Barcelona, the basics
The picturesque city of Barcelona effortlessly blends modern sophistication with old-world charm. A city of visual splendour, its streets offer a glimpse of medieval history in its Gothic quarter, and the buildings reflect the stunning Art Nouveau designs of Gaudi and his peers.
For a scenic tour of the city, ride the cable car up Montjuic or take the funicular up to Tibidabo. Marvel at the skyline that showcases Antoni Gaudi's most famous work. See the unfinished church of the Sagrada Familia, and Barcelona's massive Gothic cathedral. The city's main attractions also include museums that exhibit large collections of paintings by Picasso and Miro.
Barcelona is also famous for its shopping, and the many boutiques and markets are true to the city's sophisticated style. Evenings are always festive with numerous restaurants and bars that serve dinner anytime until midnight, and people always find themselves enjoying the city just before the sun rises again.
Barcelona serves as the commercial centre between the Costa Brava in the northern seafront of Spain, and the Costa Dorada in the South. Popular resorts line the nearby coast, many of which still reflect their old-world mystique.
Barcelona, getting there & around
There are over a dozen flights everyday departing for Spain from Gatwick and Heathrow airports in London. There are also flights from Birmingham and Manchester. Around 7 flights per day arrive at Madrid from London, and 6 flights go to Barcelona. The trip usually takes two and a half hours. From Madrid or Barcelona, there are flights via Iberia to Costa del Sol or Seville. A good deal can usually be had for flights from the UK that require a Saturday night stopover.
Another good option for getting to Spain from Europe is by train, particularly if you use a Eurailpass, and it is still an economical choice even if you don't use one. If you're arriving from France or Britain, make sure to have couchette and sleeper reservations in advance. Book early, especially if you're travelling during the summer season when many tourists arrive.
The public transport system of Barcelona is superb. It includes the metro, trains, funiculars, cable cars and buses. All tickets are transferable inside the system, except for the night buses. A single ticket is €1, and cheaper multi-ride passes are also sold. These include tickets good for up to 10 rides, as well as passes good for either 3 or 5 days at a time. There is also the Barcelona Card which adds perks such as discounts on certain tourist destinations, shops, restaurants, and entertainment.
The Metro is the fastest mode of transport, although it can get crowded during rush hour. Buses service the whole city, and it's easy to find where you have to go if you have a transport map. From 10pm to 4am you can take a ride on the night bus. Bus Turistic offers hop-on hop-off tours during the summer months, and is a great way of seeing many popular spots in one go. Taxis can be found almost anywhere and offer convenience when traveling at night. Just be sure to get your receipt; extra charges are sometimes applied to your fare. For day trips in areas surrounding the city, hiring a car is a viable option. Otherwise, it is mostly unnecessary for going around the city where it's far more efficient and economical to use public transport.
Barcelona, main attractions
Barcelona, Las Ramblas
Las Ramblas has the reputation of being one of Europe's most famous streets, with it's vast boulevard lined with trees. It is actually a long uninterrupted stretch that serves as a pedestrian thoroughfare, and it has five different names as it goes from the Placa Catalunya to the city's port, across the Barri Gotic, or Barcelona's so-called "old city".
Shops and restaurants line the street, and both people are always strolling the pavement, revelling in the sights and sounds. As you walk around don't forget to spot the attractions on your way, such as the charming Placa Reial square and the Guell Palace designed by Gaudi in the beginning of his career.
Barcelona, Guell Park
Barcelona owes much of its distinctive architecture to its famed son, Antoni Gaudi. The renowned architect's most enduring creation is the splendid Parc Guell. The gardens of the park are found on Camel Hill and features a breathtaking view of the city. It was initially designed to be a garden city suburb, but it was turned into a recreational park open to the public instead. Two houses were completed however, and they are part of the park today.
Many examples of Gaudi's work can be found in the gardens. A mosaic-filled plaza, columns, and flights of stairs decorate the premises. Gaudi and his niece once lived in the house by the entrance-a pink house straight out of a storybook. Today the house is a museum where décor, portraits, drawings and furniture by Gaudi are displayed.
Transport: Bus 24, 25, 31, or 74. Metro stop “Lesseps” Green line. On leaving the metro follow the street signposts for the park.
Barcelona, La Sagrada Família
The unfinished Church of the Holy Family, or the La Sagrada Familia, is one of Barcelona's strangest landmarks. Designed by the Antoni Gaudi, construction began in 1882 but to this day it remains unfinished and it attracts both admiration and controversy.
Gaudi worked on the church until his death in 1926. Considered his masterpiece, the building reflects his distinctive Art Nouveau style. Work has resumed on and off since then, but the designer did not leave any plans regarding its completion so the continued work that took place was notably inconsistent.
Address: Located in the Eixample neighborhood
Around 6 kilometers northwest from the city is Tibidabo, a wooded hill that beautifully serves as a backdrop to Barcelona. You can reach Tibidabo via funicular, and during weekends many locals go there to enjoy the Parc d' Atraccions, an amusement park that features exciting rides and a famous house of horrors.
You can also find the Torre de Collserola here, a telecommunications tower which offers a stunning view from an observation deck 115 metres high. A giant Christ statue was also built here, along with the Temple del Sagrat Cor. Visitors can ride a lift that takes them to a viewing platform on the rooftop.
Eating in Barcelona
Dining in the city is a delight, and there are many inexpensive places to go to. If you count the tapas bars with the restaurants, you can have as many as eight choices on a single block, all serving delicious local food.
Reservations are rarely necessary, unless you want to make plans to dine at a very popular and expensive place.
Barri Gotic is known for its affordable meals, and there are also many low-cost places worth checking out around the Carrer de Montcada where the Picasso museum is located. Eating at the Eixample may cost a bit more, and the atmosphere is usually less casual and not as relaxed.
If you are on a quest for a fine culinary experience however, Barcelona also has some of the best that Europe has to offer, with many excellent first-class restaurants that serve some of the region's best cuisine.
The diverse flavour of Catalan reaches its high point in Barcelona, and the city has some of the freshest seafood around. But Barcelona goes beyond Catalan dishes, as the city's cuisine enjoys a heritage of influences from all over Spain, including Andalusia and Castile. Some fine restaurants also feature French dishes, owing to the city's proximity to France.