Photo: View from Parc Güell

From a ledge in Parc Güell, designed by Antoni Gaudí, visitors get panoramic views of Barcelona.

Photograph by Krista Rossow

Long pegged as a mere “smokestack city,” Barcelona has come into its own since the 1992 Olympics, and today is one of the liveliest tourist destinations in Europe. Cradled between the Mediterranean and the Serra de Collserola hills, Spain’s second largest metropolis arguably eclipses Madrid as a showcase for the arts, music, and cutting-edge design. A morning’s walk can take you from the original Roman settlement, much of it still intact under the narrow streets of the medieval Barri Gòtic, to the palaces and churches of the city’s 12th- and 13th-century golden age and on to the 19th-century L’Eixample neighborhood, where every avenue seems to be lined with flights of architectural fancy in stained glass and wrought iron, ornamental brick, and ceramic tile.

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