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  • Aug 2, 2014
  • Updated: 12:04pm

Designer's dream city

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 05 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 05 July, 2012, 12:00am

The Spanish city of Barcelona is known for much more than its popular football team. It has many beautiful buildings, works of art, shops and restaurants for visitors to discover.

Architecture buffs will marvel at the city; it was the birthplace of Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi. Born in 1852, he was known for his extravagant building designs. Even today, more than 86 years after his death, he is still known as 'God's Architect'. His influence on the city's buildings - most notably the towering church of Sagrada Familia - can be seen throughout Barcelona.

Originally an apartment building, Casa Batllo was renovated by Gaudi from 1904 to 1906. Now a museum, it truly represents the style of Gaudi.

Much of the outside of the building is decorated with broken, coloured ceramic tiles. It has an arched, tiled rooftop that looks like the back of a dragon.

Gaudi avoided using straight lines in his design of the building. He once said: 'The straight line belongs to Man, the curve belongs to God.'

Park Guell, a massive garden complex, is another Gaudi masterpiece. It features a huge terrace and the Gaudi House Museum. At the entrance to the park is the fountain that contains the iconic, multi-coloured mosaic lizard. Visitors can get a bird's-eye view of the whole of Barcelona from the park's highest point, while artists show off their work on the terrace.

From 1883, Gaudi worked on the construction of the large Roman Catholic church, the Sagrada Familia. He died before less than a quarter had been finished; it is due to be completed in 2026 - the 100th anniversary of his death.

Tourists will be amazed by the extraordinary appearance of the church, which is considered a Unesco World Heritage Site.

Another major Spanish contributor to the world of arts, painter Pablo Picasso, is also celebrated in the city.

Barcelona's Picasso Museum features most of the art pieces he produced during his training period. They give an invaluable insight into his progression from budding painter to fully-fledged artist.

Barcelona hosted the 1992 Summer Olympics. The Olympic village, built on the seafront by the Port Olympic Marina, was converted into a four-star, 44-storey hotel and apartment complex. The hotel is in one of two towers on the Pla?a dels Voluntaris. The towers, at 153.5 metres, are the tallest in Spain.

Barcelona, like the rest of Spain, is also known for its jamon - dry-cured ham.

There are many jamon types from which to choose - depending on the time taken to dry the ham, the type of pig meat, and what the animal was fed on. If you're not sure which type to buy, just ask the butcher; the Spanish are passionate about their food and very friendly.

If you are also looking for some fresh summer foods in Barcelona, La Boqueria is the right place. It is a renowned market which sells fresh foods, including fruit, seafood, smoothies, jamon and some of the freshest, juiciest and cheapest mushrooms in the world.

Spain is still known for bullfighting, but no longer in Catalonia. Barcelona, the capital of the region, banned the activity from January 1 this year.

Yet the 'bull run', or correbous, a popular annual event where people run alongside bulls to show their courage, remains. But we don't recommend you try it!

The most famous bull run is far from Barcelona - it's a four-hour, Euro30 train-ride away to Pamplona's annual San Fermin festival, held from July 6 to 14.

Visa

No visa is required for Hong Kong permanent residents and British National (Overseas) passport holders.

Health and safety

The food is hygienic and water can be drunk directly from the tap. However, the crime rate in Barcelona is quite high; tourists should be aware of pickpockets. Women should not travel alone.

Currency

Spain uses the euro, which is valid in 17European Union member states. It can be exchanged at international airports and banks. Some restaurants and boutiques may not accept credit-cards. Euro1 is equal to HK$9.78.

Weather and climate

Spain and Hong Kong have similar weather, except Spanish winters are cooler. Summer is a perfect time to visit, but avoid August, which is the hottest and most humid time of the year.

Transportation

There is no direct flight between Hong Kong and Barcelona. Flying to Europe (England and France are common stopovers), and changing flights or hopping on a train, are viable options.

Taking a trip is highly recommended. Adios!

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