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Cruise Diva Goes Ashore in Europe:
The Mediterranean
Sights to see & things to do

Barcelona, Spain

Home of the fiercely proud Catalonians, Barcelona is an intriguing mix of the very old and very modern. From the ancient ruins of a Roman Temple in the Gothic Quarter to the structures built for the 1992 Summer Olympics on Montjuïc, Barcelona is a city of contrast with the ever-present whimsical architecture of Antoni Gaudí tossed in to delight the visitor.

As an embarkation/debarkation point, Barcelona boasts a fine airport with excellent and efficient facilities. Getting to port is a simple matter, either by cruise line transfer or in a taxi. But don’t simply pass through; plan to linger at least two days either pre- or post-cruise to experience one of Spain’s most captivating cities and unique cultures.


With so much to see, and so little time, tours are recommended. Hotel personnel can recommend tour operators—Juliatours, MacAndrews, and Pullmantur are some of the best. For the more adventurous tourist who’s done his homework, there is the Bus Turistic, which passes by the most popular sights. Riders hop off the Bus Turistic for a closer view and hop on the next one that passes by. The price of your ticket may also entitle you to ride the Tibidabo funicular and the Montjuïc cable car. Take care that you hop on the correct bus, though, as there are several. Don’t even consider renting a car—traffic is horrible in Barcelona and parking impossible. Taxis are good for short distances and can deposit you in areas where a walking tour is preferable, such as the Gothic Quarter and Les Rambles. Arm yourself with a detailed map and up to date guidebook. Change your dollars to Euros, as US dollars are not widely accepted. ATM machines are located on nearly every corner. 

In the Gothic Quarter is Barcelona’s Catalonian Gothic Cathedral. Begun in the 13th century, it blends medieval and Renaissance styles and ranks as one of Spain’s most impressive cathedrals. Nearby are the Roman Walls, one of Barcelona’s most important treasures, and the Great Royal Palace.

Les Rambles is the most famous promenade in Spain. From it’s city entrance at the fountains of Plaça de Catalunya you can stroll all the way to the Plaça Portal de la Pau at the base of the Columbus Monument and then take an elevator to the top for a bird’s-eye view of the harbor. Along the way you’ll pass flower stalls, newsvendors, sidewalk cafes, and street entertainers garishly interpreting scenes from Roman times to Star Wars. Feel free to photograph them, but do drop a coin or two in their boxes.

Barcelona has museums for art and history enthusiasts. Some of the finest are the National Art Museum of Catalonia, the Archeological Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Picasso Museum, which contains over 2,500 of his paintings, engravings, and drawings. Architectural buffs will be enchanted or repelled by the imaginative works of Antoni Gaudí—his presence and influence are seen throughout the city. Some of his most famous buildings are Casa Milà, the most famous apartment house in Spain; the Casa Batlló, one of a trio of buildings in the Block of Discord; the structures in Parc Güell; and the fantastic La Sagrada Familia (Church of the Holy Family) his bizarre unfinished masterpiece. If you see only one building in Barcelona, this must be it.

Poble Espanyol, or the re-created Spanish Village, was built for the 1929 World’s Fair and affords the visitor a theme-park style view of architectural styles from all regions of Spain. Sidewalk cafes dot the village, as do numerous shops selling arts and crafts—in some of them artists are at work creating their wares.

Stop for refreshments in one of the dozens of tapas bars or sidewalk cafes. For a real treat, a night out on the town should include dinner and a flamenco show.


Warm up your credit cards—attractive and stylish clothing, shoes, art, and decorative objects are often good buys in Barcelona. There are dozens of art galleries in the Gothic Quarter and near the Picasso Museum, but the most fashionable stores are located on Passeig de Gràcia. The local branch of the largest and most glamorous department store in Spain, El Corte Inglés is located on the Plaça de Catalunya.

Most shops close after lunch until late afternoon but El Corte Inglés is open for non-stop, all day shopping.


Beaches south of Barcelona have shallow water for some distance from shore, while those north of the city are shallow for only a few yards before dropping off into deep water. A day trip to the seaside village of Sitges (where well-to-do Barcelona residents go for holidays) offers a wide beach in charming surroundings.

Internet Resources

Barcelona Information -- A quick guide to Barcelona. What to see, how to get around, and where to stay.

Barcelona Insider -- Private city tours designed to give clients an insiders view of Barcelona. Informative and fun, tours are custom designed for the independent traveler.

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