Because Barcelona is such a metropolitan, exciting and architecturally rich place it's easy to forget sometimes that it's also a seaside resort. Close to hand you have an array of extraordinary, palate-pleasing restaurants full of local specialities, bursting with flavour and world-leading molecular gastronomic experimentation. Throw in the vibrant nightlife of the city's buzzing jazz and flamenco drenched clubs and mural-covered taverns, a trip from Roman era through medieval in the shape of the city's varied buildings and caverns, and the added bonus of sea and sand and you've got a single city which contains the best elements of countless others.
Things to see
The largely pedestrianised Las Ramblas is at the heart of Barcelona. As you wander along this kilometre or so of road you'll encounter street performers frozen like statues, and you may even unwittingly walk over the work of the great artist Miro in the shape of some stunning mosaics. There are dazzling illustrations and ornamentations on a huge number of the buildings, so keep your eyes peeled. You'll mostly be drawn here for shops, restaurants and other attractions, such as the quirky Wax Museum. Placa de Catalunya is a huge, vibrant square, filled with sculptures of goddesses and former presidents, as well as plenty of benches perfect for catching your breath. Just as Barcelona is a city of changes, one of its most iconic buildings, the Sagrada Familia, is in flux – having been started by famed architect Gaudi in 1882 it's yet to be completed, but what is here is an irregular masterpiece of Gothic and Art Nouveau.
Hotels in Barcelona
There's no shortage of luxury on offer among the high-end hotels in Barcelona, and while you'll find complimentary WiFi and flat-screen televisions across the board, you can also expect to find on-site saunas, fitness centers and in many cases outdoor swimming pools. As well as purpose-built luxury resorts, Barcelona's elite accommodation is varied, with turn of the century Modernist mansions competing for business against hillside townhouses. Location is key, too, with some of the pricier places not only pampering their guests, but nestling next to the city's most recognisable landmarks, such as the Botanical Gardens or the shops and restaurants of Las Ramblas.
Where to stay
The old town, or Ciutat Vella, is a living, breathing relic and wandering along its narrow medieval lanes gives you a sense of the history of the city while exposing you to the thriving cultural heart and exciting smells and sounds of Las Ramblas and its cafes, bars and restaurants. Thronged with people, especially in summer, this is the heart of the city. To the west of the Ciutat Vella is the Gothic Quarter, full of medieval courtyards, Roman remains and even the old ghetto, and its fascinating architecture make it a tourist hotspot. Eixample is the modern to the old town's medieval, with several Gaudi treasures among its grid-patterned streets.
How to get to
The entry point for most visitors to Barcelona will be Barcelona International Airport, which is around 14 kilometres away from the center of the city. There are a number of options for getting into the heart of town, with an Aerobus shuttle service running every 5 minutes and taking around 30 minutes depending on traffic. There is also a regular, and inexpensive, train service running from the airport into the city. While in Barcelona itself, you'll be able to wander around very easily on foot, as much of the center of town is pedestrianized, but a regular bus and tram service also serves the city.