My favourite place: Barcelona
In the December 2016 issue of BBC History Magazine, Alexander Larman selects Barcelona as his favourite place. History Extra caught up with him to find out more...
Q: When did you last travel there and why were you there?
A: I was last in Barcelona in 2014, just for a night before I headed off on a cruise. My wife and I stayed in a tiny but beautiful flat for the night off Passeig de Gràcia and tried to fit everything we loved, cultural and culinary, into 24 hours.
Q: Why do you love the location?
A: It has everything that I love about cities. It’s got the big urban excitements – the history, the architecture, the restaurants and wine bars – but also a rare peace and sense of contemplation. You can walk into a major park, at quite a busy time of year, and immediately feel that you’re the only person there.
Q: What top three sights would you recommend people visit there, and why?
A: The Sagrada Familia is arguably the greatest modern cathedral in the world and nobody should leave Barcelona without visiting it. The Park Güell is another Gaudí masterpiece – fun and surprising in equal measure. And I agree with Jay McInerney that Monvínic is the best wine bar in the world; seriously good vintages at very sensible prices.
Q: During what period of its history would you most wanted to have visited this location and why?
A: If I could have hung around with Orwell and Hemingway, and filed dispatches from a five-star hotel, the Spanish Civil War would have been amazing. If I was practicing self-preservation, then the beginning of the 20th century would be preferable, just to observe the growth of a modernist city.
Q: Where else in the world would you most like to visit and why?
A: I don’t much like long haul flights but I’d make an exception to visit Tokyo. I’m keen to see both sides of the city, the frenetic 21st century metropolis and the more contemplative open spaces nearby, such as Fuji and the Izu Islands.
Alexander Larman's latest book is Byron's Women (Head of Zeus, 2016). You can read more about Alexander's experiences in Barcelona in the December issue of BBC History Magazine.