She may be a little tawdry around the edges, but this Catalan beauty will keep you mesmerised long after you’ve managed to drag yourself away.
Gaudi’s fantastical parks and spires may look like they’ve dropped out of a fairytale, but Barcelona is all about keeping it real. Sure, these days you’re less likely to encounter prostitutes and drug dealers on Las Ramblas, but the city retains its gritty edge. Disneyland, it ain’t.
If you want to keep up with the locals, make sure you take a siesta. You’ll need one anyway after an intense day of culture on Mountjuc - literally, the Jewish Mountain. Here you’ll find the MNAC Museum, Poble Espanyol, Joan Miro Foundation, Caixa Forum and Calatrava’s needle, but as the sun sets it’s the cheesy Magic Fountains that draw the crowds.
In Barcelona the grown-up fun doesn’t really get going until after ten, when the beautiful people hit the city’s cobbled streets. In the summer, the districts take turns to host festes majores, weeklong street parties where the locals drink, dance and flirt until the dawn breaks. Year round, the Raval district is a warren of lively xampanyerias, where if you have sharp enough elbows you can drink cava with the cool kids - and their chain-smoking grandparents. But pace yourself – the nights are long and warm here, and a quiet drink with friends soon turns into an impromptu bar crawl and mad clubbing session.
The best way to spend the morning after the night before is by the sea. There are plenty of quieter, prettier beaches than Barceloneta Beach, but it’s hard to beat for atmosphere. Buy a beer off one of the vendors, sit back and watch the local characters strut by in their bikinis, Lycra, or the skin they were born in. Barcelona isn’t a city of shy and retiring types. But then, that’s part of its devilish charm.