The proud capital of Catalonia, Barcelona is one of the most popular European cities to visit. It has a magnificent setting, sandwiched between the Mediterranean
In brief +
The vibrant capital of Catalonia, Barcelona shines over the mythic Costa Brava coastline, composed of sandy beaches, wild creeks, and small fishing villages. You can find the mark of Gaudi all over this Catalan city, especially in parks, Gothic churches, and the surprising Sagrada Familia Cathedral, still under construction. The evenings lend to feria firework, tapas, and fiestas in the lively streets. You find another Spain on the Atlantic coast, from the Basque Country to Galicia via Cantabria: San Sébastian, Bilbao and its Guggenheim Museum, Santander and its bay, right up to the paths of Santiago de Compostela, below the sumptuous Picos de Europa (Peaks of Europe).
+ The varied landscapes
+ The offerings in terms of culture and entertainment
+ The trendy restaurants
+ The reliability of the hotel infrastructure
+ The architectural wealth of many villages and cities
+ The joie de vivre of the majority of the population
- The overcrowding of the tourist sites in summer
- The high levels of noise and agitation at certain times of the day, especially in the larger cities
Catalan and/or Spanish, Valencian and/or Spanish, Basque and/or Spanish, the inhabitants of the autonomous communities have a dual identity that you should take into account. As in all large cities, Barcelona is ideal for getting around on foot and on public transport. Therefore, remember to pack a pair of comfortable shoes with you. If you feel like enjoying the Barcelona nights, add a few more clothes to your suitcase.
Tapas at cocktail hour represents Spain's greatest gastronomical tradition. At the bar, on the terrace of a café, or at the table of a restaurant, you will taste small portions of the most diverse dishes, served with a glass of wine or beer. Then comes paella, gaspacho, and the tortilla (an omelette with potatoes). But the true national dish is the cocido, a sort of local stew. Across the country, the recipe is to mix meat with dry and green vegetables that vary according to the region. Catalonia stands out for its salsas. These preparations are served with all kinds of dishes. Saimfaina is made with tomatoes, chili peppers, and fried eggplant. Picada is made of garlic, parsley, grilled almonds, and pine nuts. All that's left are the sofrito and aïoli! The region has a wide choice of charcuterie (cooked meat cuts). Butifarra, roasted or fried with white beans, is a typical dish. You must try the Priorato red wine. Cocido from Barcelona is called escudella. Its black and white butifarra simmers with pilota: minced meat balls mixed with parsley, bread, and eggs. Catalan dessert is the Crema Catalana (a custard based creme with caramel). Rice is the speciality in the province of Valencia. It is prepared with multiple ingredients or simply served on its own. Valencia-style rice is prepared with the ingredients you have at the moment of preparation. It is similar to paella. Taste the dates, pomegranates, and nougats. The Basque Country is renowned for its Basque cod served with dried chili and onions. Sauces: pil-pil, green, or black generally spice up the fish. It is impossible to avoid the smell of grilled sardines and the Txacoli, the regional white wine. Try the wines from the Rioja region. The vineyards aren't far off.
Barcelona is world famous for its design industry. Furniture and designer objects are sold at the Passeig de Gràcia, where they are neighbours to designer boutiques, shops of Spanish designers, and art galleries. Delicatessens and herbal boutiques are very close by. In the Gothic district, you will discover antique and crafts shops. Charcuterie, cheese, canned food, and wine await you at Colmado Quilez, an establishment located in the Eixample neighbourhood. Let yourself be seduced by El Corte Inglés: the Spanish department store. On the Ramblas, Boqueria is amongst Europe's most spectacular food markets. The province of Valencia is famous for pottery, hand held fans, and the bright coloured blankets from Morella. The Basque Country makes cotton scarves and the Tolosa beret. Shops are open from Monday to Saturday from 9:30am to 1:30pm and from 4:30pm to 8:00pm. Shopping centres and department stores are open from 10:00am to 9:00pm or even 10:00pm.