At first glance, it seems as though a careless giant has dripped melting wax over a the Sagrada Familia Gothic cathedral
Rachel Zammit Cutajar
What to do?
Las Ramblas is a landmark in Barcelona. The tree-lined, mile-long street and its offshoots provides a glimpse into Catalonia and is popular among locals and tourists, fortune-tellers, dancers and musicians. The promenade is crowded during the day and until late in the night. It is full of kiosks that sell newspapers and souvenirs, flowers and birds, street performers, shops, restaurants and cafes that, though may be a little on the expensive side, make for a great spot for people-watching.
Probably Barcelona's best-known market, La Boqueria is ideally situated just off Las Ramblas this market is a must whether sourcing ingredients for a fine meal or just wandering through. It's an assault on the senses with smells coming from the fish to fruit. The food sold ranges from ready-made fresh fruit salads for the tired tourist, to literally fresh out of the sea still moving crabs and lobsters Not to mention the bright sweet counters that will act like a magnet for any child or adult.
Casa Batlló, which looks like the gingerbread house in Hansel and Gretel is a key feature in the architecture of modernist Barcelona. Built by Antoni Gaudí between 1904 and 1906 it was commissioned by the textile industrialist Josep Batlló. Today the spectacular facade is an iconic landmark in the city. The "Manzana de la Discordia", or Block of Discord, is a series of buildings in Passeig de Gràcia and is home to a collection of works by the most renowned architects. The house, now a museum, is open to the public, both for cultural visits and for celebrating events in its splendid modernist function rooms.
The Sagrada Familia is breathtaking and grotesque by turns. After Guadi was tragically killed in a tram accident in 1926, the cathedral was eventually completed after 130 years. At first glance, it seems as though a careless giant has dripped melting wax over a Gothic cathedral, but a closer look reveals that the protuberances create a stone tapestry of Christ's life. Take the lift to the top for a breathtaking view.
Montjuïic is perfect for a leafy stroll with great views, but hard to reach so is less populated by tourists. Scattered across the landward side are buildings from the 1992 Olympic Games, including Santiago Calatrava's Olympic needle, while facing the sea is the lighthouse and vast cemetery.
September is the best time for fiestas. The Fesetes de la Mercee started as a small religious parade, but has since turned into a week long street party celebrating the Catalan culture. Free concerts, performances, fireworks and stuff to do for the kids makes this week a hedonist's dream.
Where to stay?
In the Gothic quarter but right on the harbour, the Duquesa de Cardona, www.hduquesadecardona.com, hotel offers the very best of Barcelona. High end 4 star hotel with unbelievable terrace and pool will make you feel at your best. The property preserves the original spirit and style of this XVI century building and blends it with an avant-garde décor in the guestrooms. Just a short walk from Las Ramblas and some great restaurants the Duquesa de Cardona is a great hotel to spend a few days in the city.
This iconic Casa Fuster, www.barcelonacasafusterhotel.com, is a Modernist building located at the head of Barcelona's chic Passeig de Gracia Avenue. The rooftop terrace with pool has been converted into a lookout point with views to all of Paseo de Gracia all the way to the Mediterranean sea, up to Tibidabo and across to Sagrada Familia. The luxurious Casa Fuster is a monument in itself, built in 1908 by the Modernist architect, Lluis Domènech i Montaner.
For a night of luxury stay at the Hotel DO: Placa Reial, www.hoteldoreial.com, built on the Placa Reial itself just off Las Ramblas. The gastronomic, boutique hotel was built in 1856 but completely renovated in 2011, offering a unique variety of old architecture with today's modern conveniences in 18 luxury rooms, most of which have views of the Placa Reial.
Where to eat?
For an interesting night out try Dos Palillos, www.dospalillos.com, where Asian cuisine meets Spanish tapas. The concept is to eat Asian tapas with the Spanish philosophy, a little more informal and sharing the tapas instead of eating individual dishes. Complete with Asian bar and open styled kitchens the chefs serve the food themselves. The perfect place to enjoy the flavours of Asia in a Spanish atmosphere.
Arola, www.hotelartsbarcelona.com, restaurant in Barcelona is located on the second floor of the luxury Hotel Arts. Enjoy traditional Catalan specials in a chic atmosphere on the beautiful terrace while enjoying live music and local DJs. Degustation menus are available as well as the more traditional a la carte. The wine cellar also stocks a pretty impressive 900 wines.
At the Fonda Gaig, www.fondagaig.com, the food is very traditionally Catalan, in a return to grandmotherly Catalan basics, with simpler and more affordable food. Try the traditional pastas slender cannelloni with a decadent multimeat filling, and macarrones del cardenal, silky pasta tubes cloaked in a divine sauce of cream and onion sofrito under gratinéed Parmesan.
How to get there?
Air Malta and Ryan Air both offer flights to Barcelona. Flights departing from Malta on 26 June and returning on 5 July on Ryan Air were priced at €64.98 including tax, while flights departing from Malta on 28 June and returning on 5 July on Air Malta were priced at €1,206.81 including tax at the time of going to print.