Parties, tapas and incredible architecture – Barcelona’s magic is just waiting to be discovered. Whatever your tastes, Barcelona won’t disappoint, with its beautifully adorned buildings and bustling, laid-back streets baking in the heat of the Iberian sun. Barcelona is one of the few cities that is equally perfect for a city break or a longer holiday. Whether you are with friends, family or a loved one, you are unlikely to be immune this colourful city’s irresistible charms.
Enjoy a Plata del Dia in Las Ramblas
Barcelona isn’t short of appealing restaurants, from low-key bistros to fine dining. For a real flavour of Barcelona, head to Las Ramblas, which is a true dining experience. The half-mile-long, tree-lined pedestrian walkway connects the central Placa de Catalunya with the Christopher Columbus Monument at Port Vell. There are plenty of shops and boutiques, but for gourmands, the real draw is the broad choice of cafes and restaurants, whose tables spill out onto the pavement to create a party-like atmosphere. The Plata del Dia (menu of the day) tends to be relatively simple, authentic fare, and usually comes with your choice of beer, soft drink or wine. It is undoubtedly the best way to soak up the ambience of the city and it is not difficult to while away several hours eating, chatting, people watching and enjoying a carafe of wine (or two).
Climb the Familia Sagrada
Don’t be put off by the scaffolding; if you do only one thing on your trip to Barcelona, you should see La Sagrada Familia. Much of Barcelona’s glorious skyline has been shaped by the vision of Antoni Gaudi, but La Sagrada Familia was his obsession. Gaudi was commissioned to build a temple to atone for the city’s “sin of modernity” – this was to become his holy mission and one of the crowning glories of his career. His vision was of a 60-metre by 95-metre temple, which would seat 13,000 people and soar over the city, its 170-metre high central tower representing Jesus Christ, and serving as a reminder to the citizens of Barcelona to repent of their sins. The vision was truly remarkable and as the funds dwindled, Gaudi contributed his own. More than a century later, the cathedral is still under construction. It is a testimony to not just Gaudi’s, but his city’s, commitment. Completion is predicted any time between 2020 and 2050, but don’t wait until then; even in its unfinished states, it is one of the beautiful buildings in the world.
Explore Park Güell
Gaudi’s stamp is all over Barcelona and, in the early 1900s, he turned his hand from architecture to landscape gardening. Here, he let his dislike of straight lines run free, exploring natural curves and undulating patterns in sculptures that seem to grow from the ground itself. Gaudi’s passion for natural forms manifests itself in mosaiced dragons, arching steps and the soaring, tree-like columns of Sala Hipostila, or the Doric Temple. Here, a forest of 88 stone columns tower above the ground, complete with a stone canopy and harnessing the immense beauty of nature to such an extent that it is almost possible to forget that the structures are manmade. The walk up to and around the park can be hard work, particularly in warmer weather, so take plenty of water so that you can relax, take in the incredible views over Barcelona, and enjoy the unearthly tranquillity of this exquisite space. Only a certain number of people are allowed into the park every half hour, so book your time slot online to avoid disappointment.
Enjoy a Cocktail on the Beach
As far as European beach cities go, Barcelona has got it just right. Somehow, on the beach, it is possible to escape entirely from the hustle and bustle of city live, soak up some rays and relax on a clean beach before dipping in crystal waters. There are few better ways to end a day sightseeing in Barcelona that with an ice-cold cocktail in one of the many beach bars (Chiringuitos) and restaurants that line the boardwalk. As the sun goes down and sun worshippers retreat to their homes and hotels, the beach seems to take on a somnambulant, expectant air; an hour of complete relaxation between the hubbub of daytime beach visitors and the festival atmosphere of Barcelona at night.
Dance the Night Away at Placa Reial
By day, Placa Reial is a tranquil plaza lined with sleepy shops and cafes. At night, however, the square explodes with life. Locals and holidaymakers of all ages flood to the plaza to eat, drink and dance through the night. After you have enjoyed a meal from one of the many authentic restaurants, you can take your pick of nightclubs: strains of music from live bands, indie rock, dance classics and hip-hop float out of dusky doors, enticing you in. If night clubs aren’t your thing, don’t worry; there are often open-air performances from traditional bands, complete with Flamenco dancers. At least one night of your Barcelona tour should be spent soaking up the atmosphere and observing the huge variety of people and cultures that converge in the plaza to relax, chat and dance.
Barcelona is a multi-faceted city. There are so many things to see and do, so much to explore and taste. Through all the different strains of life there is an underrunning theme of warmth, passion and aesthetic pleasures that turns a trip to Barcelona into a kaleidoscope of colours and flavours.