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A twist of city culture on beach holidays in Spain

Are you off anywhere for bank holiday weekend? This week, it was reported that record numbers of Brits are heading abroad, with 1.8 million heading overseas for the late summer holiday. Top of the list for many is Spain, in particular the Canary and Balearic Islands along with the Catalan capital Barcelona. Indeed, Barcelona holidays are particularly popular for the city’s mix of beach and city experiences. This type of holiday is becoming increasingly common so where are the best places to take the family for a mix of beach fun and city culture in Spain?

Barcelona  Barceloneta Beach near Barcelona

Barcelona lies on the north east Mediterranean coast of Spain, north of the well-known Costa Blanca resorts such as Benidorm. As such, it boasts around 4.5 km of beautiful beach. Very close to the city centre is Barceloneta Beach, a popular spot for locals and tourists alike. The whole area was given a huge overhaul for the 1992 Olympic Games and standards of cleanliness are generally high. It can be busy in peak holiday season but its liveliness is one of its best features, with plenty of restaurants, entertainers and even some sculpture – this is Barcelona, after all!

In the city itself, the kids won’t be bored even if you do fancy a day of culture. With all the brightly coloured Gaudi architecture, including Parc Guell, there’s something to see round every corner. If the kids are football-mad as well, a behind-the-scenes tour of Barcelona’s impressive Nou Camp Stadium is a must.

Palma, Majorca

Cala Mayor Beach near Palma, Majorca

Fly into Majorca, the largest of the Balearic Islands, and you’ll land at Palma Airport. If you’re looking for a bit of beach and city culture then you need not go any further. The historical centre of the city is a fascinating place to explore, with its labyrinthine, cobbled back streets and its beautiful cathedral, begun in the 13th century but not completed until the early 17th century.

Just 4 km down the coast you’ll find Cala Mayor, situated in front of the Nixe Palace Hotel. The beach here is about 200 m long and sun loungers and parasols are readily available. The water is also beautifully calm and clear, protected by rocky outcrops that reduce any choppiness that is more common on the beaches on the other side of the city. The great thing about being based here is that if you fancy visiting another of Majorca’s resorts, you’re never far away from discovering another wonderful beach.

Valencia

The City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia

Situated just over 200 miles south of Barcelona, Spain’s third largest city is Valencia. A decade of investment has made this a modern, bustling European city that now even boasts a Formula One Grand Prix street circuit (the only one with a marina in the middle!) that will alternate the hosting of the Spanish Grand Prix from 2013, having previously held the European race. One must-visit if you’re there with the kids is the City of Arts and Sciences. This ultra-modern venue features a science museum, IMAX movie theatre, planetarium and the largest aquarium in Europe. The whole place puts a huge emphasis on interaction so there’s always something to do and play with, making this great for young and old. If you have time, also visit the Bioparc, an incredibly modern zoo, for some animal madness!

When you want to hit the beach, a 15-minute walk from the city centre will take you to the likes of Las Arenas and La Malvarrosa beaches. Both long and wide with beautiful promenades, there are plenty of areas for kids’ games and also restaurants for when you’ve worked up an appetite.

Why not tell us about your bank holiday weekend plans in the comments. Are you heading to Spain?

Images: Barcelona by twicepix and Oh-Barcelona.com, Cala Mayor by Marcel Theisen, City of Arts and Sciences, Valencia by marcp_dmoz used under creative commons licence

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