One of the city’s most famous icons is Spanish Catalan architect Anton Gaudi, whose distinctively stylised buildings and public spaces have come to define the bohemian spirit of Barcelona, some becoming landmarks and protected sites, like the iconic Park Güell. Get up close to Picasso’s early period at the Picasso Museum, permanent home to hundreds of his original works, or view the many surrealist masterpieces at the Joan Miró Foundation (Fundació Joan Miró), named after the featured artist.
Off the beaten path is Montjuïc; perched on a hill overlooking Barcelona’s harbour, it is a lush corner of the city perfect for enjoying leisurely strolls, a bracing uphill hike or scenic cable car ride. With its own cultural centres and a beautiful botanical garden, it also boasts the 1992 Olympic Stadium, a site that contributes to Barcelona’s continuing popularity.
One of the most recommended stops for any visitor to Barcelona is the famous La Rambla, an ancient tree-lined boulevard and one of the city’s favourite meeting places. Almost everything can be found along this colourful 1.2km stretch, including airy cafés, vibrant flower stalls, the famous Boqueria Market and the city’s most popular opera house, Gran Teatre del Liceu, among other things. For a taste of high fashion, featuring modern, traditional and avant-garde style, there is a collection of districts known as the Barcelona Shopping Line, including La Rambla, the Gothic Quarter, Modernista Barcelona and El Corte Inglés to name a few. Amongst these districts, and the retailers therein, you can find just about anything to suit your style.
With over 4km of coastline, finding a spot on the welcoming white sand won’t be problem. Dotted with restaurants and cafés, you’re never far from a delicious meal or a dip in the azure waters of the Mediterranean Sea. Sant Sebastià and La Barceloneta are among the preferred beaches for locals and visitors alike. For inland relaxation there are numerous parks, with varying themes from the vast, green Parc de Collserola to the small but artistic Parc de l’Estació del Nord.
Once settling down for a meal you might want to try the local fare first. Being a coastal city, seafood is a favourite of the Catalonian palate, with dishes like Fideua and Mariscada featuring mussels, shrimp and crawfish. And be sure to try sarsuela (made with fish and shellfish) and conill amb cargols (rabbit and snails), which you may find at Cinc Sentits, a local restaurant that has distinguished itself as a prime destination for enjoying authentic Catalan cuisine.
There’s always something happening in Barcelona, and the active nightlife, including clubs and live music, takes place amongst a cluster of areas, not far from one another. The Gothic District boasts tea lounges and cosy bars, while the Raval District offers a multicultural mix with a bohemian twist. Replete with a variety of dining options its collections of cafés and clubs have earned it the reputation of being the most popular district for night-time entertainment.
The city hosts an array of exciting festivals, and though they occur throughout the year, most take place during the summer months. From seasonal street festivals to international musical concerts, they take place across the city making it pulse with energy and colour. Sant Joan, a June event, is considered the biggest of the year, while in July Montjuïc de Nit is one of the more avant-garde and creative with 60 second film festivals, art exhibitions and free admittance to museums all night.
The historic buildings of the small but picturesque fishing village of Sitges have been the inspiration of many a writer and painter over the years. About 37km south of Barcelona, it is now a gathering place for the artistic and open-minded, and home to, among other events, the International Film Festival of Catalonia.
Between Tarragona and el Penedés you can sample the vintage from over 300 wineries, or enjoy the scenic coastal beauty. Further inland, and some 300 metres above sea level, is the tranquil Vall de Núria. Nestled in the Pyrenees Mountains it is a lush valley perfect for skiing, hiking or enjoying local flora and fauna. Monsterrat’s natural surroundings are ideal for quiet relaxation and reflection, and along with the choruses of Europe’s oldest children’s choir, the experience will be a memorable one.