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Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia, is a Mediterranean and cosmopolitan city with Roman remains, medieval quarters and the most beautiful examples of 20th century Modernism and avant-garde. It is no surprise that emblematic constructions by the Catalan architects Antoni Gaudí and Lluís Doménech i Montaner have been declared World Heritage Sites by the UNESCO. In addition, a wide cultural programme means visitors can enjoy exhibitions alongside a full programme of concerts, plays and dances.

An open-air museum Thanks to the rich and varied heritage in Barcelona, there are many routes around the city. The Gothic Quarter comprises narrow streets with charming spots which are home to a large selection of civil and religious Gothic constructions. Medieval palaces such as the Casa dels Canonges, La Pia Almoina or Casa d'Ardiaca surround the impressive cathedral. The Plaça del Rei is a square with an array of spectacular buildings such as the Reial Major Palace, the Santa Ágata Chapel or the History of the City Museum. In the Plaça de Sant Jaume there are important institutions, such as the Regional Parliament and the City Hall. A trip to the Mercè Church, patron saint of Barcelona, is also worthwhile.

Next to the Gothic Quarter is the Ribera District. Some of the palaces here are home to important museums. The Palace of the Marquises of Llió (Textile and Clothing Museum), Palau Nadal (Barbier-Mueller Museum of Pre-Columbine Art) or the Palau Aguilar (Picasso Museum) are some examples. Barcelona has many different styles in the same place - from the Gothic structures of the Santa María del Mar Church to the Modernism of the Palau de la Música Catalana auditorium.

At the end of the 19th century the new urban development area in the centre of Barcelona was built - L'Eixample. The Catalan bourgeoisie built up their daring Modernist mansions here. Architects such as Gaudí, Doménech i Montaner and Puig i Cadafalch filled the streets of Barcelona with fantasy.

Barcelona, city of modernisme

Several of the works by two of these artists have been declared World Heritage Sites by the UNESCO. This is true for Park Güell, the Palau Güell, Casa Milà “La Pedrera”, the Nativity Façade and the crypt of the Basilica of the Sagrada Familia, Casa Batlló, Casa Vicens and the crypt of Colonia Güell, all by Gaudí; and the Palau de la Música Catalana auditorium and Sant Pau Hospital by Doménech i Montaner.

Buildings such as the Casa Lleó Morera or the Casa Amatller, both Modernist jewels, are also well worth a visit.

The Rambla is one of the main streets in the historic centre, leading down to the Mediterranean Sea. The different sections carry visitors from the Romanesque church of Santa Anna to the bird market and flower stalls, passing by beautiful examples of Renaissance and Baroque architecture. Other centres of cultural and day-to-day life in the area are the Palau de la Virreina (currently an art centre), the Boquería Market and the Gran Liceu Theatre.

The seafront in Barcelona is also home to different artistic styles. Les Drassanes, the old dockyards and home to the Maritime Museum, and the Llotja exchange are an example of mediaeval port facilities. Porticoed houses lead to the Parc de la Ciutadella, the Olympic Village and the Olympic Port. Beaches, moorings, an impressive selection of museums and leisure activities (The Aquarium, IMAX 3D, the Colón vantage point) make the port of Barcelona a cosmopolitan spot filled with life.

Some of these facilities were built for the 1992 Olympic Games. The games’ legacy can also be seen, alongside the monumental works from the 1929 Universal Exhibition, on Montjuic mountain. Montjuic Castle (Military Museum) dominates this emblematic mountain, home to jewels of Barcelona architecture. The Plaça d’Espanya, the Magic Fountain, the National Palace and the Olympic Ring are just some of the most standout works. The Olympic Stadium, the Calatrava Tower, Palau d’Esports Sant Jordi and the INEFC Pavilion (National Institute of Physical Education of Catalonia) by Ricardo Bofill are integrated into beautiful landscaped areas.Museum collections Names such as Picasso, Miró, Tàpies and Gaudí have museums dedicated to their work in Barcelona. Pieces of art from all eras are housed in the History of the City Museum, the History of Catalonia Museum, the Modern Art Museum and the Contemporary Art Museum (MACBA). Many other institutions offer artistic avant-garde pieces through both permanent and temporary exhibitions. The Barcelona Contemporary Culture Centre (CCCB) or the CaixaForum are just two examples.

Irene recommends

Barcelona Card. Discover the best of Gaudí and the Museu del Futbol Club Barcelona, among other iconic visitor attractions. The Sagrada Família, La Pedrera, the Casa Batlló, the Golondrinas pleasure boats, Barcelona Zoo and the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya are just some of the many cultural and leisure attractions which you can visit free or at a reduced price, with the Barcelona Card. This card includes train to the airport and free travel on public transport in the city, free admission to some museums and more than 70 discounts.

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