GETTING THERE: Barcelona's international airport is accessible from European cities and New York's JFK. Delta Airlines recently quoted a 30-day-advance round-trip fare from Reagan Airport though JFK to Barcelona for $489. KLM quoted a $492 fare from Dulles with a connection in Amsterdam.

GETTING AROUND: Barcelona is a compact pedestrian city in which you can walk almost anywhere. The city also has buses, a subway and affordable taxis. A taxi ride from the airport to the center city cost us about $25; from the center city to the waterfront, about $5.

WHERE TO STAY: The chic district known as L'Eixample, in and around the Passeig de Gracia, offers the widest variety of accommodations, including famous four- and five-star palaces. Alternatives include the smart, newly renovated Hotel Condes de Barcelona (Passeig de Gracia, 73-75, 011-34-93-445-00-00, www.condesdebarcelona.com), where doubles cost about $240 per night; the ultra-hip modern Hotel Omm, with its restaurant Moo (Rossello, 265, 011-34-93-445-40-00, www.hotelomm.es), where the weekend double rate is about $265 per night; and the charming but long-in-the-tooth Hotel Granvia (Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes, 642, 011-34-93-318-19-00, www.nnhotels.es) for about $140.

In old Barcelona, try the small, designer-sleek Hotel Banys Orientals (Argenteria, 37, 011-34-93-268-84-60, www.hotelbanysorientals.com), where the double rate runs about $115.

TAPAS BARS: In L'Eixample you can't do much better than the upscale Cerveseria Catalana (Mallorca, 236) for fresh seafood and other tapas. A satisfying lunch with beer cost us about $37 for two. It's open daily from 6 a.m. to 1:30 a.m.

Just off La Rambla in the main market, don't miss the counter of Bar Pinotxo (Mercat de la Boqueria, stalls 66-67), open for breakfast and lunch (till 4 p.m.) every day except Sunday. Figure about $20 per person for lunch with wine.

In old Barcelona's La Ribera quarter, El Xampanyet (Montcada, 22) is a family classic to start the evening. A couple of glasses of wine and a few tapas, including the signature anchovies, cost about $12. A few steps away, find a taste of the Basque country in the yuppified Euskal Etxea (Placeta Montcada, 1-3), where tapas on the bar run about $1.75 to $2.90. Or try a huge selection of Spanish wines at the (somewhat pretentious) La Vinya del Senyor (Placa Santa Maria, 5), where tapas, including foie gras and local cheeses, run from about $1.50 to $12 and a list of daily wine selections ranges from about $2 to $6.50 a glass.

Near the waterfront, in the shadow of the Catalan Governor's Palace, Estrella de Plata (Pla de Palau, 13offers gastronomic fusion tapas like "Ox Tenderloin and Roquefort Crunch." A full dinner cost us about $60, without wine.

INFORMATION: Barcelona Tourism, www.barcelonaturisme.com.

-- Robert V. Camuto