Gaudí’s weird and wonderful creations
As any art teacher will tell you, “there are no straight lines in nature”. There are also few straight lines in the designs of Antoni Gaudí – the individual who has probably had the greatest influence on Barcelona’s urban aesthetic. His passions for architecture, nature and religion permeate his work, from the lamp posts of Plaza Real to the rather grander Sagrada Família cathedral.
Any Gaudí tour of Barcelona must include Park Güell (www.parkguell.cat/), a beautiful urban park slightly elevated from the city centre. Gaudí’s patron Eusebi Güell wanted to build an English-style garden city and entrusted some of his family’s land to the artist. The result is a beautiful, undulating park covered in mosaics.
Casa Batlló (www.casabatllo.es/), built for textile tycoon Josep Batlló, is another of Gaudí’s most famous works. Located in the "manzana de la discordia" (block of discord), the house is known locally as “Casa dels ossos” (house of bones) because of its unique, organic structure. It’s a great place to stop for a cocktail.
The artist’s greatest work is the Sagrada Família (www.sagradafamilia.cat/), which remains unfinished. The best time to visit is almost certainly first thing in the morning, before the hordes of tourists arrive. It’s one of the world’s few truly iconic structures.
The motto “mes que un club” – more than a club – offers an idea of how important FC Barcelona is to local identity. The azulgrana has been one of the world’s greatest football teams for decades. If you can get a chance to catch a game at the Camp Nou stadium, it will be an unforgettable experience; tickets cost the same whether you buy them from the club’s website or at the turnstiles on the day of the game. If you are looking for a bargain, rumour has it cheaper or rarer tickets are available from the “socios” or members, although you will need to do some serious networking if you want to get hold of them. (www.fcbarcelona.es/info-entradas)
Water sports in the Canal Olímpic
In Castelldefels, 20 minutes from Barcelona, the Canal Olímpic (canalolimpic.com/) is the place to go for water sports. The facilities were built for the 1992 Summer Olympic Games and have been a popular destination ever since. You can try canoeing and kayaking, rowing, archery, golf, skating, cycling, water bikes, pedal-cars and sailing.
Parc del Laberint d'Horta
Named after the labyrinth of cypress bushes located at the lower part of the park, this is one of the most peaceful corners of the city. 9 hectares of beautiful urban parkland are open from 10am until dusk each day. From a neoclassical pavilion at the top of three terraces, you can enjoy a spectacular view of the park and its diverse flora and fauna.
PortAventura theme park
Home to Shambala: the tallest and fastest roller coaster in Europe, PortAventura (www.portaventura.es/) sells itself as a “European Destination Resort”. You can go for the day too, although an early start is recommended as the resort is approximately an hour’s drive along the coast from Barcelona.
Barcelona Museums & Galleries
Fundació Joan Miró – the building, designed by Josep Lluís Sert, is a work of art in itself, but the collection of more than 225 paintings makes this a “must see” Barcelona museum.
Parc de Montjuïc, s/n 08038 Barcelona, fundaciomiro-bcn.org
The Museu Nacional D'Art de Catalunya (MNAC) houses an impressive collection of work from Catalan artists including a number of beautiful murals.
Palau Nacional, Parc de Montjuïc, s/n 08038 Barcelona, mnac.cat
The Picasso Museum is a museum dedicated to the life and works of Pablo Picasso, particularly the formative years he spent in the city. As well as a strong permanent collection of 4,249 works, there are regular visiting exhibitions.
Carrer de Montcada 15-23, 08003 Barcelona, museupicasso.bcn.cat
Museu del Modernisme Catala is the place to go for Catalan Art Nouveau. It’s a comparatively small museum but hosts an impressive collection of furniture.
Carrer de Balmes 48, 08007 Barcelona, mmcat.cat