But Barcelona has much more to offer: it is an open, cosmopolitan and welcoming city that captivates all its visitors.
The 92 Olympic Games opened the city up to the sea once and for all, and Barcelona discovered the delights of the urban Mediterranean lifestyle. You'll be taken aback by the beauty of its beaches, which are now fully integrated into city life, as are the marina and the esplanade, which is dotted with terraces and restaurants.
Starting at the Plaça de Catalunya, the heart of the city, and stretching down towards the sea, Les Rambles, Barcelona's traditional and colourful public promenade, teems with flower stalls and human statues. To its left you'll find the gothic quarter, a labyrinth of narrow streets packed with shops, which extends past the cathedral to the Born district. Here, the magnificent and stark Mediterranean gothic architecture of the church of Sta. MarIa del Mar is a must-see, as is the Picasso Museum, the traditional restaurants and modern cocktail bars that make this neighbourhood a nightlife hotspot, and its treasure trove of alternative shops. To the right of Les Rambles lies the Raval, another historic neighbourhood, which has been rejuvenated by the addition of new squares while retaining its personality and identity. The Raval is home to the famous La Boqueria market, and a number of modern museums, including the Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art (MACBA), the city's answer to the Pompidou Centre.
Head above the Plaça de Catalunya and you'll find yourself in the Eixample district, an enormous grid designed by the urbanist Ildefons Cerdà. This neighbourhood is littered with modernist gems, including the Casa Amatller, designed by the architect Puig i Cadafalch, and the Casa Batlló and La Pedrera, both by Antoni Gaudí. The Eixample is bisected by the fashionable Passeig de Gràcia, which is lined on both sides with attractive cafes and prestigious fashion and accessory boutiques. This shopping district extends all the way along the Diagonal to Plaça de Francesc Macià.
If you're someone who likes discovering the less familiar but equally charming corners of a city bear in mind that Barcelona incorporated many old towns that still retain their individual flavour and have their own unique feel. You could explore the bustling nightlife of Diagonal and Gràcia, where young people flock to the neighbourhoods' many restaurants, bars and cinemas, and their quirky, alternative shops, or visit Sarrià, whose gothic convent of the same name is now open to visitors.
In the south, next to the Hotel Madanis, lies Camp Nou, Barça's famous stadium, and its fascinating museum. Or head north to the modernised Barceloneta, a former fishing village and subsequent industrial district that has retained its identity despite now being home to 22@, the city's new communications and culture hub. 22@ houses a cluster of communications companies, radio stations, cultural foundations and university faculties in cutting-edge, contemporary buildings. It began with the Torre de les Aigües, designed by the architect Jean Nouvel, which now sits next to the daring Museum of Design, nicknamed l'agrafeuse (the stapler) and set to open in 2013.
In short, there's enough in Barcelona to keep you exploring forever: from the Opera House to the magnificent shopping malls; from the wonderful traditional markets to the modern and dynamic National Theatre; from the Forum, with its recently-opened Natural Science Museum, the Museu Blau, to the Els Quatre Gats café, a favourite haunt of Picasso; from the Miró Museum to the Museum of Catalonian Art, with its impressive collection of Romanesque frescoes; from the Modernist Palau de la Música concert hall to the ultra-modern Sant Jordi sports arena, designed by the Japanese architect Isozaki, where modern music concerts are held. Not to mention the gothic Shipyards, the modernist Palau Güell mansion, the Sagrada Família, the Park Güell, the Poble Espanyol museum, the cactus garden, the rose gardens of the Parc de Cervantes, the Romanesque church of Sant Pere, the cable car to Montjuïc, which gives you a fantastic panorama of the city as it transports you to the castle viewpoint, and much, much more.
Barcelona is a modern city, at once young and rich with history. It's also the perfect child-friendly destination. You can experience the excitement of watching sharks swim over your head at the Aquarium or take in a dolphin show at the Zoo. Don't miss the legendary Tramvia Blau streetcar, which will take you to the Tibidabo Amusement Park, where you can enjoy the Museum of Automata, and, for those looking for some interactive fun, the Science Museum. We also recommend taking a family boat trip on one of the port's golondrinas or catching the display at the Montjuïc Magic Fountain.
You can visit all these sights and many more by bicycle, on one of the Tourist Bus routes, using the extensive metro network, via bus, or on foot. The team here at Madanis would be delighted to be of assistance and to provide any information you might need.