Barcelona, Spain (and specifically the Eixample gay neighborhood) are perfect for a vacation. Restaurants, bars, transit, and more are within steps of each other and you can even walk to some of the main attractions.
Stay at the Axel Hotel and enjoy the nightly events at the Sky Bar, make new friends at breakfast, work out at the huge gym, and more. Axel is a LGBTQ hotel chain with hotels all over Europe and in Miami Beach. However, everyone (gay or straight) is welcome there. Their motto is “we are hetero friendly” and the staff is very helpful with travel tips and things to do.
Barcelona is a tropical city and a LGBTQ paradise at bargain prices. Despite its affordability, it is full of stunning architecture and well-dressed people.
With the euro close to on par with the U.S. dollar, drinks at a bar are usually an affordable five euros. You can enjoy a fancy meal with wine for under $25. Get the special five-day transit pass for just $20 that takes you to and from the airport and offers plenty of sight-seeing destinations.
The people of Barcelona are friendly, but you will have to adjust to their odd hours. Nothing is open before 9 a.m. on weekends – even for coffee. Take a nap between 2 and 5 p.m. Enjoy dinner at 8 p.m. or later. The food is great with a myriad of cuisines to choose from and the bars don’t close until 3 a.m. or later. They are indeed night owls.
What to do
Enjoy the historic but still unfinished church, La Sagrada Família. You can walk from the hotel and stop at the Gaudi house (Casa Batallo Gaudi). along the way.
Grab lunch at the St. Joseph’s marketplace, also known as La Boqueria. It has 300 food stands and is located in the historic Las Ramblas The market dates to 1840 and its origins date back to the 13th century. Try the fresh fruit juices.
Head up to the city mountain park (Parc Montjuic) for city views and enjoy the botanical garden which features Mediterranean plants from around the world. Barcelona has a Mediterranean climate similar to California, Chile, and Australia. Go to the clothing optional (and very gay) beach, Playa de la Mar Bella.
There are lots of clubs and bars in L’Eixample just steps from the hotel. Try the nearby Dmen’s, Gin Bar, the Boxer Café, and more. Dance the night away at the Safari. The bar on the 7th floor of the Axel Hotel (Sky Bar) has a rooftop balcony and events almost every night. Try the cava for just 5 euros (Champagne). They also have a bar next to the roof top pool on the 8th floor during the day. Both are a lot of fun.
What to eat
I enjoyed the empanadas, which are seemingly everywhere. The Cava (champagne) is very refreshing, as is the sangria. And of course, Barcelona is famous for its tapas. The Spanish Omelet at La Cova de La Mari (across the street from the hotel) is very good. Ask for a café colletta (coffee with milk) or have a Café Americano or a double espresso. There is no such thing as a 12-ounce cup of coffee in Spain.
American Airlines rerouted me onto Iberia Airlines by Level, a low cost budget carrier that has great food (Indian beef stew) and great service but uncomfortable seats. I spread out to sleep in the nearby unoccupied seats, since the plane was not that full. Fares are very low too. On the trip home I took American Airlines which had great service and offered free wine and beer, a delicious lunch (choice of meat balls or pasta dish) followed by British ice cream and then a pizza type sandwich. Service was great and the plane was on time. Their terminal 8 at JFK in NYC is new and very nice. However, Kennedy suffers from long TSA lines so leave plenty of time for your connection.
I also took EZJet from Barcelona to Milan. EZJet is Europe’s equivalent to Southwest Airlines or Spirit Airlines. Fares are cheap but they charge for everything and service was tolerable. We waited for 20 minutes in the jet way to board and then faced a one-hour delay due to a staffing snafu.
Take the Metro (line 9 Sud (South) from the airport and buy a five-day pass for just $20. Then take a short bus ride to the hotel. They also have street cars and buses. The pass is good on all of them.
Pick up a copy of the LGBTQ Barcelona official gay map published by the city at the airport metro station or read it on line at visitbarcelona.com. It even includes listings “bars fetish” and “cruising/dark rooms”. This is one LGBTQ-friendly city.
Pick up some Gazpacho soup or snacks at the nearby Jespac Market. They also have an Aldi close by the hotel. You can great local food to go (cheeses, yogurt, fruit, and more) for a quick and affordable bite.
Be sure to buy a converter for your cell phone charger That’s Europe is on a different electric voltage. just five Euros.
Get Euros out of an ATM. Banks don’t convert U.S. dollars. Or use your credit card for everything.
You will want to return to Barcelona and this is only a sampling of the many things to do in this great city. It’s one of the most gay-friendly cities in the world, very walkable and affordable for all.
Bill Malcolm is a syndicated travel columnist whose work has appeared in publications in Chicago, Washington, Los Angeles, Seattle, Toronto, Fort Lauderdale, Charlotte, Atlanta and Dallas, among others.