Barcelona, Spain

The best place to watch people go by, to stroll or simply relax, is Les Rambles , a pedestrian street with dozens of cozy Barcelona restaurants and outdoor cafés. Here, you will find flower stands, book kiosks, and small market stalls where birds and small animals are sold. You’ll also find an endlessly fascinating flowing receptacle of pageant-jugglers, singers, dancers, puppeteers, sidewalk artists, living statues, and assorted oddballs on parade. Touring Les Rambles is a Barcelona activity that is well deserving of a top spot in any Barcelona travel guide.

Nearby is  Plaça Reial  with plenty of bars and restaurants, and Palau Güell, built by the Catalan architectural genius Antoni Gaudí in his undulating art-nouveau style. While engaging in Barcelona activities like strolling Les Rambles and Plaça Reial, be very aware of pickpockets, as they are plentiful in heavily populated tourist areas.

After having seen these sights, stroll the narrow winding streets of the Barri Gòtic — a medieval Gothic quarter full of interesting tapas bars and cafés. Check out Picasso’s old hangout, Els Quatre Gats , which has been renovated, but it hasn’t lost its bohemian charm. Or head for the old Barceloneta section on the waterfront. This working-class area, which was always slightly rundown and scruffy-looking, is now packed with paella restaurants. The new beach area, which runs from Barceloneta to the Olympic village, is much cleaner than the old beach area. Although some people believe that it has been cleaned up considerably, it might be a wise idea to stay out of the water. Fortunately, the beach itself is already a feast for the eyes (and ears), with its huge and roaring waves.

Catalans are known for their independent spirit as well as their sense of humor. Salvador Dalí was a Catalan (and unfortunately for Catalans, he was also a Fascist and supporter of General Franco’s regime) and his bizarre sense of humor is just one example of the regions endearing weirdness. Language is a BIG problem for the English-speaking in Barcelona and also in areas around the city. There are no signboards in English and if you do not speak Spanish (or preferably Catalan), you are better off with a phrase book to guide you around. Even in the majority of Barcelona hotels they do not speak English. It comes as a surprise because the vast majority of tourists are English and tourism is a big contributor to Barcelona’s economy.

Spring is the best time to visit Barcelona, as you can expect a temperature of around around 68 degrees Fahrenheit (20ºC). During summer, it can get very hot and humid, about 86 degrees Fahrenheit (30ºC), and extremely crowded, due to the large number of tourists and numerous cultural events taking place in September. Barcelona can be as expensive as you want it to be. Barcelona is relatively rich, so prices are much higher than places elsewhere in Catalonia or Spain. Still, Barcelona restaurants are relatively cheap — at lunch time you can find a two course meal and desert for $10-$13US (7-9€), and for an average Barcelona hotel, three meals and a night out, count on it costing some $225 US (145 Euro) for two persons.