One of Gaudi's works of art (Barcelona, Spain)
Rounding off a ski trip with a city break has by now become so deeply woven into the fabric that you could actually call this visit a piece of 'apres ski'! Barcelona attracts visitors in their flocks and droves pretty much all year round, so a visit in January when heaving crowds are not part of the equation is actually a strategic move. Armed with a Barcelona card and a spirit of determination to get around as much vital terrain as possible, Spain's second city could be tackled in a number of ways, and the planned approach for this visit was to make as full use of the card's 'free admissions' as possible, and visit the exteriors of the other attractions for those vital photo opportunities.
House of Spires (Barcelona, Spain)
Naturally, first up was the cathedral of the Sagrada Familia, Antoni Gaudi's showpiece and an iconic Barcelona landmark to boot. Following this, Casa Battlo is another Gaudi delight, and the contrasting nature of modern and traditional elements in between these architectural landmarks is all part of the overall urban fabric which has earned the city its world-class city stripes. Spain Square, or Plaza Espanya, to give it its proper name, is flanked on all sides by elements of interest, including an enclave of shops and eateries housed in an attractive cylindrical building, and heading south from there will lead you to an area where the city card comes into full use. The CaixaForum Barcelona is an arty spot, but in my view is eclipsed by the Poble Espanol (Spanish Village) which is well worth a visit for its window on the (Spanish) world portrayed in miniature, as it were, to an attractively-designed extent.
The cathedral (Barcelona, Spain)
The magic fountain of Montjuic is the gateway to the National museum of Catalonian art, a worthwhile visit for all its positive merits, and a short walk around the back of this, just beyond the Olympic stadium, is the museum of sports and Olympics, a must for the sports fanatic. Further along the road, the Fundacio Miro is a modern art lover's haven, as well as being a shrine to the very artist whose works are showcased there, and the Montjuic funicular is the most popular means of reaching Montjuic castle, perched on high, from where dazzling city views of Barcelona are appreciated. A more modern piece of development is the Maremagnum shopping centre located harbourside, and part of the city's more dynamically developed port development plan, although, this is the kind of city in which shopping malls do not tend to make the right kind of impact, feeling somewhat out of place and anonymous, especially considering the delights of browsing in independent high street shops in the city proper.
Exhibit at the chocolate museum (Barcelona, Spain)
For music purchases, look no further than Carrer Dels Tallers, where 3 or 4 vital disc stores are located, and for a piece of internationally-themed curiosity, drop by at the Fantastik store where you will find all manner of items from numerous nations, including a range of Chinese clockwork robots (!) Barcelona's main cathedral is another centrepiece, and an attractive place to linger, and a short walk away, the city's newest addition to the museum scene, the museum of world cultures, has artefacts from a variety of nations, symbolizing the indigenous nature of the country in question's cultural background. Another surefire winner of a museum is the chocolate museum, with displays so expertly carved out of chocolate that you'll be led to believe that the cocoa bean can impress on far more levels than you originally were aware of. To round off this museum-laden visit, a stop off at the outlying CosmoCaixa science museum is a fun and absorbing way of getting one's mind around the path of evolution and indeed the optical illusion-style effects created when simple scientific experiments are put to the test to prove how mesmerising the visuals can be. Tapas bars, nightspots, Flamenco, shops galore, monuments and quirks a-plenty occupy the rest of Barcelona, and coupled with the cosmopolitan streak which has probably widened as exterior influences have taken hold of the city, it is no great surprise that the very spot which will always rank highly in the European city break popularity stakes has become the neat treasure trove of discoveries and experiences which many visitors regard it as.