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Flights to Barcelona

Catalonia's Colourful Capital

Barcelona, the beating heart of Catalonia, is Spain’s second largest city and one of the most varied and vibrant city trips that Europe has to offer. While it has become an economic powerhouse over the past decade, Barcelona has lost none of its traditional class, charm and avant-garde sensibilities.

Barcelona’s unique style is never better expressed than through the work of Antoni Gaudí, whose unconventional architecture and spirit springs up around almost every corner. Most famous of all is Sagrada Familia - the unusual spires of which dominate Barcelona’s skyline. The church, designed by Gaudí in the 1880s on which construction continues to this day, was only recently consecrated and proclaimed a minor basilica by Pope Benedict XVI in 2010.

Sagrada Familia is visited by more than 3,000,000 visitors per year and is Barcelona’s most popular tourist attraction. Therefore, particularly if visiting in the summer months, be prepared to wait in lengthy queues to get a glimpse inside Gaudi’s gothic masterpiece. The eccentric and interweaving structure found inside is indeed worth the wait - the scale and ambition of the project is awe inspiring. Despite its status as a tourist attraction, Sagrada Familia still operates as a church like any other, and you may witness congregants massing underneath the tourists to attend religious services.

Hired by the wealthy merchants of Barcelona to design their mansions, Gaudí’s essence is spread throughout the city, from the unmistakable duo of Casa Batlló and Casa Milà on stylish Passeig de Gràcia to Palau Güell off Barcelona’s most famous street La Ramba. Any travellers seeking to recreate scenes from Michelangelo Antonioni’s languid 1975 masterpiece The Passenger - starring Jack Nicholson and Maria Schneider - will be glad to know that all of the aforementioned buildings are periodically open to visitors.

Towering over the city in trendy, student district Gràcia lies Park Güell, Gaudí’s surreal, sprawling garden complex. Built between 1900 and 1914 for wealthy industrialist Count Eusebi Güell, the area was initially designated for housing. However, after those plans fell through Gaudí moved in and reimagined the space as a municipal park, incorporating all of the important themes in his work to create a truly unique space. Visitors are welcome in the park at no cost - although there is an admission fee for the Gaudi House Museum - and are afforded the best views of Barcelona from mountain to sea.

Gaudí aside, Barcelona is perhaps most famously associated with its much celebrated football club - FC Barcelona. Indeed, the club’s imposing stadium Camp Nou can be said to rival Sagrada Familia as a holy site of worship for thousands of proud Catalans. Nearly one hundred thousand fans to be precise - Camp Nou is the largest football stadium in Europe, and the opportunity to tour the ground and the club’s intimidating collection of trophies is not to be missed by any follower of the beautiful game.

When victorious, FC Barcelona’s players and fans congregate on the city’s most famous street of all, La Rambla. Easily reached from the north by Passeig de Gràcia, or from the east and west by Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes, La Rambla is the manic heart of the city, emptying the thousands of people who visit each day toward the Balearic sea and the city’s many fine beaches.

The madness of La Rambla, with its incessant hawkers of tourist memorabilia, is worth braving for a visit to La Boqueria, the enormous indoor market which dates back to the 13th century. The market is home to all manner of fresh fruit, meat and fish, and caters for even the most unusual tastes - a sheep’s head can be yours for less than ten euros.

At the mouth of La Rambla, past the monument to Christopher Columbus, lies the city’s renovated port area, filled with trendy bars, restaurants and shops overlooking the marina, catering to Barcelona’s well heeled visitors and residents. Those looking for some relaxation from La Rambla will find the city’s well regarded beaches, the most popular of which being Barcelonata followed by Icària Beach, both of which are well served by the Metro stops Barcelonata and Ciutadella Vila Olimpica respectively.

Aside from shopping, sunbathing, football and Gaudí-spotting, Barcelona is rightly famed for the wealth of restaurants and bars which the city has to offer. The variety of which, from the numerous sweet and cake shops in the narrow winding streets of the Barri Gòtic district; to the fashionable, fine dining establishments found in Eixample; to the more laid-back tapas joints in Raval or Gràcia, leaves the visitor with an abundance of choice.

Those looking for a cultured retreat will find much more than Gaudí in Barcelona, with museums and art galleries aplenty. The Museu Nacional D'Art de Catalunya, which is the city’s largest and best regarded museum, is host to the largest Catalan art collection in the world  and is housed in grandeur of the Palau Nacional in Montjuic. The city’s Maritime museum, Modern Art gallery and Picasso museum are also not to be missed.

Barcelona’s El Prat airport lies around 12km from the city centre, which is easily accessed by bus or train, with good links to the city’s Metro system. The number of passengers travelling through Barcelona airport has more than doubled in the past 15 years to over 34 million per year, necessitating the construction of a new Terminal 1 to handle the number of flights to Barcelona, as the city has undergone an economic and tourism boom.


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 Barcelona Travel Guide

Gaudi Architecture
Gothic Quarter, Barcelona
La Rambla
With a unique Catalonian identity, Barcelona offers a dynamic blend of culture, distinctive architecture, city parks, top-of-the-range hotels and restaurants as well as lively nightlife, a vibrant music scene, a fascinating history and an enviable beachside location. Barcelona is a blend of contemporary, gothic and modern architecture where guests can ... Barcelona city guide

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Images by Flickr/somma1977