Situated between the Mediterranean and the Serra de Collserola hills, Barcelona—Spain’s second largest city—may also be its best loved. It’s rich in history but full of cutting-edge design. You can stroll through the medieval Barri Gòtic’s narrow streets, then head over to the 19th-century neighborhood of L’Eixample to admire its architectural gems. For guidance in exploring off-the-beaten-path Barcelona, book a tour with Jordan Susselman’s “Hi. This is Barcelona,” a tour company the American created after falling in love with the city. A visit to Barcelona must include some of its famous attractions, though, including Antoni Gaudí’s unfinished cathedral, the Sagrada Família. Parc Güell, another popular Gaudí creation, offers visitors panoramic views of the city. Speaking of views, book your room early at the Hotel Colón for impressive views of the Cathedral of Barcelona. Or, opt for a suite at Banys Orientals near the Picasso Museum.
Get a feel for the city by browsing the Boqueria market. Vendors sell fruits, veggies, fish, pastries, and other goodies. Even if you don’t buy a thing, simply soak up the culture. For a bird’s-eye view of Barcelona’s harbor, hop aboard a cable car at Montjuïc, the hill southwest of Barcelona.
To experience water from a different perspective, head to the Oceanarium at L’Aquàrium de Barcelona, where you can view manta rays and sharks from the 262-foot-long (80-meter-long) underground tunnel.
The Montjuïc Magic Fountain should not be missed. On Thursday through Sunday during spring and summer and Friday and Saturday during autumn and winter, a music and lights show takes place at the fountain. Before or after the show make your way to Granja La Palleresa in the Gothic Quarter for a traditional Barcelona treat—Spanish hot chocolate and churros.
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For more information about the types of tours offered and prices for “Hi. This is Barcelona,” go to www.hithisisbarcelona.com.
See National Geographic's ultimate guide to Barcelona.
Based on articles from National Geographic Traveler and compiled by Stephanie Robichaux