It’s rare to find a coastal European city that combines beauty, vibrant culture, bustling nightlife and proximity to urban escape as well as Barcelona. Shirking the scorching heat of southern Spain, the grim concrete facades of the Costa del Sol and boasting enviable transport links to quieter parts of the Costa Brava, Barcelona is a city you should put high on your bucket list.
The city’s premiere attraction is the Sagrada Familia. Designed by Antonio Gaudí, the Church has been under construction since 1882. Though its interior to a large extent resembles a building site – because it actually is one – the exterior is breathtaking and the design of the building is hugely reflective of Gaudí’s style which is repeated throughout the entire city.
In typically Spanish fashion most of the food specialises in a lighter touch which suits tourists because you’re on-the-go and locals because nobody wants to eat a heavy meal in the summer heat. Bacoa is a must visit – it’s basically what’d happen if Gourmet Burger Kitchen and Jamon Iberico were dropped in a blender and spat out at the other end. Predictably the burgers are to die for!
Another must-do is brunch – desayuno is a Spanish staple and the Federal Cafè will furnish all your post-hangover needs. It covers all typically British bases but also boasts juices and shakes and has a thoroughly cosmopolitan feel to it. If you want to ease into the day with more of a Mediterranean twist, Picnic offers a seafood twist with an emphasis on freshness that most UK seafood restaurants could only envy. The prawns and breadcrumbed hake are standout dishes.
A truly wacky day out is the Salvador Dali museum. This is ideal in the extremely unlikely event of a rainy day and will keep both arts enthusiasts and everyone else entertained. Dali is completely off the wall and the scale of his very physical art should be something to keep everyone amused, including the iconic living room piece that doubles vaguely grotesquely as a face.
The added bonus of Barcelona, though, is its proximity to the coast. Besides its own beach it’s also within a short drive of the sleepy coves of the Costa Brava. Though the Costa Brava is probably among the most underappreciated in Spain because of its inaccessibility and shorter season, both those reasons actually make it among the best in Spain.
Just a few shorts hours away are sleepy beaches whose isolation from the outside world is all part of the attraction. Tamariu is a particular gem. Though it regularly becomes busy in high season May-August, the village is enviably underdeveloped and lacks much development beyond the beachside cafes and bars that have been there since time immemorial.
If you want a city break that offers a beach holiday, cultural attractions and cosmopolitan nightlife – truly, there’s no city better than Barcelona.