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Vibrant and dynamic are the first words which spring to mind when describing Barcelona, the city which dares to be different. As creative and energetic as it is eccentric, the secret of its irresistible magnetism lies in the perfect balance between a soul imbibed by its ancient past and an intellect which always looks ahead with enthusiasm, and which, by embracing all things new, has merited its ranking as one of the trendiest , most cosmopolitan and modernistic cities on earth.

One of Europe's most visually striking cities, Barcelona, the jewel of the Mediterranean, lies in a privileged position bordering Spain's Eastern Mediterranean Coast and just 120 kilometres south of the Pyrenees, the natural border between France and Spain. Barcelona's history stretches back over 2000 years with a rich and colourful past as it was subsequently settled by various cultures. By the year 1000 AD, it had become one of the most important ports in the Mediterranean, and by the 14th century, as the cradle of Catalan culture, Barcelona ruled over a mini Mediterranean empire. In 1469, with the fusing by marriage of the Kingdoms of Castile and Aragon it became part of a unified Spain. Through the hosting of the Universal Expo in 1888, the international Expo in 1929, the Olympic Games in 1992 and the Universal Cultural Forum in 2004, the city gained the international projection it enjoys today.

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Blessed with a subtropical Mediterranean climate, it is Europe's fourth most visited city and one of the world's top urban tourist destinations. Over the centuries, it has maintained its early lead as one of the most important Mediterranean ports. Today, as the second largest city in Spain, Barcelona is considered a global city due to its cultural, financial, and commercial and tourist importance. It is a charming and eclectic mix of the old and the new, with its image as Europe's most dynamic city and its modern and avant- garde character belying its antiquity. It is artistically and culturally refined and a world leader in luxury cuisine. Its compact size makes it possible to walk from its charming and antique gothic quarter to its golden sandy beaches, making the city very tourist friendly.

The city is recognised for its striking architecture which is the most liberal and daring in the world thanks to the creative genius and imagination of the Catalan architect and leader of Catalan modernism, Antoni Gaudi. His individual and distinctive style is highly recognisable and much admired world wide. His work was always influenced by his four passions, architecture, nature, religion and love for his homeland of Catalonia. He introduced new techniques such as the use of waste ceramic pieces, distinctive to so many colourful Barcelona buildings. Seven of his works have been declared world heritage sites by UNESCO. His masterpiece is a most unconventional church which dominates the Barcelona skyline and is the city's most famous sight; it is the as yet unfinished, church of The Holy Family. The massive church which has become the symbol of the city is a must on any tourist's itinerary as it is as wacky as it is awe-inspiring.

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Barcelona is a city rich in Parks and gardens of all styles and descriptions with over 130 parks gracing the coastal city. Perhaps the most famous park is the world heritage listed Park Güell, designed by Gaudi; the park is a surrealistic space where Gaudi, also known as "God's Architect" for his devoutness, truly allowed his imagination to run wild. This fantasy wonderland is another must see for the visitor to Barcelona, who will not remain indifferent to the eccentric structures set amidst the lush vegetation, as the visitor will either love it or hate it. The largest and most centrally located park is the Park de la Ciudadella, near the Gothic Quarter. The park was used for the Universal Expo in 1888 and has many gardens, fountains, museums housing arts and other cultural exhibits as well as palaces, and even a lake where the visitor may hire boats. The two highest points from which to view Barcelona are two hills overlooking the city with both having parks on its summit; in Montjuic, which is near the city centre, there is a castle overlooking the city, as well as the facilities of the 1992 Olympic Games amongst extensive gardens museums and many other attractions,. Atop Mt. Tibidabo, which is a bit further out of the city centre, the visitor will find one of the oldest amusement parks in Europe with all the attractions and rides of a bygone era.

In Barcelona, art is not confined to its many museums, as the city and art intertwine in a tight embrace, as just strolling along its streets is an artistic assault on all of the five senses. Take a walk along the Ramblas, a colourful thoroughfare which is quite possibly the world's most enjoyable and exciting street, and be entertained by many forms of performing artists, living statues, mimics, jugglers, musicians, dancers and magicians. Walk into the Boqueria, an ancient marketplace dating back to the middle ages and stocked with every type of food conceivable stacked into food displays which are an art form in themselves. Delight in the burst of colours of the flower stalls along the Ramblas or simply stroll along its gothic quarter admiring the many relics of medieval architecture.

The city has a rich artistic legacy with names such as Picasso, Dali and Miro intimately connected with Barcelona and inhaling their inspiration from the city's creative energy whilst adding the imprint of their own personal creative genius to Barcelona's wealthy artistic heritage. The city boasts fifty five museums on a wide variety of themes ranging from art galleries, history, archaeology, science and many others. Amongst its many art galleries the Museu National d'ArtCatalunya in Montjuic, the Picasso Museum and the Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art are three notable examples, whilst the second most visited of Barcelona's museums (after the museum housed in the Church of the Holy Family), is La Pedrera, where the building itself is the museum, as it is another one of Gaudi's fabulous creations and one of the strangest apartment buildings ever built, now housing renaissance drawings and a collection of modern art paintings, making it one of Barcelona's most important art galleries.

There is never a problem in finding something to do or see in this lively and exciting city that never sleeps; the problem is finding the time to take in everything which Barcelona has to offer. Barcelona, an enterprising city of free thinkers and fiercely independent spirit, is a city which proudly appreciates its past whilst sailing full steam ahead into the future.

 
 

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