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  • Cityscape Marvellous Modernism
  • City life Energetic and colourful

Basking on the sun-kissed shores of the Mediterranean, the Catalan capital is a city with its finger most firmly on the pulse: Barcelona has always embraced style, bold design and all things new.

From the mountains to the beach, wide tree-lined boulevards unravel into pretty parks with playgrounds and shady squares with tiny, happy bars, where a too-hot afternoon is never wasted. Exploring 2,000 years of history here’s a breeze: a port since Roman times, Barcelona has flamboyant art deco architecture to rival that of Paris; Gaudí’s fantastical façades beckon from every street corner, and the redeveloped beachfront boasts sleek modern buildings. Buzzing bars and restaurants in the Gothic Quarter and El Born ensure the city and her visitors lunch long and party late into the night. No wonder cava is the drink of choice – this is a place with much to celebrate.

Do go/Don’t go

Locals leave August to the tourists, as the city can be too hot to handle – even some museums are closed. Avoid public holidays if you can: they trigger a city exodus that means things tend to be shut.

Getting thereView map

  • Planes From Barcelona Airport (www.barcelona-airport.com), taxis will whisk you into town in 15 minutes, for about €20. The Aerobus runs every 15 minutes (€3.50).
  • Trains The 25-minute train journey from airport to centre costs just a couple of euros; trains run every half an hour. Spain also has a reasonably priced national network. Book ahead, as trains can get busy (www.renfe.com). Barcelona’s Metro system is efficient – and air-conditioned (www.tmb.net).
  • Automobiles Driving is fine once you master the one-way system, but finding a parking space (especially a free one) is a nightmare. Taxis are cheap, so it’s not worth renting a car anyway; and the train is perfect for day trips.
  • Taxis You can hail a metered, wasp-coloured cab from anywhere on the street, as long as its green light is on.