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BARCELONA: A TASTE OF SPAIN
A visit to the port city of Barcelona is a lot like Spain's famed tapas-you need to choose what looks best and enjoy as many small bites as time and desire allow. And, whether it's at a Barcelona restaurant, architectural wonder, cathedral, museum, sprawling beach, or many other possibilities, a visitor's bites of Barcelona are sure to be fulfilling.
Those interested in maritime history will definitely want to visit the city's Maritime Museum, which is located in the former Royal Shipyards Gothic-style building. Ships were being built here back in the 13th century and this excellent museum features ships and boats of all sizes, models, figureheads, and much more memorabilia that pays tribute to Barcelona's long seafaring history.
If people-watching is your thing, La Rambla, is surely one of Europe's most fascinating streets and features a median that is pedestrian-only and is typically packed with both locals going about their business and visitors taking in the best of Barcelona. It features plenty of shopping options, various markets, including those devoted to birds, flowers, and food (don't miss the famed and busy Boqueria food market), the historic opera house (Gran Teatre del Liceu), and even a colorful Joan Miro mural on the sidewalk that's hard to miss.
There are many historic neighborhoods to explore including Barri Gotic (The Gothic Quarter) and Barcelona's main cathedral on Placa de la Seu, La Ribera and its Picasso Museum, and L'Eixample and its various works of famed Barcelona architect Antoni Gaudi, including Casa Battlo, La Pedrera (formerly called Casa Mila) and the signature Sagrada Familia.
Slightly further afield is Gaudi's Parc Guell, one of his largest projects of what was to be an upscale neighborhood of residences and gardens and which is now a city park and a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The Port Vell area features lots of boats and ships; floating restaurants; the Aquarium's aquatic life; Imax Port Vell (adjacent to the aquarium); the Catalonia History Museum; and the Teleferic, a cable car that takes passengers across the port area to Montjuic, the mountain that towers over the city.
To the east of town, Barceloneta, is a bustling beachfront neighborhood which was originally a fisherman's village and now features a big beach along the Mediterranean and a massive promenade (Passeig Maritim).
Accommodations in Barcelona range as much as their tapas does. For a luxurious experience, try the W Barcelona situated at the southern end of Barceloneta's beach and promenade. Other options include the truly world-class Hotel Arts Ritz-Carlton at the other end of Barceloneta's beach; the Mandarin Oriental Barcelona (located on pretty Passeig de Gracia and featuring a restaurant from the only female chef with six Michelin stars); the classic Majestic (also on Passeig de Gracia); and two unique Hilton options (including another Barcelona beachfront possibility). For those with an early flight out of Barcelona's efficient international airport, the Hotel FrontAir Congress is a great budget choice with a free airport (and city) shuttle. There's something for every taste in this tapas-like city.