Savour the Catalan capital by avoiding the pricey and the touristy in favour of favourite local hangouts, from outdoor cinema to great beaches and vermut bars
Barcelona street life is irresistible, but sometimes you want to rise above the crowds. A ride in the cable car across the harbour is great but expensive (single ticket €11). You’ll get an even better view from the cocktail bar at the top of the waterfront W hotel. You do not even need to have a (pricey) drink, but the people-watching makes it worth it. I think the best view in Barcelona is also probably its least well known. El Turó de la Rovira (free) is a civil war gun emplacement on a hill near Park Güell and once you’ve recovered from the climb you can look out across the city to the sea, up the coast towards France and back to the Pyrenees. The rooftop tour of the beautiful church of Santa Maria del Mar costs €8 but gives you a fascinating insight into its construction and a unique view across the rooftops of the tightly packed streets of the Born district.
Covering 170km and 10,000m of ascent, and taking in France, Italy and Switzerland, the TMB is one of the world’s greatest walks, offering trekkers a tough challenge with spectacular scenery
I am standing stock-still on a twisting path high above Chamonix, open-mouthed and agog. All around me are the soaring peaks of the Mont Blanc massif, but they are not the reason for my astonishment. Just ahead of us on the trail – which has risen thrillingly through cliffs, pinnacles and precarious paths – two ibex are mating, each notch of the male’s enormous curving horns lit up by the afternoon sun.
Wild alpine goats weren’t the only exotic creatures I met on the Tour du Mont Blanc, one of the world’s greatest walks, a high-altitude trail around the entire massif that takes the hiker anti-clockwise from France to Italy to Switzerland, then back into France for a climactic ascent to the beautiful Lac Blanc. As well as jumping fish, lizards and snakes (one practically slithered over my boot), there were so many marmots I eventually stopped taking photos of them.