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Barcelona

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Barcelona

What's it really like?

Spain's second city is becoming more popular than the country's capital, Madrid especially for holidaymakers on short breaks and cruise ship stop-overs.

Barcelona's position by the warm Mediterranean attracts travellers from around the world wanting to combine the seaside with the city.

The contrast between the maze of ancient narrow streets and the business-like layout of the modern sector makes it a curious place to explore and some of the eccentric architecture will take your breath away.

Explore the back alleys to find a forest of fairies' faces or the bathroom furniture protruding from the walls.

Las Ramblas is the main artery that stretches approximately 1.2 kilometres through the heart of Barcelona and the hub of the city. Note: The southern end turns fairly seedy at night. Down the side streets there are hidden gems - quaint, picturesque squares and tiny nooks and crannies with authentic restaurants and street cafes.

The leafy avenue is buzzing every day with pavement artists and live performers entertaining the crowds outside the pricey restaurants and shops. If you're on a budget stick to the cheaper alternatives down the side streets or the market stalls.

RHG Tip 1: Sunday evenings tend to be the least crowded time to stroll down Las Ramblas when you can appreciate the views without fighting your way through hoards of people.

RHG Tip 2: There are two competitively priced open top bus tour operators offering similar routes around the sights and attractions. These are RHG recommended for getting around.

The world's largest statue of Christopher Columbus lies at one end of the street with a lift up to the viewing gallery perched 60 metres above the city.

The local beaches are packed in summer.

Attractions

Playa Catalunya: A vast and busy square which is a chaotic hub, rammed with cars, bikes and buses, plus hoards of people. Below ground is the train and metro station making this vast area the nerve centre of Barcelona. There are also shops and pavement cafes and a quieter oasis in the very centre for those brave enough to try to cross the road.

Sagrada Familia by Antonio Gaudi: A giant unfinished temple which sparks a 'love it' or 'hate it' reaction from visitors and locals. Even though it is already Barcelona's most popular landmark, the construction work on this site isn't expected to be completed until at least 2041. Gaudi only finished the nativity facade, one of the towers and the crypt before he died in 1926 but his vision has carried on.
A lift takes visitors to the top for some amazing vistas over Barcelona. The climb is not recommended for those with fear of heights or for people with claustrophobia Be prepared for long queues.

Parc Guell: A peaceful and shady oasis inspired by, who else but Gaudi. Steps, paths and leafy lanes lead to a vast rooftop area with mosaic seats to relax and enjoy the views across the city.

Tibidabo: The so-called 'magic mountain' is in our view the most magnificent attraction in Barcelona. Take a tram then a funicular to the summit of the mountain and visit a two-storey  church where you can climb onto the roof and then almost into the clouds to the top of the spire for breathtaking views with statues in the foreground and the city in the distance. (A lift can take visitors up to the first rooftop). There's also an amusement park dating back a hundred years with traditional and modern rides.

Picasso Museum: Picasso's works of art are displayed in chronological order to help visitors chart his early days to his final masterpieces in the years in which the he lived in Barcelona.

Salvador Dal� House-Museum: A mansion designed as a tribute to Salvador�s wife Gala filled with Dal�s artworks, and grand visions.
In the main courtyard is the stunning sculpture called "Rainy Cadillac" - a huge bronze figure on the bonnet of a car in front of a boat on top of a column.
Other treasures include paintings, drawings, engravings and photographs totaling around 1500 pieces in all.

L' Aquarium de Barcelona: Situated in the harbour the aquarium offers visitors a chance to dive with sharks or even spend the night surrounded by them (children aged 8 to 12).

Poble Espanyol: "Spanish Village" A pleasant artificial attraction replicating several styles of architecture from many parts of Spain. The area was created for a major exhibition in 1929 and proved so popular it was saved from the bulldozers. There are restaurants and craft shops and examples of Spain's traditional architecture. Pre-booking a meal at some restaurants may give you free entrance to the village.

Magic Fountain of Montjuic: A stunning light and water show to the sounds of classical and contemporary music. The audience usually arrive early in the evening to secure the best views near to the Museum of Catalan Art.

Montjuic Mountain: A gentle cable car ride takes passengers to the summit of the mountain where a castle provides breathtaking views over the city and the sea. There are toilets, snacks and drinks available and peaceful places to enjoy the scenery from a stunning vantage point. See main picture above.

Barcelona FC Museum: A Mecca for soccer fans. The tour includes a visit to the trophy cabinet, statues of club's famous players and a behind the scenes look at the changing rooms, etc. May not be open on match days.

La Pedrera: Commonly known as 'the wavy building' this is one of Gaudi's greatest idea's which is a residential building of the quirkiest design. There's access to the attics and roof terrace and an authentic apartment dating back to around 1910.

Barcelona Zoo: The zoo has many endangered and curious-looking animals on show and facilities also include a restaurant, shop and a mini-train.

Cathedral Gothic: While the cathedral is the centre piece the narrow surrounding streets are a joy to explore, beautifully preserved from Barcelona's medieval past. To the right of the main entrance to the church is a lovely inner courtyard.

Further Afield:

The pretty seaside town of Sitges and the hilltop monastery at Montserrat, 35 miles northwest of Barcelona, is another popular daytrip.

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