I've been hearing "I love Barcelona!" from so many people lately, so I decided it was time to check out the city for myself. With Spanish modernist architecture dominated by Gaudi's fantastical buildings, shabby old neighborhoods full of artisan workshops, and miles of sandy Mediterranean beaches, the Spanish city makes an intriguing destination all year round. Even with a toddler in tow!
- MACBA: Escape the midday heat with a visit to the Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona. The vast building designed by Richard Meier holds Catalonia's most important collection of contemporary art. Go Friday or Saturday night in summer, when the museum stays open until 10pm.
- CCCB: Exhibitions, concerts, film, and lectures all transpire at the Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona, a vibrant cultural space with a creative program.
- DHUB - Disseny Hub Barcelona's sustainable new building is set to open later this year and will house the Museum of Decorative Arts, the Museum of Textile and Clothing, and the Cabinet of Graphic Arts. Until then, you can see the museums' fabulous collections of furniture, costumes, and more at the Palau Reial de Pedralbes.
- Joan Miro Foundation: A vast collection of works by one of Spain's most famous visual artists fills this inspiring museum in the Parc de Montjuïc. Designed by Miro's close friend, the architect Josep Lluis Sert, the building dates from 1975 and is one of Barcelona's architectural highlights.
- La Sagrada Familia: One of the most famous cathedrals in the world, the Gaudi masterpiece still has an estimated eighteen years to go. While construction continues on the church, visitors can marvel at the extraordinary design inside and out, and see plans and models in the museum.
- Parc Guell: This hilly park designed by Gaudi dates from the early 1900s. Walk among the architect's fantastical designs and enjoy a picnic in the gardens. The colorful mosaic work is astonishing, as are the views.
- El Born: Situated on the outer edge of the Barrio Gothic, El Born is an enchanting part of Barcelona's Old Town. In street level workshops, contemporary artisans craft their wares just like their predecessors did in centuries past. Wander around the pedestrian district and catch a glimpse of leather workers, toy makers, and artists at work. Then grab a bite at one of the atmospheric tapas bars.
- Mercat de Santa Caterina: An eye-catching undulating roof of colorful ceramic tiles covers this 19th century market. Redesigned in 2005 by Catalan architect Enric Miralles, the open plan structure features an array of meat, fish, and produce vendors as well as a few shops selling traditional handicrafts.
- Vincon: This fantastic store is one of those design shops that has everything. The second floor is gorgeously laid out with recreations of different rooms. Check out the fun wallpaper in the bedrooms, then browse all the little odds and ends on the floor below. From the complete Moleskin collection to Eames armchairs, this emporium of great design has something for everyone. Tons of kitchen supplies, too.
- La Comercial Casa: This retailer initially established itself as a purveyor of fashion, but a new shop devoted to things for the home includes a bevy of designer gifts and accessories, like Fornasetti ceramics.
- Toy Store on the corner of Carrer dels Mirallers and Carrer del Brosoli: Closed for siesta when I walked by, this corner cabinet of colorful wooden toys is worth seeking out if you've got kids to buy for. I didn't see any signs, and couldn't find any information online, but it looks as if everything is created in-house.
- The Attic: An art gallery and antiques store, The Attic has a cool mix of vintage pieces for the home and edgy contemporary art.
- Caputxes - Restaurant/Pizzeria: Grandma babysat and we went here for date night, not because it was recommended, but because it was the only open outdoor table we could nab. We couldn't have asked for a better place. A pleasant atmosphere by the Santa Maria del Mar Church and yummy pizzas, seafood dishes, and icy cold white wine from the Marques de Riscal winery in Rioja made it just perfect.
- Laie DHUB: The cafe at the Disseny Hub's temporary location in the El Gotic district offers open air dining in an atmospheric stone courtyard.
- Bellamia: Barcelona is home to many many ice cream shops, but every night we found ourselves going back to Bellamia. Delicious ice cream is made on the premises from natural ingredients. Try the chocolate hazelnut.
- Florentine: A sweet spot for a sweet treat. This little bakeshop offers a most delectable selection of cupcakes.
- Casa Camper: Turns out the Spanish shoe line does hotels as well as they do wedges. Housed in a restored 19th century Gothic tenement, the hotel takes pride in its minimalist decor.
- Hotel Omm: Located in the high-end Paseo de Gracia district, Hotel Omm features sleek interiors, a rooftop terrace, and a Michelin starred restaurant.
Please help us out and add to the guide in the comments — what are your recommendations for Barcelona?
(Images: all images by Celeste Sunderland. 1. La Sagrada Familia 2. Parc Guell 3. Mercat de Santa Caterina 4. Toy Store 5. Caputxes 6. Placa de Catalunya)