A beautiful and modern Mediterranean city, Barcelona, due to its geographical location in Spain's far northeast, use of Catalan (a unique language similar to both French and Spanish) and longstanding cultural independence, reveals itself to be quite different from the rest of Spain. A visit to Barcelona would be incomplete without observing some local traditions and festivals that are a product of this independence. Of course, the famous Sagrada Familia Cathedral and Barcelona's long stretches of high-quality beaches also deserve mention.
Barcelona is home to many fine hotels, such as the Hotel Barcelona Universal and the Hotel Rey Juan Carlos I. Another good choice is the Hotel Montecarlo, which combines reasonably priced luxury with a very central location on La Rambla 124. For fine dining, the A C Diplomatic restaurant on Pau Claris 122 is among the very best. If you are looking for something more moderately priced, La Font del Gat Restaurant on P. Santa Madrona 28 is one of the city's best-kept secrets.
While those with more time will certainly seek out other beaches to the north and south, if you are staying in Barcelona, a couple of beaches are recommended. With its prime location close to the Olympic Marina, Nova Icaria is often crowded, but with good reason--it has a wide swath of smooth sand and easy access to bars and restaurants. If you enjoy biking or jogging, head for Bogatell Beach, which has a stretch of stone walkway running along its edge.
A must-see site, the Sagrada Familia Cathedral is Gaudi's life's work, and is very dramatic. Its style is quite different from other cathedrals, and while many love it, others have more ambivalent feelings. Afterwards, be sure to visit the long pedestrian boulevard known as La Rambla. The beating heart of Barcelona, it is full of shops, stalls, and street performers.