Gaudí's home combines a warm Mediterranean vibe and proud Catalan intensity in an enviable coastal setting, says Ian Belcher
The Catalan capital, Barça, is generous with its delights from top-notch dining to cutting-edge design in everything from fashion to architecture…
Prepare to be mesmerised by Antoni Gaudí. Rising up above the city, the eight decorative spires of his unfinished church Sagrada Família blend Gothic and Art Nouveau features, while the soft Mediterranean light flowing through the stained-glass windows of the Passion Façade bathes the interior.
For glorious views, try Parque Güell – Gaudí’s extraordinary garden complex in Gràcia, where clusters of columns grow from the earth, and walls and sculptures blaze with multicoloured ceramics. Then return to the Gothic district to see its vaulted 14th-century cathedral, where 13 white geese reside in a secluded cloister. Nearby, the Picasso Museum spreads through five ancient townhouses and boasts more than 3,800 exhibits from the painter’s formative years.
For an all-out assault on the senses, the 860 food stalls of Europe’s largest market, Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria, are an absolute treat. The market has occupied its present building since 1853, and here you’ll see Barcelona housewives and top local chefs stocking up on fresh produce.
For hip fashion and fine fabrics, visit the small streets and alleys in El Born and Barri Gòtic. The more mainstream designer boutiques line Passeig de Gràcia in the Eixample, where you’ll also find department stores including El Corte Inglés in the surrounding streets.
You can eat well in Barcelona, but its restaurants and bars don’t always shout about it. Head to Passadís del Pep on the Plaça del Palau and you won’t even find a sign at the front – just a small brass plate at the end of the building’s hallway. Nor does it have a menu: instead, staff will keep bringing you platters of ham and seafood fresh from the market until you ask them to stop. For great fish, visit the waterfront eatery Xiringuito Escriba on Avenida Ronda Litoral Mar for sensational paella and sea crab. And for the best tapas, try TapaÇ 24 on Carrer de la Diputació.
Top shore excursions:
This whistle-stop tour of the capital takes in many beloved sights, including the Gaudí-designed Sagrada Família and the labyrinth Gothic Quarter.
Soak up the sights on a panoramic drive through town and stop for photos at Montjuïc Hill, where you can enjoy breathtaking views across Barcelona. On your tour, you will visit a local restaurant and taste some regional tapas dishes along with a glass of wine or beer.
Walk in the footsteps of Fàbregas and Messi at Camp Nou, the largest stadium in Europe and home to Champions League winners FC Barcelona.