The new Jet2.com route to Barcelona from Manchester is now on sale for Summer 2012. Flights are from £29.99*, and holidays are from just £282 per person with Jet2holidays†. Here are some tips about what to do in the buzzing, cosmopolitan Catalan capital (and there’s more detail at www.jet2holidays.com)
There’s only one place to start! Stroll along the thronged, pedestrianised Ramblas, among the flower and bird sellers and the world’s largest collection of frozen human statues, then pop into the super-abundant Boqueria market for a tapa and an Estrella beer at one of the many stand-up bars.
Perhaps then trek up to the gridlike Eixample to admire its exuberant Modernista architecture or sip a hot chocolate in one of the elegant cafes. It’s here where the poshest shops reside, while the trendy Born area hosts young designer boutiques.
The heart of the Barcelona, though, is the Barri Gotic (Gothic quarter) just off the Ramblas – a dense collection of appropriate architecture around the great La Seu cathedral.
But the city’s identity has been usurped by a later architect, the visionary Antonio Gaudi, who died in1926, and his unfinished masterwork, the Sagrada Familia church. Under construction since 1882, its expected completion date is 2030. Recently hit by an arson attack, it has reopened to the public and the soaring, skeletal edifice continues to astonish.
It is an unmissable site but for an altogether eerier church experience drop in on the medieval Esglesia (Church) de Santa Maria del Mar (Plaça de Santa Maria) in the Born. It’s like a great ark, high above the rooftops. Inside you find a vast ribcage of brick pillars lit by votive candles. Afterwards order a glass of Rioja outside La Vinya del Senyor tavern by the great church doors. The Picasso Museum is nearby.
Yet for all the history, this is not a city resting on past glories. Since the death of Franco and then the urban facelift for the 1992 Olympics, Barcelona has shifted into a different gear.
The whole beach area which the city once turned its back on, has been redeveloped into a place to preen and to be seen, a place to people watch and, after dark, to go clubbing.
The fish restaurants along the promenade, with their checked tablecloths and cold bottles of Torres white, are recommended but remember lunch doesn’t get going till well into the afternoon and to eat dinner before 9pm or even 10pm identifies you as a tourist.
The curious will wander up to see the symbols of that 1992 rebirth, the Olympic stadium up on Montjuic hill but, in truth, Barcelona’s Nou Camp stadium is the sporting destination these days.
There are plenty of great excursions along the Costa Brava – to Sitges or Salvador Dali’s home town Figueres – or if you have the family in tow, Port Aventura, the sixth most visited theme park in Europe, is only an hour’s drive south of Barcelona.
Yet a smaller excursion yields a wonderful panorama of the city. From high on Tibidabo Hill (30 minutes/£20 by taxi from the middle of town), the city for a moment weirdly resembles LA. Up there there’s even a creaky old-fashioned fairground – Parc d’Attracciones, Spain’s oldest – that could have stepped out of Scooby Doo.
A bus will take you to the Park Guell, the most playful fruit of Gaudi’s imagination, with its mosaic dragon and gatehouse roof like a red mushroom!
Another lovely place to escape the city. But why would you want to?
The new Jet2.com route to from Manchester to Barcelona will run three times a week from March 26 2012 to April 1 2012, then four times a week until November 4. Flights from £29.99* (www.jet2.com), holidays from £245 per person with Jet2holidays (www.Jet2holidays.com). And even at such bargain prices you get all the amazing advantages Jet2.com offers as standard: great flight times, allocated seats, 22kg baggage allowance, points for free flights.
*One way including taxes
†Includes flights and accommodation
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