Barcelona, Catalonia's capital and Spain's second-largest city, has it all - effortless cool, history, culture, magical architecture, one of the world's biggest football clubs, beaches, and, the underpinning of any successful trip, a local population with an unquenchable thirst for a night out.
Its standing as a must-visit city means that there is no shortage of cheap flights to Barcelona. The international airport is 13km southwest of the city.
Two very different artists define Barcelona. One is Picasso, who lived in the city from his teenage years to his early-20s. The Picasso Museum, spanning numbers 15-23 Montcada, has 3,500 of the artist's works, from sketches to paintings and collages. The other artist is Antonio Gaudi, who imagined all those melting, morphing, bubbly buildings (the stunning Sagrada Familia, started in 1882 and still not finished, and Parc Güell, with its resident smiling dragon).
The Gothic quarter has some of the best-preserved medieval streets while the new part of town is around Montjüic hill, from which there are panoramic views of the city.
The tree-lined Las Ramblas sweeps down from the Plaza de Catalunya to the water, a lively area of cafes, market stalls and lots of street theatre.
Search and compare: cheap flights to Barcelona
On the shores of the Mediterranean, Barcelona has hot summers and cool winters. July and August are the hottest months with the temperatures occasionally pushing 37 degrees (Celsius). January is the coolest month when temperatures are usually in the 10s. May and June are sunny and warm, and in September the heat starts to cool down to comfortable ranges.
When to fly to Barcelona
Barcelona is Spain’s most popular tourist destination, and summer is the peak season. Many of the locals depart for the beach in August and leave the city to the visitors.
Ideal times to search for cheap flights to Barcelona and visit are May, June, and September when the weather is warm but not sizzling hot.
Between tourists and business travellers, Barcelona is busy year-round. September has fewer tourists, and October has lots of rain. Although the winters are mild, make sure your room is heated.
Getting around Barcelona
Public transport is efficient and it's a great way to get around Barcelona. Once you’re in an area, walking is a very nice way to explore. The metro is best and buses will take you to the airport and out from the centre of town.
The double-decker Bus Turistic makes stops at popular tourist destinations in the summer. Save some money by buying multiple-ride tickets. The Barcelona Card gets you discounts at various restaurants and tourist attractions. You can also rent mopeds and bicycles, or hail a taxi.
Taxis are reasonably priced, but it’s always a good idea to make sure the meter is running. Note that fares are more expensive at night.
Barcelona insider information
- There are so many major tourist attractions in the city that you may feel like getting off the beaten track and seeing something a little more esoteric. If so, the Museu del Calcat, or shoe museum, is the perfect spot. The museum costs only €2.50 to enter (or free for under-sevens) and showcases the cobbler’s craft from Roman times to the modern day.
- The catamaran Orsom is moored at the port of Barcelona and is a great way to escape the city to the sea or to parts of the Costa Brava. Jazz cruises set out in the evenings. To book, just head to the port at the bottom of Las Ramblas.
- As with most major tourist attractions, it’s best to visit the Sagrada Familia in the very early morning if you want to avoid the crowds. More than one million people come here every year, so unless you enjoy being jostled, arrive first thing in the morning to see it in (relative) peace and quiet.
- For a more relaxed enjoyment of a Gaudi masterpiece, head for the Parc Guell. Buses stop right outside, or you can take a short walk from the metro. The Unesco site is filled with Gaudi’s stunning sculptures, but there is plenty of room just to sit back and enjoy the views of the city.
- If you want to visit the beaches of Barcelona, the closest to the city centre is Barceloneta. However, this is, understandably, extremely busy. A short bus ride away is Nova Icaria, near to the Olympic marina. As well as the beach are bars and restaurants – but again it is almost always full. To experience the sea in a bit more solitude, take a train to the north (local custom has it that the beaches to the north attract a higher class of visitor) and stop at Ocata, where you'll find a long sandy beach with plenty of space and beautifully clean water.