To most visitors, it comes as first a surprise and then something of a relief, that, unlike most phenomenally popular cities, Barcelona does not boast a list of ‘must-see’ sights to be queued in front of, paid for, ticked off and photographed. The real joy of this sunny and easygoing Mediterranean city lies in its very fabric, thanks to the Catalan love of design, colour and the slightly bizarre. While no major tourist venues have opened in recent years, there has been a blitz of extraordinary architecture, including Jean Nouvel’s Torre Agbar, Herzog & de Meuron’s Edificio Fòrum and Enric Miralles’ Mercat Santa Caterina, which will soon be followed by a glittering new museum building by Frank Gehry in La Sagrera.
Barcelona, then, is the perfect city in which to walk. Most visitors will head first to the Old City, a maze of meandering streets, alleys and squares, where Gothic churches nestle next to lofty palaces, and ancient fountains trickle in quiet plaças. Beyond lie the architectural glories of Gaudí and the Modernistas, the long stretch of beach, the hills of Montjuïc and Tibidabo, and parts of the city with a wholly different feel, untouched by the hand of tourism.