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In the Know - Making the Most of Your Barcelona Holiday

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Barcelona's compact layout, benign climate, beaches, and readiness to welcome visitors make it ideal for a weekend break or week in the sun. Add to that a superb culinary and cultural scene, and you pretty much have the perfect mix.

Best time to travel

 

The high season kicks off Easter week and reaches its peak in July. August doesn't produce the “ghost town” ambience of many European cities, at least in the Old Town. November to end of March benefits from fewer crowds and lower accommodation prices, but chillier weather. One of the most magical times to visit is September, when La Mercé festival (week of September 24) fills the city with music, fireworks, and revelry.

Not to miss

 

Picasso, soccer, and Gaudí are among the city's top attractions. The Picasso Museum is a captivating insight into the artist's early development, while a trip to Camp Nou stadium and the FC Barcelona museum is a rite of passage for its legions of international fans. Barcelona's singular Art Nouveau architecture, known as modernisme, found its genius in Gaudí. The basilica of the Sagrada Família is his masterpiece.

 

Getting around

 

Barcelona has a seamless public transport system. The Metro (underground train) is the most useful, though the bus network is often needed to take you to more far-flung places such as Camp Nou or Park Gṻell. Travel cards, available at all Metro stations, can be used on all modes of public transport. From the airport, the most convenient way to arrive is on the Aerobus, which makes its final stop at Plaça Catalunya in the city center. Cycling is a great way to see the city, and bike rental places are dotted all over the Old Town.

 

Cuisine

 

Catalan cuisine has become world renowned, mainly thanks to a new breed of creative chefs experimenting with local produce and high-tech cooking techniques. Traditional Mediterranean fare (often referred to as “Market Cuisine”) focuses on seasonal ingredients, simply prepared. Tapas bars are in abundance, especially those serving pintxos, or elaborate bar snacks hailing from the Basque country. With its high population of Moroccan and Pakistani immigrants, the Raval district has numerous halal restaurants.

 

Customs and etiquette

 

Like their capital city, Catalans are relaxed and informal. This easygoing attitude extends to the city's dress code; "smart-casual" is the dominant style, even for stepping out at night. Extreme lack of sensitivity (such as walking up Las Ramblas in a bikini - it has happened!) will be frowned upon, as will scanty attire when visiting religious sites. Tipping is appreciated but not expected; rounding up a check for a coffee is the norm. About 5% in a restaurant is considered a good tip.

 

Fast facts

 

  • Population: 2.8 million
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  • Spoken languages: Catalan, Castilian Spanish
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  • Electrical: 230 volts, 50 Hz, plug type C, F
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  • Phone calling code: +34 93
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  • Emergency number: 001