Barcelona, the cosmopolitan capital of Catalonia acts like an open-air gallery on the Mediterranean coast and having visited the city twice, it is one of Jacob White’s favourite international destinations. Here, he explains why…
Chimneys on the roof of Casa Mila (La Pedrera), on the Passeig the Gracia, designed by Antoni Gaudi, Barcelona, Spain © Rick Ligthelm
Despite two millennia of history Barcelona is one of Europe’s coolest and often ranked must-see places. It’s a forward-thinking place, always on the cutting edge of art, design and cuisine, hence it’s duly renowned for being an important hub of art, architecture and design in Spain.
Whether you explore Barcelona’s palaces and plazas, gawk at the Modernist masterpieces, shop for designer clothes along its bustling boulevards, sample its exciting nightlife or just soak up the sun on the super long city beach, you’ll find it hard not to fall in love with this vibrant city.
Located between the sea and the mountains, Barcelona enjoys mild winters and warm, dry summers. The warmest month is August when temperatures range between 25°C and 31°C with July enjoying the most hours of sunshine, a daily average of 10 hours. However, May is also a wonderful time to visit with temperatures peaking at 22 degrees. For a 14-day weather forecast, click here.
With all of that wonderful Mediterranean weather there’s plenty of options in terms of attractions. The Plaça de Catalunya is the heart of the city and divides old and news Barcelona. From here, the long pedestrian boulevard La Rambla shoots South East to the sea, with the busy Barrio Gótico and El Raval district hugging it on either side.
Barrio Gótico (Gothic Quarter) is a vibrant district comprising narrow streets and secluded squares. The neighbourhood brings to life the early Roman city of Barcino and the medieval town with its palazzos, mansions and Gothic churches.
To the North West of the plaza is L’Eixample, a vast grid-like district where you’ll find some excellent shopping areas and the bulk of the city’s offices and residences. It is also where you will find Antoni Gaudi’s great unfinished masterpiece La Sagrada Familia (the holy family).
An architectural marvel the church is one of Europe’s most iconic buildings and although it may be unfinished, it’s nonetheless spectacular. A Modernist gem, it deserves a visit, both inside and out. Completion is now due to be 2026 work commenced on the building in the 1880s.
Park Güell offers sensational views across the entire city and continues the Gaudi experience. The beat here is that of the mystical pan drum. Declared a World Heritage Site in 1984 it is one of Gaudi’s most important works and you’ll be able to grab a photo with the iconic mosaic serpent.
The main artery through the city is La Rambla, which leads to the Mediterranean Sea and is the best place to feel the bustling vibe of the city. La Rambla offers a full-on shopping experience – flower stalls sit side-by-side with sellers with cages of birds, Barcelona FC paraphernalia and bohemian artists.
I suggest you walk the whole length from Plaça de Catalunya to Port Vell. Teeming with tourists and locals alike, but don’t let them stop you. You will pass famed Barcelona landmarks such as the Boqueria Market, the Liceu opera house before finally the monument to Colombus and the
Overlooking the sea, the waterfront offers contrasting artistic styles from the city’s former dockyard to its medieval port and to the legacy of the 1992 Olympics and the Port Olimpic area. The area is colourful and full of life day and night thanks to its beaches, piers, museums and bars.
Barcelona FC really are as the club motto says “more than a club” and help shape the identity of the city and wider region, images of their players are emblazoned on goods ranging from ice cream to shampoo in the city and replica shirts are worn by many.
Fit in a visit to the Nou Camp, the cathedral of FC Barcelona whether you are a football fan or not you will be impressed by the sheer scale of the 99,000-capacity stadium and the opportunity to go behind the scenes of one of the word’s most famous football teams.
Montjuïc Magic Fountain is a product of the 1929 Barcelona International Exposition and still to this day is one of Barcelona’s most popular tourist attractions. Its display of music, water and lights thrill on-looking crowds week after week from Thursday to Sunday.
Tibidabo Funfair is a great place to visit and boasts Barcelona’s only amusement park, which is one of the oldest in the world. Sat atop a mountain the park offers stunning views of the city – take the Tramvia Blau tram and funicular to reach the park in style.
Perhaps Spain’s most un-Spanish city, Barcelona is unique, it’s far more cosmopolitan than the nation’s capital Madrid. The city is bound to impress and is a real feast for all the senses – its buzz is tangible and continues long into the night.
To get the best out of a visit to Barcelona the city council has created the Barcelona Card for visitors; it is valid for 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5 days. The main benefits include free transport and great discounts on museums, galleries and even restaurants.