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Barcelona, the northern Spanish city is known for its openness towards the LGBT community. Of course this includes the compulsory nighttime fun at bars and clubs, daytime chilling at the (gay and nudist) beaches, but this is uniquely entwined with architecture, art and history. At Vada Magazine, we bring together our top picks for accommodation, architecture, culture and fun in this travel guide to Barcelona.
Visiting and getting around Barcelona
For sun lovers the summer season runs May to October. Travel inside this timeframe is necessary to enjoy the beaches and outdoor parties (e.g. circuit), for those wanting to enjoy a cultural experience too, most attractions are open year-round.
Whilst this travel guide is published in the midst of a debate around the political future of Catalonia, Barcelona is the nucleus of last-minute demonstrations. We have witnessed these first hand at Vada Magazine, we have also managed to steer clear of any protestors and still enjoy a trip to Barcelona and all the activities within this travel guide. The UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office provides advice for those concerned about imminent travel to Barcelona.
Barcelona has a very reliable public transport system – a mixture of underground, train and bus. This can get busy but trains and the underground are all air-conditioned. Carnets of 10 single journey tickets can be bought for just over 9€ or there is the option of day travel cards from 2 to 5 days, which include metro travel to and from the airport.
Where to stay
Axel Hotel Barcelona
Barcelona boasts a range of accommodation for travellers, and there are a surprising number of LGBT-friendly options. The most well-known of which is the Axel Hotel brand. Their main Barcelona property, Axel Hotel Barcelona is in the Eixample (‘Gayxample’) district (there is another nearby by the name ‘Axel Two’). Axel is close to many of the gay bars and clubs of Barcelona. The property has 105 rooms, many of which have showers separated from the bathroom with a glass wall (for those who like to watch their partners), and hotel also provides three tags to hang on your door. As well well as the usual two (Privacy, and Please Clean), there is a third ‘D’ for ‘please disturb’ for those who would like some after-hours mischief. The top floor houses an intimate outdoor pool, jacuzzi and Sky Bar – more details below.
Axel Hotel Barcelona is located at: Aribau 33, 08011, Barcelona.
Full details and bookings can be made at axelhotels.com.
We recently stayed at Granados 83 hotel, the full review for which can be read here. A four-star boutique hotel that is also located in the Eixample district, only a couple of blocks from Axel Hotel. It is therefore well located for those wanting to go to the LGBT bars and clubs fo Barcelona as well hit the shopping street of Passeig de Gràcia and the Gaudi buildings on the same street. While not specifically marketed as an LGBT-friendly, we found the service friendly and open to a gay couple. The upmarket touches (for example amenities from The White Company), options of semi-private pools and competitive price point means affordable luxury for guest who want something a little more intimate.
Granados 83 is located at Carrer d’Enric Granados 83, 08008, Barcelona.
Full details and bookings can be made at hotelgranados83.com.
W Hotel Barcelona is perhaps the most well known hotel in the city given its architecture and prominent location standing proud on the shoreline. This popular residence has 473 rooms and suites, an onsite spa, 26th-floor bar and large outdoor pool with private cabanas available to rent. No surprise therefore of it’s popularity with LGBT travellers and other tourists generally. Those looking to party may want to try out one of the club nights at Eclipse.
W Hotel is located at Placa de la Rosa dels Vents 1, Final Passeig de Joan de Borbo, 08039, Barcelona.
Full details and bookings can be made at w-barcelona.com.
Acevi Villarroel Hotel
Back in the gayxample district, just a couple of blocks from saunas and gay bars, is Acevi Villarroel Hotel. The minimalist décor reflects the quieter atmosphere of this hotel, which may be suited to those looking for more relaxation than partying. Acevi Villarroel Hotel has a small gym, spa and outdoor pool open in the summer. Access to the Kunu’u Spa is available from 10€ for guests bookings made via the hotel website.
Acevi Villarroel Hotel is located at Villarroel 106, 08011, Barcelona.
Full details and bookings can be made at acevivillarroelbarcelona.com.
Hilton Diagonal Mar Barcelona
This upscale Hilton brand has a hotel slightly out of the city centre, in the north-east business district of Barcelona. This is nonetheless very well-connected by public transport, which gets you to the tourist areas within 20 – 30 minutes. The benefit of Diagonal Mar’s location though is its proximity to Playa de la Mar Bella – the gay beach. It is a a 5 minute walk from its nearest beach and a further 10 minutes’ walk to Playa de la Mar Bella. If the beach is your focus for Barcelona, then this hotel is the best choice. Rooms are the typical modern Hilton design, and some (including our Executive Room) have views over the ocean, so are perfect to watch sunrise. During the summer months, Hilton Diagonal Mar operates the extensive Purobeach pool and terrace.
Hilton Diagonal Mar is located at Passeig del Taulat 262-264, 08019, Barcelona.
Full details and bookings can be made at hilton.com.
Art, Architecture and Culture
Antoni Gaudi is a part of the fabric of Barcelona, to the extent where not visiting or taking time to appreciate it is quite simply sacrilege. In the Eixample district, both the La Pedrera (20€50) and Casa Batlló (23€50) apartment blocks are available for tourists to visits, to explore both Gaudi’s stained glass and wrought iron exteriors, interiors and custom-designed furniture. Gaudi’s distinctive style is heavily influenced by nature, religion with a flair for fantasy. The Gaudi Experience 4D (9€) is a fun (albeit child-focussed) way to discover how he may have imagined his buildings into life. This 4D experience is en route to Park Guell (advance booking is compulsory) an is the place to go for the iconic selfie of Barcelona architecture.
Architecture fans should also take time to admire and wander around Gaudi’s Sagradia familia. This truly breathtaking building is mid-construction (having started in 1882 and planned to complete in 2026).
Barcelona Bus turistic (28€) is a hop on-hop off affair with three routes across Barcelona. We took one route at the start of our trip to get our bearings of the city and pick out things we wanted to come back to see. This bus tour would also suit those at the end of a trip to knit together the pieces of where they have explored.
For foodies, or anyone who just wants to try some real spanish Jamon, the Jamon Experience (19€) is an hour-long and starts with an interactive audio-visual walk through of the production of Jamon followed by a tasting session. The venue is located about a 10 minute walk from the tourist-centric Catalunya Place and very close by Boqueria food Market.
For those wanting to get on the water, Las Golondrinas Boat Cruise (15€) offers a ninety minute tour up and down the coast of Barcelona. Whilst it was pleasant enough to be on the water and get some views of the city, for those looking for a more LGBT-focussed boat tour, we suggest the Rainbow Barcelona private yacht adventure, ideally booked for a group.
For all the priced activities, we used an all-in-one city card, Barcelona Pass, which is bought in advance and can save money rather than paying for attractions individually. We did squeeze in a lot of activities into the two days our pass was valid, and this did offer a saving, but depends on chosen activities. A two-day adult pass is priced at €109 with three-day passes also available, as well as the option to purchase a travel card. For a full list of attractions that are included within the pass, visit the Barcelona Pass website (www.barcelonapass.com).
Drink, party and chill
Last but very much not least in our travel guide to Barcelona, we look at where LGBT visitors can have fun, and by that we mean enjoy a drink, party and chill.
Any evening should at least start at, if not contain a visit to Sky Bar in Axel Hotel. Arrive about midnight, just as the party is getting started, and on weekend nights expect fabulous drag queens or go-go dancers providing interactive entertainment. Other bars that should be visited include Punto (owned by the same group who operate Arena club, below), which usually gets busier a little earlier and popular with LGBT tourists. Bacon Bear Bar is an ideal choice for bears and their admirers, whilst Atame typically has a younger crowd.
Clubbing is a big part of the Barcelona LGBT scene, so there is a good choice depending on preferred genre of music, atmosphere etc. For all kinds of pop, Ultrapop party is held every Saturday night at Safari nightclub. Sunday nights are Queens night at Arena Madre – one of the biggest clubs in town, so don’t forget your tiara. The popular Metro club offers many interactive shows depending on the night of the week and has a dark room and cruising area.
If cruising is crucial, Berlin Dark and BoyBerry are both good choices. Our preferred Sauna of choice is the small but popular Sauna Casanova.
After all that partying, the place to catch up on some rest and get a top up of Vitamin D is the nudist beach Playa de la Mar Bella, known as being the gay beach of Barcelona. There is a bar (Chiringuito BeGay), toilets and even WiFi available, and we noted a bit of shrub and a wooded park next to the beach… Barceloneta beach (close to the W Hotel) is another popular choice with LGBT sunbathers.