From the beaches and harbour of the waterfront, up through the medieval maze of the Gothic quarter and into open, airy neighbourhoods like the Eixample, Barcelona presents many faces to those who come to explore its riches. At once cosmopolitan, yet still fiercely proud of its local heritage, its attractions are many and varied, such as the gems of Catalan modernism, the Sagrada Familia, Casa Batlló and La Palau de la Música, or the antique charms of the old city. Go shopping in the markets or on the Passeig de Gràcia, or take the cable car up to the top of Montjuïc Hill to the Spanish village and magic fountains and enjoy the views.
Famous holiday festivals include Sant Jordi, for the patron saint of Catalunya (April 23rd), a local equivalent of Saint Valentine’s day, marked with gifts of roses and books, Sant Joan (June 23rd), a fiery summer solstice festival with bonfires and fireworks and all-night sweet cocas and Cava and La Mercè (September 23rd-26th), featuring giants and fireworks and music and dance for the patron saint of the city. Also worth noting is that each Barrio has its own Festa Major (street festival), the most well-known being Gràcia during August. At most fiestas you will find the Castellers building human towers that can reach as many as eight to ten ‘storeys’ high.
There’s plenty here to please the palate too, with world-class restaurants alongside classic tapas and wine bars. Traditional local dishes include the ubiquitous pa amb tomàquet (bread with tomato) and patatas bravas, both local staples (not just for tourists), and calçots, a seasonal type of green spring onion that is grilled over charcoal and served with Romesco sauce in late winter and early spring. And of course there is Cava and vermouth at every turn.
With 11 Denominations of Origin (DO) in Catalunya, encompassing roughly 10,000 winegrowers and 850 wine companies, the industry takes quality seriously with the domestic market rising and, although the market is also opening up internationally, for the most part these wines remain ‘close to home’. For our purposes we are going to focus on the winemaking regions closest to Barcelona: DO Alella and DO Penedès, which will also include DO Cava and the EU collective brand Corpinnat.
It’s a bit complicated because while DO Cava is still primarily in Catalunya, it is now also found in other regions throughout Spain. This extension led to Corpinnat being established in 2018, which includes 11 wineries and which, so far, remains exclusively in Penedès.
Exploring the wineries
With four generations devoted to winemaking and creating premium Cavas, Juvé & Camps continues to be one of the most revered cellars in the region. The first Juvé brand sparkling wine appeared in 1921, years after the underground installations were first dug out under the family’s ancestral home in Sant Sadurní d’Anoia by Antoni Juvé. It was at this time that Joan Juvé, the son of Antoni, and his wife Teresa Camps took charge of the vineyards. Now with CEO fourth generation Meritxell Juvé at the helm the estate boasts various plots and family houses throughout the region, each with a distinct personality. Fully-customised private tours of the winery and vineyards are available upon request.
In the centre of Sant Sadurní d’Anoia, an hour from Barcelona, you find Bodegas Mestres. The Mestres family, first documented in the village before 1312 as vineyard owners and wine merchants, has been linked to the wine world for 30 generations. Fast forward to Christmas 1928 for the first bottles of Cava Mestres, produced by Josep Mestres Manobens from the 1925 harvest. Since then the family has specialised in the production of long-aged sparkling wines using the traditional method with natural cork for the second fermentation and has reached outstanding levels of quality recognised throughout Penedès and beyond. Fourth generation (making sparkling wine) David Aura Font takes care of winery visits, which are available upon request.
One of 11 wineries that make up the recently created Penedès-based EU collective brand Corpinnat (2018), Recaredo has been producing terroir-focused wines from its own vineyards since 1924. Now in its third generation, the Mata family, always a stickler for tradition, is further refining its practice to include long-aged brut nature sparkling wines and incorporating biodynamic agricultural techniques that capture the essence of the region. Visits are available by appointment and can also include an olive oil tasting.
Family-run Alta Alella was founded in 1991 by Josep Maria Pujol-Busquets and Cristina Guillén in the middle of the Serralada De Marina Natural Park, with their first wines appearing on the market in 2001. It still remains very much a family affair with Josep Maria and daughter Mireia in charge of wine development. Certified organic from the beginning, they offer three ranges including still wines, Gran Reserva and Cava de Paraje, as well as a low intervention natural ancestral wine selection. Pioneers in DO Alella enotourism, they offer an exciting range of experiences including transfer from Barcelona by bike, classic sidecar motorcycle, boat or helicopter and there are also monthly activities at the winery.
The original winery of Alella Vinicola was founded as a cooperative in 1906 and was responsible for the creation of the emblematic Marfil brand in 1920. Bought by the Garcia family in 1998, the winery is now run by brothers Samuel and Xavier, producing organic wines mostly from the indigenous Pansa Blanca and Grenache grapes, including high quality DO Alella sparkling wines. The splendid art nouveau winery, designed by Gaudí disciple Jeroni Martorell, has its own restaurant and is located just 15 minutes from Barcelona. Winery and vineyard visits are available by appointment.
My perfect day in Barcelona
Waking up at The Corner Hotel in the Eixample, where everything is ‘Just Around The Corner’, you can opt for the hotel breakfast or go old school and pop over to La Bodegueta Provença for traditional tostadas and a cosy local vibe. From there, walk or take the metro to Plaça de Catalunya, where you can catch the train to Sant Sadurní d’Anoia. Head to Juvé & Camps (see above) for an unforgettable experience.
Since inaugurating their winery visits in 2021, the enthusiastic J&C events team has embraced enotourism with the same passion and philosophy that are the hallmarks of this two-century old family-run winery. Visits are all private and by appointment only and there are several options to choose from, including customised itineraries. Our custom visit included a tour and tasting at the spectacular winery located in the original family home. We were then whisked off to the vineyards in vintage open-top Citroën Méharis to try more Cavas while overlooking the vines, followed by an al fresco lunch at the Casa Vella family home. A wonderful afternoon that truly exceeded all expectations.
Back in Barcelona, and after a quick freshen up at the hotel, it’s time for a casual dinner at Gresca, which yes, is also just around the corner. Chef Rafa Peña landed on the Barcelona scene in 2006 astounding the city with his Michelin star-worthy dishes at affordable prices. Happy to report that little has changed other than an expansion into the space next door, which is now a long bar area with an open kitchen to complement the original dining room. The out of this world Gilda and the Ibérico and Comté ‘bikini’ are two excellent ways to get started, but you simply cannot go wrong here.
A Cava or cocktail sundowner at the Corner House rooftop bar finishes off a perfect day that will leave you feeling you did so much more than the hours allowed.
Your Barcelona address book: Where to stay, eat and shop
At the very hub of the city on Plaça de Catalunya the chic and modern Metropolitan offers a range of elegant rooms from basic to grand deluxe, with breakfast and cocktail bars, and a rooftop terrace and swimming pool.
This trendsetting hotel on the edge of the Eixample is well placed for exploring the neighbourhood and beyond. You’ll find comfortable rooms and spacious common areas including restaurants, a wellness spa, a rooftop terrace and swimming pool and a grand lobby with open views to the city.
Chic&Basic Born Boutique
Smart and stylish hotel combining old and new inside an old palace. Situated in the vibrant El Born neighbourhood between the Ciutadella Park and the Gothic quarter, putting the essential Barcelona right outside your front door.
The experimental tasting menus developed by alumni of El Bulli emphasise Mediterranean seafood in an airy, upscale dining room inspired by Barcelona modernism and Catalan fishing villages.
The more informal sister restaurant to Jordi Vilà’s Michelin-starred Alkimia. The typically Catalan à la carte menu, featuring both tapas and full plates for sharing, highlights quality local products.
Quimet & Quimet
If you haven’t been to Q&Q have you really been to Barcelona? Many would say no, and this charming family-run spot is worth seeking out for lunch or early evening snacks. With over 500 wine references and friendly service, it’s truly a local treasure.
Markets & Shops
Sant Antoni Market
Built in 1879 on the site of an already-existing open air market, the distinctive cast iron structure of the Sant Antoni Market is one of the most notable in Barcelona. Inside the main building you can still find all the typical produce of a Spanish market but from 2007 the market underwent extensive reforms. The addition of external marquee galleries provided a permanent home for houseware, textiles, collectibles and the famous second hand book stalls, and it’s now one of the busiest and most popular markets in the city.
Vila Viniteca, celebrating its 90 year anniversary this year, is an El Born institution comprising the original gourmet food shop (Carrer dels Agullers 7), an impressive wine store across the street and their renowned wine bar, La Vinya del Senyor, around the corner in Plaça de Santa Marina.
How to get to Barcelona
There are frequent flights to Barcelona from various destinations in Europe. Regular train and bus services are available for visiting the vineyards in Penedès and Alella.