1 Colourful mosaics and extravagant architecture are the signatures Gaudi left on Barcelona. The crown jewel of his life’s work is the Sagrada Familia church, with eight intricately patterned towers that reach skyward like wet sand dropped by God. Carvings of Jesus and Mary, a bulbous tree with doves flying from it and two enormous turtles beneath the pillars make it a feast for the eyes.

2 Las Ramblas is the picturesque, tree-lined walkway that stretches from Placa de Catalunya to the statue of Colombus. This vibrant promenade is entertainment central, with artists, jugglers and moonwalking Michael Jacksons. If you’ve worked up an appetite, then get stuck into a freshly baked pastry, a cool cervesa or a delicious paella.

3 Your feet are bust, your wallet’s empty and you need a rest – so head for the beach. The sun’s usually scorching, so slap down your towel and dive into the beautiful Balearic Sea to cool off. There are also lots of beach bars if you’re in need of the other kind of liquid refreshment.

4 Barcelona is a very cool place to shop with loads on offer for everyone. For food lovers, there’s an enormous market with delicious cheeses, seafood and the famous Serrano ham. For media buffs there are the department stores El Corte Ingles; and for fashionistas it’s top drawer – home to Mango, Zara, exclusive designer outlets and hippy markets.

5 Nightlife is the essence of existence in Barcelona. As the clock hits 11pm, the city picks up a tempo like nowhere else – the streets pack with young people, the bars overflow and the clubs heave. Head down to the waterfront centre for techno and house, try Jamboree for jazz, Mojito for Latin or Pacha for gurning. And if you’re looking for a wild New Year, Barcelona goes off something special. La vida loca indeed.

The essentials

Time from London 2 hours 10 minutes
Getting there From £19.99 return with easyJet (www.easyjet.com)
What to say Hola. Puedo tener un cerveza por favor? (Hello. Can I have a beer please?) Gracias (Thank you)”.
Price of a beer €2 (half pint).