The beguiling Catalan capital of Barcelona is one of the show stopping centre pieces of any cruise in the Mediterranean. If your cruise starts here, it is definitely worth coming out a few days early to take in the riot of quirky architecture and diverse, eclectic lifestyles that run through this city like its own life blood.
If you are arriving in the course of a cruise, the approach is well worth being on deck to witness. A spectacular ring of rolling, smoky grey mountains embrace a semi circular bay studded with houses, shops and hotels that run from the hillsides all the way down to the bustling harbour. As you get nearer, the city takes on a more human shape; ferries chug in and out, and crowds can be seen bustling across the vast expanse of Placa Catalunya, dominated by the slender, elegant spire of the Columbus monument.
Most cruise ships dock in the outer harbour, but a select few actually manage to dock at the World Trade Centre, literally almost at the foot of the Columbus monument. From here, walking the exotic, two mile length of the Ramblas gives you the entire city in a nutshell; from sidewalk cafes and mime artists practising their craft under rows of plane trees, to local Sardana dancers. Shops on both sides offer an armada of bargains as far as the eye can see, and the credit card can stretch.
Overlooking the harbour is the hilly complex of Montjuic. Take the cable car from the port and check out spellbinding views of the harbour and your own cruise ship, far below. The ancient fortifications are well worth exploring, as is the Olympic Village and several nearby museums.
But this amazing city is of course most closely associated with the work of Antonio Gaudi and, while Parc Guell is a whimsical fantasy of geometric madness and millions of multi coloured tiles in a dramatic setting, there remains nothing that beats the looming, imperious presence of his still unfinished masterpiece, the church of Sagrada Familia.
A clutch of spindly gingerbread columns claws at the sky, instantly discernable from any part of the city. The vast façade is a stunning brew of styles, with indented carvings running the whole gamut, from the simple to the sublime. The sum effect of this honey coloured colossus is almost indescribable. At night, artful lighting at its base floods the entire stunning structure with an amazing wash of light that gives it a different perspective again.
Contemporary Barcelona is best seen at Port Olympic, near the cruise terminal. The 1992 Olympics saw a massive infusion of money and originality into the city that transformed it completely in many areas. Port Olympic now boasts a sprawling swathe of beautiful beach where none existed before, with all the cafes, restaurants and night life that such venues attract. For a relaxing few hours, it is hard to beat. Modern and majestic, historical Barcelona is complemented by contemporary examples of hedonism that make it one of the most compelling, must see ports on any cruise visiting the Mediterranean, whatever the season.
If you would like more information on cruises to Barcelona, please contact one of our cruise experts on 0800 008 6677.