Barcelona

Barcelona, Spain's second largest city, and the 2,000 year-old capital of Catalunya, is a thriving port town with an excellent year-round climate, a cosmopolitan attitude, and enough art, architecture, nightlife and gastronomical delights to satisfy travelers of all ages and budgets. Indeed, if you are planning to travel Spain Barcelona should not be missed.

Barcelona Spain was the seat of a vast Mediterranean empire when Madrid was one-horse outpost on the sweltering Spanish steppe. Since 133 BC, the Romans, Visigoths, Franks and Moors have all, at one time or another, controlled Barcelona. The city grew increasingly more powerful throughout the middle ages. In 1561 the more centrally located city of Madrid became the seat of the Spanish Royal court, though well into the eighteenth-century Barcelona enjoyed special privileges and autonomy in the Catalunyan region.

Though it has a population of over three million, Barcelona Spain feels much smaller and more accessible. For the wandering tourist, Barcelona attractions are easily seen on foot.

Barcelona is comprised of four main districts: Ciutat Vella or the Old City, El Barri Gotic or the gothic quarter, La Ribera (the waterfront area), and El Raval, the outskirts southwest of the Rambla. Like Madrid's Gran Via, La Rambla is Barcelona"s main thoroughfare, and among the best Barcelona attractions. La Rambla bisects Barcelona"s Old Town, and is a perfect first stop for tourists looking to familiarize themselves with the city.

After a walk down La Rambla, and a stop at the nearby Boqueria Market, head to the Gothic Quarter to see the Catedral de la Seau. Other Barcelona Attractions include a stop at Antoni Gaudi"s unfinished architectural master piece, the Sagrada Familia. In color and texture this towering cathedral resembles a sand castle that has been smoothed over by a wave, or perhaps a sculpture of ice that is slowly melting away.

After a day trip through downtown, make your way up to Parc Guell. Also designed by Gaudi, this park overlooking downtown Barcelona was originally designed as a residential compound, though only two houses were every built on the site. Nonetheless, the twisted ceramic benches, towering pillars, warped sidewalks and multicolored tiles lend an Alice-in-Wonderland feel to this most original of Barcelona attractions.

After a long day of hoofing across Barcelona, the hungry traveler should look for some authentic Catalan food. The Mediterranean diet of virgin olive oil, seafood, onions, garlic and red wine is as mainstay in Barcelona. Typical entrees include habas a la catalana, a spicy bean stew, and pinacas a la catalana (spinach with pine nuts, raisins and bacon). If you travel to Barcelona, wines are one thing that will temp you again and again. The nearby Penedes region produce an especially tasty local sparkling white wine known as cava—not to be confused with the Fijian liquor of the same name—that is best enjoyed while sitting at a sidewalk café and marveling at all the Barcelona attractions you've seen, and all you have left to explore.

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