Posted on Aug 29, 2013

With KKDL’s Jill globetrotting across Europe, we celebrate one of our favorite Designer Excursions, only hoping Jill is having as much fun—it not more! In a 2010 Spanish escape with Silestone, see some of our favorite spots in one of Spain’s most brilliant cities—Barcelona!

STAY: Run by the same family who’ve lived here since 1955, Primero Primera in Barcelona has eclectic, Ralph Lauren like styling—think toffee-brown wood and leather, mid-century furniture, sepia photography–and a quiet, exclusive setting.

The property has an intimate 30 rooms, including 10 suites. Surrounded by gardens, a small gym, library, a bar and free WiFi throughout the property.

Every morning, follow the smell of freshly baked bread wafting from the snug bar area and settle in for the spread: home-made cakes, croissants, hams, fruit, cereals and the best coffee you have ever had, all made by our dear friend , Mama Suzanna. Befitting a bar-cum-breakfast room, decor is cool and casual: cowhide bar stools, cushion-strewn sofas, framed sepia photographs and bookshelves crammed with National Geographic. Breakfast is the only meal the hotel serves, giving guests all the more reason to discover the city’s tapas joints and sherry bars.

TOUR: One of the easiest ways to see the city and get your bearings is to jump onto the Barcelona City Sightseeing Hop-on Hop-off TourThis bus has two different tour routes to explore the city, the Blue Line and Red Line. A Green Line also operates from April to October. While it sounds cheesy, there really is no better way to see the major sights aboard the open-top Double-Decker bus. The tour highlights all the things to do in the city while allowing you to hop on and off at your convenience at more than 44-stops. The key sights and world famous attractions of the city are included on the tour including the work of architect Antoni Gaudi, seen throughout the city.

Its multicolored towers piercing the blue sky, La Sagrada Familia is no doubt the most iconic structure in Barcelona. The church, located in L’Eixample, has been a fixture in Barcelona since construction commenced in 1882 and as building continues on today the structure’s fame only grows. Though still a work in progress, the church already is an amazingly intricate structure. Antoni Gaudí spent 43-years on this project and, since his death in 1926, the duty to finish it has been passed on to several architects. Though the responsibility continues to change hands over the years, the architects have all respected Gaudí’s vision and have made additions with his design in mind. While most of the work has been done to the exterior, there is still much to see inside the church. Impressive stained glass windows line the main room and a lift takes visitors up one of the towers to enjoy the view. Smaller rooms hold exhibits detailing the history and future of the structure. La Sagrada Familia is projected to be completed in 2026, the 100th anniversary of Gaudi.


The Gothic Quarter is the center of the old city of Barcelona. It stretches from La Rambla to Via Laietana, and from the Mediterranean seafront to Ronda de Sant Pere. Despite several changes undergone in the 19th and early 20th century, many of the buildings date from Medieval Times, some from as far back as the Roman settlement of Barcelona. The Barri Gòtic area retains a labyrinthine street plan, perfect for shopping, bar-hopping and snacking, with many small streets opening out into squares. Most of the quarter is closed to regular traffic although open to service vehicles and taxis.


La Rambla is a live wire of energy, spilling over with people, markets, and cafes. Meander down this main artery, with a loop through La Boqueria into the Raval and back out to the Rambla, and you’ll understand the city’s twin passions for great food and gorgeous architecture, both considered vital to Barcelonians.

The Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria, often simply referred to as La Boqueria is a large public market and one of the city’s foremost tourist landmarks, with an entrance from La Rambla, not far from Barcelona’s opera house. The market has a very diverse selection of goods including paella, fresh fruits, meat and bread—truly a treat for the senses.

SHOP: One of the stars of Spanish prêt-à-porter, Adolfo Dominguez, produces classic men’s and women’s garments from quality materials. Encompassing anything from regal party gowns to kids’ outfits, the broad range generally oozes a conservative air, with elegant cuts that make no concessions to rebellious urban ideals. I think of the line as “affordable Armani”.

La Manual Alpargatera is the quintessential Barcelona outpost: it’s steeped in history {there’s a photo on the wall of faithful customer Salvador Dalí, who wore his espadrilles with his summer suits} but boasts unimpeachable street cred {Jean Paul Gaultier is currently a client}. La Manual Alpargatera is the perfect combination of an espadrille museum and a fabulous shop wrapped into one. The shop opened just after the Spanish Civil War, in the 1940’s. Over the years it has become a regular stop for the locals, they stop in every year to have their espadrilles custom made; and also for well-informed travelers {including you, we hope}.

DINE: A garden that is a restaurant, a restaurant that is a garden. A celebration of appetite and conversation, Acontraluz is a favorite restaurant for those who want to escape to dinner off the beaten path.

The restaurant mixes designer vintage pieces such as Eames chairs, collected silverware chandeliers and metal navy stools with contemporary fabrics and wall treatments. However, the garden atmosphere is the most striking, especially when paired with candlelight and wonderful service.

Our dining experience included artisan breads, burratta with tomato and pesto, vichyssoise, papperdelle with kalamata olives and seared ahi with mango chutney and micro greens–all pure perfection.

Another restaurant in the Grupo Tragaluz family is Negro-RojoLocated on the upper part of the Diagonal, in the middle of Barcelona’s business district, Negro-Rojo has two spaces clearly differentiated and with their own personality. Upstairs, Negro has international cuisine in a modern environment. Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights are extended until 2am with DJ music and drinks. Downstairs, Rojo is Japanese pub in a young environment with open kitchen and shared tables. The sushi dishes that come out of this establishment are truly magnificent.

If you are up for a dining adventure and want to experience sushi-like presentation in a Barcelonian way, Quimet y Quimet is the place for you. Quimet y Quimet is perhaps the quirkiest, but most interesting place I know of in the city—complete with a dramatic wall-o-wine. A representative of the fourth generation of the Quim family works behind the counter in a space about the size of a standard living room. The walls are lined to the ceiling with bottles and cans {mostly with wine, but also with cans of vegetables, seafood and meat}— some quite inexpensive, some unknown, some famous, too.

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