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Touristic Places

BARCELONA is the second largest city in Spain, capital city of Catalonia and the province with the same name. It is located in the comarca of Barcelonès, along the Mediterranean coast between the mouths of the rivers Llobregat and Besòs.

The population of the city is about 1.6 million, while the population of the Barcelona province is calculated to be 5.3 million.

Once known as Spain's industrial backwater, Barcelona has been reborn as a stylish and cosmopolitan city and is now an ideal city-break destination. There is a lot to explore in both the Old Town and Barrio Gótico, and the city also offers you the chance to soak up the atmosphere in some of its many lively bars and restaurants.

THINGS TO SEE AND DO

CASA MILA Provença 261-265, 08008 Barcelona (00 34 93 4845 995). The distinct style of Barcelona and its master architect Antoni Gaudí are difficult to miss when walking around the city. Casa Milà, also known as La Pedrera (The Quarry) and located on the corner of Provença and Passeig de Gràcia, is an apartment block built by Gaudí in 1906. Just as bizarre - but not as gaudy - as much of his other work, this is a good introduction to critics who believe that Gaudí exemplified bad taste. The small Espai Gaudí museum is located inside the house, and has featured interesting Goya and Giacometti exhibitions in the past. There is also a superb view from the roof of the house, clad with Darth Vader-like chimneys.

PALAU GUELL Carrer Nou de la Rambla 3-5, 08001 Barcelona (00 34 93 3173 974). Antoni Gaudí's masterpiece is an urban fantasy of Gothic gloom. The Palace is closed until January 2007, but can still be admired from the outside.

SANTA MARIA DEL MAR Plaça Santa Maria del Mar 1, 08003 Barcelona (00 34 93 3102 390). Santa Maria del Mar is probably the finest example of Catalan Gothic architecture. Begun in 1329, it has an elegant, airy interior with slender columns. Austerely decorated, thanks in part to the burning of its baroque additions in the Civil War, Santa Maria del Mar has a reputation as a common people's cathedral, and, being close to the port, has special historical links to fishermen and sailors.

TEMPLE EXPIATORI DE LA SAGRADA FAMILIA Mallorca 401, 08013 Barcelona (00 34 93 2073 031; fax: 00 34 93 4761 010; www.sagradafamilia.org; email: info@sagradafamilia.org). Expected to be completed on the 100th anniversary of Gaudí's death in 2026, Barcelona's unique and enigmatic Expiatory Temple of the Sacred Family is Spain's most popular tourist attraction. Gaudí died in 1926 when he was run over by a tram - mistaken for a beggar he was left to die - and is now buried in Sagrada's crypt. All the plans for his unfinished masterpiece were lost in a fire in the Spanish Civil War, and since 1940 the work has been in the hands of architects Francesc Quintana, Puig Boada and Lluís Gari. The basilica is privately owned, and all building funds are donated by the public. The basilica's story so far of can be found in the church's museum, which helps you muse on the mysteries of the work in progress.

TRAVEL TIPs
La Rambla and El Born are plagued by pickpockets and bag-snatchers, and locals complain that the city government turns a blind eye to the problem rather than risk scaring off visitors by issuing warnings. The trick is simply to be aware of the problem and then, like the residents, you are less likely to be robbed.

HELP
The city government runs an excellent information service that you access by dialling 010 for any phone in the city. English-speaking staff will provide you with the telephone numbers and events information that you need.



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