Capital of the autonomous Community of Catalonia, bilingual Barcelona (Catalan and Spanish) is the unrivaled visitor destination in Spain, and with good reason: dazzling art and architecture, creative cuisine, great weather, and warm hospitality are just part of what the city offers. Barcelona is proud of its cultural past and confident about its future.
A Tale of Two Cities
Restive for centuries in the shadow of Madrid, where Spain ruled from the center—more often than not, with an iron hand—Barcelona has a drive to innovate and excel that stems largely from a determination to eclipse its longtime rival. A powerful sense of national identity (Catalans consider themselves a "nation" and decidedly not a province of Spain) motivates designers, architects, merchants, and industrialists to ever-higher levels of originality and achievement. Especially since the success of the 1992 Olympic Games, national pride and confidence have grown stronger and stronger, and today nearly half the Catalan population believes the nation would be better served—whatever implications that might have for membership in the European Union—by complete independence.
Cuisine: Haute and Hot
Since Ferran Adrià’s northern Catalonian phenomenon elBulli closed, chef d’auteur successes in Barcelona have proliferated. Some two dozen superb restaurants (and more on the way) have won international recognition, so keeping abreast of the city’s culinary rock stars can be a dizzying pursuit. Here’s a quick primer: Adrià disciple Sergi Arola, at his eponymous Arola Restaurant in the Hotel Arts, and Disfrutar–-the project of three former elBulli chefs, Oriol Castro, Eduard Xatruch, and Mateu Casañas–-remain at the frontier of Adrià-inspired molecular gastronomy. Rising stars such as Jordi Artal of Cinc Sentits, Jordi Vilà of Alkimia, and Jordi Herrera of Manairó, join established masters Carles Gaig and Mey Hofmann in a dazzling galaxy of gastronomical creativity. Meanwhile, Raül Balam from Sant Pol de Mar and Martin Berasategui from San Sebastián have opened award-winning hotel restaurants in, respectively, the Mandarin Oriental (Moments), and the Monument Hotel (Lasarte). Add to this list up-and-comers like Jordi Cruz of the restaurant ÀBaC, the Torres twins of Cocina Hermanos Torres, and Romain Fornell of Caelis, and you begin to appreciate what a gastronomic haven Barcelona has become.