With its rich cultural heritage, sandy beaches and vibrant outdoor dining, Barcelona is a superb city to behold during the summer. From Picasso Museum to a decadent lunch at La Balsa, here are some of the best places the city has to offer.
Enjoy a vermouth while look out to the sea
The superbly elegant Chiringuito Pez Vela has an expansive terrace where you can enjoy sea views while indulging in fresh grilled fish or simply enjoying a vermouth. Located in the stylish W Hotel Barcelona, on the ground floor on Passeig del Mare Nostrum, this is one of the best places to go to after taking a dip in the water.
Chiringuito Pez Vela
Passeig del Mare Nostrum, 19, 21, 08039
Picasso Museum: For nearly 4,000 works by the Spanish master
Photo 1 - Knowledge and Research Center, Barcelona, June 4, 2011. Picasso Museum. Photography: Josep Maria de Llobet; Photo 2 - Neoclassical Hall of the Palau Baró de Castellet Barcelona, August 2, 2022. Picasso Museum. Photography: Miquel Coll Molas © Succession Pablo Picasso, VEGAP, Madrid 2023
After a pleasurable morning by the sea, jump in a taxi and escape the heat in Barcelona’s Picasso Museum (just an 8 minute drive away), a haven of nearly 4,000 works by the legendary Spanish artist Pablo Picasso (1881-1973). Set across five portentous palaces, this museum is home to the world's biggest collection of his early works. From the evocative strokes of his Blue Period to the groundbreaking innovations of his Cubist phase, it offers a fascinating glimpse into the evolution of his artistic genius.
Picasso once famously said:
It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.
Some of his earlier works you’ll find here include ‘Old Fisherman’, which he made in 1895, and Portrait of Aunt Pepa, created a year later and depicting his father’s sister, Josefa Ruiz Blasco. His large-scale ‘Science and Charity’, painted in Barcelona in 1897, when the artist was 15 years old and at a time when a cholera outbreak was affecting his hometown of Málaga, shows a doctor tending to a patient in bed and a nun holding a small child.
Picasso’s Blue Period lasted from 1901 to 1904 and was triggered by his friend Carles Casagemas’ suicide in Autumn 1901. One of the fascinating works from this period that deserves special attention is ‘The Dead Woman’, which he made in 1903.
The museum is located in Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter, so after seeing Picasso’s awe-inspiring works, explore the area's winding mediaeval streets and stop at Els Quatre Gats, a restaurant just a ten minute walk away. Often frequented by Picasso, this was the first place to commission his drawings. You might also want to stop by the famous 19th century food market La Boqueria for a glimpse into the city’s history — and some delicious tapas. You can also head to The Clock Terrace on Plaza de España for panoramic views and a seductive cocktail.
C/ de Montcada, 15-23, 08003 Barcelona
General tickets €15
La Balsa: For a traditional, delicious lunch (or dinner) on an elegant terrace
For a delightful culinary experience, escape the crowds and head to FAD award-winner La Balsa, located in the quiet neighbourhood of Sant Gervasi. This charming, emblematic restaurant opened in the late 1970s and is still renowned for its delicious traditional dishes that will tantalise your taste buds.
Their appetisers include succulent iberian ham croquettes or mussels with marinera sauce, but their creamy gazpacho is out of this world. Their bull’s tail rice is splendid, the meat tender and the sauce brimming with flavour. You can also opt for “arrom” tuna tartare with cured egg yolk and toasties or hake in green sauce with asparagus and quail eggs.
This is a place in which you’ll want to linger. So perhaps order coffee after your meal and one of their delectable desserts while basking in the warm Mediterranean sun on the verdant terrace.
C/ de la Infanta Isabel, 4, 08022 Barcelona
Price range: €50/person
Gaudi houses: For an insight into Gaudi’s Modernist masterpieces
If you have been to Barcelona before, you will have likely already seen some of the architectural wonders created by the visionary Antoni Gaudí, including the Sagrada Família church, Casa Battló and Casa Milà, two of his most iconic works.
Casa Battló has been drawing even more crowds thanks to Turkish-American artist Refik Anadol, whose mesmerising projections have been lighting up the building’s façade. Gary Gautier, CEO of Casa Batlló, has been striving to project the architect’s heritage to the future, and in 2021 the building, which was designed by the Catalan artist in1904, was renovated with 164,000 metres of aluminium chains creating a curtain. Visitors are given a screen for an immersive experience. Houses like Casa Battló are must-see gems for lovers of Gaudi, but they can get quite crowded, especially in the summer, being one of the city’s most touristic destinations.
For a slightly more off-the-radar experience, consider heading to Casa Vicens, which opened its doors to the public in 2017. This architectural marvel was Gaudí's first major assignment and offers a glimpse into the early stages of his extraordinary career. Explore its exquisite interiors and discover the innovative design elements that would later define Gaudí's work. The Summer Vicens experience includes an audio guide and an artisan mango ice cream to enjoy on your visit.
Carrer de les Carolines, 20-26 08012 Barcelona
General tickets €22
Tibidabo: For spectacular views
To savour breathtaking views of Barcelona, make your way to Tibidabo, Barcelona’s highest peak, nestled in the Collserola mountain range. Tibidabo comes from the Latin ‘I’ll give you,’ words the Devil is said to have used to tempt Jesus, and it reflects the area’s mysterious side.
Ascend to the heights by taking the funicular to the very top and be rewarded with panoramic vistas that stretch from the azure Mediterranean sea to the city's enchanting skyline. You can enjoy a drink or lunch at La Venta, a restaurant that opened in 1903, as Restaurante Viñas, and there’s also an amusement park if you’re visiting with family.
Plaza del Doctor Andreu S/N, 08035 Barcelona
Joan Miró Foundation: To immerse yourself in surreal and abstract masterpieces
Next, immerse yourself in the Joan Miró Foundation. Dedicated to the Spanish painter Joan Miró, this museum showcases 10,000 of his vibrant and imaginative creations, often infused with notions of freedom and hidden political subtexts.
Explore how his style evolved, from his earlier more realistic work to later abstract compositions. You can see his realist manner in works like ‘Portrait of a Young Girl’ (1919) and how his work took a surrealist and abstract turn with works like ‘Woman encircled by a flight of birds in the night’ (1968) which touches on our interaction with nature and the passing of time.
His ‘anti-paintings’, as he called them, which are works that involved “destroying” the canvas through burning and perforating it, for example, are a reflection of the economic value of art and his way of fighting for freedom as the end of the Franco dictatorship approached.
There are also incredible sculptures to marvel at such as ‘Lovers playing with almond blossom’ (1975) which he planned for La Défense, in Paris.
The museum is set within a contemporary white building nestled in the Montjuic hill, which is great to explore in the summer, and was designed by the renowned architect Josep Lluis Sert.
There’s also currently an interactive exhibition on display over the summer titled ‘Imaginary Friends’ which is perfect for families, showcasing works by nine well known contemporary artists. The terrace outside is super pleasant and you can admire the surrounding scenery and sculptures by Miro while enjoying a coffee.
A cosy retreat: For a little respite after a long day exploring
Villa Victoria Barcelona - Airbnb
There are some world-class hotels to stay at in Barcelona, such as Hotel Arts Barcelona, but if you want to experience something a little more intimate and cosy and feel more like a local, consider staying at a luxe airbnb such as Villa Victoria Barcelona, which is an eight-bedroom massive house with an outdoor swimming pool.
Art Nouveau flat - Airbnb
Another option is an Art Nouveau flat in the charming area of Gracia, on Plaza Lesseps built in 1906 for the Ramos family. It has been used as a set for movies such as All About my Mother, by Pedro Almodóvar.
Airbnb hosted by Sonder - Airbnb
There’s also a fabulous airbnb hosted by Sonder which is set within a restored 19th-century building with neoclassical archways and a bar serving tapas in the cosy patio.
For more travel and art inspiration, check out our insider’s guide to 10 of the best places to visit in France.
Credits for the Main photo: © AdobeStock