Ramblas, a timeless symbol
Barcelona – Spain’s second city, and the self-confident capital and port of Catalunya – vibrates with life, and there’s certainly not another city in the country to touch it for sheer style, looks or energy.
A cruise excursion to Barcelona city centre will take you to discover its world-class art museums and its fashionable designer restaurants, bars, galleries and shops. And in Antoni Gaudí’s extraordinary church of the Sagrada Família and the world-famous boulevard that is the Ramblas, you have two sights that are high up on any Mediterranean cruise sightseeing list.
A holiday in Barcelona can start with the Ramblas, and then dive straight into the medieval nucleus of the city, the Barri Gòtic. But there are plenty of other central old-town neighbourhoods to explore too, from La Ribera – home to the celebrated Museu Picasso – to funky El Raval, where cool bars, restaurants and boutiques have mushroomed in the wake of the striking contemporary art museum, MACBA.
Even if you think you know these heavily touristed neighbourhoods well, there’s always something else to discover during an MSC excursion – tapas bars hidden down alleys little changed for a century or two, designer boutiques in gentrified old-town quarters, bargain lunches in workers’ taverns, unmarked gourmet restaurants, craft outlets and workshops, fin-de-siècle cafés, restored medieval palaces and neighbourhood markets.
On Passeig de Gràcia there is Gaudí’s Casa Batlló, designed for the industrialist Josep Batlló: the stone facade hangs in folds, like skin, while on the rooftop sprout the celebrated mosaic chimneys and a little tower topped with a three-dimensional cross.
The mountain of Montserrat stands just 40km northwest of Barcelona and it’s a popular trip out from the city. Once there, you can visit the basilica and monastery buildings which fan out around an open square, and there are extraordinary mountain views from the terrace.