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EXCLUSIVE | Three Gay Days: Barcelona Part One

EXCLUSIVE | Three Gay Days: Barcelona Part One

Here's your must-have road map to 72 hours in one of the world's gayest destinations. Where to stay, eat, play and meet in artistic Barcelona.

Spain's second city is a cultural jewel. From the winding, medieval streets of the Barri G?tic to the sleek and sometimes surreal structures of the Eixample, Barcelona is a patchwork of old and new, classic and modern. Sitting on the Mediterranean coast, the city is home to some of the world's greatest artists and architects, and it wears their work like a badge. Picasso, Mir?, Dal? and Gaud? have all left their indelible mark on Barcelona. While it could take a lifetime to uncover all of Barcelona's cultural treasures, three days will give you an opportunity to sample many of its hidden, but innumerable charms.

The nerve center of town is Pla?a de Catalunya, which stands at the crossroads of old and new Barcelona. Below the plaza, the Barri G?tic is the medieval quarter, located just off La Rambla, a unique street that snakes its way from the plaza to the waterside Christopher Columbus monument, changing names and atmospheres several times. The Mediterranean area sprawls from the old Barceloneta quarter past the beaches and into the modern Olympic Port.

Above the Pla?a de Catalunya, the Passeig de Gr?cia leads into the Eixample ("Enlargement" -- it's pronounced e-shaum-play), an elegant late 19th-century addition to the city. The other main arteries of the Eixample include the Gran V?a de les Corts Catalanes and Avinguda Diagonal; most gay bars, restaurants and additional accommodations are clustered in the Eixample Derecho, west of Passeig de Gr?cia in the southwestern corner of the Eixample. Barcelona also has an excellent subway system (a 10-ride card offers great savings), but beware of pickpockets. There are so many taxis to be had that each driver is assigned one day in which they aren't allowed to work. However, for the most part the best way to see Barcelona in all its cultural finery is on foot.

For a sumptuous stay, the Hotel Claris (C/ Pau Claris 150; +34-93-487-6262, fax +34-93-215-7970; 150+ EUR) is a stylish, five-star "designer hotel" in the fashionable heart of the Eixample, with duplex rooms, a small health club and pool, and even a museum of Egyptian art. Hotel Balmes (C/ Mallorca 216; +93-451-1914 or 800-44-UTELL, fax +34-93-451-0049; 122+ EUR), is a three-star choice run by the same firm as the Claris, and features duplex rooms and a trademark attention to style. Aside from the more wallet-friendly pricing, the Balmes is also located in the Eixample Derecho, also known as the "Gaixample."

Hotel Astoria (C/ Paris 201; +34-93-209-8311 or 800-843-3311, fax +34-93-202-3008; 80+ EUR), another of the company's three-star properties, is more classical in style, with winding spiral stairways and lots of marble. Quiet tiled rooms look through sycamores to the street. Hotel California (C/ Rauric 14; +34-93-317-7766; 82+ EUR), used to be one of the only gay hotels in town, but now has some competition. It is located across the street from Sextienda in the Barri G?tic and is pretty basic, however that is real marble in the bathrooms. An excellent hotel option is Hotel Axel Barcelona (Calle Aribau, 33, +34-93-323-9393; singles 89+ EUR, doubles 137+ EUR) located in a restored 16th-century building. Owner Juan P. Julia Blanch opened the hotel for a gay clientele and the attention to detail shows.

A bit out of the town center, but worth it for the B & B experience is the men-only Beauty and the Beach Bed & Breakfast (Passeig Taulat, +34-93-266-0562; 85+ EUR). The property has large rooms and is only a four-minute walk from the metro station (five stops to the center of town) and a two-minute walk to Mar Bella beach.

Part One | Part Two | Part Three

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