Capital of Catalan culture, boasting nine world heritage sites, 13 Michelin starred restaurants and more than 4km of beaches, Barcelona makes for a buzzy city break by the Mediterranean.
Proper seaside at Badalona is on the metro system and Barcelonetta is even closer to the centre. If the weather's good, have a stroll and a coffee on La Ramblas, the sinuous central promenade leading down to the port.
The city has more than 50 museums to choose from, including a new music museum, a little shoe museum and a chocolate museum. Or if no one's looking you might choose to pop into the sex museum. But it would be a shame to leave without checking out the Picassos newly acquired by the National Museum of Art of Catalonia or visiting one or two of Gaudi's colourful, curvy buildings.
Air: Barcelona is one of the most popular destinations for low-cost airlines flying from regional airports. EasyJet (www.easyjet.com) flies from Bristol, Liverpool and Newcastle, as well as the London airports, from pound;48.98 return. BA (0870 8509 850, www.ba.com) flies from Gatwick from pound;69, and Heathrow from pound;98.
Coach: pound;78 return (book 15 days before travelling) with Eurolines (08705 143 219, www.eurolines.com), which says it creates a carbon footprint a fifth of that of air travel.
Rail: RailEurope (08708 304 862, www.raileurope. co.uk) offers London Barcelona returns (via Eurostar and the overnight Elipsos Trainhotel service) from Pounds 159
Renata Rubnikowicz For more information see www.barcelonaturisme.com
Where to drink
La Granja (Calle Banys Nous 4)
Hot chocolate will never taste the same again once you've had a mug of chocolate laced with chilli at this gorgeous cafe, where you sit surrounded by antiques. A perfect pick-me-up after a hard day watching the living statues on La Ramblas.
What to see
Park Guell (Calle Olot)
The Sagrada Familia is all very well, but you can't leave Barcelona without hiking up to Park Guell, a fantasy wonderland where Gaudi's imagination ran riot. Save yourself a steep climb by getting the bus, but make sure you take plenty of water.
Where to eat
Meson Jesus (Calle Cecs de la Boqueria 4)
It may not be haute cuisine, but it's authentic Catalan food at budget friendly prices. The tables are a little cramped and the menu isn't the most extensive, but the food and service more than make up for it. Always full of Spaniards, which has got to be a good sign.
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