Cheap flights to Barcelona
Less than an hour outside the city, via a train from Espanya station, is the Montserrat monastery. Perched fantastically high on a spectacular, rocky mountain, you can get up there either on foot or by cable car. The monastery is impressive and the hiking trails around the mountain massif are numerous. Once the sun sets you’ll be left to enjoy the mountain views only with the deer who live up there. Settle down and watch the city lights come on below.
Level of Difficulty: Medium (if you're going to bivvy, Easy if you're just going for a day hike).
What to pack: Warm clothes (check the weather forecast!), woolly hat, headtorch, raingear, sleeping bag, mat and bivvy bag.
Best time to go: late spring or early summer - the mountains are high and chillier at night than you might anticipate.
If you're looking for a city that's got it all you couldn't do much better than choose the Catalan capital Barcelona, Spain's second city, and one that's bursting with life at every turn. Whether you’re looking for a party town, laid back beach resort, or a cultural oasis in which to lose yourself this city has activities to keep everyone happy.
Not many European cities steeped in culture can also boast beautiful beaches literally right on their doorsteps, but Barcelona is no average city. Explore out-of-this-world buildings courtesy of famous local architect Gaudi, head down to Las Ramblas to find crazy street performers and market stalls selling everything from fruit and flowers, to birds, bunnies and snakes in cages or join the bikini set at Barceloneta Beach, a 15-minute stroll out of town and finish your day enjoying nightlife to rival Paris or London. This city has it all.
To the unwary foreigner Catalonia's Christmas traditions can seem a little bizarre. Firstly, there's the peasant who likes to poop in the nativity manger (look out for celebrity versions of Obama and Messi at the Xmas markets), and then there's Tio de Nadal, a log you beat with a stick until it deposits presents.
Get the lowdown on Catalonia's best beers, whilst visiting the new wave of bars that sell them, on a Tapas & Beers craft beer tasting tour (www.tapasandbeers.com). The guide is a master brewer and connoisseur of the scene. Foodies might prefer their tapas crawl of the Gracia district.
For several years now Sala Montjuic has screened new and classic films onto the side of the castle wall up on Montjuic hill. The idea is to take your own picnic up and enjoy a concert before night falls and the projector starts to whirl. Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday in July. salamontjuic.org.
Starting in June and carrying on through July, the Festival Jardins Pedralbes invites artists like The Cranberries, Tom Jones and George Benson to perform in the gardens of the same name. Take the metro to Zona Universitaria to get there. (www.festivalpedralbes.com)
Is beer tasting the new wine tasting? Tapas and Beers seem to think so and they've launched a craft beer tour that takes in some of the city's finest cervecerias in the company of a Catalan brewer.
Rarely has one hill played home to quite as many cultural treasures as Montjuic, which boasts the Joan Miro Foundation, Olympic Stadium, National Art Museum of Catalonia, the Magic Fountain and it's very own castle at the summit. Set aside a day for exploring.
The aforementioned Casa de les Punxes (House of the Needles) opened its doors to the public for the first time in 2016 and is on a par with many of Gaudi's own when it comes to creativity. Visitors will discover wonderful ceramics, ironwork and stained glass windows and enjoy magnificent views over Barcelona from its rooftop. www.casadelespunxes.com
The Barcelona Jazz Festival, currently celebrating its 48th edition, continues into December, finishing with a concert by The Black Heritage Choir on the 21st of the month in the wonderful Palau de Musica Catalana, one of the city's foremost architectural wonders. www.jazz.barcelona
Two giant music acts arrive in Barcelona in November, but one is Justin Bieber. So book yourself tickets for The Cure on the 26th and sing along to classics like Boys Don't Cry and Friday I'm in Love.... they play at Palau Sant Jordi.
The 49th edition of International Fantastic Film Festival of Catalonia takes place in Sitges between 7-16th of October (www.sitgesfilmfestival.com). As usual premieres of horror, sci-fi and fantasy, along with the highly entertaining "Zombie Walk", will bring cinema freaks together in Spain this autumn.
Every September Barcelona celebrates being rescued from a plague of locusts by Our Lady the Virgin of Mercy with the largest festival of the year. Between 22 and 25 September, expect parades of giants and dragons, human castles and fire-jumping to be taking place around town - as well as a series of free concerts by well-known bands For more information visit bcn.cat/merce.
If you're in town between 15 and 21 August head to the Gracia district where one of Barcelona's popular summer festivals will be taking place. Even the streets get dressed up for this shindig and ad hoc stalls and bars will be doing a roaring trade in cervezas and mojitos, while bands and DJs set up in every square.
A day exploring Montjuic may necessitate a few extra calories for breakfast, but with treasures such as National Museum of Catalan Art (MNAC), the Magic Fountain, Joan Miro Foundation, the Olympic Stadium, Poble Espanyol and the castle to discover this sprawling hill is arguably the city's richest treasure chest.
Whilst Park Guell draws the path beaters, locals will be heading to the gorgeous Parc de la Ciutadella to sunbathe, slackline, practice yoga, and sip a "cerveza beer amigo".
Take the train (35 mins) to Sitges, the beautiful and hip coastal resort on the Costa Dorada, for the town's famously raucous Carnival celebrations (21st February to 1st March). Fancy dress is a must, but bear in mind you'll be outside most of the night, and it ain't Rio... Chewbacca could be a great choice.
The spa town of Caldes de Malavella is only an hour or so away from Barcelona by train and is home to two elegant spas from the fin-de-siecle period. Balneari Prats' outdoor pool is filled with the town's mineral-rich thermal waters, great for staving off the season's chills.
The preserved medieval town of Besalu barely looks a day older than it did back in its 11th century heyday, and crossing its fortified Romanesque bridge over the Fluvia river for a spot of exploring is a real pleasure. It's about 1.5 hrs by car from Barcelona. www.besalu.cat
Set on a rocky outcrop next to a beautiful reservoir where you can swim and kayak, the town of Siurana still bears the legacy of its life as an Arab stronghold - the remains of a 9th century Moorish castle. The surrounding area is popular with hikers and rock climbers. www.turismesiurana.org
Home to one of the prettiest beaches in the region, the small town of Sant Pol de Mar is also home to celebrity chef Carme Ruscalleda's three Michelin star restaurant, Sant Pau. One hour from Barcelona by train, www.ruscalleda.cat.
Not to be confused with the infamous "sun and sangria" resort of Calella, Calella de Palafrugell is a picturesque fishing village on the Costa Brava with blue flag beaches, pretty coves and a few high-end restaurants. It's around two hours away from Barcelona by car.