Love Rules: Romantic Breaks in Barcelona
Forget Paris, with its haughty residents and unreliable weather. Dismiss Venice, with its cliched gondola rides and unsalubrious smells. When it comes to romantic breaks in Europe, it's time to dethrone the same old hackneyed destinations and crown Barcelona king. Here in the Catalan capital you have everything a doting couple could hope for to inspire unbridled romance, such as warm Spanish evenings (just check out the weather here!), a magnificent stretch of coast by the azure plains of the Mediterranean sea, a fantastic culture of food (including scores of top class restaurants - many boasting Michelin stars) and more than a dash of high brow culture - just in case you do want to leave your hotel room for an hour or two during the day.
Whether you're a young couple in love looking for a weekend getaway, or whether you're planning a surprise romantic holiday to celebrate a recent engagement - or day we say it, to propose, we've got some ideas below that could spice up your trip and make it truly unforgettable. We're 100% confident that when you're sipping Cava in the rooftop Jacuzzi of your penthouse apartment (or maybe even honeymoon suite!), watching the sun set behind Tibidabo mountain, as the spires of La Sagrada Familia cast their long shadow over the city that you'll join us in toasting Barcelona as one of the most romantic cities in the world.
Above: Staring out to the sea...
Romantic Hotels & Beds
Dreamy hotels in Barcelona run the gamut of luxury five star palaces and towers, such as the famous Arts Hotel at the Port Olimpic, or the new 'W'izz kid on the block - the gleaming W Hotel on Barceloneta beach. If your partner is the kind of gal/guy who's impresses by a bit of glitz and glamour then look no further than those two! For something a bit more homely you could try the independently run Aparthotel Silver, a delightful bolt hole in the charming district of Gracia, and still very central. Of course having your very own pad for the weekend could afford you some extra privacy, and the wealth of apartment rental agencies in town mean you should be spoiled for choice when it comes to your ideal location and all those luxurious extras... like a hot tub on the terrace! Gay couples meanwhile might want to check into the highly-rated Axel Hotel, which apart from being rather swish and delicious, is just round the corner from 'Gayxample' the heart of gay Barcelona. Finally, if you're a bit hard up don't forget that most of the major hostels in town also rent private rooms at much more reasonable rates than the average hotel.
Romantic Restaurants, Bars & Cafes
Barcelona abounds in stylish and charismatic restaurants which make the perfect setting for a meal for two. Marmalade is a suave-looking joint in Raval with great cocktails to match their menu (the same team just opened the fun and friendly Firebug near Arc de Triomf); Cera23 has a shady location but has become a tourist favourite against the odds; CentOnze has old school elegance and a great Catalan menu (with ingredients from La Boqueria market); Cafe de l'Academia is on a charming square in the old town and popular with locals; Ferran Adria's Tickets is fantastic (although getting a table is nigh on impossible!); whilst for something snazzy get dressed up and head to Opium's restaurant for Mediterranean cuisine overlooking the beach. Overall there are really too many sensational restaurants in the city to name here; so instead head to our guide on eating out, or our A-Z restaurants directory for more ideas.
As for romantic little bars and cafes to while away an hour or two in dreamy discussion, you really are in the best city on Earth. On every corner of El Gotic and El Born, not to mention Gracia, it seems there is small homely bar/cafe waiting for a good-looking couple like yourselves to come in settle down and order a mojito. Just a few of our faves are Cat Bar, Betty Fords and Rouge, but of course you may want to discover your own 'secret' romantic den! For something more upscale how about dropping by one of the city's cocktail lounges? We list some of the best mojito-mixers in town right here!
Romantic Activities & Ideas
Let's start with the simple stuff... a walk around the twisting medieval streets of the Old Town may not be original but it's hard to beat the carefree feeling of getting lost in this beautiful and ancient labyrinth. You don't have to travel far off the main tracts to lose the crowds and find one of those ubiquitous hip cafes and bars we were just talking about. The other obvious place, for all the right reasons, to go for a romantic stroll is of course by the sea. Barcelona won't offer you too many deserted beaches to frolic around in like Chris Isaak and Helena Christensen shooting the video to Wicked Game, but whether you fancy dining out at one of the posh lounge clubs, like CDLC, or ordering a 1 euro cerveza from a friendly plastic-bag wielding Pakistani vendor and plopping yourself on the sand with the hippies and beatniks (ie. Bohemian style!) you'll discover a world full of romance that's no doubt a stark contrast to back home. But you didn't come to us to hear the obvious, so - without further ado - here are our top suggestions for romantic things to do in Barcelona:
Hear a Gypsy Song and Dance
If you thought your love was intense check out the passion of one of Barcelona's flamenco shows! This quintessential Spanish art form has a lively scene in BCN with some of the country's best artists regularly performing at the city's tablaos. Enquire about flamenco performances and tickets here.
Sail Out (literally) into the Sunset
What could be more fanciful than chartering a gleaming white yacht and heading out on to the glistening Mediterranean for a late day sail. Admire the city's famous skyline as it fades to black, and cuddle up with your partner with a glass of bubbly. A leisurely cruise for lovers: read more about it here. (Hint: if water is your element then we've got a longer list of activities for you here).
Take Things into the Kitchen
You can heat things up, but best not to get too steamy, in our gourmet cooking class as up to twelve people partake at once (plus of course the expert local chef!). Nonetheless, despite the lack of privacy, this is still a great activity for sociable couples as you'll not only learn about Spanish and Catalan cuisine, but you'll get to eat the delicious dishes you make all washed down with some fantastic wines in a convivial atmosphere. Plus it's a helluva lot more fun than a walking tour! For more food and cooking tours check this article.
Enjoy the Magic Jets
Deservedly one of city's most popular attractions the Magic Fountain of Montjuic is Barcelona romance at its best. The frothing jets spew from Thursday through to Sunday during summer, accompanied by a dazzling show of light and a thunderous soundtrack. Take a seat on the steps leading up to the palatial MNAC museum and watch the show as the sun sets.
Go on a Whirlwind Wine Tour
It's often overlooked, what with all the excitement about Gaudi and beachside jugs of sangria, that Barcelona is surrounded by wine country. Opt for a private wine tasting excursion of the Penedes and you'll visit two of the choicest wineries in the region in the company of a knowledgeable guide. A great day out that combines idyllic scenery, with wonderful food and drink.
Go Boating at Parc de la Ciutadella
"Lake" might be exaggerating a bit, but you'll still score plenty of brownie points should you choose to impress your lover with your oar-some (!) rowing skills on the ponds of this wonderful park. The boating lake is more or less in the centre of the gardens and you can hire a classic rowing boat for just a handful of euros from a suitably swarthy boat hand. Top off the idea with a picnic of local treats from the market. (Dig a little deeper and you might even find some even more romantic gardens).
Enjoy a Royal Rub Down
For a surprise present whilst you're on your break few things will go down better than a professional massage at one of the top Barcelona spas. Royal Thai massages, chakra hot stones, and even sensual rubs with honey and chocolate are all possible for him and her (or him and him and her and her!).
Sidle off to Sitges
A mecca for gay tourists, the Brighton of the Costa Brava is a beautiful and serene coastal resort with 17 beaches that Barcelona would find hard to compete with. A lovely change of pace and certainly one of the most romantic day trips within easy reach of the city. You can take the train from Sants Station and it's just 35 minutes away. Check our Sitges travel guide for more info. For more day or weekend excursions we have listed our favourite places within shooting distance right here.
We've got lots more suggestions on romantic past times in BCN and will update this page shortly (feel free to leave your own suggestions in the comments below!). Meanwhile for some more cool ideas check out our guide to original things to do in Barcelona.