TRAVEL

Barcelona: Exploring the magic of the Catalan capital

Barcelona is a city that attracts visitors from all over the world. It’s hardly surprising when you consider that the capital of Catalonia receives around 2,500 hours of sunshine each year. Barcelona offers a unique combination of all the qualities of a wonderful city break along with a relaxing beach holiday thanks to its Mediterranean coastline. Not only is Barcelona a city where the sun often shines, but it’s also a place oozing with culture, personality, and creativity.

The beauty of Barcelona from well above sea level / Public Domain

If you need to get to Barcelona from the States, you have two options: plane or cruise. Airfares are surprisingly expensive for routes to Barcelona, but with a little creativity, it’s possible to get a reasonable rate. Most people suggest flying to Canada first; Air Transat offers regular flights to Barcelona from Montreal and Toronto. Meanwhile, Mediterranean cruises are also an option, but be aware that your ship won’t hang around in Barcelona for longer than two or three days.

Still need more convincing about why you should visit Barcelona? Below are some solid arguments as to why this colorful city should be at the top of your bucket list:

It’s a hive of contemporary art and architecture

Barcelona oozes art and culture from every pore. In fact, Barcelona became the first city on the planet to receive a Gold Medal from the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) for its architecture.

Whether it’s the 18th and 19th century Gothic Quarter, the artwork of greats such as Picasso and Dalí, or the spectacular modernist building La Sagrada Familia, an homage to Antoni Gaudí that has been under construction for over a century–there’s visual stimulation wherever you look.

The live music scene rivals the likes of Berlin

Do you enjoy live music festivals or events? Barcelona could be the city for you. Its summer festival scene has grown immensely in recent years, with both Sonar and Primavera Sound offering an eclectic mix of bands and artists each year.

Meanwhile, the city’s nightclubs also regularly advertise the presence of some of Europe’s hottest DJs at exclusive venues such as Apolo and Razzmatazz. Historically, Berlin has long been the place for live music in Europe, but Barcelona is starting to provide stiff competition.

Sports enthusiasts will love exploring Camp Nou

FC Barcelona is one of the world’s most renowned football teams. It’s become a brand as well as a successful team for the city. The squad is also one of the most successful in Europe, as they are regularly competing for La Liga titles as well as the Champion’s League. It includes icons such as Lionel Messi and Gerard Pique. The latter is now a keen Texas Hold’em player outside of football and can be regularly found playing poker at the Casino Barcelona. 

Barcelona also plays in one of the most iconic stadiums in Europe, Camp Nou. With a capacity of almost 100,000, it’s a genuinely magnificent theater for football. Even if you can’t afford a ticket to watch Barcelona during your stay, be sure to attend the Camp Nou Experience, which incorporates a stadium tour as well as a tour of the team’s museum to showcase its rich football heritage.

Barcelona’s fashion industry is thriving

If you like to shop until you drop, you’ll have plenty of retail therapy opportunities in Barcelona. Head to the Passeig de Gràcia, well-known as a hub for designer shopping and the city’s fashion industry. The area runs all the way from Plaça de Catalunya toward the hipster Gràcia suburbs. You’ll find plenty of iconic designer brands like Gucci and Chanel as well as several popular independent boutiques.

The city offers glitz and glamour at its casinos

Barcelona is developing a reputation for its casino scene and live poker action. Casino Barcelona is widely regarded as a paradise for card players, spreading a vast choice of table games from poker and baccarat to blackjack and roulette. Casino Barcelona’s poker tournaments are growing in size year after year, too, putting it on par with other “poker tourist” cities like London. It’s situated close to the beach and houses a string of dining options and stylish cocktail bars to enjoy before and after dark. 

Home to National Geographic’s number-one urban beach

The crystal-blue Mediterranean Sea laps against Barcelona’s shoreline / Public Domain

Aside from its urban beauty and penchant for tournament poker, Barcelona is also a popular beach destination. Situated on the Mediterranean coastline, Barcelona’s sea and sand are revered throughout Europe. In fact, National Geographic has named Barcelona’s beaches as the best urban beaches in the world, maintaining super-clean environments for locals and tourists to enjoy. There’s even dedicated skate parks overlooking the beach for skaters to use instead of clogging up the beach promenades.

Things for tourists to be mindful of in Barcelona

One thing to remember when exploring the streets of Barcelona is that the city is rife with pickpockets. TripAdvisor has previously labeled Barcelona the pickpocket capital of the world, with many unwitting tourists having their money and belongings stolen by fleet-footed criminals.

So what’s the best way to keep safe from pickpockets in Barcelona? Never keep your wallet in your back pocket, and don’t leave valuables visible on tables in cafes and restaurants. If possible, wear a bag or backpack that you can carry over your neck, making it harder for pickpockets to run off into side streets with your belongings.

When you combine all of the above into one neat package, it’s easy to see why Barcelona is such a multi-faceted holiday destination. The locals are friendly, and it’s well-placed to explore nearby countries like Italy and France while you are in Europe, too.

Note: This is a guest post. It was not written by Skye Sherman.

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