Barcelona

Written by    Last updated: June 6, 2006

Explore the super‐stylish Catalonian capital… Must‐see sights, perfect places for two – plus love bites and love potions, for the most romantic wining and dining.

Explore the super‐stylish Catalonian capital

In a nutshell…

This cosmopolitan and progressive city is THE most popular destination for a weekend break, and it’s easy to see why. The city’s regeneration for the highly successful Olympic Games in 1992 added hordes of superb modern bars, restaurants and clubs ‐‐ the perfect place to retire to when you’ve had your fill of the many and varied cultural attractions.

Not that you will tire easily. Ever since its role as a bastion of the Republican cause during the Spanish Civil War, the city has developed a reputation as a centre of radical architecture and design; not least because of the architectural splendours of Antoni Gaudi, the city’s most famous son. Then there is the art of Joan Miro and Pablo Picasso, who also lived here, fine seafood to keep your energy levels high, perfect tapas and plenty of romantic places to hang out. And if the capital of Catalonia really becomes too much, why not head to the local beach and bask in the sun with a bottle of cava or two?

Magnetic attractions

  • The Ramblas Every tour of the city should start on this wide pedestrianised street that runs through the heart of the old town. It is lined with street cafes, interesting stalls and non‐stop live entertainment provided by a colourful mix of ingenious street performers, musicians, and artists.
  • Sagrada Familia This church, designed by Gaudi, has become a symbol of the city, even though Gaudi himself was killed by a tram before he could complete his splendid structure with its eight fairytale towers. Climb the 400 steps to the top of one of the towers for views of the city.
  • Picasso Museum Barcelona’s most‐visited museum is a beautiful medieval palace full of Picasso’s early classical work.
  • Montjuic There is a spectacular view of the entire city and the Mediterranean from the top of this mountain, and Olympic venue. Visit the stadium up there and relive the moment when Linford Christie took the 100m gold medal.

Romantic rendezvous

  • Sitges Take a 20‐minute train ride out of town and spend a day on this wonderfully sandy beach, eating ice cream and frolicking in the waves. It’s much nicer than the crowded beaches in the city itself.
  • Palau Nacional Take the cable car to the top of Montjuic at night and watch the light and music show at the illuminated fountains in front of the Palau Nacional, centrepiece of the 1929 International Exhibition.
  • Barceloneta The long narrow streets of this harbour‐side area were home to the sailors and fishing folk, and the area is still a working fishing district with nets being mended and boats waiting to sail. Come here for the great seafood restaurants and sit outside for fantastic view of the city.

Love bites and love potions

A traditional Catalan breakfast is a hunk of bread, rubbed with olive oil and tomato and washed down with a couple of glasses of wine, so unless you want to start the drinking really early, avoid this and go for a coffee and pastry. There are many good fish and seafood restaurants around the Barceloneta area, and paella has become something of a local dish too. Before you eat dinner, head to one of the xampanyet bars, serving local cava by the glass. They’re great for getting agreeably tipsy early on. For a romantic touch, order a few plates of tapas to share. They are also a good cheap way to line the stomach if you are really planning to stay the course.

Propose here

On the top of Mountjuic, looking out at the Mediterranean Sea on a balmy evening.

To get you in the mood

Start with a viewing of Pedro Almodovar’s All About My Mother. In typical Almodovar style, the movie focuses on all manner of impossible love affairs and, on the way, shows off Barcelona at its stylish best. Get to grips with George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia, an honest and forthright account of the Civil War. Then, to lighten the tone again, what better than listening to a few renditions of Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballe’s Olympic theme, Barcelona?

Language of love

Feliç aniversari = happy anniversary

T’estimo = I love you

Felicitats = congratulations!

Vols casar‐te amb mi? = will you marry me?

Stags and hens

Why not visit the 120,000‐seater Nou Camp stadium, where Manchester United snatched a couple of late goals to win the European Cup in 1999? The stadium is a spectacular multi‐tiered structure and the top floors are dizzyingly high. In the evening, take a trip to the Spanish village on Mountjuic for a salsa class ‐‐ it will come in useful when you hit the dance floor at the wedding.

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