Being one of Europe’s most creative capitals, Barcelona is brimming with beautiful architecture, art galleries and culture – and if sightseeing gets too hectic, it has beaches too.
The dining scene is world-class, without being pretentious, with fresh, local produce the main focus – and the Spanish know a thing or two about slowing down and enjoying food, conversation and stunning wines.
Antoni Gaudí’s Sagrada Família church is the most famous landmark in Spain’s second city for good reason. The interior of the iconic church is intricately designed using geometric patterns – and with columns shaped like trees and the stained glass windows filtering the light in such a way – to appear as if you’re walking into a forest.
Gaudi’s last work, the modernist La Pedrera, is now a museum and cultural centre that hosts various art exhibitions and events and the incredible Park Güell has panoramic views of the city and Gaudí sculptures, buildings and tile work.
The city is also home to some fantastic art. The Picasso Museum houses pieces by the 20th-century Spanish artist, while the Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art houses constantly changing exhibitions of Catalan, Spanish and international art and photography.
Wander down Las Ramblas – where you’ll see street performers dancing flamenco, eating fire or being human statues – and then head through the streets of the old city and its Barrio Gòtico (Gothic Quarter), to admire its narrow alleyways and intricate architecture.
Barcelona has a plenty of hotels that are bursting with personality. For boutique rooms with a story, book into Cotton House Hotel – the 19th century former Cotton Textile Foundation building retains many original frescoes, dramatic fireplaces and dark wood fittings.
For modern luxury try the Hotel Arts Barcelona. Built in time for the 1992 Olympics it is positioned on the beach and has stunning views down the coast and across the city.
Or for a taste of colonial-style accommodation with an on-site cinema try Hotel 1898 on Las Ramblas. The Boutique Bed & Breakfast on Career de Pau Claris is a good homely pick as well.
Cheese lovers shouldn’t leave Barcelona without visiting Formatgeria La Seu, the only cheese shop in Spain dedicated to Spanish and Catalan cheese. The city’s open food market Boqueria is also a must-visit where you can stand at bustling stalls and devour freshly made tapas dishes.
At the beach, Carpe Diem successfully manages to fuse Asian, Arabic, Indian and Mediterranean cuisines and is a lot of fun.
Get your traditional tapas fix with an extensive beer list at Ciudad Condal or try the innovative Colibrí.
Barcelona is a great city to walk around and you can also hire bikes. It has an easy to use and regular metro system, as well as trains and buses, but with balmy weather almost all year round we recommend walking or cycling. Taxis are reasonably priced, but like in many big cities heavy traffic can mean they aren’t much quicker than public transport.
When to go
Barcelona enjoys mild weather in the winter, so there’s never a bad time of year to go. Late spring and autumn is a little less crowded and sticky but those travelling in summer will really get to enjoy the city’s long sweeping beach.
Barcelona is a very popular tourist destination, which means the big sights can get crowded during peak season and you have to be careful of pick pockets.
The Spanish love to involve their kids in grown-up social activities, so it’s not uncommon to see children out and about with their parents late in the evenings. Kids will also love the aquarium in Port Vell, with its shark tunnel and 450 different species of sea creature.