Barcelona

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By Sally Davies, your Barcelona expert

I write for BBC radio, Insight Guides, .... Read more

Why go to Barcelona?

Winking in the sunlight, Barcelona is the sparkling jewel of the Mediterranean coastline. Futuristic buildings pierce the skyline next to the technicolour excesses of its turn-of-the-century architects, and its medieval heart is little changed since its streets were built hundreds of years ago.

The Cinderella of Europe, the city has as its backstory an impressive rags-to-riches tale. Once upon a time it was a downtrodden backwater; littered with human debris, abused by visiting sailors and ignored by its wealthy Mediterranean neighbours. These days, however, it’s the city on everybody’s wish list, with its miles of long sandy beaches, extraordinary artistic heritage and a climate envied by most of Spain, not to mention Europe.

No one leaves Barcelona disappointed

Everyone has their reason for coming to Barcelona, and no one leaves disappointed. Some come here for the food – Ferran Adrià, continually voted best chef in the world, is from here, and his influence has spread to the furthest corners of the city’s gastronomic scene. In addition to the myriad Michelin-starred restaurants about town, even modest, family-run tabernas have become a little more daring in their combinations of flavours and ingredients since Adrià’s meteoric rise. See my guide Barcelona's best seafood restaurants and Annie Bennett's guide Gastro bars in Barcelona to read more about Barcelona's culinary delights.

Others come to drink: maybe to sip on a Manhattan at a burnished wooden bar while soft jazz plays in the background; maybe to sit on a pavement terrace in the sunshine with an ice-cold beer and watch the world go by, or maybe to steel their nerves with a tall and unbelievably generous gin-tònic before hitting the dance floor (see Barcelona nightlife for more information).

Thousands come every year to drink in the city’s famed architecture. Not only the fantastical creations of Antoni Gaudí and the dazzling creations by Jean Nouvel, Richard Rogers or Toyo Ito, but also the vast and tangled web of the medieval quarter, spreading out from the Disneyesque Gothic cathedral. Chris Stokel-Walker tells us about his recent architectural trip in his guide Getting to know Gaudí's Barcelona.

Many come for the beaches and the endless sunshine. They come to swim and surf, to cycle along the seafront and to stroll through the parks. Those that feel energetic might even take the short train ride to the Collserola hills, flanking the city to the north, where they can hike, jog and climb while taking in spectacular views across the city to the Med.

Why I love Barcelona

I came here for the quality of life. For the relaxed pace, the blue skies, the sheer delight that barcelonins take in making everything a social occasion. Why would you make coffee at home if you can get one in a bar? Why would you discuss business over the phone when you can do it over a glass of wine?

Why would you want to be anywhere else?

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Barcelona Hotels

Price fromRating (out of 5)
1. Mandarin Oriental
£210
4.8
2. W Hotel
£122
4.8
3. Bonic
£78
4.8
4. Villa Emilia
£56
4.7
5. Market Hotel
£47
4.7
See all expert-rated Hotels in Barcelona

Barcelona Restaurants

Price guideRating (out of 5)
1. Cinc Sentits
Expensive
4.9
2. Can Culleretes
Budget
4.9
3. Routa
Expensive
4.9
4. Ginger
Budget
4.8
5. Moo
Expensive
4.8
See all expert-rated Restaurants in Barcelona

Barcelona Things to do

Price guideRating (out of 5)
1. Palau de la Música Catalana
Mid-range
4.9
2. Fundació Joan Miró
Mid-range
4.8
3. Hospital de Sant Pau
Free
4.8
4. Manzana de la Discordia
Free
4.8
5. MNAC
Mid-range
4.7
See all expert-rated Things to do in Barcelona