Things to do & see
September 24 is the official celebration of La Mercè, Barcelona's patron saint, and the party lasts all week long. Concerts, cultural events and parades fill the streets. Don't miss the correfoc, a night-time parade of devils and monsters who wave firecrackers at the crowds. You'll also see castellers, human castles that rise 10 levels high. New Mercè traditions include an airshow and a fireworks competition. www.bcn.es/merce.
Food & Drink
Can't splash out on a luxury hotel? Going out for dinner in one can be just as fun. Some of Barcelona's top restaurants are in hotels. For something really special, try the two Michelin starred Drolma (Pg. De Gràcia 70), on the second floor of the Hotel Majèstic. Exquisite shellfish, unusual mixtures of traditional Catalan ingredients with new-world styles and a great wine list all make for one of the best meals in Barcelona. For great views and an equally great meal, head to L'Orangerie (Carretera del Vallvidrera al Tibidabo 83-93), perched above the city on the Tibidabo mountain in the new Grand Florida hotel. Try the rack of lamb, served inside a baked clay envelope that's broken open at your table. Another swanky place is Diana (Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes 668) inside the luxurious Hotel Ritz. Catalan and international cuisine is served in the spacious dining room. At the Hotel Arts, the Bar Marina (Marina 19-21) offers open-air dining in a relaxed yet elegant setting. From Thursday to Sunday nights, the restaurant becomes a bar.
Places to go
Barcelona is known for its late nights, with bars staying open until 2 or 3am, and clubs not closing until dawn. Yet there's no need to wait until midnight to get a drink and hang out with friends.
The Café Muebles Navarro (Riera Alta 4-6) is a funky, informal bar where you sit on comfy flea-market couches. The crowd is a bit hippy and very friendly. Bliss (Pl. Sant Just) is the perfect place to chat or just sit and read the paper. It's set beside a small, quiet plaza and has a great selection of pastries. The Cafè d'Estiu (Pl. Sant Iu 5) is one of the best outdoor bars in Barcelona.
Similarly, La Vinya del Senyor (Pl. de Santa Maria 5) sits beside the Santa Maria del Mar church with plenty of seating outside, so you can soak up the atmosphere along with the cheeses, patés and ever-changing wine list. In a medieval plaza shaded by magnolia trees, this café-bar is actually part of the Museu Frederic Marès. For something cosy and low-key, head to Idea (Pl. Comercial 2), a bookshop with small wooden tables and comfy nooks to read in as you sip your drink. Great desserts are also available.
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