Barcelona, the Catalan Capital


Barcelona, the Catalan capital, is a food lover’s dream destination.

There’s no better way to understand what this means than visiting Barcelona’s vibrant Boqueria market, the best-known of the city’s six public marketplaces.

Open every day except Sundays, you know you are on serious foodie turf; I have never seen such a variety of options from the food pyramid; from ornate bowls of tropical fruit to the most gorgeous purple eggplants to twenty varieties of mushrooms, the freshness and plumpness is unsurpassed. In the center of the teeming market of tourists, locals and chefs sniffing, pinching and smelling, there must be forty stands of fresh whole fish and seafood such as squid, octopuses, lobsters, langoustines and salted cod.

With the assistance of Frontiers’ land operator, Made for Spain, I booked a Catalonian tapas- making class at the Canela Fina school. The experience takes about four hours and you learn how to prepare unique tapas such as bread with tomato and Catalan cured sausages, “Coca de Escalibada” (baked flatbread with roasted vegetables) with black olive tapenade and anchovies, Spanish “tortilla de patatas” (potato omelette), Spanish ham and cheese croquettes and Sangria. Upon finishing the preparation of the tapas; I was able to enjoy the fruits of my work with a delicious lunch.

The origins of tapas are the subject of great debate, depending on which area of Spain you are from. It is said that the first tapas was simply a hunk of bread which was placed over a bear mug to keep the flies out. Hence the word ‘tapas’ was born; which means “lid’ in Spanish.

Barcelona has a variety of hotels and I highly recommend the Ritz Carlton Arts Hotel if you are embarking on a pre or post cruise trip. The 44 story building overlooks the Mediterranean and Port Olimpic offering accommodations with breath-taking views. In addition, for multigenerational families on a cruise, the property offers 28 luxury duplex apartments at affordable rates.

For those travelers who would like to stay in the city center, the Majestic Hotel is situated right in the heart of Modernist Barcelona along the prestigious Passeig de Gracia surrounded by the city’s finest shopping, dining and cultural venues. The hotel was completely renovated after a two year closure and the result is a spectacular combination of elegance and innovative elements. The hotel has six very exclusive penthouses with private terraces.

If you are looking for a chic and exclusive hotel, the Hotel Neri, a Relais & Chateaux property, is located in the heart of the old Jewish quarter and lies just a short distance from the bustling Las Ramblas and Picasso Museums. The hotel has been able to preserve the medieval palace it once was from the XII century, certainly a unique setting in this historic Gothic district of Barcelona. In addition, I had lunch at their restaurant and was impressed with the creative Mediterranean menu which adapts to seasonal products.

You cannot speak of Modernist Barcelona without mentioning Antoni Gaudi, the Spanish architect best known for Catalan Modernism. Along with my Made for Spain colleagues, I spent two half days exploring Gaudi’s architecture. The most known structure and a UNESCO World Heritage Site – the “La Sagrada Familia” has been a work of progress since 1882. With its multicolored towers piercing the blue sky, it is no doubt the most iconic structure in Barcelona.

While the exterior is a fascinating intricate masterpiece, I was amazed at the impressive stained glass windows that line the interior. The La Sagrada Familia is projected to be completed in 2026, the 100th anniversary of Gaudi.

We then proceeded to Colonia Guell, a forty-five minute drive outside of Barcelona, which lends itself to an educational half day trip or you can make this a full day trip and add a visit to Montserrat for the breathtaking panoramic views from the mountain.

Colonia Guell was once a small worker’s village built in 1882. In the town center is the museum, located in the colony’s old cooperative, which offers an introspective of the estate operations and how the tradesmen and factory women lived and worked under Gaudi. In addition, you can see Antoni Gaudí’s crypt, an impressive church, which Gaudí built but never fully finished.

Not as popular, is the Torre Bellesguard, which is currently owned by the Guilera family and is a family house designed by Gaudi built between 1900 and 1909. We had a lovely visit and tour in this medieval inspired castle in which family members joined us for champagne and dessert.

Along with food, the Catalonians love wine. If you are interested in vineyards, the Penedes region is an hour south of Barcelona and you could easily spend two days visiting the vineyards and wine-tastings.

There are many internationally famous brands and important wineries located in the Penedès such as Miguel Torres and Jean Leon. Excellent boutique Cava companies include Raventos Blanc and Pares Balta, which I toured. The roots of Parés Baltà go back to the 18th century. In 1790 the first vines were planted on the estate that now surrounds the winery. Today, Mr. Joan Cusine Cusine works alongside his multigenerational family enthusiastically maintaining the quality of the wines.

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