Key AttractionsLike other European cities, Barcelona consists of a small old quarter filled with narrow, rambling streets surrounded by a larger, newer area laid out on a grid. In Barcelona's case, the old quarter is specifically Gothic, and the new area is extremely modern and expansive. Add to that $100 million worth of renovations for the 1992 Olympics and you have a city that bursts with exciting architecture and tree-lined routes.
Begin your tour on Las Ramblas, the city's liveliest boulevard. Traffic moves on both sides, framing a wide tree-lined pedestrian esplanade. You can cover the stretch in a brisk 20-minute walk, but the point is to take it slowly--inhaling the fragrances of the flower stands, thumbing through paperbacks at the book stalls, sipping a café con leche. As you master the art of rambling, look for the sidewalk mosaic by Joan Miró at the Placa de Boqueria; be sure to visit the Gran Teatre del Liceu, one of the world's great opera houses. At the harbor end of Las Ramblas stands one of Barcelona's most emblematic sights, the over-200-foot-tall monument to Christopher Columbus.
The city's oldest buildings of artistic and historic interest are located in the Barri Gotic (Gothic Quarter), the medieval heart of Barcelona. Alleyways weave among ancient churches and dwellings that recall the city's Mediterranean heritage. One of the principal sights of Barri Gotic is the Catedral de Barcelona, dedicated to Saint Eulalia, the 4th-century martyr who is the city's patron saint. Also here is the Palau Reial Major (Great Royal Palace), once home to the Counts of Barcelona, who later became the Kings of Aragon. This palace features a splendid banquet hall, the Salo del Tinell, where Columbus reported to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella upon his return from the New World.
Near Barri Gotic is the Museum Picasso, housed in the beautiful 15th-century Palau Aguilar. To get to the museum, you must cross a lovely Gothic-Renaissance courtyard surrounded by tiers of gallery arcades.
For an invigorating tour of modernist architecture, visit Eixample, the part of the city that grew up in the 1860s and 1870s after the Barri Gotic's old walls were torn down. Lined with boutiques, banks, hotels and art galleries, the Passeig de Gracia provides a pleasant backdrop for a stroll.
Architect Antoni Gaudí left many marks of his genius throughout the city; to the north, Parc Guell sports fantastic neo-Catalan villas and curved, tile benches. Barcelonians are particularly proud of the artist's cathedral, La Sagrada Família (Church of the Holy Family), left unfinished at his death in 1926.
To the south of the Barri Gotic and the Eixample lies Montjuic, "Hill of the Jews," so named because it was once home to a Jewish cemetery. Today, Montjuic is known to sports lovers as the site of the 1992 Olympic Games.
Great BuysBarcelona has always been known for its leather goods and its textiles, which are among the world's finest. Today, the city has become a center for couture as well, drawing cutting-edge designers who specialize in moda joven (young fashion). Passeig de Cracia and Rambla de Catalunya contain some of the chicest shops, carrying leather goods, furs, clothing and jewelry. For crafts, visit the Poble Espanyol, the model Spanish village on Montjuic. Here you will find over 35 stores featuring glassware, pottery, carvings and other typical folk crafts made by artisans throughout Spain. The Ribera-El Born quarter around the Picasso museum also contains many examples of artists' work. J.M. Garcia features a wide selection of Lladro china, Majorica pearls and Sagrada Familia souvenirs.
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