A Spanish city that can trace its lineage to antiquity, Barcelona welcomes tourists on holidays to Spain every year. Football fans, beach lovers, culture vultures, foodies and art aficionados have plenty to love about this inspiring city, although there are also oodles of free street performances and some sublime shopping to be had. With such a vast range of possibilities, we've picked a few of our favourites to start your journey with.
We all have projects in life that take us a bit longer than expected, but spare a thought for Barcelona's cultural treasure, the architect and artist Antoni Gaudi. His landmark project, La Sagrada Familia, is a magnificent tan-bricked spire of holy towers framing a truly breathtaking cathedral. Work on the project began in the 1880s, yet technically the cathedral is still yet to be finished, with not all of its eventual 18 towers standing.
The good news is that the interior, an absolute masterpiece of design, is already complete and open to the public. Consider investing in a queue-skipping ticket to visit though, not only because in high season people line up for an hour or more to get inside, but also because all ticket costs are donated to finishing Gaudi's masterpiece.
Let's stick with Gaudi for a moment. His designs are stamped across Barcelona like an architectural fingerprint, and for a gorgeously twisted peep into his Modernisme style, check out the likes of Casa Mila and Casa Batilo. The latter in particular has a gloriously haunted house feel about its exterior and interior alike, where almost skeletal balconies cling to dark gothic walls that undulate with creepy sophistication. Even the roof, nicknamed the Dragon's Spine, has a deliciously Harry Potter look to it, arching up and covered in deep blue tiles that make you feel like you've stepped into a fantasy.
Back in 1929, this fountain and its complex system of pipes was built for the Barcelona World Fair, incorporating a light show and vibrant colours that play through water as it shoots and scatters around in amazing performances. It proved such a popular attraction that it's remained in service to this day, and millions of people see the fountain's evening performances every weekend of the year. Better yet, watching the show is free, so settle in for some magical sights.
They say this is the biggest food market in Europe, and the quality of meats, cheeses, vegetables, fish and fruit here is so high that the city's top restaurateurs source their ingredients from this very sprawling spot. Indeed, it's a mix of local people and hungry tourists that pack this place out day and night, and the scents wafting through the air throughout are sure to get stomachs rumbling. Luckily, there's plenty to eat here from pizzas to pinxtos, so pile your plate high.
Barcelona is steeped in history. The Gothic quarter alone, Barrio Gotico, is a gorgeous labyrinth of churches, plazas and narrow streets woven between creamy brown buildings the same colour as the cortado coffees you can sip outside them. Further remnants of Barcelona's medieval past can be found in the Barcelona History Museum, although art fans may instead appreciate the beautiful works at the Picasso Museum. Indeed, although the famous artist was born in Malaga, he called Barcelona home and produced delightful pieces here.