1. Where to Stay
The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Arts (from 355 euros)is a Mediterranean-waterfront luxury box with a startling geometric façade. Rooms on the pricier club floors (30th to 33rd) kick up the already-attentive service with a private lounge and concierge.
If Gaudi delights and modernism seduces, Hotel Casa Fuster (from 250 euros) is an architectural marvel located right on the frontier of two of Barcelona’s best barrios, Eixample and Gracia.
2. Where to Eat
Sip a suizo — a thick, dark hot chocolate slathered with freshly whipped cream — at Raval’s old-school Granja M Viader (Xuclà 4-6; 93-318-3486).
For lunch, go to Bar Pinotxo (93-317-1731) in the Mercat de la Boqueria for fresh shellfish. Get dessert: a leftover breakfast croissant grilled with butter and sugar.
Who has the city’s best patatas bravas (fried potatoes with a spicy aïoli sauce)? Either Bar Tomas (Major de Sarrià 49; 93-203-1077), a working-class drinking den in Sarria, or Bar Mandri (Mandri 60; 93-417-1129), a more yuppified tapas bar.
Go out for cañas — small glasses of beer — at El Vaso de Oro (Balboa 6; 93-319-30-98), a narrow bar in Barceloneta with the best, coldest draughts.
New-style Catalan cuisine can be more expedition than meal, but Cinc Sentits (Five Senses) has three affordable, accessible daily tasting menus prepared by a Catalan-Canadian prodigal chef.
3. What to Do
After touring the restaurant scene, visit the city’s finer food emporiums. Besides a huge collection of local vendors (plying piles of produce and cases filled with wild game), the Mercat de Santa Caterina has a shocking, stylish design. Jamonísimo stocks jamon de bellota (acorn-fed ham) and other hams you’ve never considered. They’ll pack it all properly for your plane ride home. La Carte des Vins has a large selection of Spanish wines and a British expert, Gareth York, to guide you through a tasting.
4. Insider’s Tip
When the great chefs of Barcelona are in search of exotic inspiration, they head to Shunka (Sagristans 5; 93-412-4991), a sushi place in the Barri Gòtic, or Shanghai (93-211-8791), haute Chinese high in the hills. Both spots apply nouveau-Asian techniques to Spanish ingredients with inventive results.
5. An Oddball Day
Buy an English translation of An Olympic Death, a mystery masterpiece by Barcelona native Manuel Vázquez Montalbán, at FNAC in Plaça Catalunya. Then follow fictional private detective Pepe Carvalho to his favorite haunts: from Casa Leopoldo, an atmospheric fish restaurant in El Raval, to Boadas (Tallers 1; 93-318-95-92), a cocktail bar opened decades ago by a man who learned the art of the cocktail at Havana’s famous Floridita. Finish the night as Carvalho might, watching strippers — and more — at the sordid Bagdad (60 euros cover) in the old Barrio Chino.
Find a weekly listings digest at Le Cool.
An English-speaking foodie photographs and blogs about the best things to eat in Barcelona at Green Olive Tree.
Spanish residents and visitors share their best culinary finds at Egullet.
Read Barcelona’s monthly English magazine, Metropolitan.
Stuck in New York? Despaña carries gourmet imports and makes its own chorizo.