John O'Ceallaigh, The Daily Telegraph, May 9, 2013
An enduringly popular destination for weekend breaks from the UK, Barcelona can claim to have it all: exceptional restaurants, an inviting climate, inspiring architecture, a multitude of beaches and excellent shopping - not to mention hosting major events each summer including various music festival and the Spanish Grand Prix which takes place nearby. Guiding visitors through Barcelona's abundance of choices, concierges from three of the city's best hotels give their advice on the best of the city (and the worst).
I’m new here. Which attraction should I definitely make time to see?
Claudia: It may be predictable but if you have not seen it yet, Sagrada Familia is fantastic, especially now that the new dome has been finished.
Alex: Gaudi’s unfinished cathedral “Sagrada Familia” cannot be compared to any other building in its style and architectural techniques.
Nacho: Sagrada Familia, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Which of the “must-visit” attractions should I avoid?
Claudia: Personally, I am not that keen on the Picasso museum, unless you have already seen some of his better known works and are interested in learning more about the artist’s early career, then it is worth it. If not, use your time to explore the hidden gems in town.
Alex: The Ramblas area has become a tourist trap over the last years. Avoid the cafés and restaurants located on the boulevard because it is easy to be ripped-off or overcharged.
Nacho: Las Ramblas.
Is there a particular exhibition I should see while I’m here?
Claudia: Instead of exhibitions, I would like to recommend SONAR, Primavera Sound and El Grec, some of the great festivals that take place during the summer month from June to September.
Alex: The Picasso Museum has been enlarged several times and has become an amazing art complex. The permanent Picasso collection should not be missed.
Where can I take the best picture of Barcelona?
Claudia: The Laie restaurant in Montjuic is a great place to go for a coffee and to enjoy impressive views over the city.
Alex: The view from the top of the Tibidabo Mountain at sunset the view is unbeatable.
Nacho: From Parc Güell, designed by the architect Gaudi; the views of Barcelona are spectacular.
Barcelona as seen from Parc Güell. Image: AP
I’d like to try something new here – what do you recommend?
Claudia: Look out for the Castellers – organised competitions of human towers. This is a typical Catalan activity and it is taken very seriously.
Alex: I would recommend a cooking class at Cook&Taste including shopping beforehand in the Boqueria Market or our quarterly Shop with the Chef experience with our Executive Chef Roberto Holz.
Nacho: I always like to suggest spending half day in a Mediterranean Cooking class.
I’d like to buy an unusual souvenir – what do you recommend?
Claudia: In the tiny design store CONCRET, they have several items by local designers such as the mug by Entresuelo1A, specifically for milk & cookies, or several items designed by Tristan Cochrane, with moulds taken from real sardines fished locally.
Alex: Go to Café Caelum in the Gothic quarter and buy one of the many types of sweets crafted by monks and nuns following medieval recipes.
Nacho: Try to pick up a Catalan hat called barretina, which is a traditional hat that was frequently worn by men living on the Mediterranean.
Tell me a phrase or piece of slang I can use to fit in around here.
Claudia: “Vale” – the Spanish version of OK is used constantly.
Alex: To say goodbye, say “Força Barça”. People will smile at you and become friendlier!
Nacho: “Salut i Força”, which is Catalan for “cheers”.
What’s the best restaurant in Barcelona?
Claudia: Cuisine here is so varied, there is something for everyone. A current trend is for pop-ups and hidden restaurants. My favourites are The Supper Club and Urban Secrets . If the weather’s warm it’s also worth visiting La Caseta restaurant for grilled sardines, an informal atmosphere and live rumba on Wednesdays. It’s in the middle of Montjuic wood overlooking the harbour, so a real insider destination.
Alex: It’s difficult to choose…Most people would do anything to get a reservation at Tickets bar and I believe it is worth the hype but I also recommend the two Michelin starred Enoteca at the Hotel Arts Barcelona.
Nacho: Of the Michelin-rated options, our hotel restaurant Moments provides one of the best experiences. Regarding tapas, the best addresses are Bar Cañete and Mont Bar.
And where’s best for drinks? I don’t want somewhere touristy.
Claudia: Paspartu in the quarter of Santa Caterina is tiny but offers great cocktails. Next to it is also a fantastic place for beer lovers called Ale and Hop . For G&T addicts, Xix Bar comes highly recommended!
Alex: Go to Boca Chica lounge and you will enjoy great cocktails and spot very interesting, chic people.
Nacho: I’m a fan of Boca Chica.
What’s the most interesting way to learn about Gaudi in Barcelona?
Claudia: Palau Guell is a recently restored museum dedicated to Gaudi . Also if you go to Plaza Real, look out for the lamp posts – they are all designed by Gaudi.
Alex: Visit the show on the upper flour of Gaudi’s La Pedrera building on Passeig de Gracia. It provides an insight into his work and all his creations in Barcelona and throughout the country.
Nacho: The best way to learn about Gaudi is to hire a private guide and do a four-hour walking tour. During this tour you will discover all the monuments and quirky facts associated with the architect.
What’s the best beach in Barcelona?
Claudia: Barceloneta for a “multicultural” city experience, Mar Bella for the gay scene, Forum for families and San Sebatián for its beauty and great restaurants.
Alex: Locals tend to gather in the Bogatell beach.
Nacho: I recommend Bogatell Beach.
I’m going to propose to my partner while I’m here – where should I do it?
Claudia: How about renting a private boat and sailing off the coast towards Sitges? This private and intimate sailing experience will be even more remarkable at sunset.
Alex: A good spot would be the top of the stairs right next to the National Palace in Montjuic, overlooking the city during sunset.
Nacho: A nice dinner in the garden of Abac restaurant would provide a romantic setting.
Who’s the standout creative talent in Barcelona right now?
Claudia: I really like the urban graffiti talent out there at the moment, like BToy Andrea . She uses a technique called Stencil and the best thing is that visitors do not have to go to a museum to find it. Simply stroll around and keep an eye out for it.
Alex: There is a local photographer named Jordi Bernadó whose technique and approach to contemporary pictures is raising eyebrows. His studio in the Palo Alto art complex is a cutting-edge venue not to be missed.
I’ve heard scammers target tourists on Las Ramblas. What should I watch out for?
Claudia: Visitors have to watch their own belongings, keep bags closed and close to the chest. Also try not to look too “touristy”.
Alex: Act like you know your way around and do not fall for any common tricks to distract you. If someone asks for directions, excuse yourself and explain that you are not from this town.
Nacho: I recommend never carrying your passport and too much cash. Do not let people to touch you.
I’d like to take a day trip from Barcelona – what do you suggest?
Claudia: Definitely the Costa Brava with places like Begur.
Alex: Girona is a very interesting destination to spend the day. Its old town and Jewish quarter have remained unchanged over the centuries.
Nacho: I suggest visiting Girona and Figueres. In Figueres you will find the Dali Museum and in Girona the old town is an amazing place to discover.
Girona, a popular day-trip option for visitors to Barcelona. Image: Fotolia
Thanks for your help. Should I tip in Barcelona?
Claudia: If you liked the service, definitely. There is no set percentage for tipping here but in general people do tip, and increase the tip, depending on how much they liked the service.
Alex: Please do it and you will get a real smile in return.
Nacho: In Spain the service is included but gratuity is at your discretion.
For more on the city, see the Telegraph's expert Barcelona city break guide, which includes reviews of Barcelona hotels, attractions, restaurants, nightlife and shopping.