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En español | My friend Emma collects cities the way some people collect bottles of vintage Bordeaux. So she couldn't understand why my wife, Hope, and I have returned to Barcelona three times in six years, rather than sample someplace new. But if you love to walk and wander, as we do, this Spanish seaside city is as perfect as any I've visited — and these days the price is right.
We never tire of the narrow medieval lanes that wind past cozy little plazas sprinkled with outdoor cafes, or the plane-tree-lined boulevards that mimic Paris' Champs-Élysées.
There's something special around every corner: maybe an ancient church or a shop that specializes in the deliciously gooey-thick local hot chocolate, or a modern wine bar in the cellar of a building dating from the Middle Ages.
Surely you'll come upon the Picasso Museum; in fact, Barcelona is home to a half-dozen fine museums as well as some of the world's most distinctive architecture — thanks in large part to the iconoclastic Spanish architect Antoni Gaudí, whose stunning creativity is reflected in churches, parks and residences around the city. For me, it's best to see his work at Park Güell, a 37-acre green space perched on a hill, where Gaudí has fashioned an incomparable, dreamlike landscape. Of course, you'll stroll along La Rambla, the famous pedestrian boulevard that runs from the center of the city to the harbor. I find it touristy and tedious, so I head for the Mediterranean and a lovely, lively beach, where you can sit down to sip a drink in a chiringuito (beachside cafe) and watch passersby.
It seems my enthusiasm (and that of the more than 460,000 Americans who visited last year) is contagious. My skeptical friend Emma decided to see the city for herself. She returned a convert — seduced, as I am, by Barcelona's near-endless charms.
What to Know About Barcelona
Crime: Serious crime is rare. But don't put purses or cameras on outdoor tables, and be wary of wandering salespeople.
Transport: The Metro (subway) offers convenient transportation. A discount ticket (about $11) is good for 10 rides.
Language: Catalan is the official language, but you'll find Spanish, English, French and German spoken almost everywhere.