Enjoying the Freebie Cultural Treats
Top visits here are the Foment de les Arts i del Disseny (FAD) cultural center, where you can view exhibitions and sometimes buy bargain paintings by promising young unknowns; and Caixaforum art gallery, which has an ever-changing trio of stimulating exhibitions. Around the city you'll find an impressive variety of open-air public art displays: Antoni Llena's bizarre metal David i Goliat in Plaça dels Volontaris, Frank Gehry's copper Peix (Fish) in Port Olímpic, and Colombian sculptor Fernando Botero's rather chubby Gat (Cat) in El Raval. There's also Roy Lichtenstein's trademark comic-strip-style Barcelona Head, near the Columbus statue down by the harbor, and Joan Miró's Dona i Ocell (Woman and Bird), finished in 1981 just before his death, and located in the park named after him in Sants.
Wandering Around the Parks
Despite its densely urban appearance, Barcelona is actually filled with parks where you can relax, stroll, and in many cases enjoy fun amenities. Visit the website www.bcn.es/parcsijardins for the full list. Parc de la Ciutadella, just to the east of the Old City, with its fountains and statues, is a relaxing respite from the adjoining claustrophobic medieval labyrinth, while Parc Güell, higher up in Gràcia district, delights visitors of all ages with its fairy-tale Gaudí structures. In Montbau, the Parc de la Crueta del Coll has a playground and public summer pool, which in winter reverts to being an artificial lake. To the west, rambling hilltop Montjuïc -- with its marvelous harbor views, jogging paths, the Fundació Joan Miró, Botanical Gardens, and illuminated Font Màgica (Magic Fountain) -- is a spacious kaleidoscope of greenery and cultural and sporting attractions. Less well known and more rural is the Parc d'en Castell de l'Oreneta, just above the Monastir (monastery) de Pedralbes, where you can enjoy marvelous panoramic city and coastal views as you wander along signposted trails among meadows.
Taking in the Ecclesiastical Gems
The city is full of amazing historical and religious monuments, and many of them are free. For example, unlike in most of Spain's major cities, there is no charge for visiting the Catedral, although there is a fee for its museum. Other monumental treats are the Capella de Sant Jordi, and the churches of La Mercè and Santa María del Pi, each of which makes its own special contribution to the spiritual and architectural beauty of the city and shows you another aspect of its rich history. Another marvel is the Santa María del Mar church in the Born section of La Ribera.
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