Barcelona is arguably the most cosmopolitan city in Spain. With its treasured modernist landmarks and a contrasting landscape that includes seaside, mountaintop and medieval corners, there’s never a shortage of things to see and do.
A Taste of Barcelona
Tucked along Spain’s coast, Barcelona is an ideal summer getaway, and travelers seeking a beach fix can head to Bogatell Beach or Barceloneta. Each attracts crowds, and you’ll find good restaurant deals in the area, plus fabulous sea views along the promenade.
The city is a hotbed of culture, and anyone looking for an art and architecture fix can start by finding the wondrous designs of Antoni Gaudí, including his iconic Sagrada Familia church, the Palau Güell mansion and the whimsical Park Güell. Next, meander the Barri Gòtic (Gothic Quarter), admiring the neighborhood’s many galleries, and making a pit stop at Museu d’Història de la Ciutat.
When the sun sets and hunger strikes, take yourself on a requisite tapas crawl. The city’s options seem endless, but make it your mission to pop into Pinotxo Bar for shellfish plates, the Tasca El Corral for a taste of historic Barcelona, and the award-winning Restaurant La Mar Salada.
After you’ve indulged in Barcelona’s pleasures, add to the mix a jaunt to Mallorca. The Balearic Island getaway is just under an hour away by plane, and travelers are rewarded with the ultimate summer holiday break.
Despite being the largest of the Balearic Islands, Mallorca’s easy accessibility leaves plenty of time to discover its many enchantments, even if you only have 48 hours to spare before jetting back to Barcelona.
Mallorca’s Beaches and Culture
Start your Mallorca adventure in the historic capital, Palma de Mallorca with fuel from a sweet cortado (coffee prepared with equal parts espresso and milk) and homemade cake at the convivial Rosevelvet Bakery before heading out to the beaches.
There are more than 200 beaches in Mallorca, ranging from long stretches of white sand to secluded rocky coves. Ciutat Jardi is a perfect specimen of the former, an up-and-coming Blue Flag beach just three miles from the city. Es Trenc is the most popular natural sandy beach south of Palma, boasting clear waters and nary a building in site.
If visiting during the summer months, forgo this option and walk a rugged terrain to Es Caragol, an uncrowded, teal-water beach with views so magnificent it’s well worth the 30-minute trek on foot. Renting a car is ideal (beach parking is often free) to reach more diverse beaches on the east coast, like Cala Mondrago, an isolated beach found between two verdant headlands.
Next, take a lunch break at Patron Lunares, an old fisherman’s residence boasting original tile work and maritime memorabilia, which specializes in catch-of-the-day seafood or simple-but-hearty eco meat and vegetable dishes.
The day continues with a visit to the sprawling La Seu, Palma’s multifaceted cathedral — originally a mosque, later a Gothic cathedral when, in the early 20th century, a few modernist touches were added by Antoni Gaudí .
Combine culture and panoramic views at Castell de Bellver, a 14th-century Gothic castle turned history museum with a unique circular shape, surrounded by lush forest and overlooking the city and Palma Bay. A car is the quickest means of transportation there, though either a bike or bus can get you to the summit in less than 30 minutes.
Time permitting, make a stop at the Es Baluard modern art museum, which features Picasso’s lesser-known ceramic works along with hundreds of other pieces of regional artwork. The museum is open until 8 p.m. most days and is considered a piece of art in its own right; the building was constructed around the remnants of the ancient city walls.
For dinner, enjoy a typical Mallorcan tapas meal at Sadrassana, an eclectic 19th-century manor house that doubles as an art gallery and restaurant. Start with a round of cocas — regional flatbread topped with a variety of grilled seasonal veggies, cheese and/or raisins.
End the evening in La Lonja, a Palma district strewn with cafés and live-music bars. Jazz Voyeur Club always has a lively atmosphere, but for a completely different vibe, visit neighboring Bar Abaco, a onetime 17th-century mansion serving creative cocktails in an offbeat baroque setting.
Coastline Drive and Village Visits
Start day two in Mallorca with a hearty breakfast at La Molienda. This tiny café serves ecological egg-based bites and craft coffee made from predominately indie Spanish roasters. Afterward, hit the road in a rental, heading north on the winding hairpin roads of the mighty Tramuntana Mountains to discover hidden hamlets surrounded by a changing landscape of forests, rock formations and unspoiled coves.
First stop is Valldemossa, one of the most romantic cobblestone villages in Mallorca, best known as the secret hideaway for composer Chopin and his lover, the writer George Sand.
Visit Real Cartuja, the 14th-century former monastery, now a museum with a section dedicated to the couples’ work. Continue on to hilltop Deià and visit its idyllic pebble beach surrounded by jagged hills. After some beach frolicking, enjoy lunch at Ca’s Patro March, a rustic fresh seafood eatery perched over the sea.
Time permitting, and if you don’t mind narrow, heart-stopping turns, drive on toward Cap de Formentor and take in breathtaking mountain and sea views.
Come afternoon, circle back to Sóller; a vibrant town with fragrant citrus trees and olive groves. Walk along narrow paths surrounded by a bucolic valley and the looming Serra de Tramuntana to the main square full of artisan shops; a vintage, still operational tramline; cafés; and restaurants.
Sample the town’s famous artisan gelat de toroja (orange ice cream) at the family-run Sa Fabrica de Gelats; then visit the St. Bartomeu church, a 16th-century architectural marvel renovated in the early 20th century to include a modern facade.
Finish the day with a meal at Casa Alvaro, a bare-bones yet charming eatery serving gourmet tapas. Among the usual suspects, try a torrada, toast topped with atypical pairings such as foie gras with caramelized apples or roasted tomato with goat cheese.