Catalonia’s coastal culture hub is one of Europe’s most popular cities, radiating a feisty free-spiritedness through everything from its daring architecture to its globe-slaying football team. The beaches are long – the nights out even longer.
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Top 5 sights for first-timers
A far-out garden complex designed by one of Barcelona’s most famous sons, architect Antoni Gaudí. More than a century has passed since it was laid in place, but its mosaic dragons, hidden grottoes and serpentine benches still give an eye-opening insight into the mind of a singular creator. It gets crowded, so seek out a quiet corner.
La Sagrada Familia
Gaudí’s postcard-dominating masterpiece remains Barcelona’s most celebrated sight, despite still being incomplete. It’s an enormous Gothic church, although this description does little justice to its mind-bending spires, detailed facades and towering interior. Latest estimates give a completion date of sometime after 2025, so don’t be surprised by the ongoing construction work.
Carrer de Mallorca
Now ensconced as the club that elevated 21st-century football to an art form – courtesy of Messi, Iniesta et al – FC Barcelona’s home stadium is a huge draw for visitors. If you can’t get to a match, stadium tours offer a great alternative, with a museum showcasing the club’s recent trophy haul.
Carrer d’Arístides Maillol
Barcelona’s famed Gothic Quarter is a maze of medieval buildings, narrow streets and open squares. It plays home to a good number of atmospheric cathedrals and churches, as well as a glut of restaurants and bars. It’s rightly seen as an integral part of the overall Barcelona experience, but don’t envisage having the place to yourself.
Barcelona’s main artery is a 1.2-kilometre street, largely tree-lined and pedestrianised. It’s indisputably the heart of city affairs, drawing all walks of life and providing, surely, one of Europe’s best spots for people-watching. It runs from Plaça de Catalunya in the north to the Christopher Columbus monument in the south.
Top 5 sights for old hands
Housed in a row of Gothic-baroque houses, this absorbing gallery-cum-museum gives good insight into the changing styles and output of the still-revered Pablo Picasso – the artist, of course, having spent much of his life in Barcelona. The collection includes a number of major works, and the museum itself reached its 50th anniversary in 2013.
Carrer Montcada 15-23
Disseny Hub Museums
A hugely rewarding stop for anyone with more than a passing interest in design or fashion, this cultural centre holds permanent exhibitions of decorative arts, textiles, ceramics and graphic arts. Commonly abbreviated to DHUB, it aims to promote understanding of the design world and offers free guided tours at weekends.
Avinguda Diagonal 686
Fundació Joan Miró
Enjoying a magnificent Montjuïc hillside location, this space is dedicated to another of the city’s most illustrious artists, Joan Miró. Still very much a Catalan icon, he was born in Barcelona in 1893 and went on to develop a signature style of painting and sculpture, relying heavily on experimentalism and surrealism.
Parc de Montjuïc
Not as firmly off the beaten track as it once was, El Born is nevertheless one of Barcelona’s most creative, individual neighbourhoods and barely touches the radar of many tourists. Boutique shopping, hip locals, vibrant cafés and rampant nightlife – they’re all here in spades.
Part of the La Ribera district
Museu del Modernisme
Unveiled in 2010 in what was formerly a textile factory, the Museu del Modernisme enjoys a reasonably central location and is dedicated to ‘modernisme’, the art nouveau movement that took such a hold in the region. It has strong associations with the quest for Catalan national identity.
Carrer de Balmes 48
Written by World Travel Guide