Barcelona for those who live life to the full: an unforgettable introduction

The unique architecture of Gaudí, medieval squares, modern structures, cosy tapas bars as far as the eye can see, and a fabulous summer feeling across 100 km²: that’s Barcelona in a nutshell.

Getting there by train: Hop on the Eurostar in Brussels and head to Paris Nord, then go to Gare de Lyon station and take the France/Spain TGV (2x daily) the rest of the way to Barcelona.

Follow our tips to find out what makes the capital of Catalonia unique – and so popular among tourists.

The sight: Sagrada Família

The most famous attraction in Barcelona has to be the monumental Sagrada Família. It may be a cliché, but the aura projected by this church has to be experienced to be believed. The building – constructed in the modernist style – is bursting with colour, and boasts myriad eclectic details and natural forms – from side aisles and statues to the richly ornamented spires that comprise the centrepiece of the church. When Gaudí died in 1926, the iconic church was still far from being finished. The current official completion date is in 2026. No, your eyes aren’t deceiving you: that makes it 100 years after the passing of Gaudí. Genius or madness? That’s for you to decide.

The activity: The Magic Fountain of Montjuïc (Font Màgica)

Anyone wanting to lay their eyes on the largest fountain in Barcelona has had to head to Montjuïc since 1929. Situated at the base of the hill with which it shares its name, the formidable monument was constructed for the 1929 Barcelona International Exposition. Feast your eyes on the breath-taking fountain show with its suffusion of light, water and music. The magic fountain puts on its special experience every Friday and Saturday evening (with the exception of January and February). And that’s not all: the spectacle itself is free of charge, as is the amazing view of the city – once you climb up a little way.

A local outing: the Tibidabo

The Iglesia del Sagrat Cor may look familiar, given that it shares elements of architectural style with the Sacré-Coeur in Paris. The hill on which this church stands is 512 metres high and offers impressive views of Barcelona, the Mediterranean and the Catalan hinterland. You'll also find the Parque de Atracciones del Tibidabo, a family amusement park where locals love to hang out. You can reach the park by cable car or, for those who enjoy the heights, on foot or by bike via the Parc de Collserola. At the foot of the cable car you'll also find the Tramvia Blau, a historic tramway that connects to Barcelona's metro system.

The food: Have a snack in La Boqueria Market

La Boqueria can be found on Barcelona’s infamous La Rambla with its many souvenir shops, street artists and touristy restaurants. As the largest market for fresh produce in Spain and beyond, it is protected from the elements by a beautiful 19th-century cast-iron roof. Each day, the market – officially known as Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria – is a hotbed of scents, colours and activity. Visitors can fill their shopping bags from a seemingly never-ending array of vegetables, fruit, juices, herbs and spices, before snacking on a tasty bocadillo made with the juiciest jamón. As the covered market attracts throngs of tourists, it isn’t always as laid-back inside as might be desired. It can occasionally be chaotic and deafening – but always full of life. Arrive early to avoid the crowds!

The view: La Barceloneta harbour

After spending a while enjoying Gaudí’s amazing architecture in the vibrant heart of Barcelona, head to the beach in Barceloneta– you’ll be laying your towel on the sand in just 30 minutes. Between the locals and the laundry strung up on lines, it’s a joy to linger in the old fishing quarter. When you’re done topping up your tan on the beach, there’s plenty to do nearby: enjoy the view of the boats bobbing in the harbour, shop until you drop in the Maremagnum shopping centre, or take a walk along the boulevard and enjoy the soft sea breeze in your hair.

The nature: parks galore for green fiends

In Barcelona, you’re spoiled for choice when it comes to public parks and gardens. Take a seat and let the city’s trendy, relaxed atmosphere wash over you. The city’s parks become especially lively at the weekend, when families, friends and lovers all head outside. Our hot tip? The Parc de la Ciutadella: 30 hectares of green with a lake, waterfalls, an Arc de Triomf, the Parlament de Catalunya, a huge statue adorned with golden horses, and more. Enjoy a time-out any way you like: enjoy a picnic, work on your tan or break a sweat by going for a vigorous walk, bike ride or boat trip. You can even head to the zoo. The choice is yours!