Barcelona is a seriously hip city where you’ll find art, music and film events going on all the time. Festivities peak with the Festes de la Mercè in September, when the streets are filled with giant puppets, and Sonar, a mind-bending weekend of electro music. Between partying, you can wonder at Barcelona’s bizarre Gaudi architecture.

Festival city
People flock from all over the world to join the party-loving residents of Barcelona in their busy annual calendar of festivals. On Jan 6, the city explodes with fireworks for Dia de Reyes; Carnival kicks off on Feb 16, celebrated with enthusiasm by the city’s gay community; indie-fest Primavera begins on May 30; on June 14, 80,000 people descend for Sonar festival carnage; then, on Sep 22, Festes de la Mercè sees the city filled with giant papier-mâché puppets and fire-breathing dragons and devils. Barcelonans are friendly, so expect to feel part of the buzz.

Beauty or the beast?
Antoni Gaudí’s is possibly the craziest architecture you’ll see. From the mermaid’s palace of Casa Batlló to the magic of Parc Güell, it’s an essential part of the Barcelona experience. The unfinished Sagrada Familia is both beautiful and hideous with its molten wax-like figures and spires. Don’t miss La Pedrera, a Gaudi apartment block with a roof terrace.

Tapas time
Wander along the famous La Rambla boulevard, choc full of markets, cafes, stalls and colourful characters. It’s touristy but, nonetheless, something story-worthy is bound to happen as the famous street attracts a weird and wonderful selection of humanity.
Tapas time
Eating small plates of Spanish delicacies is part of Spanish culture, and there are loads of tapas bars in Barcelona, particularly in the Barri Gòtic area just off La Rambla. Try calamares a la Romana (deep-fried calamari), patatas bravas (fried potatoes), chipirones (baby squid) and albóndigas (meatballs). Wash it all down with a glass of Sangria – Spain’s traditional fruity wine punch.

Music to your ears
Catch some live music at Razzmatazz, Apolo, Sidecar or Bikini. For something classical, try the Gran Teatre del Liceu. If you’re not brave enough to take flamenco lessons then at least check out the traditional dance as a spectator. There are numerous Flamenco bars in Barcelona. El Tablao de Carmen is popular but you won’t be the only tourist.

Park life
Hungover? Have a walk in the beautiful Teatre Grec gardens around the impressive Fundació Joan Miró museum, then go inside to goggle at a huge collection of paintings and sculptures by the Spanish surrealist and other artists. If you’re feeling more hearty, climb Montjuïic, just outside the town, for amazing views of the sea.

For interesting one-offs, head to the Barri Gòtic where young designers have their boutiques, and you might find a treasure. El Raval is also good for independent shops. If you’re after Zara or Mango discounts, however, then get yourself to Plaça Catalunya, Passeig de Gràcia or Diagonal.

The cava trail
If you feel as though you’ve ticked off the sights of Barcelona, take a trip to nearby Montserrat, the monastery-peaked mountain that towers over Catalonia. The region is famous for its wine and champagne and there are a number of tours you
can book from the city, thus avoiding having to drive or stay sober. Take part in a tasting session at the Freixenet or Codorniu winery and get happy.

Getting there

British Airways, easyJet, Ryanair, Iberia and Monarch fly direct to Barcelona from £40 return. When you arrive at El Prat, take the Aerobus into town (€5.30 £4.50) single) or the RENFE train (€3.15 £2.70) that links with the metro. Girona Airport, 100km away, is used by some budget airlines

When to go: There are things happening all year round, but the weather is particularly pleasant in spring and autumn
Currency: Euro
1 GBP = 1.16 EUR
Accomodation: Dorm beds from €15 (£13). Private hotel rooms from €24 (£20)


Image: Thinkstock