She’s got more razzle-dazzle than a De Beers heiress, and from the Romans and Moors to today’s glam globestrutter, it seems the world just can’t get enough of Barcelona. Glittering Med sea – check, stunning architectural marvels and museums – check, just add culinary fireworks and sparkling wines. Vamos!
It’s the dignified uptown and bubbly downtown divide. Above Gran Via is modernista Eixample in neat grids, villagey Gràcia and the hills of Tibidabo. Below lies the old city with the narrow, winding lanes of ancient, ambient Barri Gòtic, hip and bustling (El) Born, grunge-cool (El) Raval, and seaside Barceloneta.
Need to Know
Weather: The sun shines year round. Winter is crisp, autumn and spring are perfectly balmy, but avoid August – the place shuts down, the locals flee and the coach-loads descend
Etiquette: It may get steamy in summer, but boys try to keep your shirts on – bare nips are, by law, for the beach only
Alcohol: Ask for una caña, not una cerveza. Sangria is for Tonya Tourist – sip on cava, tinto de verano or vermut instead
Sport: Football is a religion and FC Barcelona the god
Do: It’s all in the details, so look closely at everything from doors and knobs to balconies and lampposts
Don’t: Dodge La Rambla like you would a date with Franco. He’s gone? Shame the ugly hordes here haven’t
Spanish Time: Lunch at 2pm, then siesta, have a merienda (snack) at 5pm, sup at 9pm, then party after. It’s no wonder the Sagrada Família is still 50 years away from completion
Art Smart: Eke the most out of the city’s cultural spoils with the Barcelona Card, which bags you queue-skipping free entry into big-hitter museums, as well as unlimited bus and metro transport
Footie & Fast Cars: FC Barcelona continues its yearly tussle with arch enemies Atletico and Real Madrid in La Liga or zoom up to Spain’s F1 circuit in Montmeló for the Barcelona Grand Prix.
Alfrisky Antics: With weather like this, it would be rude to stay inside; come dusk this summer, kick back at Mount Montjuïc for a diverse lineup of music, theatre and dance at Teatre Grec (Jun-Jul); getting gussied up for Michy morsels and bubbles at the Palau Reial’s open-air Festival Pedralbes (Jun-Jul); and packing a picnic for Sala Montjuic’s lineup of concerts and cinema under the stars and castle walls (Jul-Aug)
Ancestor Fiesta: Take to the streets for historic week-long shimmy La Mercè, filling every corner of the city with spectacular processions, traditional drumming, theatre, dance, circus, food stalls, visual arts, and of course, the legendary human towers and fire running (Sep)
Get Outta Town: Festival Vendimia Alella (Sep) offers a jolly good glug of winery open days and gastro gatherings to celebrate the all-important grape harvest in one of the smallest and prettiest wine-producing villages in the region. ¡Salud!
Sneaky Peek:Love a good nose around people’s private parts? Who doesn’t! Barça’s best doodlers and paint-flingers open their studio doors for Tallers Oberts; then urban st-archi landmarks that are normally closed to the public join Open House for a weekend of craned necks and design inspiration.