Barcelona is an international, cosmopolitan city that blurs the lines between quaint Mediterranean port and modern, bustling metropolis. The life style of a vacation by the sea in Barcelona is sublime, with the important things coming first—food, fun, and relaxation. Find pleasure and balance between the constant stimuli of the urban landscape and the delight of discovering ancient secrets around every cobble-stoned corner. The heart of the city is small and best seen on foot, and as you walk hand in hand along avenues that have seen over two millennia of romance—among flower stalls and medieval archways—you too will surely carve your own, lasting moment into the history of Barcelona. Fore this is a city that vibrates with countless love stories and majestic visages of mighty empires come and gone.
It is no surprise that Barcelona is one of the top ten most visited cities in the world, with some 8.41 million international travelers soaking up the sun or wandering through the narrow alleys of the Catalan capital in 2013. However, the true beauty of Barcelona isn’t found on the beach, nor a bus tour, nor in a crowded museum, but in the quiet moments that fill each day. Many moving, peaceful tableaus can be found just a stone’s throw from the throngs of tourists that easily sour a potentially romantic, profound experience. Winter is a wonderful time to visit Barcelona, as the crowds are few and the sky is clear. Though the beach will surely be deserted, the ability to blend into the scenery and enjoy a truly romantic escape is invaluable.
The Hotel Neri is a four-star property and a member of the Relais & Châteaux fellowship of independently-owned luxury boutique hotels. Located in the subdued Plaza of Felip Neri, the sleek hotel structure spans over 900 years. Originally a medieval palace, the understated and elegant building incorporates mid-20th century architecture as well, with reformed walls that were partially destroyed in 1938 by street warfare and aerial bombings during the height of the Spanish Civil War. The Plaza of Felip Neri is a surprising bastion of calm, with its quiet fountain and war-scared, Baroque church façade from the end of the 18th century. It’s an inexplicably-sacred place of hushed conversations and reflection just three minutes walk from the soaring cathedral of Barcelona, and the busy Plaça Nova. Enjoy reading the daily news in the tranquil hotel lounge—or on their terrace under flowering trees of Spring and Summer—while awaiting the arrival of your local cooking teacher and guide for the day.
In keeping with the relaxed pace of life in the city, work doesn’t start as early here as it may in other parts of the world. If you want to seize the day, seize it (but don’t bother getting out of bed before 9am). In nearly all cases, to know food is to know culture, and what better way to experience true, authentic Spanish and Catalan cuisine than to cook it yourself!
Your days begins with Catavino’s private, luxury gourmet market tour and exclusive cooking lesson in a beautiful teaching kitchen with views of the Ramblas and the historic Liceu Opera House. Begin your romantic adventure at 10:00 AM when your Spanish chef comes to collect you at your hotel.
The tour starts off with an intimate look at the inside workings of the famous Boqueria; one of the most internationally-regarded fresh markets in the world. Accompany your chef in purchasing the beautiful fruits, vegetables, and seafood that you will soon be masterfully preparing, while learning about the generations of vendors and the multitude of colorful products that make city’s oldest market a true, kaleidoscopic wonder. See the market through the eyes of a local culinary professional and learn to discern the finest Iberian ham, freshest fish, ripest tomatoes, most delicate olives, tastiest wild mushrooms, and deeply aromatic spices. Stop off for a light, traditional Spanish breakfast of flaky pastry and rich espresso before leaving the market for a relaxing stroll through the narrow streets of old Barcelona that will inspire your inner gourmand.
Before cooking your Spanish lunch, visit one of Europe’s oldest dry good and sundry shops, bursting with roasted nuts still warm from the fire, dried fruits, and dark coffees before taking a seat at the city’s most impressive bodega and specialty shop to whet your appetite with a tasting of local cheeses and unique wines.
Back in the bright teaching kitchen, get right into your meal preparation under the relaxed guidance of your friendly teacher, laughing and learning as you cook a seasonal appetizer, traditional paella, and an authentic Catalan dessert (all to be enjoyed with more Spanish wine and a couple special snacks along the way). After your much-deserved meal, stroll back up Las Ramblas and buy a bundle of perfumed lilies for your sweetie while supporting the local vendors on the Rambla de las Flores who have made florist their trade for generations. Finally, a quick stop at the nearly 200-year-old Fargas chocolate shop on Carrer de la Portaferrissa for some hand-made confections will round out your romantic afternoon before a much-deserved siesta back at the hotel.
Awake, once again fresh to the world, at 6:00pm and catch a quick taxi to the Mirablau bar and restaurant for classic cocktails and unbelievable, breathtaking views of Barcelona at dusk. Perched on the sloping neighborhoods of mount Tibidabo, from the panoramic lounge of Mirablau you can gaze down upon the whole of Barcelona, the sparkling Mediterranean unfolding below you. Watch the day gently fade to night as the sun slowly sets. Imagine the glow of thousands of soft, gas lights from eras passed, spreading through the darkened valley, igniting passions and inspiring hearts as you savor the splendid simplicity of a moment shared with the one you love.
At the foot of Mount Tibidabo, among the beautiful Jardins de la Tamarita gardens and the impressive, turn-of-the-century mansions of Barcelona’s industrialist era, is the ultra-luxury Hotel and Restaurant ABaC with the two-Michelin-star kitchen of Catalan chef-icon Jordi Cruz. Reservations for dinner begin at 8:30pm and the Grand Tasting Menu is the meal of a lifetime—modernist gastronomy melding the products and dishes of Catalunya with refined French technique and exotica flavors of the Far East over some 12 courses. Request pairings from their nearly 1000-bottle catalogue.
After dinner, head back down into the city center, change into something comfortable, and take a nighttime walk through the Gothic and Born neighborhoods to Aire de Barcelona. An authentic, candle-lit Arab bathhouse—or Hammam—, Aire de Barcelona is true luxury and a perfect way to end an amazing day of adventure. Steamy thermal baths, aroma therapy, beauty treatments, and a relaxing massage are at your disposal. Open until 2 am on the weekends, take the time to lose yourself in infinite bliss. If you’re ready for bed, retire after your final massage to the comfort of the Hotel Neri. If not, head to the Cafe Royale for excellent live music every day of the week and dance the night away in Barcelona’s buzzing Plaça Reial, among the lights and sounds and palm trees of the heart of the Gothic quarter. Enjoy a crisp gin and tonic and let the enchanting Barcelona night cast its intoxicating spell.
Barcelona is a romantic city on any day of the week, at any time of the year, but when a truly special occasion arrives, the luxury that the best of the city has to offer will leave you with memories to last a lifetime.
If you’re interested in our premium private Market Tour and Cooking Experience in Barcelona, please BOOK HERE.