one of the Mediterranean's busiest ports, is more
than the capital of Catalonia. In culture, commerce
and sports it not only rivals Madrid, but also considers
itself on a par with the greatest European cities.
The success of the 1992 Olympic Games confirmed this
to the world. Although there are plenty of fine, historical
monuments in the Barri Gotic (Gothic Quarter), Barcelona
is best known for the scores of buildings of the Modernista
movement, the immensely imaginative Catalan
variant of Art Nouveau spearheaded by Antoni GaudÝ.
Barcelona continues to sizzle with creativity, with
bars, public parks and outdoor sculpture all displaying
bold contemporary design. From the renovated Port
Veil ( Old Port ), thronged with cafes, it is pleasant
stroll up the lively Rambla to the medieval heart
of the old town, with its narrow, traffic-free streets.
historic 2 km Avenue of La Rambla, leading to the
Port Vell ( Old Port ), is busy around the clock,
especially in the evenings and at weekends. Newsstands,
cadged bird and flower stalls, tarot readers, musicians
and mime artists, throng the wide, tree-shaded walkway.
Among its famous buildings are the Liceu, the second
biggest opera house in Europe which reopened, fully
restored, in1999 after being gutted by fire, and La
Boqueria food market, one of the best in Europe ,
with towering, artistically arranged piles of fruit
and vegetables at the front and fish and meat at the
back. Some grand mansions also grace La Rambla, interspersed
with shops and hotels.
's most unconventional church, the Temple Expiatori
de la Sagrada Familia is an emblem of a city that
is well known for its individualism. Crammed with
symbolism inspired by nature, it is the greatest work
of Antoni GaudÝ (1852-1926). In 1883, a year after
work had begun on a Neo-Gothic church on the site,
the task of completing it was given to Gaudi, who
changed everything, extemporizing as he went along.
It became his life's work and he lived like a recluse
on the site for 16 years. He is buried in the crypt.
At his death only one tower on the Nativity fašade
had been completed, but work resumed after the Spanish
Civil War and several more have since been finished.
Work continues today, financed by public subscription.
can lay claim to being Europe's oldest city. Legend
names Hercules as its founder, though history credits
the Phoenicians with establishing the town of Gadir
in 1100 BC. It later thrived under the Carthaginians,
faded slowly to obscurity under the Romans and Moors,
but rose to prosperity again after the Christian Reconquest
of 1262. Today, Cadiz is a busy port, with an historic
city centre crammed onto a peninsula at the end of
a narrow isthmus. In surprising contrast to the tightly
packed houses are the well-tended gardens and open
squares on the northern and western seafronts and
the vast, spacious cathedral, with its eye-catching,
yellow-tiled dome, on the southern seafront. The church
of San Felipe Neri (1719 is where Spain's first liberal
constitution was proclaimed in 1812, while the Museo
de Cadiz displays archaeology, paintings and puppets
made for Andalusian village fiestas.
capital of Andalusia, Seville has a rich cultural
heritage. In 12th century Moorish Spain it was the
capital of the Almohads from Morcco, and both the
famous Giralda (cathedral bell tower) and Torre del
Oro are from this era. After the Christian Reconquest
of 1492, Seville was granted a monopoly on trade with
the New World and became on of Europe's richest ports,
acquiring some splendid Renaissance and Baroque buildings.
The historic district of Santa Cruz is a delightful
maze of whitewashed, narrow streets surrounding the
awe-inspiring cathedral. Close by is Calle de las
Sierpes, Seville 's most popular shopping street.
Gibraltarians are descendents of Britons, Spaniards,
Genoese Jews and Portuguese who remained after the
Great Siege (1779-83), when Spain attempted, unsuccessfully,
to recapture the Rock. Britain had seized Gibraltar
during the War of the Spanish Succession in 1704 and
been granted it in perpetuity by the Treaty of Utrecht
nine years later. As the gateway to the Mediterranean,
the Rock was essential to Britain in colonial times,
and the treaty is still invoked in response to Spanish
claims to Gibraltar . Each year, around 4 million
people stream across the frontier at La Linea to visit
this speck of England bolted onto Andalusia. Pubs,
pints of ale, fish and chips, pounds sterling and
bobbies on the beat all contrast with Spain Most visitors
are Spaniards, who cross the border to go shopping.
Phoenician times (when it was known as Malaca) Malaga
has been a busy commercial port. It flourished especially
in the 19th century, when sweet Malaga wine
was one of Europe's favourite drinks until phylloxera
ravaged the areas vineyards in 1876. Now Malaga
is again a popular dessert wine. The most interesting
sight in this large city is the Moorish Alcazaba,
behind which are the ruins of another Moorish castle,
the 14th century Castillo de Gibralfaro. The old town
radiates form the cathedral, which was begun in 1508
and is a bizarre mix of styles. The Museo de Bellas
Artes ha paintings by Murillo, Zurbaran and Ribera
and childhood sketches by Picasso, who was born in
Malaga; the Casa Natal is where he spent his early
years. Nerja, east along the coast, is an attractively
situated resort and is famous for its cave paintings.
small island, the nearest of the Balearics to the
Spanish mainland, was untouched by tourism until the
1960s, when it began to appear in Europe's holiday
brochures. Its modern reputation for wild nightlife
is justified, Ibiza town has a greater concentration
of clubs and discos than anywhere else in Europe.
However, the island has not completely lost its character.
The countryside, particularly in the north, is a patchwork
of groves of olive, fig and almond trees and wooded
hills, and the coast is indented by innumerable rocky
coves. In the south, flamingos populate the salt flats.
The cathedral in the capital Ibiza, or Eivissa (a
dialect of Catalan is spoken in all the Balearics),
dates from the arrival of the Catalans on the islands
in the 13th century. Two notable 16th centry monuments
are the Portal de ses Taules, a gateway in the old
city wall, and the Esglesia de Santo Domingo with
Baroque frescoed walls and ceiling. Sant Antoni, the
second town, is now a lively resort, while Santa Eularia
has retained more of its old centre intact.