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Comfortably nestled against the north-eastern shores of Spain's Mediterranean coast, beautiful Barcelona is an ideal European destination brimming with museums, churches, art galleries, markets, restaurants, golden beaches and extraordinary architecture. As Spain's second largest city, Barcelona is home to approximately two million people. This thriving metropolis dates back to Roman times when it was originally known as Barcino, making it at least 2000 years old and incredibly rich in a history that is both celebrated and magnificently preserved. Barcelona is the capital of Catalonia and proudly reflects the character, language and culture that are unique in this region of Spain.
Barcelona's old town is renowned for its high concentration of magnificent Gothic architecture and an exploration on foot is the best means to enjoy the nooks and crannies of its narrow cobblestone streets. Here you will discover the splendid Catedral de la Seu, as well as the medieval stone houses of the Museu Picasso with its unique collection of early Picasso works. Divided down the middle by La Rambla, the thriving centre of Barcelona life, the city centre is easily explored with the Gothic Quarter on the right-hand side and the modernist ambience of the Eixample (built in the 19th century) on the left.
Tourists flock to here to see the famous art nouveau works of Antoni Gaudi, and his signature is all over the city. However it is the unfinished Sagrada Familia cathedral that draws most of the crowds. A masterpiece of innovative design it showcases Gaudi's unique style. For the Gaudi enthusiasts, a visit to Park Güell also provides a delightful and enchanting sojourn into the strange and fascinating world of this unique artist. With its walkways adorned with sculpture that is inspired by the irregularity of nature and the multi-coloured mosaic structures throughout the large parkland, visitors describe the experience as magical.
For lovers of modern art, a visit to Fundació Joan Miró is also an absolute must. The museum boasts the largest collection of this famous artist's work, but rotates its minimalist displays so that each exhibit gives visitors an overview of his artistic journey. The building itself is a beautiful example of modern architecture and is perched on a mountainside providing visitors with panoramic views of the surrounding area from the rooftop terrace.
Barcelona is also known for its lively night life. During the weekends and in the summertime in particular, the city's cafes, bars and nightclubs overflow with revellers into the early hours of the morning. Smartly dressed locals love to frequent the bars modernos with their designer furnishings and funky ambience. One of the more iconic hangouts is the El Quatre Gats, where you can enjoy great beer and live music. Check out the original menu design by Picasso on display at the Museu Picasso. To sample the local sparkling wine (Cava) consider visiting one of the city's many champagne bars (Xampanyerias) where cider and mouth-watering tapas are usually also on offer.
For some spectacular night-time sightseeing visit the musical fountain located in Plaça d'Espanya, a square that was built in 1929 for the World Exhibition and is situated at the base of Montjuic Mount. A great way to get there is by the Harbour Cable Car that connects Barceloneta and Montjuic. Starting at the top of the huge Torre San Sebastian tower, it has several stops before reaching its final destination of Montjuic. Popular with tourists it is the perfect way to enjoy a bird's eye view of this stunning European city.
Of course no visit to Barcelona is complete without enjoying all that the waterfront has to offer including the tantalising array of fine restaurants, eateries, bars, shops and the fantastic L'Aquarium. As the gateway to Barcelona's beaches, it is the perfect destination during the hot, summer months.