Built by the Romans and splashed with the brilliant colors of Antoni Gaudí’s modernist palette, Barcelona is a treasure of a city — a place that’s trendy and timeless, a vibrant meshing of the artistic, capricious Catalonian spirit with deep-rooted European culture. And there’s no better time of year than fall to marvel at the art, swim in the Mediterranean’s still-warm opal waters, and linger over late dinners. Especially considering that late autumn — the end of the tourist season — ushers in lower prices, giving that irksome dollar-to-euro conversion rate less of a hold on your travel plans.
A hotel that sounds like a yoga chant offers the expected calming oasis in the city’s most high-end and bustling shopping district, but a contrast in Hotel Omm’s decor echoes the eclectic city beyond: Low-lit corridors lead to guest rooms bathed in Spanish sunlight. The rooftop holds a mini pool, bar and sundeck, while an in-house spa and a basement nightclub also make this a destination for locals. Rooms start around $380. Rosselló 265, hotelomm.es.
In addition to the classic Michelin-starred standby Drolma (above) inside the luxe and lovely Hotel Majestic (Passeig de Gràcia 68, hotelmajestic.es), you should get to Cal Pep, Barcelona’s renowned seafood tapas restaurant, and snag a front counter seat where you can watch your food being prepared (Plaça de les Olles 8, calpep.com). Try the montaditos (small pieces of bread topped with tapas) at energetic Cervecería Catalana, and pair them with a glass — or two — of beer from the extensive domestic and imported offerings (Carrer de Mallorca 236).
Cruise down Las Ramblas towards La Boqueria, Europe’s largest indoor market, where residents peruse local foods (Plaça de la Boqueria, boqueria.info). Continue down the boulevard toward the Christopher Columbus monument — he’s pointing toward the harbor, a perfect spot for sunset drinks at the cabana bars. Don’t miss any of Gaudi’s masterpieces, from the haunting Sagrada Familia (below) (Carrer de Mallorca 401, sagradafamilia.org) to the fantastical Parc Güell. Enter through the Hansel and Gretel-inspired gatehouses and climb past the iconic lizard to the top for a view of the city (Carrer d’Olot 3-5).
The language barrier disappears on Passeig de Gràcia; names like Chanel, Armani and Cartier need no translation. For authentic keepsakes that go beyond souvenirs, head to the shops in Barri Gòtic (above), where you’ll find art and trinkets as timeless as the neighborhood’s labyrinth of medieval streets.
GETTING THERE: US Airways offers nonstop flights from Philadelphia to Barcelona for an autumn price of about $700 round-trip.
DO: Tour the city on Bus Turistic — it’s like public transportation made specifically for tourists, hitting most attractions on easy-to-navigate routes (tmb.net).
DON’T: Forget your walking shoes. As you wander off Las Ramblas, you’ll find that the best — most authentic — restaurants are on the side streets.