A region with its own language, character and history – it is no wonder that its capital is Spain's most cosmopolitan city and one of the Mediterranean's busiest ports. Barcelona is one of Europe's few cities that comes complete with a host of jaw-dropping tourist attractions, restaurants, bars, clubs, and of course, the shores of the Mediterranean swishing along its edge.
It regards its long past with pride: Barcelona has just celebrated its twentieth anniversary of hosting the 1992 Olympic Games. Spain's vibrant Catalan capital previously had its back to the sea, but since the 1992 Olympics, has turned to face the Mediterranean.
The old centre constitutes one of the greatest concentrations of Gothic architecture in Europe, and it is home to some of the world's most bizarre buildings – surreal spectacles capped by Antoni Gaudí's Sagrada Família church, along with many more of this incredible artists' works – Park Güell, the Pedrera, and Casa Batlló.
Casa Batlló is a key feature in the architecture of modernist Barcelona. Built between 1904 and 1906, its spectacular facade is today an iconic landmark in the city. But its wonders don't stop at Gaudí’s magnificent creations. The basilica of Santa Maria del Mar is also undoubtedly worth a visit. Built in just 55 years, it is the only surviving example of Catalan Gothic style architecture.
Then there is the charm of the city itself; the streets that you can explore endlessly, stopping now and then for a caña, or a glass of the region's wine. From the Gothic area, to the Borne; from Gracia to the beach hub of La Barceloneta. Head to The Rambla and stroll along this famous boulevard to soak up the buzz in the air, enjoy the street performers and mime artists, and maybe get a portrait drawn. Be sure to pop into the Boquería market where you will get your fill of fresh fruit and veg, have a taste of delicious tapas and a glass of cava.
Not to be missed
• The Palau de la Musica
• Wander around La Boquería
• Visit the museums of Pablo Picasso and Joan Miró
• Treat yourself to a massage in the Six Senses Spa
Where to eat and what to try
Try some exquisite tapas in El Vaso de Oro, La Barceloneta. Or enjoy Michelin-starred Enoteca run by renowned Catalan chef Paco Pérez, with locally sourced produce, hundreds of wines from the Catalonia region, and even herbs and vegetables grown in its very own garden.
Don't go without trying pa amb tomàquet – Catalona's fantastic breakfast of toast with fresh tomato, garlic and olive oil, matched with a fresh coffee. Yum.
Where to stay
For stunning sea views, Michelin-starred food and impeccable service it has to be the Hotel Arts Barcelona located in the Olympic Port. Join the likes of Mick Jagger, Eric Clapton, Phil Collins and Cindy Crawford, who have all enjoyed a luxurious stay at the architectural wonder of exposed glass and steel features.
This award-winning hotel continues the city's wealth of art and history throughout its interiors. Its collection of over 500 pieces is composed by contemporary Catalan and Spanish artists and includes sculptures, paintings and photography. The collection is placed throughout the hotel with each of the thirty-three floors featuring a different artist. While outside, the enormous, emblematic fish sculpture by the architect Frank Gehry looms over the pool, caught mid-swim into the ocean.
With attention to detail that goes as far as flowers in your room, a glass of champagne upon arrival, a total of five restaurants to choose from and a breakfast like no other, you are sure not to be disappointed.
Report by Miriam Foley