Something for the weekend: Barcelona

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The handbag girl's guide on where to sleep, spa, wine and dine in the boisterous Catalan city of 'Bar-the-lona'.

Something for the weekend: Barcelona
By handbag.com Editor Natasha Aitken and Lifestyle Editor Alaina Vieru

Where to stay

If it's all about 'location, location, location' the newly revamped AC Miramar hotel is pretty damn near perfect. Set in the heights of Barcelona's Montjuïc, you can view most of the city without having to budge from your room's balcony, yet it's also just a short stroll from La Rambla, Barcelona's iconic hub. Originally built in the 1920s and recently revamped, the hotel is an easy mix of hip modern design and art deco cool, evident everywhere from the pool and spa to the super-comfy bedrooms. The hotel's Forestier restaurant offers modern European food - we loved the wild boar cannelloni with foie gras and the lighter carpaccio of lobster and tuna - while the breakfast selection is perfect to mop up your sangria hangover from the night before or provide fuel for climbing Montjuïc.

What to do

A beautiful, culturally rich city on the North Eastern coast, Barcelona is the capital of Catalonian and the second largest city in Spain. Anyone who's ever been to this delightful city will tell you how much you simply can't go wrong with a visit here.

Visually it is stunning. The combination of the old city and its gothic quarters and the new additions (the AC Miramar a prime example) shows just how much architecture is held dear to the Catalonians.

The balance of urban spaces and greenery is enough to make any Londoner envious but it's the finishing touches that really make Barcelona stand out. Like Paris it's all about attention to detail but, let's face it, when you have architect Antoni Gaudi at your disposal you're onto a good thing. Gaudi's work is rife throughout the city (check out the striking Gaudi Park and museum) but his influences are also evident in almost every other building in the city. Take an open top bus tour and take in some of his work, as well as the Sagrada Familia, the controversial church that has been in the making since 1882.

Other places of interest include the Joan Miró museum and gallery and the Dali Museum.

Where to shop

If you have a hankering for bit of shopping there are plenty of department stores and retail areas. We headed down by the Basilica De Santa Maria Del Mar cathedral, which has a selection of the Spanish high street stores such as Zara and Mango that are slightly cheaper than their UK counterparts. Cute vest tops, sunglasses and flip-flops were the perfect investment for our casual weekend in the sun.

Where to spa

The art of spa (as we like to think of it) isn't as prevalent in Barcelona but there are a few diamonds in the rough, such as the Zen Zone Spa in the Gran Hotel La Florida, which left us glowing and as fresh-faced as a teenager, thanks to our expert treatments with the lovely Boris.

Eating, drinking and going out

Barcelona is not a huge city and strolling around, like in any European city, is your best bet. Start by taking a walk down to the port and checking out the surfers on the beach, then head up to La Rambla and enjoy the markets, bars and street entertainers. As evening nears, head to our favourite area, the Gothic Quarter, which is packed with hip cafes, bars and tapas joints. We found the best bars by abandoning our guidebook at the hotel and wandering down the Gothic Quarter's narrow streets. Food, or more specifically tapas, is the prevalent snack in Barcelona. Cheap and delicious you can enjoy patatas bravas, spicy chorizo sausage, Manchego cheese and all manner of seafood snacks and other tasty morsels.

Getting there

We flew with Opodo and BA direct from London Heathrow to Barcelona. Flights are priced from £141 return*. To book visit www.opodo.co.uk or call 0871 277 0090.

(*Prices correct at time of publication, and based on flights departing on 9 May and returning 12 May.)
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