One of the wonderful reasons for choosing to visit Barcelona is the breadth and depth of the cultural activities available in this simply stunning city.
Almost everyone who comes here, of course, is already aware of the architecture, Las Ramblas, one of the world's top football teams and the views across the city made famous by that memorable coverage of the diving in the 1992 Olympic Games. Less well-known, perhaps, is the diversity of other places to go or things to do.
Barcelona, for example, has some of the best museums and art galleries you could ever wish to visit. Foremost amongst them are the Joan Miro Foundation – situated on Montjuic with superb views over the city – and the Picasso Museum, almost hidden away in the labyrinth of narrow streets of the Gothic Quarter. Both museums might be dedicated to the works of artists who were contemporary with each other but they could not be more different buildings – the former a purpose-built building with an abundance of natural light, and the latter a conglomeration of five grand medieval palaces. In addition, there are several museums dedicated to Gaudi – including his former house in Parc Guell; a fantastic Maritime Museum near the statue to Christopher Columbus; the Centre of Contemporary Culture – even a museum dedicated to chocolate. One of the most popular of them all, though – this being the home of what is currently the best team in Europe – is the Museum of FC Barcelona, housed next to the football stadium.
The foremost art galleries are probably the Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art (MACBA) and the Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya. The MNAC, on Montjuic and with spectacular vistas across the city and the Mediterranean, has a vast range of Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque works. Not that you have to visit galleries to view wonderful art in Barcelona, however. Barcelona also has 150 artworks situated around the city itself, many of these in popular tourist locations. There's an original Liechtenstein, Cap de Barcelona, at Moll de la Fusta and Frank Gehry's Pez y Esfera at the Olympic Village -a beautiful steel sculpture whose golden colour changes with the light and has an almost interactive quality as you walk around it.
If live music, theatre or opera are your cultural enthusiasms, then Barcelona can offer you the opportunity of experiencing some of the best productions in Europe. Whatever your type of music, you will find it here. In 2009, for example, Barcelona is scheduled to have performances from Beyonce, U2, Slipknot, Madonna, Coldplay, AC / DC, Pet Shop Boys, Snow Patrol, Jarvis Cocker, David Byrne and Ry Cooder at various top-class venues. In addition, the number of music festivals held in the city seems to increase almost annually and these include some of the finest musicians in their various fields. Notable amongst the festivals are Sonar, Primavera Sound, the International Jazz Festival, the Festival of the Guitar, Blues and Ritmes, Indie Pendent and many more.
Every night of the year, you will find clubs, bars and concert halls offering live music in all its varied forms and styles.
Opera lovers, for example, will adore a visit to the Gran Teatre del Liceu on Las Ramblas as it is now, after considerable refurbishment, one of Europe's very best opera houses. Additionally, the Palau de la Musica Catalana and other concert halls provide regular programmes of the highest quality symphony concerts, chamber and choral music. The Auditori, home of the Barcelona Symphony Orchestra, with the stunning 2,200 seat Pau Casals main hall, is an acoustically perfect place to listen to wonderful music.
As well as having arguably the world's greatest football team playing in Europe's largest stadium, Barcelona can also offer a number of other top class sporting activities. One of Europe's leading basketball teams is based in the city and there is the fabulous Circuit de Catalunya in Montmelo, just 12 miles away, offering Formula One and Motorcycle Grand Prix each year.
Barcelona's enduring appeal is that, as a city, it can offer people of all ages and backgrounds a multitude of things for them to see and do throughout the whole year – and it's cultural diversity is just one further example of this.