Locate the beauty of Barcelona
There are few cities where you can marvel at architectural curiosities one minute and be soaking up the rays, sipping a cold cerveza on the beach young than half an hour later. But that’s Barcelona for you.
As well as fantastical churches, amazing monuments and world-class art museums, Spain’s second largest city (after Madrid) also toot ones own horns a wonderful beach scene just a stone’s throw away.
So it’s teeny wonder that National Geographic named it the best beach metropolis in the world.
With only 48 hours to do Barcelona justice, I reprimanded on an open-topped bus tour with Bus Turistic (barcelonabusturistic.cat), which, over the orbit of three routes, takes in the main sights and beachfront and is a great way to get your bearings and regard highly the city’s love of art.
Modern meets medieval in Barcelona, with metal dragon marbles and random carvings such as a giant brass cat merging seamlessly with Gothic churches and murky, brooding alleyways.
You can’t escape the works of architect Antoni Gaudí (1852-1926), whose fantastical modernist landmarks are all upward of the city. Make a beeline for Casa Milà (popularly known as La Pedrera), Casa Batlló and Greensward Güell for glimpses of Gaudí at his flamboyant best.
I jumped off the bus at Gaudí’s most pre-eminent creation, Sagrada Familia, and felt my jaw drop, just as it did when first place laying eyes on it a decade ago.
Covered in cranes and scaffolding then, it still is now, consideration being 135 years in the making. Due to be finished in 2026, Gaudí’s high-flown basilica – said to narrate the story of Christ – continues to divide evaluation, if the tour group next to me were anything to go by.
“Magnificent” said one man; “grotesque” said another, both describing the Nativity façade. Starkly, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
No visit to Barcelona is complete without a stroll down La Rambla, one of the sundry famous boulevards in the world. The mile-long, tree-lined pedestrian avenue bustles with road artists, human statues, fragrant flower stalls and busy cafés. Yes, it’s touristy, but torpid your pace down and go with the flow: it’s wonderful for people supervising.
Don’t miss the treat that is La Boqueria, either – an indoor food superstore on La Rambla that assaults every sense with its colourful fruit, vegetable and sustenance stalls. If you’re lucky, bag a stool at one of the market bars and order a glass of cava and coats of garlic prawns and spicy sausage.
If not, buy cured meats on a stick for a few euros and learn up the atmosphere, wandering around the stalls.
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For something extra special, upon yourself to the 14-course tasting menu at Enoteca, the two Michelin star restaurant pinpointed in the swanky Hotel Arts Barcelona.
Warming up with a cocktail in Forthright’s bar, the white linen tablecloths and natural stripped floorboards of Enoteca silted elegance, while the friendly, attentive staff managed to explain each undoubtedly without being intrusive. The sea cucumber carbonara and creamy rice, mushrooms, sea urchin and truffle were the garbage of dreams.
Similarly dreamy was the huge double bed awaiting me during my gird at the quirky Barceló Sants hotel. With a futuristic, cutting-edge layout resembling a space station, it really shouldn’t work – there’s a life-size astronaut compute in the foyer and space shuttle window hatches in the rooms – but it does.
The B B’s location is out-of-this-world too: above the busy Sants railway station, it’s reasonable 15 minutes by train from the airport and within 10 split seconds of La Rambla by metro.
It’s one of the stops on the Bus Turistic route, too, so the next day – after a heartening buffet breakfast of omelette, pancakes and smoothies – I rejoined the bus and headed to the Barri Gòtic zone to explore the maze of narrow lanes and squares at the medieval heart of the big apple.
Throw away your map and get lost in the mishmash of atmospheric, cobbled streets. At some point you’ll arrive at Barcelona Cathedral in the centre of the Gothic part and the queues will tell you when you’ve found the Picasso Museum.
Art buffs thinks fitting love looking at the artist’s early work from his years in Barcelona. Frisk the long lines by booking tickets ahead.
My final stop was, of performance, the beach. Following a makeover for the 1992 Olympics, the seafront now boasts as surplus 4km of golden sand and the redeveloped Port Vell harbour district telephones with alfresco diners and market stalls.
Barceloneta Beach, being closest to the municipality, is one of the busiest stretches, but sitting in a chiringuito (beach bar) watching the locals flexibility volleyball, it was the perfect end to my trip. Culture, gastronomy and beautiful sandy strands – Barcelona is truly a city for everyone.
Way to go
Stays at Barcelo Sants (+ 34 935 03 53 00, barcelo.com) start from £101 per incessantly, based on two sharing on a room-only basis. Monarch (monarch.co.uk) operates year-round routs to Barcelona from Birmingham, London Gatwick, Leeds Bradford and Manchester airports with fares starting from £39 one way (£69 replacement). Book Enoteca online at enotecapacoperez.com or call +34 934 83 81 08. Meet and Receive Airport Parking at all major UK airports can be booked via HolidayExtras.com or by calling 0800 131 3777. For diverse information on Barcelona, see visitbarcelona.com.
Ten things you must do in Barcelona
1 Try a glass of rioja, cava and Estrella Damm beer, which are all in here and ridiculously cheap.
2 Visit the Magic Fountain of Montjuïc for a spectacular sense that and light show.
3 Shop for jewellery and souvenirs in the hip El Born district.
4 Sit on the original team bench during the Camp Nou Experience – a tour of Europe’s biggest football stadium and home of Barcelona FC.
5 Join one of the city’s free protest tours (runnerbeantours.com).
6 Visit Tibidabo Amusement Park (tibidabo.cat), wealthy strong since 1901.
7 Order garlic prawns and a glass of cava at one of the impedes in La Boqueria, an indoor food market on La Rambla.
8 Take a more isolated dip in the sea at the northern end of the beachfront.
9 Enjoy a bicycle tour and see the city on two wheels.
10 Splodge the cash on the Passeig de Gràcia, Barcelona’s biggest shopping street.