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Passionate Pursuits: (Not) Home For the Holidays

Writer & Photographer: Abby Jeffers

After two years of COVID-19 and a summer of airline shortages, most people are itching to explore, and the best destinations are those that are packed with incredible art, culture and food. Enter Barcelona, the perfect getaway for the winter holidays with its mild weather, beautiful Christmas markets and dozens of museums and architectural spots. Christmas markets abound in Barcelona, though one of the best (and oldest!) lies in front of the Barcelona Cathedral, another must-visit to see its soaring arches and beautiful Gothic architecture. Market stalls hold Christmas decor, including individual figurines to build elaborate Nativity scenes, as well as local art and jewelry, and live music often echoes through the aisles. The markets are truly the pinnacle of Christmas cheer and offer the perfect setting to stroll through aisles of holiday decor with a hot drink and a loved one.

Regardless of the time of year, no visit to Barcelona is complete without a tour of La Sagrada Família, perhaps the most famous work by Spanish architect Antoni Gaudí, and one glance reveals why. The towering cathedral is laden with symbols, from the number of spires to the rainbow that paints the inside walls when the afternoon sun shines through beautiful stained glass. Gaudí was inspired by nature and his faith, and his work elevates the Barcelona skyline and streets alike: After touring the cathedral, visit Parc Güell, a massive park designed by Gaudí with soaring columns and beautiful mosaics, and hit the Gaudí House Museum on the way out to see his interior design works.

The Picasso Museum presents a fascinating view into the artist’s life for those more interested in traditional art. Nestled in a narrow alleyway, the museum leads visitors through Picasso’s life and art style, including (during a special exhibition in 2021) introducing viewers to his forays into jewelry creation. It is a must-see for any art lover, and only a few doors down sits the Moco Museum, an unassuming building containing an art space that takes visitors through a sea of modern and contemporary art from Basquiat to Banksy.

Between visiting museums and seeing the sights, refuel with tapas and a glass of wine, and end the night with a romantic ride on the ferris wheel at Port Vell and a short walk for a stunning tour of Catalan cuisine at Restaurant 7 Portes. It’s hard to go wrong at 7 Portes, but any of the many paellas is always a great (and delicious) choice. Cap the meal with a sweet treat from 7 Portes’ talented pastry chefs, and then head to Bobby’s Free for a cocktail before bed.

Don’t forget to check the bar’s Instagram page before arrival for the monthly password; the outside looks like a barber shop, but repeating the password to the greeter (aka bouncer) reveals a hidden door leading back to a dimly lit cocktail bar designed to echo Prohibition-era speakeasies. The bar’s menu is extensive, but for customers who can’t find something they’ll like –– doubtful, as the collection ranges from classic to inventive –– bartenders can create a custom drink.

And finally, for a luxurious and relaxing sleep before another day of sights and eats, sleep at El Avenida Palace, a hotel that (true to its name) feels almost royal in its ambiance and decor. From the quiet and luxe interior, it’s difficult to tell that the hotel lies in the middle of Eixample, a buzzing neighborhood alive with delicious food, luxury shopping and stunning architecture –– including Antoni Gaudí’s Casa Batlló, a remarkably colorful and elegant building. Though destinations like Rome or Paris may top many “must-go” lists, don’t overlook the cultural, artistic and, of course, culinary delights that fill the city of Barcelona. From stunning architecture to classic art to vibrant cocktail bars, the city truly has something for everyone, and it’s difficult to see everything in one trip.

As travel begins to open back up, Barcelona has become, once again, a hot spot for tourism in Spain. Don’t miss the chance to explore the city, especially as the streets grow alive with Christmas markets and holiday lights –– Barcelona really is the perfect holiday getaway.

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