September 2016


Vivacious Barcelona
September 2016




​Barcelona's beachfront is perfect for exploring by bike

Boasting 2,000 years of cultural heritage, 5 km of golden city beaches, world-renowned gastronomy, legendary nightlife, endless sunshine and unbeatable shopping, Barcelona truly is the ultimate city-break destination.


Words and Photographs
Ben Holbrook


For instant immersion, start your day in the Old Town, the 'Ciutat Vella'. Originally a walled city with battle-scarred ramparts, it was here that the Romans founded what they called Barcino. Leading off Plaça de Catalunya, the cultural and physical heart of the autonomous community of Catalonia, is Las Ramblas, a bustling boulevard with all sorts of tempting shops, restaurants, bakeries, cafes, street performers and theatres. Don't miss an early morning stroll around La Boqueria, one of Europe's largest food markets, where you can fuel up for the day with buttery croissants and strong coffee.


Sneak off down one of the narrow streets and you will find yourself in the labyrinth of the Gothic Quarter and El Born, the oldest neighbourhoods in Barcelona where medieval buildings house ancient ateliers and contemporary fashion boutiques to secret squares echoing with the trickle of water fountains and the dong of the Gothic Santa Maria del Mar church. Shop, eat, wander and quench your cultural cravings with a visit to the Museu Picasso. If this gets you in the mood for more surrealism, visit the Fundació Joan Miró, a shrine to Barcelona's most famous artist.


Also part of the Old Town is El Raval, a dynamic and ethnically diverse hub of counterculture. Hipsters, artists and creative entrepreneurs run here off-beat stores hawking everything from handmade trinkets and works of art to comic books, homewares and vintage fashion. Raval is also home to many of the city's most important galleries and museums, including the mind-bending MACBA contemporary art museum and the CCCB cultural centre. More interested in film than art? Then you'll be in your seventh heaven at the Filmoteca de Catalunya film museum, where you can delve into timeless classics of indie cinematography.

it’s time to glam it up and head out for dinner and enjoy the night. Finish with cocktails, live music and dancing in the hedonistic playground of Plaça Reial, This is the city of your dreams


You should be hungry after all that, so let's head over to the trendy Sant Antoni neighbourhood, a mecca for epicureans. Carrer del Parlament is unquestionably the ideal place to see and be seen,
with its endless supply of chic brunch cafes and elegant wine bodegas.


Start as the locals do with a pre-lunch aperitif of sweet vermouth and a few nibbles to get your appetite going on in one of the many sun kissed cafe terraces.From here it's a quick stroll to the neighbourhood of Poblesec, renowned for its famous tapas street: Carrer Blai. This is the perfect place to take part in the Spanish "tapear" ritual, hopping from bar to bar and feasting on bite-sized beauties as you go. Try not to have more than one or two dishes at each stop, as the goal is to explore as many of the tapas bars as possible.


For fresh seafood and fish tapas, you can't beat the ancient bars and restaurants on the salty backstreets of Barceloneta, the old fisherman's quarter. If you want a real treat head to one of the many chiringuitos (beach restaurants) where you can feast on the freshest, most authentic paella in Barcelona whilst enjoying blissful sea-views.


If all this over-indulgence is making you sleepy then find a spot on the beach for a quick siesta. Barceloneta is the most popular (and noisy), but the chilled beaches of Nova Icària, Bogatell and Mar Bella are all just a sandy stroll away.


Once revived, it's time to dive into Mediterranean for a swim or a paddle boarding class. Beach volleyball is fun and the path that hugs the coast is perfect for cycling. Rent some wheels from a bike shop on the boardwalk and you can easily pedal your way to Antoni Gaudi's most famous masterpiece, La Sagrada Familia. This fantastical and famously unfinished church was the architect's most ambitious project. He even moved in at one point so that he could keep an eye on things.


Gaudi's other Modernist masterpieces are equally inspiring. Meander your way up the regal boulevard of Passeig de Gràcia in the well-heeled Eixample neighbourhood and you will find many ornate sample of Catalan Modernista architecture. Casa Batlló, with its dragon scales and bird-nest balconies, is one of Gaudi's most colourful, whilst La Pedrera epitomises his abandonment of straight lines to simulate the beauty of nature. Visit Gràcia to enjoy sweeping views across Barcelona and the natural beauty of Park Güell, which Gaudi brought to life with colourful ceramics and masterful mosaics.


As the sun begins to fade, it's time to glam it up and head out for dinner and enjoy the night. Finish with cocktails, live music and dancing in the hedonistic playground of Plaça Reial.


This is the city of your dreams.

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    Mosaic masterpieces and epic city views from Gaudi's Park Güell ​

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    Charter a boat to truly escape the crowds​

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    The mind-expanding MACBA contemporary art museum

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    ​Gaudi's seminal masterpiece: La Sagrada Familia

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    Vibrant and ethnically diverse, Raval is one of Barcelona's most exciting neighbourhoods​

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    ​Rambla del Raval is the perfect place to stop for a cool drink

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    Head to the beachfront chiringuito restaurants for the most authentic paella in town​

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    Plaça Reial​ is a hedonist's playground ​​

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    Barcelona boasts almost 5 km of city beaches

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    ​Raval is the perfect place to shop for vintage fashion

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