EUROPE is full of stunning cities but few come with a beach – which makes Barcelona an ideal spot for making the most of a quick getaway.
And from the Almanac Barcelona hotel, a leisurely downhill stroll will take you into the delightful Old Town or on to the seafront for lunchtime quaffing or nighttime clubbing.
WHY SHOULD I GO? With the summer temperatures nudging 30C but also refreshing sea breezes, this magical city on the Med will satisfy most tastes. It has art and architecture for the oldies and raucous partying for the young.
ARE THE STREETS MADE FOR WALKING? Assolutamente. The narrow lanes in the quaint historic quarter are pedestrian-only. But make sure the GPS on your phone is working if you are dead set on finding a particular destination in this charming maze.
Getting lost is hardly a problem as every twist and turn reveals a route packed with tempting bars, tapas joints and specialist food shops in a city dedicated to edible and liquid delights. Head for one of nearly 40 food markets to pick tasty pastries and soak up the foodie vibe. The Sagrada Familia basilica created by Spain’s most famous architect, Antoni Gaudi, is worth poking your head in.
ANYTHING UNUSUAL? You can reach the beach via cable car while enjoying breathtaking panoramic views. Shoreside drink sellers wander about with trays of cocktails to save you moving from your spot on the sand. But the more active visitor can hire bikes to see the most of the seafront, where domino-playing locals mix with buskers and tourists.
This city is an art hub with galleries featuring everyone from Picasso to Banksy, while Gaudi has left his mark all over, including the House of Bones that has a roof like a dragon’s back, and the Case Mila with its creepy statues.
WHERE SHOULD I EAT? Spain is renowned for tapas. But affordable lunchtime menus will also showcase regional delights more typical of Catalonia’s home cooking, such as cod and tuna from the city’s fishermen.
Meals are enjoyed at a relaxed pace, and locals like to spend two and a half hours on their midday meal. Taller De Tapas will not disappoint on price or quality as you enjoy juicy delicacies while people-watching in a pretty square. Residents recommend Tapeo for classics, while the down-to-earth Bar del Pla is also renowned for traditional fare.
Meat and fish are worshipped in this region but vegans are at last getting a foothold in the food markets, while the Vegan Junk Food Bar in the El Born district is worth a visit.
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FEELING THIRSTY? Barcelona’s boozers are on another level. The long, rustic bars are always superbly lit and are the perfect setting to down regional drink vermouth or local wines. Cocktail lovers should arrive early to avoid queues at Dr Stravinsky. Beer fans can head to Ale & Hop which brews lagers, stouts and IPAs. The friendly but small bar is also known for its food.
Wine buffs can enjoy a tour of the organic vineyard at Bodega Torello, a pleasant hour’s drive east of the city.
WHERE SHOULD I STAY? The Almanac Barcelona hotel is a go-to for foodies just a few steps from the Passeig de Gracia. The pairing menu at its restaurant Virens, with a plant-heavy focus, grants a fine introduction to the city’s culinary prowess.
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The hotel’s rooftop bar Azimuth has an outdoor pool where you can enjoy a dip before relaxing on the chic loungers. You can then warm up with a cocktail or three.
Request a room on a higher floor for fab views from huge windows — decorated in a muted palette with Nespresso machines and bath- rooms with rainfall shower.
GETTING THERE: Ryanair flies from Birmingham, Bristol, Glasgow and Stansted from £13 one-way. Vedere ryanair.com.
STAYING THERE: Rooms at the Almanac Barcelona start from £250 per night.
A two-night Foodie Package for two is from £672pp including breakfast, dinner at Virens restaurant with wine, tour of the Bodega Torello vineyard and city foodie tour plus transfers to and from the airport.
For more information see almanachotels.com/barcelona/special-offers oppure chiama +34 93 0187000.
MORE INFO: Vedere barcelonaturisme.com.