BARCELONA, SPAIN

Barcelona is one of Spain’s most sophisticated and culturally exciting cities. Barcelona, Spain’s second-largest city, is inseparably linked to the architecture of Antoni Gaudi. His most famous and unfinished masterpiece, La Sagrada Familia, is the emblem of the city. Since it hosted the Summer Olympics in 1992, Barcelona has been on the hot list of European destinations. Over the past decade, better infrastructure, increased cruise ship traffic and a reputation for gastronomic excellence have put Barcelona at the forefront of European city destinations.

There is really no best time to visit Barcelona, nor a worst. Thanks to its location on the Mediterranean, it enjoys a mild, pleasant climate year-round. Even in winter, locals sunbathe on the beaches and eat and drink on terraces.

History

As with many places in Europe, Barcelona’s history has much to do with invasions and conquest. The Romans founded the original settlement, named Barcino, in 133 BC, and the town was later held by the Visigoths, the Moors and the Christian Carolingian kings and became the dominant political and military force in the region of northeastern Spain later know as Catalonia. (Much of the city’s character stems from the fact that it identifies itself more as part of Catalonia than Spain).

Sightseeing

Be sure to see Antoni Gaudi’s architectural wonders, take a walk through the Gothic Quarter, a tour of Boqueria market and local food culture, a visit to the Picasso and Miro museums or a bus tour of the spectacular Montserrat mountain region with its famed monastery.

You will also want to take a walk down La Rambla, Barcelona’s famous thoroughfare. It’s a great introduction to the city, and it will put you in a good position to see other nearby attractions.

The most popular recreation area in Barcelona is the seafront. Walkers, joggers, bicyclists and in-line skaters all make use of the area, where they can be mobile without the worries of automobile traffic. The city’s beaches are there, too, extending from Barceloneta eastward. 

Shopping

The industrious Catalans have often been dubbed a nation of shopkeepers, and Barcelona does have a staggering number of shops of every kind and in every neighborhood with many quirky little shops that have long family traditions.

Food and drink are highly prized in Barcelona and make good souvenirs. Stock up on olives and cheese (ask to have it vacuum packed for overseas travel) and Spanish wine. If you don’t mind shipping heavy parcels home, treat yourself to an earthenware cooking pot.

Dining

Catalan cuisine resembles that of other Mediterranean countries and makes use of nuts, garlic, olive oil, tomatoes and herbs. Truly traditional Catalan restaurants often feature many rich sauces and protein-centric dishes. Many restaurants advertise as serving cuina de mercat or cocina de Mercado, meaning they use whatever is in season at the local market. Freshness is of the essence.

Travel 42

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Courtesy of: Darla Logsdon

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