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Barcelona Sightseeing


The summer district festival season is still in full swing in mid-September so head over to the Festa Major de Poblenou (8 to 17 September, www.festamajorpoblenou.org) for al fresco concerts and DJ sets day and night. Later in the month Europe's biggest open-air fiesta La Merce (22 to 25 September, lameva.barcelona.cat/merce/ca/) throws on street theatre, parades, art installations and, yes, more parties.

One of BCN's best loved festivals the Festa Major de Gracia (15 -21 August) sees the district's streets decorated in fine style by residents, whilst bands and DJs keep the party rockin' from early evening to the wee hours. Later in the month the Festa Major de Sants kicks off, when Catalan traditions are accompanied by plenty of streetside mojitos. More on all the city's district festivals here: www.barcelona-life.com/barcelona/festes-majors

Diversity lies at the core of Barcelona's increasingly popular Cruilla festival, that snipes its acts from every musical genre known to man. In 2017 prepare to hear performances by Jamiroquai, The Prodigy, Ryan Adams and Pet Shop Boys, all over three days in the Parc del Forum. www.cruillabarcelona.com

Three days of electronica-induced bedlam kicks off on the 15th June, as Sonar raises its hedonistic head once more, by day and by night. Amongst the headliners in 2017 are Justice, Nicolas Jaar, Moderat and De La Soul. www.sonar.es

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.

Key Areas

One of Barcelona's most innovative parks, Diagonal Mar was completed in 2002 and is a potent symbol of the El Poblenou district's regeneration. Different eco-systems are produced by a variety of plant life, which in turn brings diverse wildfowl and other birds to the area. Gaudi-inspired sculptures show an appreciation of heritage.

The former industrial zone of Barcelona, Poblenou, continues to evolve: the latest development is a car-free "superblock" making the zone increasingly attractive. Tourism highlights include Park Diagonal Mar and the buzzing Rambla del Poblenou thoroughfare.

The narrow winding lanes of La Ribera are the perfect place to discover a quiet slice of Barcelona for yourself. The area is full of low key cafes and bars beloved by locals, whilst Lluís Domènech i Montaner's splendid Palau de la Musica Catalana can hold its own versus Gaudi's finest.

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.

Day Trips

With a beach that stretches several kilometres, a pretty string of beachside properties, the ruins of a Roman villa and a grandiose castle, Altafulla is well worth a visit, and can be reached easily by train (around 1 hr from Barcelona Sants). The local Club Maritim offers kayak hire and other water sports. www.altafullaturisme.cat

Not to be mistaken for the bigger and brasher resort town 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 about two hours away by car.

With a medieval castle and several of the Costa Brava's best beaches - think crystal clear turquoise waters surrounded by craggy forested bays - Begur is a worthy day trip, especially during the week when the sands are less busy. It's about 1.5 hours away by car. www.begur.cat

A popular spot for kitesurfing, Castelldefels is a great spot for watersports in general like wake boarding or sailing. There's also the 16th century castle to explore and some fine beachside restaurants. You can arrive within 25 minutes by train from Barcelona. www.castelldefelsturismo.com

Known as Tarraco during Caesar Augustus' reign, the coastal town of Tarragona was the most important in the region and sheltered the Emperor himself during his Cantabria campaign. Well preserved remnants of the Roman forum, amphitheatre, aqueduct and Augustan palace are highlights. www.tarragonaturisme.cat/en

The sacred mountain of Montserrat is one of Barcelona's most popular day trips. Its jagged limestone peaks are home to the Benedictine Santa Maria abbey, which in turn houses the famous 12th-century Black Virgin statue along with one of the oldest printing presses in the world. Take a train, or join an organised tour.

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

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