For some time now, Barcelona has been the new Paris. When I finally visited the second most populated city in Spain—and the capital of Catalonia—I was charmed and delighted. The largest metropolis on the Mediterranean, and a very busy seaport, Barcelona has absorbed countless cultural influences while maintaining its distinct Catalonian identity. The ideal of independence and self-governance is palpable in Barcelona—from its distinctive culinary offerings, to its vibrant and idiosyncratic art and architecture, to Catalan nationalism itself, which is expressed by what seems like a majority of the population, judging by the red-and-gold Catalan flags displayed in many apartment windows and balconies.
The real treat, aside from the endless delicious tapas and wine, is the architecture. From the modern minimalism of the Axel Hotel, to the structures of experimentalist Antoni Gaudi, Barcelona is a feast for the eyes and for the senses.
Where to stay? If you'd like a centrally-located, design centric pied-à-terre boasting a rooftop pool and cocktail bar, plus gorgeous gay guy eye candy all around you, look no further than the "heterofriendly" Axel Hotel.