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Catalonia's vibrant capital, Barcelona is a stunning seaside city that flaunts her beauty and sunny lifestyle. Gorgeous scenery, breathtaking architecture, and superb cultural attractions make for an alluring destination. Of course, the balmy Mediterranean climate adds to the charm. Barcelona has an atmospheric medieval quarter, the Barri Gòtic, with an almost magical Old World ambience, but is even more famous for its Modernist architecture. Antoni Gaudí left a lasting mark on Barcelona with his avant-garde Surrealist buildings; several are UNESCO listed.
On its northeast side, La Rambla borders the Barri Gòtic, and halfway down the avenue is the Plaça Reial, a lovely palm-fringed square enclosed by historic houses. These elegant buildings have arcades filled with shops, cafés, and restaurants. At the center is the Fountain of the Three Graces with a candelabra designed by Antoni Gaudí. Another important monument on La Rambla (number 3 - 5) is the Palau Güell, an ostentatious mansion designed in 1886 by Antoni Gaudí. The owner, Eusebi Güell, was a great patron of the arts, and the building was constructed with a large domed hall intended for poetry readings and private concerts. The entire building reflects Güell's enormous wealth, with sumptuous décor, valuable textiles, and handcrafted furniture created by Gaudí.
Address: Carrer d'Olot, Barcelona
Casa Mila houses the Fundació Catalunya cultural center that organizes events throughout the year. The monument is open to the public daily for visits, and audio guides are available. A welcome stop for tourists, the Cafè La Pedrera offers a relaxing place for a snack in a setting worthy of the venue.Address: 261-265 Carrer de Provença, Barcelona
Address: 9 Baixada del Monestir, Barcelona
http://www.ticketsbar.es, tel. 606 225545
Address: Avinguda del Paral·lel 164
This is, literally, one of the sizzling tickets in the restaurant world, a tapas bar opened by Ferran Adrià, of the legendary El Bulli, and his brother Albert. The food veers towards the deliciously surreal in concoctions like spherical olives, 'airbaguette' with dry aged Rubia Gallega beef, or the wild carrot cone with cardamom yoghurt, sugared sesame and carrot ice cream. The seafood bar serves 14 varieties of oysters, with caviar, borscht and other unusual toppings.
Tel. 93 442 31 42
Adress: Carrer del Poeta Cabanyes 25
Quimet i Quimet is a family-run business that has been passed down from generation to generation. There’s barely space to swing a calamar in this bottle-lined, standing-room-only place, but it is a treat for the palate, with montaditos (tapas on a slice of bread) made to order.Try delectable combinations like artichoke, cheese and caviar, or tuna belly with sea urchin.
http://www.passadis.com, Tel. 93 310 10 21
Address: Pla del Palau 2
There’s no sign, but locals know where to head for a seafood feast. They say the restaurant’s raw materials are delivered daily from fishing ports along the Catalan coast. There's no menu – what’s on offer depends on what the sea has surrendered that day – but you can count on fresh seafood and/or fish, jamón (cured ham), tomato bread and grilled vegetables.
http://www.koyshunka.com, Tel. 93 412 79 39
Address: Carrer de Copons 7
Down a narrow lane north of the cathedral, Koy Shunka opens a portal to exquisite dishes from the East – mouth-watering sushi, sashimi, seared Wagyu beef and flavour-rich seaweed salads are served alongside inventive cooked fushion dishes like steamed clams with sake or tempura of scallops and king prawns with Japanese mushrooms. Don't miss the house speciality of tender toro (tuna belly).
http://www.casacalvet.es , Tel. 93 412 40 12
Address: Carrer de Casp 48
An early Gaudí masterpiece loaded with his trademark curvy features houses a swish restaurant. You could opt for scallops and razor clams with pesto and buckwheat, or venison with juniper and porcini sauce.It has various tasting menus for up to €70, and a lunch menu for €36.
http://www.cincsentits.com, Tel. 93 323 94 90
Carrer d’Aribau 58
Enter the realm of the ‘Five Senses’ to indulge in a jaw-dropping tasting menu consisting of a series of small, experimental dishes. There is a lunch menú for €55.The use of fresh local produce, such as fish landed on the Costa Brava and top-quality suckling pig from Extremadura, is key, along with the kind of creative genius that has earned chef Jordi Artal a Michelin star.
Barcelona has extensive bus and metro systems, and other major cities also benefit from generally efficient public transport. By European standards, prices are relatively cheap.
Single tickets cost the same as for buses (around €1.50).Visitors wanting to move around the major cities over a few days are best off getting 10-trip tickets, known in Madrid as Metrobús (€12.20) and in Barcelona as T-10 (€10.30).
Daytime flagfall (generally to 10pm) is, for example, €2.40, and up to €2.90 after 9pm to 7am, and on weekends and holidays. You then pay €1.05 to €1.20 per kilometre depending on the time of day.There are airport and (sometimes) luggage surcharges. A cross-town ride in a major city will cost about €10 – absurdly cheap by European standards – while a taxi between the city centre and airport in Barcelona will cost €30 with luggage.