Worth getting out of bed for
If you can tear yourself away from Alma's elegant garden and rooftop terrace, just a short stroll away you'll find Gaudi's undulating stone-clad dwelling La Pedrera (www.lapedreraeducacio.org), aka Casa Milà, at the corner of Passeig de Gràcia at Carrer de Provença 261–265. You can tour a period apartment inside, but leave time to check out the kooky rooftop, which flaunts multi-coloured chimneys as well as a bar in summer. Other Gaudi must-sees in the area include modernist-marvel Casa Batllò (www.casabatllo.es), further south at Passeig de Gràcia 43 (go inside or just admire the rainbow-tiled façade), spire-toting Sagrada Familia (www.sagradafamila.cat) further east at Carrer de Mallorca 401, and fantastical Parc Güell, a metro or taxi ride north of neighbouring Gràcia.
For a modern art hit, make for Fundació Antoni Tàpies (Carrer de Aragó 255; www.fundaciotapies.org), which showcases work by the famous Catalan abstract artist. Music lovers should immerse themselves in a performance at Palau de la Música Catalana (further south at Carrer de Palau de la Música 4–6; www.palaumusica.org), a magnificent modernist concert hall by Lluís Domènech i Montaner.
Shopping more your speed? Then pop into Passeig de Gràcia's many chichi boutiques, including Spanish labels Zara for catwalk looks (number 16; www.zara.com), Camper for shoes (64; www.camper.com/en), Mango for high-street fashion (65; http://shop.mango.com), and Loewe, for leather handbags and accessories (91; www.loewe.com). Adolfo Dominguez (Carrer de Balmes 170; www.adolfodominguez.com), near Diagonal metro station, will appeal to men in search of sophisticated threads. Vinçon (Passeig de Gràcia 96; www.vincon.com) is a tantalising temple of edgy Spanish and global design, selling everything from gift-friendly stationery to kitchen kit and homewares.
Alma Barcelona is surrounded by tempting tapas treats. Refuel mid-Gaudi tour at De Tapa Madre (Carrer de Mallorca 301; +34 (93) 459 31 34; www.detapamadre.cat), handily located between La Sagrada Familia church and La Pedrera. Also nearby is Tapas, 24 (Carrer de la Diputaciò 269; +34 (93) 488 09 77; www.tapas24.net), a popular pitstop that's worth queuing for. Expect new-wave tapas and playful snacks by chef Carles Abellen, who heads up a clutch of culinary hotspots in town.
Time-travel back to the cocktail's Fifties heyday at Dry Martini (Carrer d'Aribau 162–166; +34 (93) 217 50 74; www.drymartinibcn.com), conceived by cocktail-slinger Javier de la Muelas. The bartenders are the business at this sexy spot, which is pulling a stylish crowd. Sashay to clandestine sister restaurant Speakeasy, at the same address, for intimate bites afterwards.
Wander north to the chic adjacent neighbourhood of Gràcia, known for its graceful squares ideal for sipping coffee out in the sun – or quaffing a cool Estrella Damm at night. Try Plaça de Ruis i Taulet, Plaça del Sol, Plaça de la Revolució de Setembre de 1868 or Plaça de la Virreina. This once fiercely independent district, which resisted being amalgamated into the city of Barcelona, will feel far less touristy than downtown Barri Gòtic. Alternatively, stock up on picnic supplies near the hotel at Delishop Eixample (Carrer de Mallorca 241; +34 (93) 215 15 46; www.delishop.es) and chow down in a sunny spot. It's also fab if you fancy taking home quality Catalan produce, such as jars of lip-smacking local olives.
April On 23 April, Barcelona celebrates the Dia del Llibre, or Day of the Book, a seductive twist on Valentine's Day when men give women roses and women give their fella a book. Look for stalls selling both on main drag La Rambla and other central avenues. June Electronic music festival Sónar (www.sonar.es) attracts top global acts for a mix of gigs and street sounds, hyping noise levels from the hip El Raval quarter to Montjuïc and surrounds. August The biggest of Barcelona's local festivals, Festa Major de Gràcia sees the Gràcia neighbourhood come alive for six days of parades and partying, kicking off around 15 August, with thousands of sweets thrown from passing floats. September The city's major festival, the four-day Festes de la Mercè (www.bcn.es/merce), takes over town with trad Catalan folk dancing (sardanes), acrobatic human towers (castellers), parades of big-headed giants and a pyromaniac fire race (correfoc).
Join us – it's free!
Sign up now for exclusive hotel offers, money back on every booking, and Smith extras (like the one below) whenever you book with us. more
Smith extra at Alma Barcelona
A bottle of cava and cupcakes