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DAY 1: BARRI G?TIC AND LA RAMBLA
Start your day with a cortado at your local caf?, and head down to the Pla?a de Catalunya, the nerve center of Barcelona and home to Barcelona's biggest shopping venues. El Corte Ingl?s is Spain's mega-market, peddling everything from clothes to CDs and books to groceries. There is even a travel agent on hand! Nearby Zara is Spain's answer to the Gap.
If you aren't carrying too many bags, visit the Palau de la M?sica Catalana (C/ Sant Francesc de Paula, 2; +34-93-295-72-00), just down from the Pla?a, for a tour of the Modernist masterpiece. The music hall's inverted stained-glass dome is not to be missed. Advance tickets are required; buy them at the box office or check with your conci?rge. For lunch, enjoy classic Catalan dishes at the nearby Els Quatre Gats (Carrer Montsi? 3 bis; +34-93-302-4140; entr?es: 13-25 EUR), a beautifully restored Modernist caf? best known as the venue of Picasso's first art show in 1900.
After lunch, head back to the hotel for a siesta -- nothing's open in the mid-afternoon anyway. Once refreshed, it's back to the Pla?a de Catalunya for a relaxing stroll down the famous La Rambla, the tree-lined boulevard that carves a jagged line through the heart of Barcelona and is the lifeblood of the city. Admire the various street vendors selling everything from books to birds, but keep a watchful eye open -- La Rambla is infamous for pickpockets and gypsies. The Rambla's open-air caf?s can be a nice place to stop and people-watch, but the food is generally overpriced and mediocre. Note the Canaletes Fountain (a drink ensures you'll return to Barcelona), the teeming Boquer?a food market, and the Mir?-designed pavement.
Take a detour through the twisty streets of the Barri G?tic and poke your head into the Cathedral (Avinguda Catedral; +34-93-315-1554), in all its gothic splendor. Continue meandering through the Barri G?tic and on to the adjacent Borne district, full of galleries, shops and funky restaurants. This is Barcelona's answer to SoHo in New York. Again, be careful of pickpockets.
At 8 p.m., head to Punto BCN (C/ Muntaner 63; +34-93-453-6123) to meet up with friends or make new ones. Locals gather here to form their plans for the night ahead. Barcelonans, like most Spaniards, dine late; get to a restaurant before 10 p.m., and you're likely to be the only one there. Caf? Miranda (C/ Casanova 30; +34-93-453-5249; prix-fixe 25 EUR, evening only) is the hottest place in town for a chic gay/lesbian crowd. Campy fake leopard skin, palm trees, bare branches with twinkling lights set the tone; and -- did we forget to mention? -- the food's great, too.
Barcelona's nightlife doesn't get rolling until after midnight and goes well into the wee hours. Again, Punto BCN is always hopping, and a good launching pad for any night's activities. For dancing, gay Barcelona is dominated by the Grupo Arena (+34-93-487-8342), a chain of clubs, with the flagship Arena Classic (C/ Diputaci? 233), which has a policy of solo m?sica petarda (only steamy pounding tunes) and block-long lines to get in. During the summer months, the nightlife may be a little slower in town on the weekends, as droves of people take the train out to nearby Sitges, which was an artist's colony in the 19th century and is now a popular gay destination in the summer. It's here you can party all night and then take the 5 a.m. train back into town on Monday.