Barcelona is skirted by a number of beautiful beaches. It’s one of the few big European cities that can also offer picturesque sunbathing spots. The line-up includes sandy stretches that are perfect for kicking back in the summer sun, beaches with waters that are ideal for swimming, and waves that surfers deem wipe-out-worthy.
La Barceloneta is Barcelona’s most popular beach, and it comes well-stocked with everything you could need – including cocktail bars, seafood eateries and watersports centres. It’s all set on a palm-lined stretch of sand that sprawls along the coastline for nearly a mile. It’s a lively beach, and still within easy reach of the city’s best attractions, so you can punctuate sunbathing with sightseeing.
You don’t need to go far to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. You can be strolling across the unspoilt Castelldefels sands after just a 20-minute train journey. It’s well-known for extreme watersports like windsurfing and kitesurfing. Plus, the water is still calm enough for swimming. You won’t go hungry either, as tapas joints and beach grills line the back of the beach.
Barcelona has lots of markets to its name, including flea markets, like Encants Vells. It’s one of the oldest flea markets in Europe, dating back to the 14th century, and is ideal for scouting out unique bargains. It lays out its wares on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and sells a mix of all things old and new. You can haggle for antiques, books, clothes, furniture, and much more. It also hosts an auction of special antiques first thing every morning.
In Eixample – just beyond Barcelona’s old district – there are several pedestrianised streets lined with shops. They’re part of a shopping area that sprawls across the city between Avinguda Diagonal to Barri Gòtic and comes equipped with Spanish high street favourites, like H&M, Zara and Mango.
You’ll find El Corte Inglés on Plaza Catalunya. This huge department store owns the corner of the square and is home to a whole host of brands – it’s Barcelona’s answer to Selfridges. You can expect designer jewellery, clothes, accessories and cosmetics. And, there’s an upmarket grocery shop to stock up on luxury treats, like cakes and chocolates.
Evenings in Barcelona aren’t just about drinking and dancing. Head up to the viewpoint at Mount Tibidabo to watch the sun set over the city, or be a culture vulture and catch a concert at the Gran Teatre del Liceu. Hop between small restaurants to sample tapas and paella in trendy beachside neighbourhoods, or spend warm evenings chilling out on the grass in the Parc de la Ciutadella.
Barcelona is one of the largest cities in Spain, and it’s got the buzzing nightlife to match. Each neighbourhood has a different after-dark offering, so whether you prefer sipping cocktails in classy lounges, or dancing ‘til dawn in hip clubs, there’ll be something for you. The Gothic Quarter is best for after-dinner drinks, with a mix of upmarket and budget-friendly bars. For partying into the early hours, head to the clubs of El Raval and El Born.
Nowhere does tapas like Barcelona. You’ll find tiny bars serving this Spanish classic on every street corner, and it’s not hard to understand why. It’s seriously tasty and varied enough that everyone can find a dish to their taste. Barcelona classics include patatas bravas – cubes of potatoes in a spicy tomato sauce – with aioli, calamari, stuffed mussels, and spicy Spanish sausage.
You can eat paella in restaurants all over Spain, but only in Catalonia can you eat Fideuà. The people of Barcelona have given the traditional treat that is paella a twist. They serve the usual blend of seafood with thin noodles instead of rice. The result is a much smoother tasting version of the original.
In Barcelona, the traditional hot chocolate is essentially just melted dark chocolate in a cup. It’s deliciously indulgent on its own, but even better when it’s got a few sugar-sprinkled churros on the side. Dip them into the hot chocolate like a sauce – trust us on this one.
What you may know as jamón – AKA ham – is also known as pernil in Catalonia. This popular dry-cured ham is a culinary staple in most Spanish towns and cities, and Barcelona is no different. You’ll find it in markets and hanging in the windows of butchers’ shops and tapas bars. You can eat it on its own, with crusty bread, or it goes well with a refreshing slice of melon.
Move over sangria, this Spanish city has its own tipple. Cava is often considered the unofficial drink of Barcelona, as it’s made less than 50 miles away in the Penedès region. This sparkling wine is tapas’ perfect partner, and it gives Champagne a run for its money.
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