Barcelona, located in southwestern Spain, has long vied with Madrid as the country’s greatest city. Madrid certainly has much to offer, but Barcelona has, in addition to wonderful city sights, the added advantage of being on the Mediterranean coast and having Antonio Gaudi as its "favorite son." Here is my version of the best of this spectacular tourist destination.
1. Wander the Barri Gotic – Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter contains many of the most popular and well-known attractions in the city. Wander the ancient, narrow streets to discover the essence of this grand city.
2. Stroll Las Ramblas – This pedestrian-only thoroughfare is one of the most famous avenues in the world. It is lined with shops and restaurants, and peopled by street performers, lovers and tourists.
3. Sagrada Familia Church – This masterpiece and final project of the renowned architect, Antonio Gaudi, was never finished and is in a perpetual state of construction, owing to the fact that only public money is to be used for its completion. Check guides or guidebooks to understand the symbolism of the design.
4. Parc Guell – What began as a real estate project for Gaudi has now been turned into a city park. His unusual architectural designs dominate the park.
5. Montjuic – The old Jewish Quarter which occupies the high ground above the city center offers fantastic views of the city and its harbor.
6. Montserrat Monastery – This Benedictine complex, about 40 miles north of the city, is probably the most popular excursion from Barcelona. Be sure to check out the wooden statue of the Black Virgin, reputed to have been carved by St Luke and brought to Spain in 50 AD by St Peter.
7. Excursion to Andorra – This tiny principality in the Pyrenees Mountains (between Spain and France) is another popular side-trip from Barcelona, especially for those who want to fill their passports with stamps of many nations.
8. Cathedral – Barcelona’s immense cathedral has become a major gathering place in the city. On Sundays it is the scene of a demonstration of the national dance of Catalonia (the region of Spain which includes Barcelona), the Sardana.
9. Check out Some of Gaudi’s Houses – Casa Battlo and Casa Mila are two of the unusual Gaudi designs found throughout the city. He was part of the Art Nouveau movement which became popular here in the late 19th and early 20th century.
10. Enjoy the Beaches of Costa Dorada – The coastline both north and south of the city has several fine beaches. One of the most popular is at the small town of Sitges.