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Barcelona - Capital of Catalonia

As the capital of Catalonia, Barcelona houses the seat of the Catalan government and boasts a population of approximately 1.6 million.

The foundation of Barcelona is the subject of two different legends. The first attributes the founding of the city to Hercules 400 years before the building of Rome.

The second legend attributes the foundation of the city directly to the Carthaginian Hamilcar Barca, father of Hannibal, who named the city Barcino after his family, around 3BC.

As a bustling European city, Barcelona does well to embrace it's past heritage while adapting for modern 21st century living. Its pleasant Mediterranean climate affords warm dry summers which makes it a popular tourist destination.

Barcelona has more city festivals than you can shake a stick at, but the key event is September’s Festes de la Mercè, offering a wide range of entertainment.

Make sure you purchase a Barcelona Card for free public transport and the best entry discounts.

Top 10 things to do in Barcelona

Sagrada Família (Church of the Holy Family)

This is a huge Roman Catholic church in the city centre that is still under construction.

The project to construct such a massive house of worship was conceived by the diocesan architect Francisco de Paula del Villar. Work started in 1882 and is expected to continue until around 2026.

The church has a very distinctive design with eight spindle-shaped bell towers jutting skywards above the main building.

You could quite literally spend your entire holiday here looking at, studying and taking photos of the thousands of designs intricately carved into the stone facades.

If you think it looks impressive during the day then just wait until night when it is lit up from the ground to its spires ( see photo above ).

While currently not open to the public, there are plans to open up parts of the church for guided tours around 2010.

Magic Fountain of Montjuic

The fountain was first switched on at the Great Universal Exhibition in 1929 and is a major tourist attraction.

Powerful jets throw streams of water around in a fantastic display that is synchronised to music and lights, every weekend evening between 7pm and 11pm.

For the fountainphiles out there, it uses 5 pumps each with around 250 bhp to keep 2,600 litres of water in circulation every second.

As a public work of art, there is no cost involved to see the show, however you're best to get there a little bit early during the busy holiday seasons to ensure you get a good view. Just make sure you're not down-wind!

Park Güell

Located on top of el Carmel hill, the park was designed by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí and built between 1900 and 1914.

The park was originally built as part of a commercial housing development that never really took off, then later converted into a municipal garden.

The central feature of the garden is the large main terrace which is surrounded by a long bench in the form of a sea serpent.

The park offers one of the best panoramic views of Barcelona from it's high point next to the large cross.üell

The Waterfront

Barcelona has a love relationship with the waterfront and here's where you'll find the larger hotels and more expensive restaurants mixed in with the older narrow streets and more traditional cafes and bistros.

As the waterfront is quite extensive, you're best to make a plan of things to see on the way, otherwise all the doubling-back will wear out those walking boots.

There are plenty of museums and churches dotted around this area of which the Maritime Museum is well worth the visit as is the old Santa Maria del Mar church which suffered heavy damage during the civil war.

One of the best areas to walk around at the waterfront is la Barceloneta. This was once the fishermen's quarter and still retains a lot of the old-style look with small narrow winding streets. You'll get some of the cheapest and yet best tapas bars along here.

Poble Espanyol (Spanish Village)

This attraction is a small Spanish village with different quarters that replicate the different styles of architecture and houses that can be found across Spain.

The village is also home to small traditional craft shops where you can see how things were made in the days-gone-past.

There's also an extensive entertainment area with bars, restaurants, clubs and a couple of theatres with one just for kids.

This is also the location for the famous Flamenco Show. The Tablao takes place in a typical Andalucian building in the village and you can be sure that the dancers will put on a firery passionate and entertaining show.

General opening times are from 9am till 2am for most days of the week with discounted entry from the Barcelona Card.

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Picasso Museum

This is the most popular and visited museum in Barcelona as it houses one of the most extensive collections of artworks by the 20th century Spanish artist Pablo Picasso.

The museum first opened in 1963 and the original collection was made up of a donation of 574 works by Picasso's lifelong friend Sabartés.

Picasso himself donated over 1000 items from his early work and the museum now boasts more than 3,500 items.

Most of the items are displayed together in collections that are organised by date.

As well as works from Picasso, the museum frequently holds exhibitions from other artists as well as organising seminars and lectures on art-related subjects.

La Rambla

This 1.2km long tree-lined street is one of the most popular walks in central Barcelona and part of the old city.

With it's small streets and shops, the fully pedestrianised area is a pleasure to walk around on a lazy afternoon.

Although guided walks are available from tour operators, La Rambla is best enjoyed just by wandering around and exploring it at your own pace.

There are a plethora of market stalls, shops, kiosks, street artists and of course bars, bistros and cafes.

Strolling down La Rambla from Pl. de Catalunya to the Columbus statue at the other end, you will notice Barri del Raval off to your right. This is the old red-light district, now turned into a pleasant area with good quality restaurants and bars.,_Barcelona

Montjuic Castle

Montjuic is a broad shallow hill located in Barcelona and the castle fortress sits at the top of the hill.

The eastern side of the hill is a sheer cliff and spectacularly overlooks the harbour area directly below.

The castle dates back from the 17th century and has also served as a prison for political prisoners under General Franco. It was primary used to repress the people for over two centuries and is the only place in the city where you can see a statue of Franco.

Today it houses the Military Museum which displays weapons and military artifacts from a variety of historical periods and many different countries. The leser known but equally good Museum of Comics and Illustration is also located here.

Getting up to the castle is done by cable car, the station for which is at Avenida de Miramar. The ride only takes a few minutes but grants fantastic aerial views over the city and harbour.

Casa Milà (La Pedrera)

Built between 1906 and 1910 for the Mila family as a residence it earned the nickname La Predera as a derogatory term, meaning 'the quarry' in Catalan.

It was not well received by the locals upon it's completion and they chose to call it La Pedrera because its outer limestone walls and wrought iron balconies reminded them somewhat of the cliffs of a stone quarry.

Today it is considered to be one of the finest civil examples of Catalonian designer Gaudi's work and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The building was run down and in a poor state up until 1980 when it was restored to it's original 'beauty'.

There's a free audio tour available to help you learn more about this unique building.à


The aquarium is located at Port Vell and offers 35 different aquariums with 11,000 animals and 450 species.

The centre also has an 80m underwater see-through tunnel that allows you to observe the different sea life creatures at close quarters.

There are plenty of different activities to keep the kids busy such as penguin parades and Explora!, an interactive leisure and educational space, while you nip off and get in a spot of shark diving before lunch.

There's a cafe for eats and a shop for souvenirs. Check the website for times and ticket costs.

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Temperature & Rainfall Guide for Barcelona

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