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Barcelona is probably best known for its football team and access to the Costa Brava but there’s a lot more to explore in this vibrant city. Perched on the Mediterranean coast of Spain, its long history is matched by its lively modern character making it a delight for visitors.

One of the most popular images of Barcelona is the eccentric spires of Antoni Gaudi’s cathedral, La Sagrada Familia, entwined with a network of sculptures. Gaudí died in the 1920’s but work has continued on four more towers and a nave.

Gaudi’s La Pedrera was built in the early 20th century as an apartment and office block. It’s become known as La Pedrera (the quarry) as its rough stone frontage has the appearance of having been hewn from rock. After dark on summer weekends, the roof, with its enormous multi-coloured chimneys is beautifully lit and offers superb views over Barcelona. In the same building, a small museum gives an insight into Gaudí’s life and work. Also in the area of the Eixample, you can discover the work of other modernist architects. Go on to explore the medieval character of the Gothic Quarter and the Ribera and Raval districts. A visit to the Museu Picasso can be followed up by exploring Picasso’s legacy to Barcelona on foot.

Las Ramblas is one of the world’s finest boulevards. For pedestrians only, the linked tree-lined streets are full of buskers, flowers and markets offering a unique world of entertainment to visitors. From the bird market to the monument to Columbus at the harbour, it’s a kaleidoscope of colour and noise. At the harbour, the maritime museum’s collection is fascinating.

As a break from the city, head for the woodlands in Catalonia’s Montseny Natural Park just 40kms from Barcelona. In the oak, beech and pine forests, you might be fortunate to see wild boar. Also a short drive from the city, the rocky natural park of Sant Llorec del Munt i de la Serra d’Obac combines a mountain landscape with forests and a wide variety of wildlife and plants, especially in the spring. At Figueres, you’ll find the Museu Dalí, Spain’s second most visited museum. Some 60kms from Barcelona, near the rocky ridges of Montserrat, the wine region of Penedes is home to the delicious sparkling cava.