lo­cated, min­utes from Las Ram­blas, close to Plaça Reial, a four-minute walk from a metro sta­tion, and less than 15 min­utes’ walk from the beach. Rooms are sim­ple, but stylish and clean.

SEE

The must-see for all visi­tors to Barcelona is Gaudí’s famed cathe­dral, Sagrada Fa­milia ( sagradafa­milia.org, tick­ets start at €15), with its soar­ing tow­ers and kalei­do­scope stained-glass win­dows. Book your ticket on­line to save time on lines. For more Gaudí for free, stop by Park Güell.

EAT & DRINK

Can Culleretes (Car­rer d'en Quin­tana, 5, Gothic Quar­ter) is one of Barcelona’s old­est restau­rants, of­fer­ing up all the clas­sics: gam­bas al ajillo (gar­licky shrimp), cro­que­tas, lo­cal ham and wine and suck­ling pig with crunchy skin and vel­vety meat. Starters are un­der €10 and mains mostly un­der €20. Not far from Las Ram­blas is Bar Cañete (Car­rer de la Unió, 17, Raval), where jack­eted wait­ers guide ea­ger food­ies through the ar­ray of up­graded Cata­lan clas­sic ta­pas (cro­que­tas with lob­ster, tuna tartare with caviar), but the real deal is the lunch spe­cial for around €20. For a bar­gain bev­er­age, snag a street beer in Plaça Reial for just €1.50, and sit at the foun­tain to sip it.

MID-PRICE STAY

Life in the ad­ja­cent neigh­bor­hoods of Sant An­toni and Poblesec is young, trendy and seems to re­volve around eat­ing and drink­ing. The per­fect place to make as base on a food-fo­cused va­ca­tion. At Ho­tel Brum­mell ( hotel­brum­mell.com, dou­bles from $185), a façade dat­ing from 1870 hides a de­cid­edly hip ho­tel within. Each of the 20 rooms fea­tures fur­ni­ture and art­work by young Euro­pean de­sign­ers and artists, and the kitchen of­fers ar­ti­sanal cof­fee, or­ganic and lo­cal wines and bites such as Span­ish cheeses, Ibe­rian hams and grilled oc­to­pus.

SEE

If you have a bit more cash on hand, be sure to up­grade your ticket for the Sagrada Fa­milia to in­clude a climb up the tow­ers for breath­tak­ing views of the city. Head next to the Museu

Pi­casso ( muse­upi­casso.bcn.ca, €11, buy these tick­ets on­line in ad­vance as well), which houses one of the most ex­ten­sive col­lec­tions of art by the leg­endary artist Pablo Pi­casso.

EAT & DRINK

Fer el ver­mut—to sip ver­mouth and nib­ble on ta­pas—is the dis­tinctly Cata­lan way of ap­proach­ing a meal. Tra­di­tion dic­tates that it be a pre-lunch aper­i­tif, but the re­al­ity is that lo­cals hap­pily con­sume ver­mouth and ta­pas all day long. Al­ways or­der ‘ver­mut de la casa’ (house ver­mouth), but if they don’t have a spe­cialty, try Ver­mut Yza­guirre, made near Barcelona. Morro Fi (Car­rer del Con­sell de Cent, 171, Sant An­toni) has just a few stools, and a small se­lec­tion of ta­pas—just enough for a quick aper­i­tif in the af­ter­noon. An­chovies with olives is a clas­sic tapa here. Kids and dogs some­times join in at Bar

Seco (Pg. de Mon­tjuïc, 74, Poblesec), where sus­tain­able, or­ganic food ac­com­pa­nies craft beers and lo­cal ver­mouth. Try to snag a ta­ble at their out­door ter­race. Head next to the bo­hemian Gran Bodega Saltó (Car­rer Blesa 36, Poblesec). Lo­cated just off Car­rer Blai, from here you’ll be poised to ex­plore one of the city’s best ta­pas-hop­ping streets. If you pre­fer beer to ver­mouth, check out any of the 40 mi­cro­brews on tap at Cerve­cería

Abir­radero (Car­rer de Vila i Vilà, 77, Poblesec), ac­com­pa­nied by one of the beer-in­fused dishes (beer­misu any­one?)

LUXE STAY

Where else to stay but Barcelona’s Eix­am­ple neigh­bor­hood? Nick­named the “Quadrat d’or” (Golden Square) for its con­cen­tra­tion of wealth, its flag­ship stores and some of the city’s best restau­rants will keep any re­fined trav­eler sat­is­fied. At the chic Mon­u­ment

Ho­tel ( mon­u­ment-ho­tel.com, dou­bles from $360), the neo-gothic ex­te­rior gives way to modern in­te­ri­ors. The sleek lines in guest rooms are warmed by oak wood floors and brick walls, and twice-daily maid ser­vice is an un­ex­pected bonus. For a more pala­tial feel, re­serve a room at the Ho­tel Palace ( hotel­palace­barcelona.com, dou­bles from $400), where baroque fur­ni­ture and or­nate chan­de­liers lend an aris­to­cratic feel to ev­ery room, and ameni­ties in­clude a rooftop pool. The ho­tel is a mere 10-minute walk from the famed pedes­trian boule­vard Las Ram­blas.

SEE

The posh opera house Gran Teatre del Liceu ( liceubarcelona.cat) dates from 1847. Guided tours can be booked through the theater’s web­site, but the best way to ex­pe­ri­ence it is by at­tend­ing one of the many op­eras and con­certs sched­uled through­out the year.

EAT & DRINK

For ta­pas, Paco Mer­algo (Car­rer de Mun­taner, 171, Ex­am­ple) of­fers some of Barcelona’s best. In ad­di­tion to Cata­lan spe­cial­ties, there are dishes that draw their in­spi­ra­tion from across Spain (txan­gurro—gali­cian crab, or prawns from the Costa Brava), served in a modern at­mos­phere. Those stay­ing at the Mon­u­ment Ho­tel don’t even have to leave the premises for a pre­miere meal. At the ho­tel restau­rant,

Lasarte ( restau­rant­lasarte.com), Chef Martin Berasategui has earned three Micehlin stars for his cre­ative in­ter­na­tional cui­sine (scal­lop with quail egg; Ibe­rian ham with foie gras, oys­ter, and mustard ice cream; grilled pi­geon with galan­gal), each dish as ex­tra­or­di­nary to be­hold as it is to taste. You can or­der a la carte, but the €210 tast­ing menu, com­pris­ing five amuse­bouches fol­lowed by 11 cour­ses, comes highly rec­om­mended, as do the im­pec­ca­bly matched wines pair­ings.

Ta­pas

Park Güell

La Sagrada Fa­milia

Museu Pi­casso

Morro Fi

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