Forget what you thought you knew about Barcelona. For not only is this a city with so much style and cultural appeal – it is also the gateway to Catalonia’s breathtaking bounty of beaches, mountains, vineyards, medieval towns and more.
Barcelona is a unique city – at once cosmopolitan yet very local, hip but bohemian, with a year-round climate worth bragging about. Take in visually striking Modernisme architecture, relish the gourmet gastronomic scene and breathe in the scents of blossom and pine in the city’s lush parks. Barcelona boasts its own gorgeous golden beach, but the coastal glory doesn’t stop there… Head to the Costa Brava to discover more. While there, be sure to visit its collection of sleepy fishing villages where time has stood still. High-speed train connections between its cities open up the full majesty of Catalonia. Explore it all with British Airways flights to Barcelona.
The Barri Gòtic (the Gothic Quarter) was once the centre of a bustling Roman settlement. Today, it forms the core of 21st century Barcelona – the splendour of the ancient past coexists with a vibrant present. Follow enticing smells and sounds through a maze of narrow streets, lined with bars and boutiques. Discover Roman ruins in the Musea d'Historia and spectacular medieval churches, like the Cathedral de la Santa Creu I Santa Eulalia. Then join the meandering throng along La Rambla, where street performers dazzle the crowd.
This urban up-and-coming area boasts some of Barcelona’s most impressive modern architecture. Appealing to the alternative, artistic crowd, with hip hangouts and a less touristy feel. A diverse area of Barcelona, international and eclectic – as you walk the streets you’re hit by aromas of many cultures. Try exotic cuisine or local Catalan dishes, and stop at some of the bohemian bars that preserve the aura of a bygone age. Maybe try an anise or two? Explore narrow streets abuzz with both popular nightspots and smaller venues, open through the night.
Designed by Ildefons Cerdà in the mid-19th century. This vibrant area is characterised by long straight streets on a grid system, with wide tree-lined avenues crossing through. The area starts along Passeig de Gracia, and Illa de la Discòrdia. A block famous for showcasing four of Barcelona's most important and distinctive Modernist architects. You’ll be mesmerised by Gaudi’s spectacular art nouveau Casa Batlló. And no trip to Barcelona would be complete without seeing La Sagrada Familia, which will be finally finished in 2026. The Cotton House Hotel is an iconic place to stay in Eixample.
Visit Port Vell, Barcelona’s harbour, and stroll along the waterfront. See the famous Frank Gehry ‘Peix d'Or’ sculpture in Port Olimpic. Villa Olimpic was built to provide housing for 1992 Olympic Games athletes. Today, you’ll find chic chain hotels and restaurants, and even a casino. Beachfront bars and restaurants line the shoreline, with many different tastes catered for, from sushi to Moroccan. Visit the cool La Barceloneta, with its strong working class identity. The beach here is lively in the spring-summer months, so take a bike ride along the promenade. Stay at the fantastic W Barcelona by the marina for a luxury break.
This lively, regenerated neighbourhood is a magnet for the city’s trendsetters, attracting an eclectic mix of people. Its restaurants, clubs and cocktail bars are stylish but boast a friendly atmosphere. Medieval in origin, the finest monument is Palau de la Musica Catalan. While other popular attractions include Museu Picasso and Mercat de Santa Caterina – one of the city’s oldest markets. Stop in Alos, known locally as La Ribera, for its fantastic boutique shopping and trendy café culture. Don’t miss a ‘Xoclata amb Xurro’ for breakfast.
Les Corts is the financial district of Barcelona, so comes with accompanying skyscrapers. An expensive, modern area where the young and wealthy crowds gather. Sarrià, an independent town before being swallowed up, has its own charm. You will find upmarket homes and shops, and great restaurants. The barrio of Gràcia is one of the hippest and most vibrant areas in Barcelona, with its own laid-back style and some fantastic bars and restaurants. During August, Festa Major, the weeklong street party and festival dominates Gràcia.
Combine the exciting culture of the city with picturesque Spanish towns and the rugged coves of the coastline on holidays in Costa Brava. Just a short drive from Barcelona, midway between the sea and mountains – you’ll find the beautiful town of Girona. In the historic quarter, colourful arcaded houses line the eastern bank of the river Ter. Whereas to the west, you’ll discover elegant avenues, which are lined with boutiques and cafes. Don’t miss a trip to the massive cathedral, Catedral de Santa Maria de Girona, which stands guard over the city.
Sitges is a seaside town with a flamboyant character. Combining history and heritage with a vibrant party scene, it’s hard to resist the charm of this popular Spanish resort. Visit during the summer months, when the sandy beaches host parties that rival Ibiza’s. The port city of Tarragona presents an exciting mix of beach life and cultural attractions. Bursting with history, this captivating Roman town still entices people with its ancient ruins, seaside amphitheatre and cobbled medieval alleyways.
South of Barcelona, you’ll find the Costa Dorada’s PortAventura theme park and resorts. Split into six ‘worlds’, this popular attraction includes exhilarating rides, incredible entertainment and even a water park - the Costa Caribe Aquatic Park. For the full experience choose to stay at one of PortAventura’s hotels – Caribbean-themed Hotel Caribe, western-inspired Hotel Gold Riviera, Mediterranean-style village resort Hotel PortAventura or the luxurious Victorian retreat, Lucy’s Mansion.
My perfect day in Barcelona
Find out how our BA expert, Kate Bigger, spends 24 hours in Barcelona.
Stay at the W Barcelona and pick up a ‘W’ picnic from reception, before heading out for an early morning stroll. Make the most of the quiet beach – in the height of summer it won’t be quiet for long. If you're feeling up to it, you can walk all the way to the Olympic Port from here.
If you only have time to visit one of the parks in Barcelona then Parc de la Ciutadella is less crowded than Parc Guell and is simply beautiful. You could lose yourself in this park all day – visiting the zoo, taking in the museums, strolling around the boating lake and stopping to look at the amazing statues, fountains and monuments. Find a spot to enjoy your picnic and watch a myriad of activities taking place in front of you from tightrope walkers, tai chi and meditation groups to people walking dogs and jogging.
Half the fun is getting here – catch the blue tram to the foothills of the Tibidabo Mountain and then take the funicular railway to the top. Carry on up to the church, found at its highest point 550 metres above sea level, for the most amazing views across every inch of Barcelona.
Along this beautiful boulevard, dotted with stunning Gaudi architecture, you'll find the best shopping in Barcelona with the likes of Chanel, Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent sitting alongside high street shops such as Zara and Mango. If you notice a beautifully detailed pavement, look up and you're sure to be standing outside Casa Batllo – one of Gaudi’s most famous works. You can now tour inside the first floor, attic and terrace and it is definitely worth a peak. After a busy afternoon shopping stop for a signature gin cocktail at the Mandarin Oriental roof terrace. Drink in the views of the places you have been during the day.
Before heading to the fountains enjoy delicious tapas in Barramon on Carrer de Blai and request a seat on the terrace. Then head over to the unmissable Font Magica Montuic (Magic Fountains) for an amazing evening of events that will take you by surprise. The spectacular show of light, music and water will have you singing and dancing with your fellow spectators and cheering for more.