Review: Winter city breaks don’t have to be all about snow and Christmas markets - why not try Barcelona instead?

The cable car over Bracelona

The cable car over Bracelona - Credit: Archant

I could see Hubby was sceptical at the idea. A Winter City Break? Some cities suit a winter break and other maybe less so.

La Sagrada

La Sagrada - Credit: Archant

This trip was not about Christmas Markets or winter snow. Instead I had opted for the hopefully milder climes of Barcelona. I was a bit disappointed that Port Aventura theme park was not open - less so that the water park was closed (I am no longer that brave!). However, we still had plenty lined up.

Wrapped up in winter clothing, I think both Hubby and I felt a bit overdressed to be honest. Our stroll through the Parc de la Ciutadella for example, was delightful. Beautiful blue crisp skies, hardly a person about, the fountains and lake looking spectacular, this was definitely worth coming out of season!

My concession to Hubby was next – The Nou Camp. There was no game during our stay but this did not stop Hubby trying to score a penalty like Neymar.

The following morning we were not so lucky with the weather but we just used our planned ‘Indoor Sightseeing’ instead - skip-the-line tickets to Gaudi’s magnificent Roman Catholic church, La Sagrada Familia. I am sure the queues were shorter than in the summer months, but for me standing in a queue is just such a waste of time. I always take advantage of any opportunity to just ‘head on in’.

La Ramblas

La Ramblas - Credit: Archant

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I have seen many glorious churches during my travels. And this certainly was up there. The light through the stained glass windows, extraordinary, providing a spiritual glow to the interior of this grandiose building. Looking up to the roof, amazing architecture, an overall magnificent effect, whilst upon closer examination, ornate detail.

Emerging back into the daylight, the weather now much improved, our next stop was the cable car. Arguably the most exhilarating way to see the city, this ride was not really one for the faint hearted.

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I smiled at the sign indicating that the car took up to 20 people. We had only half a dozen and therefore enough room to move around, but even doubling this to 12 could have represented some interesting encounters with a stranger…

As with many cable car journeys, the views were spectacular. Some great Barcelona monuments - La Sagrada Familia and Torre Agbar clearly visible above the busy city.

Parc Guell

Parc Guell - Credit: Archant

Although the journey allegedly only lasted for seven minutes, the constant movement of the car made it seem a lot longer. I was glad to reach the end.

From here the views of the harbour were fabulous. Getting out into the Costa I Llobera Gardens we ambled past various statues in the gardens on our way to take a pleasant coffee break at the Café. OK so outrageously expensive if you bothered to pay attention but, well, sometimes a view is just worth paying for!

We had decided upon the funicular for our return journey – good decision – I did not relish the nausea in my stomach that would no doubt appear if we took the swaying cable car again.

That evening we had decided upon Flamenco and Tapas. Though I was really looking forward to it, I felt Hubby was somewhat less enthused. He was none too keen on the food (more someone who could quite happily eat ham sandwiches every day for a month and still not get fed up) and as for the dancing, this was a bit too much ‘prancy’ and not enough ‘dancy’ for him.

Nou camp

Nou camp - Credit: Archant

As we arrived, the courtyard was set out with little tables, the setting quite intimate.

The food – superb. Marinated sardines, cured ham, mixed salads, salmon brochettes, grilled red peppers, white and green asparagus and hot dishes such as paella, garlic mushrooms, hake in ‘Marinera’ sauce, stuffed eggplants and Fideuá. I could go on….

And then there was the soup.

Taking a spoonful of the tastiest of gazpacho soup, I was in danger of turning puce and spitting it out very unceremoniously over my fellow tablemates as Hubby piped up, “Blimey, this vegetable soup must have been out a while. It’s stone cold.” Hastily reminding him that this was the local speciality and not his favourite vegetable soup, I narrowly avoided both Hubby having a run-in with our waiter and a ground-swallowing embarrassing situation.

As for the show, I thought the dancers were great, the virtuoso guitar playing a delight and was soon fully engrossed in the passion of the flamenco music and dance. OK so with any of these evenings there is the element of touristy commercialism maybe, but I thought it was excellent nonetheless.

With shopping (what else!) at Las Ramblas planned for our final day, this had been a most pleasant and welcome break to the cold, damp weather back home. Barcelona is a great city and three nights was not nearly enough. This will certainly be on the ‘To Return List’ (not least for that day at Port Aventura!).

Definitely a city to recommend though – any time of year.

Andrea Powell is owner and Managing Director of Idelo Travel in Ipswich. Contact: 01473 231181.

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