Running south from Plaça de Catalunya to the harbour at Port Vella, Ciutat Vella (old city) is Barcelona’s enthralling medieval heart. The pedestrianised Las Ramblas avenue cuts through the middle of Ciutat Vella, with Europe’s most complete Gothic Quarter to the west in Barri Gòtic. Here, Barcelona’s cathedral is the focus of a warren of medieval courtyards and lanes lined with specialist shops, cafés and bars. The once raffish but now increasingly gentrified El Raval quarter is to the east, with the lively Boqueria Market a highlight. Barcelona’s bar and restaurant hubs, La Ribera and El Born, run southeast of the Gothic Quarter to the city’s green lungs, Ciutadella Park.
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North of Plaça de Catalunya, the leafy avenues and wide pavements of Eixample are in well-ordered contrast to the labyrinthine lanes of the medieval city centre. Home to top-end Barcelona hotels and late-night bars, this 19th-century suburb features striking examples of Catalan Modernista architecture. Make a pilgrimage round Antoni Gaudí’s masterpieces La Sagrada Família church,, the undulating La Pedrera apartment block and the dragon-themed Casa Batlló building. The elegant shopping street Passeig de Gràcia runs north through Eixample to meet Avinguda Diagonal, a major avenue running right across the city. From here the neighbouring Sant Marti stretches east down to the coast.
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Heading north of Avinguda Diagonal from Eixample is Gràcia, a tranquil choice when deciding where to stay in Barcelona and known for its village-like charm. The artisan workshops and local bars offer insights into everyday life in Barcelona, and the neighbourhood’s many attractive squares are popular spots to while away warm summer nights.
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Rising up from the port in Barcelona’s south, Montjuïc hill is topped by gardens, a castle, fine sporting facilities (built for the 1992 Olympics) and the Fondació Joan Miró gallery featuring the work of the Barcelona-born artist Miró. The inland side of Montjuïc focuses on the colourful fountain La Font Màgica and busy Plaça d’Espanya. The Sants neighbourhood, stretching north to Eixample, is where you’ll find Barcelona’s main international train station, Estació Sants.
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On the western edge of Avinguda Diagonal, the university district of Les Corts borders Sants-Montjuïc to the east and Sarrià-Sant Gervasi overlooked by Tibidabo mountain to the north. The Camp Nou Stadium and FC Barcelona club museum attract football fans to Les Corts. On the northern side of Avinguda Diagonal in Pedralbes you’ll find museums and gardens in the upmarket neighbourhood’s residential streets.
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