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According to every poll worth its clipboard, Barcelona is the European city best loved by visitors.
Spend just over two hours in the air and you’ll arrive into a city that is made up of a seductive cocktail of architecture, imagination, tradition, style and nightlife along with a cool and confident swagger.
Barcelona’s love of eccentricity had already brought about a wealth of quirky museums (such as those devoted to shoes, perfume, sewers, funeral carriages and mechanical toys), to which more were added.
Its handsome but grimy façades were buffed up, its streets renamed and its churches restored; its nightlife has been rejuvinated, restaurants and bars have been revived and everything about the city seems to buzz.
Barcelona – chic, sophisticated and possibly Europe’s coolest city!
Most of the mainstream stores can be found on a shopping 'axis' that looks something like the hands of a clock set at a quarter to five. From the waterfront it leads up La Rambla through Placa de Catalunya and on up Passeig de Gracia. At Avinguda Diagonal you turn left. From here as far as Placa de la Reina Maria Cristina (especially the final stretch from Placa de Francesc Macia) the Diagonal is jammed with places where you can empty your bank account.
Most flagship stores of the bigger chains (Zara, Camper, Mango, Adolfo Domínguez) are on or around the Passeig de Gràcia. Prices here are much lower than in their branches outside Spain.
Department-store bargain-hunters should note that the winter sales officially start on or around 10 January and their summer equivalents on or around 5 July. The big department stores (such as El Corte Ingles) and shopping complexes (such as El Triangle) tend to open from 9am or 10am through to 9pm or 10pm at night, Monday to Saturday.
Small designer boutiques are concentrated in the Born area, and the C/Avinyó in the Barri Gòtic.
The best shopping areas in central Barcelona are Passeig de Gracia and the streets to its southwest, including the Bulevard Rosa arcade just north of Carrer d'Arago, and Barri Gotic streets such as Carrer de la Portaferrissa, Carrer de la Boqueria, Carrer del Call, Carrer de la Llibreteria and Carrer de Ferran, and around Placa de Sant Josep Oriol.
Barcelona Airport is located 12 km southwest of the city.
The airport is linked by a rail service every 20 minutes to the Estacio de Sants, the citys main train station.
There is also an Airbus which departs from outside the terminals every 15 minutes and runs into the centre of the city.
A taxi service also operates from the airport.