A creative's guide to Barcelona: Home of Gaudí, Hey Studio, and its very own beach
Could Barcelona be the perfect city? A warm and sunny climate, beautiful jaw-dropping architecture, a thriving creative scene, famous artworks at every turn. It even has its own beach. It's the kind of place that any creative soul would fall in love with – hey, it worked for Picasso.
Whether you're taking a city break, or you're visiting on business, allow us to guide you through some of the Spanish city's hotspots – from must-see attractions and where to enjoy that chilled glass of wine to cool co-working spaces and the agency scene, here we share our creative's guide to Barcelona.
Places to stay for design lovers
If you're creative, you're not going to settle for any old hotel. You'll want something unusual. A little quirky and special. But without breaking the bank. You, my friend, should consider Chic&Basic Ramblas, right in the heart of the city. With décor inspired by 1960s Barcelona, playfulness and creativity are sprinkled throughout the 85-room hotel. You'll even find a green SEAT car in the lobby. Prices start from 94€ per night.
Or there's The5Rooms, a boutique bed and breakfast in the heart of downtown Barcelona. Eclectic yet homely, you can choose a hotel room or an apartment – whichever suits your needs. Prices start from 126.50€ per night for a double room.
If luxury is more your thing, there's something a little more upmarket (and more expensive) over at Hotel Neri in the old Jewish quarter. Set in two historical and aristocratic houses, its period charm, rustic stone architecture and sophisticated interior design will certainly be a treat for design lovers – there's even a rooftop terrace where you can enjoy a cocktail or two on summer evenings.
One final recommendation would be the Praktik Rambla, located in Barcelona's Rambla de Catalunya district and designed by renowned Spanish architect, Lázaro Rosa-Violán. With a wealth of original Art Nouveau features and a contemporary interior design, this hotel makes the perfect retreat after a long day exploring the city. It even has an on-site Piscolabis restaurant, serving delicious tapas and local specialities.
Five touristy things you should do in Barcelona
You simply can not go to Barcelona without exploring Antoni Gaudí's work and the Modernisme architecture dotted throughout the city. The most famous sites are the Basilica of the Sagrada Familia, which will literally knock your socks off both inside and out; Park Güell – an enchanting city garden that's a wonderland of Gaudí's imagination; Casa Batlló, another of Gaudí's masterpieces and, of course, La Pedrera, an incredible building with no straight lines that is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Why not book a free Gaudí walking tour and discover his most magical buildings?
For the art lovers among you, a trip to the Museu Picasso is a must! Located in the El Raval district, it's worth a visit simply to admire the medieval mansion which it occupies. But inside, you'll discover the works of Pablo Picasso. The legendary artist had a strong connection to Barcelona – he lived and studied there in his youth. Budget-conscious creatives, take note: many museums are free on Sundays – including the Museu Picasso between 3pm and 8pm.
Once you've had your Picasso fix, take a leisurely stroll through the lush gardens of Teatre Grec before heading to Fundació Joan Miró to enjoy yet more fine art. The museum houses, you guessed it, all of Miró's graphic work – which is definitely worth forking out for. But you'll also discover some amazing Miró sculptures dotted around the city, where you don't have to pay a penny to see – including the 22metre tall Woman and Bird artwork in Parc de Joan Miró.
If street art is your thing, Barcelona's graffiti artists will definitely inspire, particularly in Poblenou and El Raval – some of the city's coolest districts. And what about artworks that have been around for a little longer, such as Frank Gehry's Peix, giant fish sculpture, or Fernando Botero's gigantic cat on the Rambla del Raval? Believe me, at every turn, you will be delighted with Barcelona's thriving street art.
Going back to El Raval, this is a district you'll definitely want to explore further. Ok, so it's not as historic as other parts of the city, but you'll love how the streets are full of artists, designers, backpackers and all the cool kids, hanging out in the area's many bars, restaurants and vintage clothing stores. This is also where you'll find MACBA – Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona.
After all that walking and cultural sightseeing, why not kick back on one of Barcelona's wonderful beaches? Barceloneta is worth a look – it's certainly the most popular, probably because of its sweep of golden sand and an attractive promenade lined with restaurants and bars. But if crowds aren't your thing, head further north towards the Fòrum area.
Wonderful watering holes
As if you weren’t already convinced that Barcelona is perhaps one of the greatest cities on earth, there will be no doubt in your mind after discovering the overwhelming number of nightspots and watering holes it has to offer.
If cocktails are your thing, but you’re not so keen on the current trend for bartenders adding everything but the kitchen sink, then Bitter Cocktail Bar is worth a visit. Using only natural ingredients, you’ll find all the classics here, made to perfection.
A staple of the Barcelona bar scene is Solange, serving cocktails and luxury spirits from award-winning mixologists. Whilst you’re in the area, be sure to check out Dry Martini.
Continuing with the cocktail theme, Marmalade is renowned for its extensive menu. With a relaxed, retro interior, it’s a favourite of tourists and locals alike. If you prefer a bar with a view, then 360 Terrace is a must-visit.
Treating visitors to 360-degree views over Barcelona, it’s the ideal spot for those new to the city. And for a more authentically Spanish experience, Can Paixano offers tapas and good quality wine.
You'll no doubt be hungry after all your exploring, and Barcelona will not disappoint. If you’re seeking a fine dining option, then you’ve come to the right place. Spoonik, although rather pricey, promises a unique and incomparable gastronomic experience – think plenty of foams and garnishes.
Similarly, Santa Rita Experience offers fine dining at its best in a relaxed and comfortable setting. Choose to book a private table, or opt for a shared experience and get to know some new people.
When in Barcelona, one must absolutely try its tapas. Cerveseria Catalana is tipped as one of the best, offering fresh seafood and impeccable service.
Alternatively, head to El Boo Restaurant and Bar for its seafood paella and bask in its spectacular views out over the Mediterranean. Also offering beautiful views of the city and sea, El Xalet de Montjuïc provides the perfect lunch spot.
The agency scene
It's no secret that Barcelona is full to the brim with talented design and illustration studios, with Hey (lovers of colour, geometry and direct typography), Brosmind (aka The Mingarro brothers, Juan and Alejandro), Solo (independent, award-winning design studio), Forma (founded by Joel Lozano and Dani Navarro in 2012), Folch (founded by Albert Folch in 2004) and Toormix (the brainchild of Ferran Mitjans and Oriol Armengou) leading the parade.
On the digital side of things, you have Fragment collaborating with brands such as SEAT and Levi's, and Hommu doing great work for Disney, Unilever and Audi.
Then in advertising, there's LOLA Mullen Lowe, the agency behind the rather epic #PleasureIsDiverse campaign for Magnum. Not to mention the "imaginary friend" ad spot for SEAT LEON. Communications agency LOUD is also making a lot of noise, with Ted Baker, Maison du Monde and Nowadays all notable clients – we especially love their recent work for the Generator group.
It's no surprise that today's creative industries in Barcelona account for 11% of its workforce, a rise of 20% since 2001 – and long may it continue to grow.
Cool co-working spaces
For those of you in need of a desk during your stay in Barcelona, you'll certainly be spoilt for choice. This being a creative city, there are plenty of co-working spaces to choose from. Take Betahaus, for example. For just 25€ per day, Monday to Friday, you can use a desk and get access to a printer, free coffee or tea, and Skype rooms.
Or there's RavalCo based over in El Raval, the cool heart of town. Prices start from 15€ for a single day pass, and you can expect all the usual benefits, including a free locker. Then there's MOB, short for "makers of Barcelona", which offers flexible co-working along with a whole heap of extras, including networking and relevant events. However, as you'll only be visiting, the "mini MOB" package will suit you just fine, with prices starting from 20€.