However the capital of Catalonia hasn't always had it so good and if it wasn't for the much needed financial shot in the arm provided by the 1992 Olympics, Barcelona would still be in the doldrums. The city was cleaned up overnight, a series of cutting-edge architectural projects undertaken and Barcelona began to see herself in a new light.
Today Barcelona's credentials as a city break destination are impeccable, and the city really can boast something for everyone. Barcelona's life blood flows along Las Ramblas ; a series of interconnecting streets running form Plaça de Catalunya, the waterfront. Dubbed 'the most beautiful street in the world' by the poet Lorca, Las Ramblas is an atmospheric procession of pavement cafes, colourful markets and street entertainers. It's also the gateway to the tangle of narrow streets of Barcelona's medieval Barri Gòthic , where you'll find some of the city's best restaurants and tapas- bars.
It's impossible to think of Barcelona without thinking of the handiwork of the city's best loved son; the architect Antonio Gaudí. Spanish art nouveau was about to take a surreal turn as Gaudí redrew the city's skyline with the addition of monumental buildings such as the (still unfinished) Sagrada Família church, Casa Batllo and the hallucinatory landscape of Parc Güell . At the same time that Gaudí's work was beginning to take off a young Pablo Picasso moved to the city, which explains the fantastic Museu Picasso in the Old Town . In the unlikely event that you still haven't had your cultural fill the city still has plenty more to offer, including the Fundaciò Joan Mirò (dedicated to the life's work of Catalonia's other big-hitter Joan Mirò), and the MCABA contemporary art museum.
Culture aside, Barcelona's other passion is shopping and entire weekends can disappear picking you way through markets, nosing around antique shops and gazing through chic boutique windows, and the good news is that there are some real bargains to be had. For a different angle on Barcelona catch the cable car to the top of Montjuic, from where the city spreads magnificently beneath you.