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How to afford a family city break in one of Europe’s biggest tourism destinations

Simon Calder’s Travel

It’s hard to break my gaze, but when I do, settling on two young faces mesmerised as they stare at an architectural icon – mouths agog – is everything I need to see.

La Sagrada Familia – the cathedral which is still being built more than 140 years after construction first started, showcasing the work of Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí and for which Barcelona is so well known – has to be seen to be believed.

Every element of its design is different from the next, and my two daughters, Rosie, 14, and Poppy, 11, appear to be lost for words – a very rare thing indeed.

We inch our way around every bit of building; spellbinding spires stretching up into the clear blue sky with pyramids of fruit perching deliciously atop.

This is the landmark everyone says you have to see if you come to Barcelona – and with good reason. Ageless beauty sits beside the majestic and modern with total pride. Weird and wonderful – every inch of the architecture is like nothing we’ve ever seen before.

The fact that we’re even here is a welcome surprise to us all, let alone gawping at Gaudi in 20-degree sunshine when it feels like it hasn’t stopped raining at home for months.

The view from Guell Park (Alamy/PA)

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We’ve managed to escape for the Easter holidays after deciding a trip abroad was most definitely off the cards this year. With bills going up year upon year, sunny getaways are becoming less affordable. But when we unexpectedly managed to bag four days in Spain’s artiest city for £792 for all four of us, we all let out excited squeals.

I thought the days of bargain flights were over. Even if you book with a value airline, by the time you’ve added on baggage, it seems to be a fortune. But booking three months ahead, we secured four flights with Vueling for £234.77. Baggage is extra (though if you’re savvy and only going for a couple of nights, I would argue you could all pack an under-seat rucksack for free) and you can opt for cabin or hold, which starts from €10 (£8.50).

The hotel, we were less organised with, but even booking weeks before, we secured a basic family apartment at Atenea Calabria, in a relatively central location, for three nights, for £557. And that included a big old breakfast spread every morning that pleased the kids no end (9am doughnut, anyone?).

Once you get to Barcelona, of…

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