Welcome to Barcelona
Proud, full of ancient buildings and customs, yet seething with new ideas, Barcelona is the capital of Catalonia. A city by the sea, the Mediterranean borders its wide beaches, and rolling mountains protect its Eastern side.
In between lies a neat grid of streets concealing some of Europe's most glorious cultural achievements; from Picasso's early work to the paintings of Joan Miro and Salvador Dali, and Antoni Gaudi's astonishing, fairy-tale buildings. In between are vast green parks and leafy avenues, tiny bars serving tapas and sherry to locals and world-famous restaurants sending their siren call to gourmands across the globe.
Football fans come to worship at Camp Nou, and for history lovers, the Old City is a winding map of churches, sculptures, palaces and alleys where it's easy to lose a day- or night. Each district has its own character- visitors should see the much-loved Gaudi buildings of the Ciutat Vella, the Barri Gotic just off the frantic Las Ramblas, and elegant Sant Pere, framed by the beautiful 19th century market building, and the medieval Santa Maria del Mar church.
A few minutes out of the city centre are the beaches, such as Barceloneta, where it’s possible to sunbathe all day, then head across the street to celebrate all evening. The drinking, eating and dancing don't start until late in Barcelona, and the days are warm and long. A trip here means fitting in twice as much as you might in any other city- and it still won't feel like enough time.
Thanks to Sean Canning, Chris Sheard, Jeff Purchon for the images. Postcards from the Road, Rail And Sea collection.
CAFÉ DE L’OPERA
After midnight, the South end of Las Ramblas (between the Lyceu and Colum) can be loud and boisterous- if you’re not up for a party (and you value your belongings) take extra care. Never hang your bag off the back of a restaurant chair.
Locals don’t wear shorts: Barcelona is a well-dressed, working city; and if you don’t want to offer pickpockets a neon sign saying ‘tourist,’ try to dress to blend in- so no bright holiday-wear.
Watch out for scams- if someone asks for directions and tries to unfold a map (to distract you,) just walk away, quickly.
If you have time for a day trip, take the train to Figueres, birthplace of Dali, and home of the museum dedicated to his life. Take the guided tour to avoid queuing.
Both the Picasso Museum and the Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya offer free entrance on the first Sunday of the month, though be warned, they will be busy.
Lunchtime menus are much cheaper than evening menus. If there’s a restaurant you want to try that’s outside your price range, try the lunch service – the set menus are great value and often include a drink.
Barcelona is an easy city to get around, with plenty of transport options.
The Underground runs right through the city and the stations in the main tourist areas are marked “M”. it runs from 5am-midnight and till 2 am Fridays, all night Saturdays.
Because clearly, this city knows how to party. There are six colour coded lines across the city, and trains arrive every few minutes.
Buses run from 4.30am-11pm and the nightbuses (“Nitbus”) leave from Placa Catalunya between 11.15 pm and 6am.
There are three main routes- Red line covers the northern area of the city including the Sagrada Familia (departing from the Placa Catalunya); Blue covers Montjuic and the Port area; and the Green line runs during the summer along the beach area to the northeast.
Singles for bus or Metro tickets cost from €2.15, or get a book of ten (T-10) whch can be used by anyone, for €10.30.
Tickets are available from Metro stations, and travelcards can be bought at Tourist Information, and online. The machines are touch-screen and offer language options including English.
Running from 5 am to 2 am, the trams cover the city centre and are speedy and efficient. Because the transport system is integrated, tickets can be used across the whole system, including trains, buses and trams.
Cabs are yellow and black and show a green light when they’re free- you can hail them in the street but there are several ranks at stations and in the city centre. Tariffs are on display inside, showing minimum fare, flag-down charge, per-kilometre charge and other extras.
Avoid the main roads and stick to the bike lanes- there are miles of dedicated cycle lanes through the city’s streets and parks. Rent bikes from hire shops including www.alpuntdetrobada.com and www.bcn.travel
Get a Hola BCN! Card and you can travel anywhere on the public transport network, from €14. The Barcelona Card offers unlimited use of public transport, as well as discounts for museums, shows, shops, leisure attractions and restaurants, from €34 to €58.