Barcelona Vacation Travel Guide | Expedia
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Barcelona Vacation Travel Guide | Expedia

The Spanish city of
Barcelona sits on the Iberian Peninsula, 100 miles from the French border, and just a few steps from the Mediterranean Sea. With its roots reaching back into pre-history, the hands of many cultures have shaped Barcelona. But it was the Catalan
spirit that created something truly unique. In Barcelona,
everything you see, taste, reach out and touch… every detail is an expression of Catalan creativity. For this is more than just a city, Barcelona is a dream. And just like our dreams, Barcelona is sometimes chaotic, often intense, and always, always seductive. The dream begins in
the city’s heart, in Placa de Catalunya. Follow the gaze of Barcelona’s luminaries and legends, along avenues where iron,
tile and stone melt together in a sensual dance. To the South, drift with
the sea of souls down La Rambla, which the poet Lorca called, “the only street in the world I wish would never end.” But beware, the busyness of
La Rambla makes it a dream for pickpockets too. To the north, glide up Passeig de Gracia, a boulevard lined with creations by some of the giants of the
Art Nouveau and Modernista movements. But it’s not just the city’s main avenues that lull the senses into a divine stupor; Barcelona’s side streets and
alleyways are often rabbit holes into the sublime. And when the Mediterranean sun turns up the heat, cool off in one of the many
plazas and let the city come to you. Barcelona is a dream shaped by the past. Lose yourself in the old town, Barrio Gotico, where each turn reveals some
new layer of the city’s 2000 year-old history. Pass through the Roman towers, which guarded the city
when it was known in ancient times as Barcino. Just beyond, Barcelona Cathedral, a Catalan-gothic
masterpiece 600 years in the making rises from the ruins of a roman temple. While a few streets away, visit Saint Mary of the Sea, a spiritual safe harbor for generations of seafarers. Barcelona is a city that has forever looked to the sea. High above Port Vell stands Christopher Columbus, the intrepid mariner Catalonians
proudly claim as one of their own. Nearby, set sail on your own voyage
of discovery in the medieval dockyards. Though the sound of shipbuilding faded long ago, the Maritime Museum preserves the glorious echoes of Barcelona’s sea power throughout the days of sail. Nearby in the old general stores, explore the Museum of the History of Catalonia, a portal into the daily lives, nightmares, and aspirations
of Barcelonans across the centuries. If Barcelona is a dream, it is dream set to music. Music is everywhere…
on the streets, in flamenco bars, and clubs. For this is a city whose soul is laid bare in the stirring laments and pounding heartbeat of song. This passion reaches its
crescendo in the Palace of Catalan Music, where even the statues, intoxicated by the joy of music, burst from the very walls. Just off La Rambla a different kind of theatre awaits. La Boqueria began as a
goat market in the 13th century. Today, it’s the place to
sample delicacies from across Catalonia, such as jamon from forest-roaming pigs, fattened to perfection on herbs and acorns. Wherever hunger strikes in Barcelona, a tapas bar is just a few steps away. For like everything they do, Catalans have turned the
humble snack into an art form. For in Barcelona, life and art, are inseparable. Explore the galleries
of the European Museum of Modern Art, which celebrates the daring works of artists building on centuries of Catalan tradition. From Plaza Espanya,
climb the steps to the National Palace, the home of the National Art Museum of Catalonia. Here, take a deeper dive through Catalan creativity, from Romanesque murals,
to the glittering works of the Catalan Renaissance. The National Palace sits on the slopes of Montjuic, a broad hill laced with
trails, gardens and historic treasures. Take the cable car even higher, and enjoy the
commanding views from Montjuic Castle. For many in Barcelona
however, this is a place of sorrow. For it was against these walls that prisoners cried their
final defiant words before Franco’s firing squads. Over the last 100 years, Montjuic has been
continually re-imagined and re-shaped… first by the World’s Fair in 1929,
and again by the Summer Olympics of 1992. But the slopes of Montjuic were not the only part of
the city to be given an Olympic makeover. Millions of tonnes of sand
were pumped onto two miles of shoreline, giving run-down waterfront barrios a new lease of life, and lifting Barcelona high into
the ranks of the world’s great beach cities. Whether it’s the sea, the soil, or the wind, Barcelona is a dream inspired by nature. And this dream was at its wildest
in the imaginations of the Catalan Modernists, who embraced nature’s lyricism in defiance against the harsh lines and cold
logic of the Industrial Revolution. Experience Catalan Modernism in full bloom, at Sant Pau Hospital,
the visionary work of Lluís Domènech i Montaner. With an entrance representing open arms, and grounds scented by the
medicinal fragrance of lavender, laurel and lemon, if ever a hospital could heal
on aesthetics alone, surely it was this. But it was another Catalan, Antonio Gaudi, who took
Modernism to the next level, and far beyond. Of the nine UNESCO World Heritage sites in Barcelona, Gaudi is responsible for seven of them. Visit Casa Vicens, the first residence designed
by this future architectural superstar. Unlike anything built before, Gaudi fused Moorish
and oriental styles with eclectic materials to create the foundations
of a new architectural language. But for Gaudi,
this voyage into modernism was only the beginning. Just off La Rambla,
step through the arches of Palau Guell, whose tree-like basement pillars and rooftop chimney pots were
but a taste of things to come. Halfway along Passeig de
Gracia is the Block of Discord, where contrasting buildings
by four modernist masters jostle for attention. But it’s Gaudi’s Casa Batllo that steals the show. It is here Gaudi began to realize his full powers, breaking every city by-law to create what locals call, the house of bones. Gaze up at the facade, which resembles a lily-covered
pond straight from the brush of Monet. Then follow the serpentine
halls and swirling interiors ever upward before emerging onto the back of a dragon. Just around the corner is the
last private residence designed by Gaudi, Casa Mila. Some say the facade evokes
coastal cliffs festooned with seaweed; others say it conjures up the
mist-shrouded peaks of Montserrat. Whatever the case, Casa Mila
has inspired generations of artists, including a young American filmmaker, who in these chimneys found the inspiration for Darth Vader and his Storm Troopers. Gaudi would have loved that, for he was more than just an architect; his genius extended to
furniture design, interior decoration, and, landscaping. Pass through the gatehouses of Park Guell, and explore paths laden
with historic and mythical symbolism. Cool off amid a forest of
stone columns, bending under the world’s weight. Visit the house where Gaudi lived in later life. Then, take the stairs to Turo del Calvari, and behold the spires of Gaudi’s greatest vision, as they continue their climb towards the heavens. La Sagrada Familia is due
for completion within the next decade, to commemorate the 100-year
passing of the man they called, God’s Architect. Yet even unfinished, over four million visitors
a year are stunned into silence as they gaze up into
this vast, visionary kaleidoscope. Gaudi is the very essence of Barcelona. For just like his creations this
is a city filled with grand visions, all brought to life by endless fragments of bliss. Barcelona is a city that
shares with the world a message… such are the wonders we create, such is the life we live, when we allow…ourselves…to dream.


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