Beautiful Barcelona – Easy Travel Guide

Beautiful city of Barcelona, capital of Catalonia (a Spain’s province), is situated on on the shore of the Mediterranean sea and bordered at either end by 2 river deltas. Barcelona is the second largest city in Spain after its capital city Madrid. Barcelona has a population of 1.5 million, over 4 million including suburbs. The varied, eventful history of the city dates back 4,000 years to the first settlements by ancient farmers. Later it became a Roman colony, the Visigoth’s capital city, then it came under Moorish rule. It went through sieges, destructions and occupations, finally to become an autonomous democracy 1975. The city has always played an important role in political and cultural life of Spain and it is well reflected in the variety and quality of historical buildings, museums, many other tourist attractions. Today Barcelona is one of the most diverse european cities with unique culture and rich traditions. You can find here a formidable balance of the traditional things and the avant-garde. A cosmopolitan metropolis, Barcelona affords visitors a warm and sincere welcome, being aknowledged worldwide as one of the best tourist-friendly cities in Europe.Barcelona’s organisation of the 1992 Olympics provided regeneration of this dynamic city, gave a fresh start to its infrastructure development.

WHAT TO SEE AND WHERE:

POINTS OF INTEREST – La Rambla is a tree-lined pedestrian boulevard packed with buskers, living statues, mimes and itinerant salespeople selling everything from lottery tickets to jewellery. Pavement cafes and stands selling craftwork, street performers surrounded by curious onlookers, a noisy bird market, Palau de la Virreina, a grand 18th-century rococo mansion, the Gran Teatre del Liceu, the famous 19th-century opera house- these are all colourful parts of La Rambla’s mosaic. La Rambla ends at the lofty Monument a Colom (Monument to Columbus) and the harbour.

Barri Gotic – also known as Gothic Quarter, it is the old part of the city. Picasso lived and worked in Barri Gotic from 1895 to 1904 and Joan Miro was born and lived here during his youth. Gothic Quarter is situated on the right hand side of the La Rambla, it contains a concentration of medieval tall Gothic buildings (14-15th century) on narrow cobbled streets and now is home to much of the city’s nightlife.

La Sagrada Familia – La Sagrada Familia is one of the most famous and magnificent among Barcelona’s landmarks. The life’s work of Barcelona’s famous architect, Antoni Gaudi, the magnificent spires of the unfinished cathedral imprint themselves boldly against the sky with swelling outlines inspired by the holy mountain Montserrat. Above each facade there are four towers, 12 in total, which are dedicated to the Apostles. The tower in the center, the tallest of all at 170 m., is dedicated to Jesus Christ. Around these there are the towers of the four Evangelists, and the tower over the apse is dedicated to the Virgin. They are encrusted with a tangle of sculptures that seem to breathe life into the stone. Gaudi died in 1926 before his masterwork was completed, and since then, controversy has continually dogged the building program. Nevertheless, the southwestern (Passion) facade, is almost done, and the nave, begun in 1978, is progressing.

La Pedrera – Casa Mila (Mila House) is an apartment building, the last example of Gaudi’s civil architecture.It is one of his finest and most ambitious creations, extraordinarily innovative in its functional, constructive, and ornamental aspects. Visitors can tour the building and go up to the roof, where they can see spectacular views of Barcelona. One floor below the roof is a modest museum dedicated to Gaudi’s work.
Montjuic – the largest open space in the city, its main attractions are the Olympic installations, the Spanish Village and the hilltop fortress. Montjuic, the hill overlooking the city centre from the southwest, is home to some fine art galleries, leisure attractions, soothing parks and the main group of 1992 Olympic sites. Montjuic is covered in ornamental gardens with water features and is the most popular destination in Barcelona on Sundays.

Tibidabo – is the highest hill in the wooded range that forms the backdrop to Barcelona. It has amazing views of the whole of Barcelona, a stunning cathedral, and a family fun park Parc d’Atraccions with old-style rides offering breathtaking views. A glass lift at the park goes 115m (383 ft) up to a visitors’ observation area at Torre de Collserola telecommunications tower.

Modernisme – spectacular modernista architectural creations dotted around the city by famous Antoni Gaudi and his contemporaries.

Camp Nou – home of F.C. Barcelona, one of Europe’s leading soccer teams, with capacity of almost 100,000 spectators.

The Seu Cathedral – Built in medieval times on the site of a Roman temple, La Seu is one of the great Gothic buildings in Spain.

Parc de la Ciutadella – Barcelona’s favourite park and a Sunday afternoon rendezvous for families, friends and ducks

The Sardana – traditional Catalan dance, performed outside the cathedral and at national festivals, with everyone encouraged to join in.

MUSEUMS – The Barbier-Mueller Museum of Pre-Columbian Art -the only museum in Europe devoted exclusively to Pre-Columbian cultures. Housed in a gothic palace, its collection is one of the finest of its kind and gives visitors an insight into the rich world of the earliest cultures on the American continent. This tiny museum contains one hundred pieces, including wood and stone sculptures, ceramics, tapestries, jade, often found in international exhibitions and prestige publications. The exhibits represented the Olmec, Maya, Aztec, Chavin, Mochica and Inca civilisations.

Palau de la Musica Catalana – one of the world’s most extraordinary music halls, it is a Barcelona landmark. From its polychrome ceramic ticket windows on the Carrer de Sant Pere Mes Alt side to its overhead busts of Palestrina, Bach, Beethoven, and Wagner, the Palau is the flagship of Barcelona’s Moderniste architecture.

Museu Picasso – is Barcelona’s most visited museum. 3,500 exhibits make up the permanent collection. Picasso spent several years (1901-06) in Barcelona, and this collection, is particularly strong on his early work. Displays include childhood sketches, pictures from the beautiful Rose and Blue periods, and the famous 1950s Cubist variations on Velazquez’s Las Meninas (Ladies-in-Waiting).

Gaudi Casa-Museu – Gaudi lived in this pink, Alice-in-Wonderland house from 1906 to 1926, which now houses a museum of Gaudi-designed furniture, decorations, drawings, and portraits and busts of the architect.
Fundacio Miro – it was a gift from the famous artist Joan Miro to his native city. The museum opened in 1975, and now it is one of Barcelona’s most exciting showcases of contemporary art.

BEACHES – One of Barcelona’s greatest draws is undeniably its beautiful beaches. Beside world-famous Costa Brava and Costa Dorada which are within 1-hr drive time from Barcelona, there are also several nice beaches over 4 km long within the city boundaries, we will list just several of them here: Nova Icaria- Closest to the Olympic marina, always crowded, this wide swathe of rough golden sand is great for food goers. There are three perfect beach bars and two very popular restaurants on the promenade (Mango and Chiringuito de Moncho) and countless bars and restaurants are just a short stroll away. Bogatell- This beach is twice the length of adjoining Nova Icaria and fringed by a stretch of stone walkway perfect for jogging, roller blading and cycling. Three large informal restaurants on the promenade. Mar Bella (Metro Ciutadella Vila Olimpica, plus 20-minute walk)- Barcelona’s only naturist beach close to a peaceful park – good for a picnic or siesta under the trees. Barceloneta- wide and long, a traditional and popular stretch with locals, crowded, noisy and very jolly.

WHEN TO GO, WEATHER: The best times to visit Barcelona are late spring and early autumn, when the weather is still comfortably warm, around 21-25°C. Summers are usually hot and humid, with temperatures averaging +30 (+ 86 Fahrenheit). Especially avoid the “dead” month of August, when many shops, bars and restaurants close for the month as many local inhabitants head out of the city. Winters are cool with average daytime temperatures around +12 C (+59 Fahrenheit), occasionally rainy.

GETTING THERE AND AROUND: By a direct flight to Barcelona, or through Madrid or via another large European city from almost any major airports in the world. The highest fares are from May to September, the lowest in March-April, October-November and December to February (excluding Christmas and New Year when prices are hiked up). Note also that flying on weekends may increase your ticket cost. If traveling to Barcelona from within Europe you can also chose train, bus or car, though these take much longer than a plane and often work out no cheaper. Many Mediterranean cruises include Barcelona as a port of call.

ACCOMODATIONS: We can offer you a range of choices. You can choose vacation rentals in Barcelona starting from $ 125 USD for a double room in a 4-star apartment hotel. Or you can opt for hotels from $ 65 USD for a double room in a 3-star hotel. Accomodation prices do not change much throughout the year due to the steady all-season flow of visitors to this extremely popular tourist city and surrounding resorts.

DINING: Besides restaurants you can eat at bars where you would have a succession of tapas (small snacks- three or four chunks of fish, meat or vegetables, or salad, which traditionally used to be served up free with a drink) or raciones (larger ones). The bar option can be a lot more interesting, allowing you to do the rounds and sample local specialities. Generally, the average cost for a meal consisting of two dishes and dessert would come to about 25 Euros. Travellers on an extremely limited budget can do well for themselves by using the excellent markets, bakeries and delis and filling up on sandwiches and snacks. Decent restaurants and cafes are easily found all over the city, though you’ll probably do most of your eating where you do most of your sightseeing, in the old town, particularly around La Rambla and in the Barri Gotic. Look for the best and most authentic seafood restaurants in Barceloneta, a seaside neighbourhood. Gothic Quarter neighbourhood is home to some of the oldest and most traditional restaurants in the city. Gracia is a very popular area among young people during the weekend, it leads the way in terms of exotic restaurants (Lebanese, Egyptian, Thai etc.).

TRANSPORT: Barcelona has excellent transport system comprising the metro (subway), buses, trains and a network of funiculars and cable cars. You can find a link to transport maps at the end of our guide. On all the city’s public transport you can buy a single ticket every time you ride, but even over only a couple of days it’s cheaper to buy a targeta – a discount ticket strip. The T-10 targeta is valid for ten separate journeys on the metro, buses and trains. These tickets can be used by more than one person at a time. The metro is the quickest way of getting around Barcelona. For black-and-yellow taxis there is a minimum charge of $ 2 euro. You’ll obviously have a great deal more freedom if you rent a car . Major roads throughout the city are generally good, and traffic is generally well behaved, though Spain does have one of the highest incidences of traffic accidents in Europe. It also has some of the lowest fuel prices on the continent.

SHOPPING: Barcelona, one of the most stylish cities in Europe offers great shopping, from designer clothes and accessories to household items. You will find the city to be quite cheap for a lot of items, especially if you coincide with the annual sales ( rebaixes in Spanish) lasting from mid-January until the end of February, and throughout July and August. The best shopping areas in Barcelona are the old streets off the upper part of the Ramblas. Souvenirs include ceramics, which are widely sold in the streets around the cathedral; leather goods; city’s delicatessens, particularly cooked Catalan meats and sausages; a porron (the long-spouted glass drinking jar); CDs and tapes of Catalan rock and pop, sardana music, Spanish rock or flamenco. If you’re looking for original gift ideas, some of the best hunting can be found in the shops of any of the city’s museums, where you’ll find reasonably priced and unique examples of Catalan disseny (graphic), and other original items ranging from postcards to replica works of art.

We wish you a nice and safe trip!

Romantic Luxury Travel at European Castles

Today royal families are few and far between, but there remains a romantic lore and mystique surrounding the lifestyle of kings and queens, lords and ladies who lived hundreds of years ago, and rightfully so. These wealthy and prominent individuals vied with each other for power and prestige and built lavish homes to showcase their wealth. Since most royal descendants cannot afford to maintain a castle as their private home, adventuresome travelers who are looking for the best in luxury travel can experience the romance of the days of yore by planning a luxury vacation getaway at a castle that has been restored to 5-star expectations and beyond.

And true castles these are, huge rambling buildings adorned with gargoyles, towers, turrets and steeply sloped roofs. The old castles, built in the centuries before electric lighting, feature expansive windows that give unparalleled views of carefully manicured lawns and ornate gardens fit for a modern king and queen. For those who are seeking a vacation that provides royal treatment, what better place to find such luxury than at an authentic castle retreat?

The ultimate in romantic travel, luxury castle vacation venues are available throughout Europe. The best feature the latest in modern amenities such as on-site spas while offering traditional royal amusements like horseback riding and custom hunting and fishing excursions. Typically, on-site dining is of gourmet quality served in elegant surroundings of the ancient formal dining room. Travelers who vacation at these luxurious imperial residences should understand that they are also contributing to the preservation of these magnificent historic treasures for future generations.

Castle hotels in Ireland offer world-class accommodations and five-star service. These castles, surrounded by hundreds of acres of private grounds, are ideal for those who are seeking a quiet luxury vacation. Spend time in the formal gardens or wander the private grounds for peace and solitude. Irish castle vacations have particular appeal for golf enthusiasts. Top rated golf courses abound in Ireland plus some castle resorts offer a private golf course as well.

For those who desire the ultimate in privacy, smaller Scottish castles may provide the perfect luxury vacation experience. Nestled in scenic locations, fully restored estates dating back to the 1500’s that have been renovated to five-star standards are available for rent by the week or the month. Although smaller than the castle hotels, these estates boast a dedicated full-time staff to cater to the guest’s every need and provide a perfect hideaway in a historically romantic setting.

Germany is the ideal location for travelers looking for a romantic locale. The famed Romantic Road that winds its way through southern Germany from Wurzburg to Fussen through historic architectural districts is one of the world’s most popular tourist routes, especially in summer. Instead of joining the throngs of tourists on the Romantic Road, experience romantic German castles firsthand on the German Castles Road, which extends from Mannheim on the Rhine River to Neckarzimmern in the Neckar River Valley. Here luxury-minded travelers can choose from dozens of elegant five-star castle hotels.

Southern Germany is, of course, famous for mountain views. There are elegant castle hotels nestled in picturesque Alpine locations that will take a visitor’s breath away each and every day. For those who are wine enthusiasts, look for a castle hotel in the Rhine River wine country.

No matter the setting, expect the best in discriminating personal service and the finest gourmet dining fit for royalty at these luxury German establishments. Experience the feeling of history that is embodied in the surrounding castle walls that is available nowhere else in the world. Whether you are seeking a quiet retreat or a bustling continental hotel environment, there is a luxury German castle hotel to meet your needs.

“A man’s home is his castle” is a phrase that’s been around for a long time. When you are ready to leave your castle for a vacation at a European royal castle, the best advice is to consult a travel company that specializes in luxury travel to help you find the exact location that meets all of your needs and desires.

London Named World Destination of the Year at the World Travel Awards

Considerably, on the fifth consecutive occasion, London has been chosen as the ‘World’s Leading Destination’ at the high-prestige ‘World Travel Awards (WTA)’. Although there was a stiff competition between the world’s so-called top-notch hospitable cities including New York, Rio de Janeiro, Cape Town and Sydney, the British capital amazingly bagged the award at the end. London’s accolade follows the last month’s phenomenal news that Britain is the world’s fourth most admired country, lagging behind the USA, Germany and France.

In the beginning of the year, tourist arrivals in the metropolis rose to 27 million, thanks to a few prominent events, which saw an influx of international tourists as well as to the excitement builds before the 2012 Olympics. In addition, the capital boasts arrays of world class tourist venues which spellbind visitors all around the year. Not to forget, Christmas which every year sees flocks of people from all around struggling to find accommodation in jam-packed London.

World Travel Awards is the biggest and the most prestigious awards programme in the world of travel industry. WTA rummages around excellence across every sector of the international travel and tourism industry and picks out only the elites from the widespread industry. Also known as “The Oscars of the Travel Industry “, the World Travel Awards is the supreme travel accolade. From last 17 years, WTA is constantly in action to elevate the standards of customer service and the travel industry’s overall performance.

After a substantial year-long hunt, the World Travel Awards settled on their award winners and honoured all the frontrunners in the capital’s Grosvenor House hotel in the spectacular Grand Final Ceremony. A few hotel groups having UK properties including the InterContinental Hotels and Resorts, JW Marriott, Holiday Inn Express, von Essen and Ritz Carlton were also awarded at the programme.

Without doubt, the World Travel Awards has escalated London’s prominence in the world travel and tourism industry by honouring it yet again. Even if the capital has owned numerous influential awards so far, this award has its unique importance.