Europe’s answer to Cape Town, without the obscene stabbing stats, Barcelona heralds beaches, boutiques and extreme architecture all within a rapid metro ride of one another. We took our two tiny people, survived the painfully long two hour flight and had a total blast for five gloriously hot September days. We devoured daily ice creams, gorged on Spanish ham had enough culture to carry us through to Summer 2016.
Just in case you were deciding on Barcelona as a destination, in the style of Julie Andrews, here are, ‘a few of my favourite things’.
1. SHOP. SHOP. SHOP.
El Born is home to a comfortable mix of tourists checking out the superb Picasso Museum and fitting in some boutique shopping, together with arty locals going about their business, slowly. Try picking up a coffee at Federel (http://www.federalcafe.es), before heading to the Passeig del Born in the evening to capture the lively buzz of Barcelona’s barflies sticking into their cañas.
2. COSMO CAIXA SCIENCE MUSEUM,
My highlight. An enormous, inspiring, incredible space covering the history of science from the Big Bang to the computer age. It is one of Europe's most modern museums Three must-sees are the inspired interactive tour of Earth's geological history, a planetarium, and an incredible recreation of the Amazonian rainforest which comes complete with a Camen Crocodile.
3. HEAD TO A BEACH NORTH OF BARCLEONA
Catch the train north out of Barclona, along the coast, leaving the metropolis behind you and get off the train when you spot a piece of beach you fancy. We opted for Ocata; a huge beach that is much quieter than the city. We ate terrible tapas but it didn’t matter, the sun shined.
4. ARCH DE TRIOMP & PARC DE LA CIUTADELLA
Look like a real torist and use your Rough Guide to walk from to the Arch de Triomp. You’ll find an enormous bustling city park with a lovely mix of students drinking beer, bright green parrots and an obligatory lake with paddleboats. Soak in the Spanish vibe.
5. PARC DE LABERINT D’HORTA
The find of our holiday. With dusk fast approaching and any Gina Ford bedtime left for dust, we followed our little metro maps to Mundet and followed our noses. The maze was the most wonderful pure, ridiculous fun and I’d go back tomorrow if there an hour’s flight involved.
6. WANDER AROUND GRACIA
The Shoreditch of Barcleona? Origionally an independent town but has since been swallowed up by it’s big brother. Gracia has vibrant plazas, independent boutiques, stacks of café’s and most importantly in 2015, some cracking Air b’n’b places.
7. CHOK BARCELONA
Just ridiculous doughnuts, rows and rows of them. For those moments when you need a sweet fix. http://www.chokbarcelona.com
8. LA MANUAL ALPARGATERA
The Spanish espadrille the way it was supposed to be experienced, with personal attention and with care, the same way they've been doing it since the '40s. Be prepared to queue but trust me, the shoes are of beautiful quality.
9. BARCELONA'S MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART IN CATALAN
MACBA...showcases contemporary artists and has plenty to love, hate and debate. While outside, dodging the skateboarders and dogs belonging to the perroflautas (literrally 'dog-flutes', the city's semi-political punk-hippies) is also a 'cultural' experience. (http://www.macba.cat/en/)
10. MERCADO DE LA BOQUERIA
The harrods food hall of the city. Regardless of whether you are looking for the infamous Spanish ham or seafood, beautiful looking fruit, vegetables, enormous sweets, spices, oils or cheese. Immerse yourself in an ocean of tastes and smells and enjoy eating on the trot as you walk the market.
11. SAGRADA FAMILIA
A masterpiece of architecture, The Sagrada Familia, evolved into Gaudí's life work and he was dedicated to this expiatory church until he died in 1926. Since then, the extraordinary building is continued to be built by several architects following Gaudís original ideas and is expected to be completed in 2026.
12. KAKIGORI & TAIYAKI
My final tip was something that we happened upon, something that was outrageously cool, cheap and perfect food theatre. Kakigori is a Japanese shaved ice dessert - snow like, delicate ice shavings are carved into a bowl and topped with intense sugar syrups and a fake pineapple. Guilt free ice cream or a decadent drink? I’m not sure.