Remember, you're in Catalonia, not Spain. Except when you're in Spain. Heck with it, just call it Barcelona.

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The second-largest city in Spain is not exactly smug, but it is geared up to show itself off, especially for visitors who want to know what to do in Barcelona.

It wants to be acknowledged in the travel world as more sophisticated than Madrid, more progressive than Paris and a great deal more efficient than Rome.

It does a fine job of it, too.

From the modernist beachfront sculptures to the melted-effect houses of Antoni Gaudi, this is a destination that stimulates the first-time visitor, and still excites those who have been coming back for 30 or 40 years. 

Veterans will tell you what to do in Barcelona and how much the city has changed in two decades.



W Barcelona

W covers the bases -- and the beds -- from A to Z.

A beacon on the Barcelona beachfront, the W edifice gazes out into the Mediterranean like an ostentatious, pot-bellied bather preparing for his first summer plunge.

From the outside it’s eye-catching; inside it’s roomy, light and does a slick job catering to the guest prepared to spend extra on expansive sea views. There’s a pool, choice of restaurants and, on the 26th floor, the swish Eclipse bar.

For those wanting to know what to do in Barcelona, one of the city’s more popular beaches is at the foot of the tower, and the many restaurants, narrow streets and plazas of the Barceloneta district are a few minutes’ walk away.


About 100 years old, the Majestic peers with a certain gravitas down Paseo de Gracia, Barcelona’s major shopping avenue.

With its grand staircase, marbled pillars and discreetly lit ground-floor bar, there’s a classical feel to the place.

From the rooftop terrace bar you can see how the city grew outward from its neatly gridded center and took over village-y barrios like Gracia, which climbs up the hill behind the hotel.


Casa Camper

The famed boot company wants you to take 'em off here.

A hotel inspired by a shoe, or at least by and because of the Camper brand. Like the boots they make, Camper’s first hotel aims to be trendy and functional. The rooms are unpretentious, and the hotel is well located.

The Camper supplies bicycles for guests who want them, although there’s plenty to see on foot, with a location close to the Museum of Modern Art, the Gothic quarter and the Ramblas. 


Chic and Basic Born

A soothing retreat from downtown Barcelona, the Chic and Basic is a study in cool, with clever lighting in the comfortable modern bedrooms and a cream-and-white color scheme.

If you’re looking for what to do in Barcelona, the Born area hosts lots of eateries and bars.

The Chic and Basic also puts you very close to the Picasso museum. Unfortunately, it can’t help you jump the often-long queue to get inside.

The “Basic” of the hotel’s name is a bit of misnomer. This hotel is classier than that.


Casa Calvet

Casa Calvet is recommended for two main reasons: first, because of the building. And in a tie for first, because of chef Miquel Alija.

Antoni Gaudi designed the place in the early 19th century for a textile company. Today, you dine under high ceilings and look up at striking stained-glass windows. That makes for a formal atmosphere, though the staff are warm.