If you had the chance to design a city from scratch you'd probably throw in amazing architecture, great weather, delicious food, a beach and lots of sexy people. You'd then get sued for plagiarism by Barcelona... Our top tip Panoramic city tour.
The Spanish city has many great qualities, but - given the popularity of Barcelona city breaks - undiscovered it ain't. That said, its bustling economy and proud Catalan heritage give it a vibrancy that few other European destinations can match, and if you head beyond the medieval Barri Gòtic (gothic quarter) you'll soon leave the worst of the crowds behind. El Born, to the east of the old town, has trendy shopping and lively nightlife, while Gràcia, to the north of Plaza Catalunya, is an elegant district of wide tree-lined avenues and pavement cafés.
The Barrio Chino (Chinatown) is just to the west of Las Ramblas, and among the trendy bars and restaurants it's also home to the Barcelona's Red Light district. Bar Marsella on Calle San Pau is an iconic absinthe bar and has been serving the ‘Green Fairy' to the city's bohemians for centuries. Hemingway, Miró and Picasso are all said to have drunk - or more likely got drunk - here. Find your way to El Bosc de les Fades on Passatge de la Banca - the name means 'Forest of the Fairies' and it looks like it. Perhaps the most bonkers bar in Europe.
Nou Celler in El Born is a great value place to try traditional Catalan food. Bacalao - dried salt cod - features heavily on local menus, served in a variety of sauces, stews and soups. Via Veneto is still the place to see and be seen, some 45 years after it opened. It's dressy, expensive and reservations are essential - you won't find the Barcelona city break brigade in here - but the food and wine list bear comparison with any restaurant in the world.
The beach: There is a good beach in Barcelona, but connoisseurs take the 45-minute train journey to nearby Sitges, a bohemian town that does an excellent line in sand and sea.
The breakfast: Tuck into chocolate and churros (fritters) in Café de l'Òpera on Las Ramblas.
The pool: The Olympic Park on Montjuïc was built for the 1992 Olympics. The open air swimming pool is open to the public and the views over the city make it a great spot for sunbathing.
The view: Take the funicular railway to the summit of Tibidabo in time for sunset, and grab a table with a view at one of the bars as the city lights up beneath you.
The day trip: The beaches of the Costa Brava are within easy reach of Barcelona, while the ancient city of Girona perches on the edge of a spectacular gorge just a one hour train ride to the north.
The football: FC Barcelona is one of the world's greatest football clubs, and the experience of watching a game in the cavernous 98,000 capacity Camp Nou stadium is something no football fan will ever forget. Tickets for most games are pretty easy to come by - just head up to the stadium a couple of hours before kick off and you'll find dozens of touts who are used to negotiating with English fans.
The park: There are a number of famous Gaudí buildings in Barcelona, but the architect's Park Güell is like landscape gardening on LSD. There are great views over the whole city too.
The phallic symbol: The Torre Agbar is Barcelona's version of The Gherkin. Unfortunately, it's not open to the public, but it can be seem from across the city, changing colour as the sunlight reflects off 59,000 sheets of glass cladding.
Why not try? A dinner and flamenco show