With the dollar stronger than ever, it’s time to hit those European cities that linger just below the top five on the greatest hits list. And Barcelona is no exception: Its sordid barrios, grim but grand architecture and cheap but rich pintxos all go down smoothly with a glass of cava—or, hell, a whole bottle. This round of indulgence can be on you.
The well-situated Casa Camper Barcelona, created by the Spanish footwear designer, is pared down and accessible, with rooms that are more like suites (great for a group of dudes). If you’ve booked the weekend with a date, the Alma will make you come off as a modern sophisticate. Then of course there’s Hotel Omm, perennially cool from rooftop pool to subterranean nightclub.
First things first: Pay homage to the old-school tapas joints by eating and drinking voraciously and entertaining the guys behind the counters at Cal Pep or Quimet y Quimet. You will be rewarded with big pours, heaps of fried stuff and a boys’ club camaraderie. Both are open for lunch, but you may have to get in line around breakfast time.
The city is super accessible by foot, and the best way to embrace the buzz is to walk around (taking in the trippy Gaudí buildings along the way). Wander medieval streets for indie hideaways in the cool El Born neighborhood. Pick up records, dead-stock cameras, limited-edition kicks and vintage shades at La Clinique. And if the weather’s balmy, hit the easy-to-reach sandy beach of Barceloneta.
In a city of strict dining rituals, El Nacional feels like the new, bad influence in town. Reminiscent of a Spanish Eataly, the mega-designed space (soaring ceilings, mosaic tiles, open-air marketplace vibe) offers multiple dining and drinking experiences under one roof—from early morning to late at night, including Sundays and siesta hours—when many other places in Barcelona aren’t open.
No doubt you’ll want to re-create this laissez-faire tapas attitude back home. To impress your guests when you throw down, stock up on top-of-the-line cured meats and wine at Vila Viniteca. Hide them well in your suitcase and don’t say nada until the contraband is safely in your fridge at home.
Cervecería Catalana is an awesome jam-packed beer bar with serious grilled specialties and a great vibe late on weeknights. Juggle your sangria pitcher while keeping your eyes peeled for vacated bar stools. At the other end of the spectrum, Dos Palillos is a tiny Asian-forward tapas bar with a kick-ass tasting menu from a former chef de cuisine at El Bulli. His Japanese wife is the sommelier. This isn’t fusion in the 1990s sense; the decadence this time around (in the music, the chefs and the general attitude) is more punk rock. You’ll need a reservation.
Keep up the alcoholic lubrication at Fàbrica Moritz Barcelona, a Jean Nouvel–designed three-story microbrewery (once home of the Catalan brewer Moritz) where you can try unpasteurized beer right from the barrel and buy hipster-friendly posters with irreverent (drunk?) words of wisdom.
There’s a Catalan saying that a closed mouth catches no flies. But this is exactly the kind of city where you want your mouth to get you into trouble. You’ve been drinking for a while, so you may not trust your own tastes, but it’s true: The sandwiches at Sagàs—pork-heavy, with fresh ingredients from the Michelin-starred chef’s family farm—are probably the best in the world. Especially at one in the morning. Sweet dreams.