Barcelona promises legendary architecture, delicious Catalan cookery, a festive beach culture, and plenty for party animals:
Barcelona is a thrillingly unique city, home to some of the most famous and bizarre architecture in the world, and the playground of exciting modern artists like Joan Miro, Picasso and, of course, Antonio Gaudi. Travel to Barcelona and you will land in sunny Spain's major holiday city, cosmopolitan and lively, with superb shopping, a great climate, beautiful beaches, a fun nightlife, and plenty of Spanish pizzazz. The city is the gateway to the Costa Brava and Costa Dorada, with their many popular beach resorts, but the interesting sightseeing and the treasures of centuries, not to mention the great restaurants and vivacious locals, will keep visitors happily occupied within the city itself. A visit to Spain is not quite complete without a stroll down the iconic Las Ramblas pedestrian street in Barcelona.
Best time to visit Barcelona
It is always the right time to holiday in Barcelona, with its long, hot summers and mild winters. The best months to travel to Barcelona are between June and September, but those who find the heat and crowds taxing should avoid mid-summer (August).
GMT +1, and GMT +2 during DST.
Electrical current is 230 volts, 50Hz. European-style two-pin plugs are standard.
Spanish is the official language, but English is widely understood in areas frequented by tourists. Catalan, Galician and Basque are spoken in the relevant areas.
There are no health risks associated with travel to Spain, and no vaccination certificates are required for entry. Medical facilities are good in Spain, but comprehensive travel insurance is always advised. Spain has a reciprocal health agreement with most EU countries, including the UK, providing emergency health care for EU travellers on the same terms as Spanish nationals. EU travellers should take a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).
Note that the scheme gives no entitlement to medical repatriation costs, nor does it cover ongoing illnesses of a non-urgent nature, so comprehensive travel insurance is still advised. Travellers should take any medication they require along with them, in its original packaging and accompanied by a signed and dated letter from a doctor detailing what it is and why it is needed.
Hotel and restaurant bills usually include service charges, but additional tips are welcomed for services rendered. In established restaurants, tips of about 10 percent are expected. In Mallorca, value added tax is usually included in restaurant bills, designated IVA, and may be mistaken for a service charge. Drivers of metered taxis expect small tips and it is customary to tip about 5 to 10 percent for most services, including guides.
Most visits to Spain are trouble-free, except for occasional street crime, which is common in the big cities; travellers are advised to take precautions to avoid theft of passports, credit cards, travel documents and money. Crime is usually petty and violent assault is rare. Be wary of strangers offering or asking for help of any kind, as it is often a distraction for accomplices. There are also scams involving letters for outstanding traffic fines or Spanish lottery winnings. If travellers exercise all the normal precautions they should have a trouble-free holiday in Spain.
Smoking in public places is banned and stiff fines will be imposed for smoking in areas such as enclosed public spaces, areas where food is prepared and sold, public transport, non-smoking areas of bars and restaurants, and any places that cater for children. Drinking alcohol in the streets of Madrid and the streets of the Canary and Balearic Islands is illegal.
Legendary rocker Freddie Mercury once described Barcelona's beautiful horizon as 'a jewel in the sun'. The city can best be described as a visual city. It is a sightseer's paradise, with seven beaches and 10 hectares (25 acres) of municipal parkland allotted throughout the city.
From the hills of Montjuic and Tibidabo one can take in the scope of Barcelona and look down on the scenic tree-lined La Ramblas Boulevard, the iconic pedestrian street running from the city centre to the Port Vella, Barcelona's oldest harbour.
With beautiful warm weather for most of the year, Barcelona is one of those cities blessed with plenty of outdoor attractions and activities. Go to the beach to splash around in the turquoise Mediterranean, cycle round the neighbourhoods of this bicycle friendly city, or jump on the hop-on hop-off tourist bus for some sightseeing.
Barcelona also carries with it a rich history. Founded over 2,000 years ago, the city's architecture reflects its Roman heritage, and carries the mark of various influences since. Particularly notable is the Catalan modernisme architecture movement founded in Barcelona, and Gaudi's distinctive creations are among many of the city's buildings declared as World Heritage Sites. The weird and wonderful architectural and artistic creations of Barcelona make the city refreshingly unique, quite unlike any other urban destination.
In 2002 Barcelona was awarded the title of most gourmand city in Europe by the prestigious Le Guide des Gourmands, the first non-French city so named in the 15 years of the publication's run (at the time). Being the capital city of the Autonomous Community of Catalonia, Barcelona's restaurants specialise in the delicious Catalan cuisine, typically flaunting the extensive use of garlic, olive oil and fish for many kinds of meals. It is not uncommon to find fish mixed with red meat in a stew. The pa amb tomàquet (bread smeared in tomato and seasoned with olive oil and salt) is a signature Catalonian delicacy served with every meal in most restaurants. Tapas, now popular worldwide, originated in Spain, and these bite-sized treats are a firm favourite in the city of Barcelona.
Catalonia is a premier wine region for Spain and the birthplace of Cava sparkling wine. Dark red grapes in the region make for the darker 'black' wine, or vi negre, a stronger red concoction. Dry white wines come second to the Cava in popularity among tourists and locals alike.
Barcelona's restaurants usually open around 8am (if they are open for breakfast that is) and typically remain open until midnight. Supper hours are very late, with most residents opting to dine between 9pm and 10pm.
With a lunchtime siesta, there's no excuse for not having enough energy to make it through a long night of partying up a storm on the streets of Barcelona. Alfresco dining is a good way to start an evening of revelry and has become a way of life in many of the city's squares. Good spots to sip on a glass of wine and people-watch are the Plaça del Sol in Gràcia and Passeig del Born, Plaça del Pi and Plaça Reial in the Old Town.
Barcelona is a trendy city with a fickle club scene that changes just about as often as its locals change their minds on what they'd like to drink. During the summer, chiringuitos (beach bars) open along the white sands of Barcelona's urban beaches, each with its own vibe and music, and are popular with both locals and tourists.
Key nightlife spots include Barri Gòtic, which despite its medieval atmosphere, boasts a great selection of bars and clubs to choose from, though it is best to keep your possessions close to your body as pickpockets operate in these areas. Las Ramblas is also full of party venues. This is where you'll find some of Barcelona's most popular and trendiest nightclubs and bars. L'Eixample, north of the city, is the place to go to enjoy Barcelona's gay scene. Port Olimpic is great for night owls, with plenty of bars, clubs and great seafood restaurants, while the yacht marina is a great place to enjoy sundowners on a warm summer's evening.
With the rest of Europe right on its doorstep, Barcelona is dripping with culture and there are plenty of regular performances of ballet, music, dance and opera at various venues such as the Joan Miro Foundation and the Greek Theatre, or the Liceu Opera House. And for a more relaxed evening, visitors can enjoy Flamenco at various venues throughout the city such as Tablao de Carmen and Travel Bar Flamenco Guide, which are both located in the old quarter's centre.
Barcelona enjoys a subtropical-Mediterranean climate with long, hot summers and cool winters. Winters, between December and February, are mild and snow is rare. January is the coldest winter month, with temperatures averaging between 41°F (5°C) and 57°F (14°C) during the day and colder at night. The peak summer months are June to August, but Barcelona's summer really lasts a full six months, from May to October. August is the hottest summer month, with temperatures averaging between 70°F (21°C) and 84°F (29°C) during the day. April and November are transitional months, with more unpredictable weather. Barcelona doesn't get much rain, with only a handful of rainy days every month; the wettest months are September, October and May, with thunderstorms occurring between August and November. Although the city gets plenty of sun, it can get foggy and cloudy, with sea fog especially common in early spring.
The ideal months to visit Barcelona, the Costa Brava, and the nearby resorts of Sitges and Vilanova are May, June, July and September, when visitors can expect good, hot weather. In August, despite the shade in the tree-lined boulevards, locals desert Barcelona for the coastal resorts to escape the heat.
Spain is a tolerant and progressive place for LGBTI travellers. There are active LGBTI communities and social venues, particularly in big cities. Same-sex marriage has been legal in Spain since 2005. As of 17 March 2007, the law allows a transgender person to register under their preferred sex in public documents such as birth certificates, identity cards and passports without undergoing prior gender reassignment surgery. Spain does not recognise a third gender.
Details of vaccination recommendations and requirements are provided below.
Travellers should be up to date with routine vaccination courses and boosters as recommended in the UK. These vaccinations include for example measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine and diphtheria-tetanus-polio vaccine.
Country specific diphtheria recommendations are not provided here. Diphtheria tetanus and polio are combined in a single vaccine in the UK. Therefore, when a tetanus booster is recommended for travellers, diphtheria vaccine is also given. Should there be an outbreak of diphtheria in a country, diphtheria vaccination guidance will be provided.
Those who may be at increased risk of an infectious disease due to their work, lifestyle choice, or certain underlying health problems should be up to date with additional recommended vaccines. See the individual chapters of the ‘Green Book’ Immunisation against infectious disease for further details.
There are no certificate requirements under International Health Regulations.
The vaccines in this section are recommended for most travellers visiting this country. Information on these vaccines can be found by clicking on the blue arrow. Vaccines are listed alphabetically.
The vaccines in this section are recommended for some travellers visiting this country. Information on when these vaccines should be considered can be found by clicking on the arrow. Vaccines are listed alphabetically.
02 October 2021 - 7 Nights
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With over three miles (5km) of golden shoreline, Sitges is the perfect weekend break for tourists wishing to experience Spanish resorts without straying too far from Barcelona.