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A blend of modern design and honoured traditions, Barcelona is the vibrant capital of Catalonia in northeastern Spain. Its Mediterranean sunshine, high-quality food, unique architecture and buzzing nightlife make it one of Europe’s most popular destinations. The compact Ciutat Vella (Old City) has some of Europe’s best-preserved Gothic architecture, and Antoni Gaudi’s Art Nouveau buildings have now become icons of Barcelona.
Barcelona is a year-round destination with warm summers, cooler winters and no weather extremes.
Barcelona-El Prat Airport (BCN) is 13km southwest of the city centre.
This fiercely independent city welcomes visitors to experience its friendly atmosphere, innovative Catalan seafood and the many cultural festivals held throughout the year. Explore the ancient yet well-preserved city centre. The redeveloped waterfront offers a lovely boardwalk and several public beaches. Don’t miss Catalonia’s version of paella and the local beers.
Start your city break in Barcelona with a stroll down La Rambla, passing unique shops, florists, tapas bars, historic churches and the bustling La Boqueria food markets on your way down the long pedestrianised stretch. Make your way through the winding labyrinth of the Gothic Quarter; one of Europe’s best-preserved Roman and medieval neighbourhoods. It’s easy to get lost as you’re wandering around its narrow, cobbled streets. There’s so much to be in awe of, the architecture of stunning centuries old buildings, the open plazas and picturesque monuments. Once you’ve finished soaking up the atmosphere of this historic area, take yourself off to an outdoor café and watch the world go by.
The city of Barcelona is characterised by buildings designed by Antoni Gaudí, and you’ll find his quirky architecture dotted throughout the city. One of the top places to visit in Barcelona to see Gaudí’s work is La Sagrada Familia. This art nouveau cathedral is considered one of his most famous works due to its one-of-a-kind distinct design. The cathedral currently remains unfinished as unfortunately, Gaudí died before completing it, but the city is trying to complete the work for 2026, more than 140 years after it was started. To see more of Gaudí’s work take a tour around the three unique Gaudí houses, or visit Parc Güell and walk around its winding archways and sit along the wall of whimsical mosaics.
For when you want a brief escape from the hustle and bustle of the main city, take a nature break to Tibidabo Mountain. It’s only a 10-minute train ride from the city centre and one of the best things to do in and around Barcelona. Take the funicular and enjoy the surrounding greenery on your way up to the top or if you prefer to be a bit more active, take a gentle hike. Once you’ve arrived, you can admire the sweeping views of the city below you before taking a look around the two beautiful churches. If you’re taking the whole family, there’s an amusement park with exciting rides and fun shows to keep them occupied, as well as a handful of restaurants where you can grab a bite to eat.
You can’t have a city break in Barcelona without sampling the delicious Catalan cuisine. From the finest à la carte restaurants to pop-up street market stalls, this city takes food seriously so you can expect to easily find outlets dotted around the city. When you think of Spanish food, the first thing that usually comes to mind is the iconic seafood dish, paella, but have you tried fideuasa? It still has the delicious seafood you associate with paella, but it’s served with short noodles instead of rice. Other traditional foods you can expect to see on the menu are escudella, a Catalan stew, and Butifarra, the region’s famous spiced sausage.
One of Europe’s best party cities, Barcelona is a destination that provides every type of entertainment. Cosy up in a traditional Spanish bar or dance the night away at one of the many themed nightclubs across the city that stay open until the sun comes up. You’ll find the majority of nightlife on La Rambla but be sure to head for the twisting lanes of the Gothic Quarter. You’ll find a number of sophisticated music lounges and dance clubs here where you can enjoy traditional acoustic music sets and salsa dancing. Summer is a great time to visit Barcelona, especially as you can take advantage of the warmer evenings. Enjoy a movie in the open-air at an old fortress, a DJ set overlooking picturesque cityscapes on a rooftop terrace and a fruity cocktail in a bar sat along the seafront of Barceloneta beach.
Families: Take an art class in Gaudi’s trencadis technique and you’ll make your own mosaic of broken ceramic tiles to take home.
Art fans: At the Picasso Museum, view the works of one of the 20th century’s most influential artists.
Foodies: Tuck into some traditional Catalan seafood at a restaurant in the Gothic Quarter
Language: The languages spoken in Barcelona are Catalan and Spanish
Currency: The currency used in Barcelona is the Euro (€)
Local time: Barcelona is 1 hour ahead of GMT/UK time
Fly: Barcelona-El Prat Airport (BCN) is 13km southwest of the city centre
Flight time from UK: 2 hours
Tourist information: Further Barcelona tourist information can be found at www.turismedebarcelona.eu
Visa & Health: Before your holiday to Barcelona, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/spain for recommendations and advice on visas and health
Temperature: 10-24 °C
Spring is a beautiful time of the year to visit Barcelona. The city starts to warm up in March and is typically in the mid-teens (°C) by the end of the season. To take advantage of the beach, come during the summer, when you can expect highs of 28 and very little chance of rain. Culture-seekers will enjoy Barcelona during the autumn, when the city comes alive with music and food festivals, and the weather is still warm enough for roaming. Or book your holiday during the winter to take advantage of fewer crowds and average highs of 11.
By foot: The historic centre is compact and pedestrian-friendly.
By tourist bus: The Barcelona Bus Turistic has three hop-on/hop-off routes that stop at all the tourist sites.
By metro: The extensive metro system is efficient, affordable and air-conditioned.
By bicycle: There are many cycle hire companies, some of which also give bike tours in the city centre.
By scooter: Rent a scooter/moped, Vespa or even a Segway.
Party Animals: For three days (and three nights!) in June, Barcelona hosts Sónar, one of the world’s best dance music festivals. Tickets must be purchased well in advance.
Saintly celebrations: On 24 September, Barcelona honours its patron saint by staging live music concerts in the plazas, Catalan folk dancing, a parade and a fireworks display.
Nadal (Christmas): December’s festivities include the Fira de Santa Lucia, a large open-air market in the streets around the main cathedral. Handmade crafts and local Christmas decorations are on offer; nativity figurines are especially popular.
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