BARCELONA, Spain (
) -- Perhaps you're a fan of architect Antonio Gaudi. Maybe you recently saw Woody Allen's
Vicky Christina Barcelona
. In any case, you're yearning to explore Barcelona, Spain.
While the city is filled with art nouveau buildings and nightlife options, it's also quickly becoming Europe's top beach destination. Barcelona's downtown seafront is enjoying a revival, especially the Barceloneta neighborhood.
Barcelona's bustling beach promenade in the Barceloneta neighborhood.
If you're going to Barcelona, you can choose a hotel that's big and luxurious or small and hip. You'll want to stay as close to the waterfront and center of town as possible. For those looking for the summer beach experience, check out the
at least until
Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide
The Hotel Arts, managed by Ritz-Carlton, has stood as a beacon of Barcelona luxury since opening just after the 1992 Olympics, and its age shows. Despite its spa, top-notch pool and Frank Gehry sculpture, the hip lobby leads to guest rooms with Mediterranean views but also frayed furnishings, stained rugs and worn marble bathrooms.
Hotel Miramar was originally built for the 1929 World's Fair. The colonnades facing a hilltop park are all that's left of the former building. It now reflects Bauhaus influences with stacked concrete blocks and massive glass panels that allow for infinite Barcelona views from all the guest rooms. A grassy outdoor pool and cafe is one of Barcelona's most underused, and room prices that start at 150 euros add to its appeal.
Barcelona residents flock to the revitalized Barceloneta waterfront with its promenade of cafes. But before you ditch your hotel and head to the water, stop at the
. Sure you've been to food markets before, but the Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria dates back to the 13th century and offers some of the best tapas-style meals you'll find.
At the market, be sure to check out
. It's busiest after 1 p.m., so it's best to arrive early for the freshest fish and best spots at the 25-person counter. Greasy-shirt workers keep the peace as visitors elbow their way to a daily menu scribbled on white boards. Foodie finds include grilled octopus and a savory avocado with white fish salad sprinkled with capers and dill. Meals go from the grill to the counter in a swing of the arm, topped off with Spanish olive oil and lemon juice.
A short walk down La Rambla brings you back to Barceloneta. Written about by Miguel de Cervantes, this waterfront neighborhood has grown in popularity over the last years as an urban renewal project has brought new café, nightclubs and a revitalized beachfront.
If you're feeling lazy, you could rent a bike from the numerous computerized stations throughout the city. You could also spend your afternoon at one of the red bungalow bars along the Olympic Port.
Several of the waterfront cafes that line the Barceloneta are offer elegant ambience but lackluster food. They're better for late-night bar crawls than actual eating. Stick to restaurants with Michelin stars for dinner.
That's how we found
, owned by Angel and Rosa Pascual, who moved their one-star restaurant from the country to the Mercat de la Barceloneta. The two-floor restaurant faces a lively urban square. Its seafood-heavy menu features poached and grilled fish dishes accompanied by market fresh vegetables and organic wines.
Afterward, go through the promenade's bronze-and-gold entryway and head for
, the city's newest hot spot. Inside, celebrities listen as international DJs spinning moody electronic anthems. But first you'll have to get past a notoriously picky doorman, who presides over a 30-minute wait on weekends.
-- Reported by Michael Martin of JetSetReport.com in Los Angeles
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Michael Martin is the managing editor of JetSetReport.com -- a luxury travel and lifestyle guide based in Los Angeles and London. His work has appeared in In Style, Blackbook, Elle, U.K.'s Red magazine, ITV and BBC.