“Un sueño me envolvió
Tal vez estás aquí
Un instinto me guiaba”
The immortal lines of the song Barcelona, sung by Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballé never fails to inspire me to think about the glorious scenes of the 1992 Summer Olympics. The images of the diving competition, with the competitors jumping high, silhouetted against the city down below was enough to inspire me to visit and whilst the city still has some major issues to address, with prior knowledge comes wisdom and a great 24 hours can be experienced time and time again.
Whether you are coming for the cuisine, the culture, the climate or the Camp Nou, Barcelona is a wonderful city less than two hours flight from the UK. Most major airlines fly to Aeropuerto El Prat Llobregat, 7.5 miles down the coast from the city centre. Metro line 9 as well as a train line run from the airport to the city centre on a regular basis. There is also a bus that runs to Plaça Espanya.
The question really is where to start. For those with a head for heights, the cable car that runs from Montjurïc to Mirador on the edge of the beaches and restaurants of Barcelonetta. A return trip dangling precariously over the city centre is €12 (€8 single) and offers some amazing views. Once you are in Montjurïc you have a whole host of places to visit. The Olympic Stadium is free to enter and soak up some of the magic from the summer of 1992. There’s a small museum dedicated to the Olympics at the far end of the stadium. Five minutes away from the entrance to the stadium is the amazing Fundació Joan Miró, the home of a significant number of works from one of the 20th century’s most influential artists. Entry starts from €12. Also on the road back down to Plaça Espanyol is the Poble Espanyol, a recreation of life in different areas of Spain complete with the architecture and food. Admission is €12. If you head in this direction after nightfall then you be lucky to see the fountains in front of the Museo Nacional D’Art de Catalunya sing and dance.
One of the must-see sights in Europe let alone Barcelona is the Sagrada Familia, Antoni Gaudí’s masterpiece that started in 1882 and is due for completion in 2026 at the latest estimate. It is a work of art and you can explore every nook and crevice, including the scarily tall towers. Barcelona is Gaudí town and you can explore some of his other work close-by such as Casa Milà or La Pedrera with its roof terrace.
You don’t have to be a football fan to enjoy the majesty of the Camp Nou, the second most popular tourist attraction in the city. Whilst tickets for most games are hard to come by (although it’s worth checking here 48 hours before a game just in case) you can visit the stadium on most days and take in a tour of the ground and the museum as well as the obligatory visit to the café and club shop to buy your FCB slippers. Nearest metro stops are
La Rambla is seen by many as the heart of the city, following the line of an old river (rambla means riverbed not ramble as many people think). At the bottom of the avenue is the Christoper Columbus monument which has a daily hidden entrance but is open to ascend and get some decent views of the surrounding area. Keep heading seawards and eventually you’ll reach the the Aquarium (admission €18) which is a popular haunt for families. Keep your wits about you on the lower part of La Rambla, the Gothic Quarter and the area near Parallel as this is where most petty crime occurs, something the city has been woefully neglectful in trying to clear up.
Just an hour south of the city centre by train is the seaside town of Salou where one of Europe’s biggest theme parks can be found. Portaventura has a link with Universal and certainly has some decent thrill rides and will be joined by Ferrari Land in March 2017. The park has its own train station and is certain worth a visit if city life gets too much.
The city is also home to Tapas, which as you’d expect can be as cheap or as expensive as you want. Recommended venues to indulge include Tickets in Avenue del Paral-lel which is in one of the fifty best bars in the world. El Vaso de Oro in Barcelonetta is one of the most popular on the beach front and is also famous for its beer whilst the fantastically named Tossa close to the Sagrada Familia on Carrer de Nàpols is underrated.
Looking for somewhere unusual to put your head down for the night? Barcelona has hotels to accommodate every budget but there’s a few that stand out from the crowd and won’t break the bank. Acta Mimic Hotel is full of light that can be adapted to your moods and is located a short walk from La Rambla. Hotel Neri has all the feel of a luxury boutique hotel without the price tag and is located at the heart of the Gothic Quarter whilst the Silken Diagonal Hotel sits on the main shopping street (Diagonal) and superbly appointed rooms for almost pocket money prices (ok maybe a bit more).
For those who want to sample some craft beer whilst in town, and let’s face it, who doesn’t then head to either The Garage Beer Company in Carrer del Counsel de Cent which houses it’s own microbrewery or Abirrodero in Carrer de Vila i Vilà. There hundreds of bars across the city but a couple of stand out venues due to their location and theme are The Manchester Bar, in homage to everything from, erm Manchester, which can be found in Carter de Milans whilst El Bosc de les Fades translated as ‘The Forest of Fairies’ whisks you away into a fairytale fantasy. For a bar with a view head to the Grand Central Hotel where the Skybar offer an infinity pool and sunset views to die for.
Millions come to Barcelona each and every year and enjoy everything the city has to offer – why not be one of them?