This isn’t your average metropolis. Barcelona, the proud capital of the ancient nation of Catalan, has a quirky blend of timeless elegance and innovative spirit. Vast museums and celebrated structures find their homes among lively markets and outdoor cafes, and experiments in art and fashion are apparent in the laid-back bar and lounge scene, which moves out to the beaches and rooftops in summer months. There’s sand, sangria and plenty to do in this super-cultural locale.
Before You Go: Need-to-know info
Language: Catalan, Spanish
Flight time: 8 hours from NYC, 13.5 hours from LA, 11.5 hours from Chicago
Getting around: Subway, bus, taxi, car
When To Go: Barcelona at its best
Best weather: The Mediterranean climate brings cool winters and hot summers, but rarely goes to extremes. Average temperatures range between 48-81 degrees Fahrenheit. Humidity can make mid-summers sticky, so May, June and September are best for beach-goers.
Best prices: November to March (Watch out for soaring prices the last half of December.)
Unbelievable buildings: Architecture buffs or not, you’re sure to stare in awe at the surreal details of the buildings, balconies and columns of Eixample (Barcelona’s 19th-century extension). Here, Modernista architect Antoni Gaudí was dancing to his own beat and blessed his many creations with breathtaking — though bizarre — curves, colors and asymmetric oddities. (The chimneys of Casa Milá were allegedly George Lucas’s inspiration for the Star Wars storm-trooper helmets.)
Sunshine: The streets and beaches of Barcelona are sunny all year long, making the spot ideal for outdoor eating and shopping. Be sure to take advantage of the lovely weather by venturing through Las Ramblas, where five end-to-end avenues are lined with open-air markets — a great place to get a taste of the city’s people, cafes, shops and culture. (Try a chocolate-dipped scorpion from the Boqueria, if you dare!)