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Time out is a publishing company based in London that publishes magazines and travel guides for international cities. When I am visiting a new place I usually buy the time out travel guide and I find it invaluable. The one I use the most has to be the Barcelona city guide.
I used to live in Barcelona and still visit it regularly so even though I know the city pretty well whenever I go I am never without my time out guide.
The guide contains everything you will probably ever need to know about a city; at the beginning of the Barcelona book it gives you some background on Barcelona and its complicated history from its start as a medieval city to its expansion in the 19th century. It also gives some information on what makes this city so unique from its language (Spanish is actually the second language of Barcelona the first being Catalan but everyone can speak both) to its architecture and food. The city was not the one we now today after the fall of the Franco regime and it wasn't until it won the right to host the 1992 Olympic Games and the subsequent program of regeneration that allowed the city to become one of the most popular cities in the world. This history is surprisingly in-depth and while it won't be of interest to the casual visitor to the city I found it fascinating.
The book then goes on to Barcelona's sights and it does this by breaking down the city into areas. The city is broken down into areas and within each area the book goes into detail on what sights and attractions are available there. Not only does it mention the more famous ones but also some of the more out of the way sights that a tourist may not normally know about. This is where the book absolutely excels itself as it not only tells you about the sights but lets you know how to find them. A lot of travel books have a bad habit of telling you about a sight and telling the general area but if you are not familiar with the city then it can take you ages to find it. Each site the book recommends it tells you a little about it so you can decide if you want to visit it and it also gives you the admission price and opening times. Throughout the book there are also gorgeous coloured photographs showing some of the sights of the city.
After the sights of the city the book has a chapter on where to stay. I have never actually used this as I always book online before I get there but I have looked through it and like the rest of the book it is extensive. It also lists the different areas of the city and within each gives you a list of accommodation details with expensive, mid range and budget options and also gives a small review of each of the hotels.
The book then goes into great detail on restaurants, bars, and places to go for tapas. Now Barcelona has literally thousands of places to eat so it's worthwhile to check with the book and see what they say. The reviews in it are independent so you can be assured of an honest opinion and again it gives you an idea of the prices of each place so you can choose according to your budget. Tables at popular restaurants book up quickly so it's a good idea to phone ahead and book a table before just arriving and the book gives you the telephone number and website details where available. If the restaurant is fully booked don't worry as there are fantastic restaurants on every street so you will find somewhere but just try to stay off the main tourist areas such as Las Ramblas as these places are without fail over priced and of lower quality than the places the locals and people in the know will visit.
Nightlife in Barcelona is some of the best in the world and there is something to suit everyone no matter your taste, there are concerts, gay and lesbian clubs, comedy clubs in English absolutely everything and the book gives lots of good information on these things. Be careful even though time out update their books regularly things move fast in the city and some of its information may be a little out of date so it's always best to check first. Shopping is also well catered for with information on the shopping available in the city and the special shopping bus that is available.
For those people wishing to escape the hustle and bustle of the city there is plenty of options in the book with details of excursions to the classy beach resort of Sitges and the gorgeous mountain monastery of Montserrat (breathtaking) among many others. There are details on how to get to these places by car, bus and train and the instructions are pretty easy to follow so you shouldn't get too lost.
My favorite part of time out travel books are the maps and metro guide, although I no longer need them for Barcelona for anyone unfamiliar to the city they will be a complete lifesaver. For each area there are street maps that are pretty easy to understand. The metro map is great, Barcelona is made up of different coloured lines and while it looks complicated the first few times it is actually one of the easiest metros in any city and the little map at the back shows you the stations and also the different coloured lines that leave them so if you get lost you will know which station to go to to find the right line to get you back.
If you are short on time in the city the book also has an itinerary you can follow taking you to the most important sights and while this is a good thing for some people I think it's better to just allow yourself to wonder a little.
Barcelona is an amazing city from the beaches to the amazing architecture of Gaudi It really does have something for everyone and I really believe that Time Out Barcelona is the best guide book on the city available. Priced at a rrp of 12.99 it is extremely in-depth so for someone only visiting for a couple of days they may want to buy a cheaper smaller guide as the Time Out may be a little intimidating with it having so much information but for those who want to experience everything this wonderful city has to offer then they won't do better than this guide.