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Barcelona Travel Guide

About Barcelona

With mountains on one side, the sea on the other and an exciting urban hub in between, Barcelona has to be the ultimate city destination. The home of modernist artist Gaudi and with a cultural verve unmatched in Spain, the capital of Catalonia is a jumble of fantastical and modern buildings, medieval streets and lively beaches.

Locals still mention the 1992 Olympics as a watershed for the city. It spurred a decade of redevelopment, particularly along the seafront and port area, helping Barcelona transform into a vibrant metropolis.

Nowadays, Spain’s second largest city is at least the cultural equivalent of Madrid but tensions with the capital have even led to a growing campaign for independence among the Catalan people. For the moment though, Barcelona remains an integral part of Spain.

Although a very modern city, Barcelona remains a stronghold of traditions, divided into 10 districts, each with its own character. The Gothic Quarter, stretching from the seafront to La Rambla, is where the city’s oldest buildings can be found – there are numerous historic churches, including the grand cathedral, La Seu, as well as countless bars and shops.

La Rambla, the most famous road in Barcelona, runs through the heart of the city; it was described by the Spanish poet Lorca as “the only street in the world I wish would never end”, and is essential viewing.

As for the architecture of Antoni Gaudí, his most famous work is La Sagrada Familia in the Eixample district. This spectacular dreamlike cathedral is still being worked on nearly a century after the artist’s death. Parc Güell is a metro-ride away on the hill of El Carmel in the Gràcia district, while his many buildings such as the colourful and amorphous Casa Batlló are must-sees.

With so much to do in the city, it’s easy to forget the beautiful nature that surrounds Barcelona. In the north stands Mount Tibidabo, while overlooking the sea is the looming hill of Montjuïc. Of course, if you don’t fancy climbing them, you can just stick to the beaches – saving your energy for the nightly parties.

Key facts

Population:
1620943
Latitude:
41.377856
Longitude:
2.170538

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City Highlight: Barcelona

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Featured Hotels

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Hotel Praktik Garden

With affordable rates and quality accommodation, Hotel Praktik Garden introduces a new concept midway between a budget hostel and a contemporary hotel. Decked out in white-washed walls, slick lines and retro furnishing, this Barcelona hotel provides the technology and comforts budget travellers look for. Housed in a historical building from the Modernist age, the hotel stands in a quiet area, five minutes away from the city centre by foot. Free Wi-Fi is provided in all rooms and public areas.

Hotel Peninsular

Located in a narrow street near the Liceu opera house and built on the site of a former convent, the Peninsular is one of the oldest hotels in Barcelona. Rooms are simple and clean, although not all have their own bathroom facilities. Full of interesting architectural detail, such as the dining room's Moorish-inspired arches, the real pièce de résistance is the wonderful interior balcony. Adorned with hanging plants and wicker tables and chairs, it has a serene, almost oriental atmosphere. Booking well in advance (approximately three months) is usually necessary.

El Jardí Hotel

This small-scale, 2-star hotel is a perennially popular budget option, full of character and original features. Located in the busy hub of Barcelona's old quarter, attractions are within short walking distance. Overlooking the shady, café-lined Plaça Sant Josep Oriols and the classic gothic architecture of the medieval church of Santa Maria del Pi, the Jardí is pretty much unbeatable in terms of price and location. All rooms are en-suite.

Oriente Atiram

Situated on the bustling thoroughfare of La Rambla, the 3-star Husa Oriente is one of Barcelona's original 'grand' hotels. Constructed on the site of a Franciscan monastery, in 1842, the 147-room hotel was once the haunt of illustrious guests such as Maria Callas, Arturo Toscanini and Errol Flynn among its illustrious guests. Although recent renovations are perhaps a tad characterless, the grand dining room and arched ballroom (now a lounge) are still potently redolent of its glorious heyday.

Hotel Arts Barcelona

The product of a hugely successful collaboration between New York design and Barcelona funds, the Hotel Arts Barcelona has won several awards. Featuring an attractive brass wave-like roof, the 44-storey high hotel pokes conspicuously into Barcelona’s skyline. Thanks to its beachfront location, all 483 rooms have spectacular Mediterranean views. Art works by leading Spanish artists adorn the public areas. Among the wide array of services and amenities is a luxury spa and four top-class restaurants, one of which, Enoteca Paco Pérez, has two Michelin stars.

Fairmont Rey Juan Carlos I

Surrounded by major attractions like Camp Nou stadium and the Barcelona Polo Club, the 5-star Juan Carlos is simple yet comfortable. The 432 rooms, including 37 luxury suites, offer panoramic city and sea views. A tranquil patio restaurant, overlooking the hotel garden and pool, is just one of several dining areas and also features a wine lounge. Leisure facilities include a first-class health and fitness club and indoor and outdoor swimming pools.