Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia and the second-largest city in Spain, has everything. In abundance. A beautiful place made all the more glamorous for its effortless combination of classical and modern architecture that houses some of the world's finest museums, galleries and theatres, it is also a vibrant metropolis, the seat of regional power.
It is also a bilingual city with both Spanish and Catalan spoken, further adding to the cosmopolitan feel of the place. Blessed with a Mediterranean climate known for its mildness, temperatures shoot up into the 30s at the height of summer and can drop to high single digits during the winter, it's not hard to see why holidaymakers book cheap flights to Barcelona year round.
New arrivals favouring a stroll as the preferred way to take in the city should head for Las Ramblas, a pedestrianised thoroughfare full of restaurants, cafes and shops augmented by an army of street entertainers, among them jugglers, puppeteers, singers and dancers. If this hive of activity gets to be too much, head for the nearby Placa Real, where more restaurants and bars, albeit in a less frenetic setting, are on offer.
While the architectural gems found throughout Barcelona are too numerous to list, those of Antoni Gaudí and Lluís Domènech i Montaner, giants of the architectural world, are worth seeking out. Among these are Gaudi's church of the Sagrada Família, under construction since 1882 though still not quite finished, and Park Güell as well as Domènech i Montaner's Hospital de Sant Pau and Palau de la Música Catalana.
Those inclined to continue on a cultural tour can go on to visit the three Barcelona museums dedicated to individual artists. The Picasso Museum, Fundació Joan Miró and Fundació Antoni Tàpies all house considerable collections of their namesakes.
For a more authentically Barcelona experience but one still accessible on foot, it is worthwhile to wander through the Gothic quarter of the city - known as Barri Gotic - where you can find Els Quatre Gats, one of Picasso's old haunts. If Els proves elusive, do not worry as there is no shortage of tapas bars and cafes to choose from in the area.
Several festivals spread throughout the year dominate the city starting with the Carnaval in February, Fire Night (the Berbena de Sant Joan) marking the summer on June 23 before Festes de la Mercè in mid-to-late September. All feature a celebration of some kind so include drinking and dancing as well as activities specific to each festival.
It may be a major metropolis with much to see but many visitors will not want to miss out on a chance to relax in a beach setting. And in this regard too Barcelona can satisfy. Barceloneta and Sant Sebastià are the most common Barcelona seaside destinations for locals though there are others to choose from so if it is a day at the beach you are after to rest legs weary from one city stroll too many, this is the place for you.
Before booking flights to Spain, be sure to find out more about the city and country - including the priceless Insider Info and Getting Around sections - in the travel guide to Barcelona and Spain.