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  1. 1. Barcelona, Spain<br />From a ledge in Parc Güell, designed by Antoni Gaudí, visitors get panoramic views of Barcelona.<br />Photograph by Krista Rossow<br />Long pegged as a mere “smokestack city,” Barcelona has come into its own since the 1992 Olympics, and today is one of the liveliest tourist destinations in Europe. Cradled between the Mediterranean and the Serra de Collserola hills, Spain’s second largest metropolis arguably eclipses Madrid as a showcase for the arts, music, and cutting-edge design. A morning’s walk can take you from the original Roman settlement, much of it still intact under the narrow streets of the medieval Barri Gòtic, to the palaces and churches of the city’s 12th- and 13th-century golden age and on to the 19th-century L’Eixample neighborhood, where every avenue seems to be lined with flights of architectural fancy in stained glass and wrought iron, ornamental brick, and ceramic tile.<br />Barcelona Must-Dos <br />Camp NouSee a home game at Futbol Club de Barcelona’s 98,772-seat soccer stadium. Season runs September-June; showdowns with Real Madrid unloose the passions of local patriotism. FCB’s museum draws over a million visitors a year. Carrer d’Arístides Maillol 12-18; tel. 34 90 218 9900; fee.<br />Font Màgica de MontjuïcSpectacular choreography of classical music favorites, dancing sprays and floodlights in the huge fountain at the foot of the steps leading up to the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya. Seasonal days and times, on the half hour.<br />Hospital de Sant PauRevolutionary 1902 masterpiece by architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner, in the exuberant colors and shapes of art nouveau. UNESCO World Heritage site. Tip: Guided visits in English daily at 10:15 a.m. and 12:15 p.m. Carrer de Sant Antoni Maria Claret 167; tel. 34 93 291 9000.<br />Casa Milà, “La Pedrera”Exhibition space in Gaudí’s signature apartment building provides a comprehensive course on his visionary ideas of form and design. Explore the roof, with its whimsical chimney towers, and the apartment restored in the style of the period. Carrer de Provença 261-265; tel. 34 90 240 0973; fee.<br />Mercat de la BoqueriaBarcelona’s biggest, oldest, and best market. Present building dates to 1840, but the open-air markets on this site date to the Middle Ages. Fish, meat, fresh produce, and preserves; 265 stalls selling over 20,000 different products. Tip: Lorenç Petras, at Fruits del Bosc (stall No. 867 in the back), sells wild mushrooms and herbs, edible flowers and insects, and is extremely knowledgeable about these and other exotic ingredients. Plaça de la Boqueria; tel. 34 93 318 2017.<br />Museu d’Història de la CiutatDescend 2,000 years to the sprawling remains of the Roman settlement under the Barri Gòtic quarter, and exit at the Saló de Tinel—the audience hall of the Royal Palace, where Columbus reported his discoveries to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella in 1493. Plaça del Rei 7-9; tel. 34 93 256 2122; fee.<br />Templo de la Sagrada FamíliaGaudí’s masterpiece, the city’s iconic building, still in progress. Fascinating to see how the parts built when he was still alive—all rippling curves and motifs of plants and animals carved in stone that seem to flow down the walls like melted candle wax—contrast with the recent work. Carrer de Mallorca 401; tel. 34 93 207 3031 fee.<br />Santa Maria del Mar“The most elegant of all Barcelona’s churches.”—George Semler, author, Barcelonawalks. A 14th-century Catalan Gothic masterpiece of stunning, elegant simplicity. Tip: Visit Saturday morning when a well-connected Catalan family might be having a wedding. Choral or orchestral performances here are breathtaking; check weekly listings. Plaça de Santa Maria1; tel. 34 93 310 2390.<br />MontjuïcThe hill overlooking Barcelona from the southeast, main site of the 1992 Olympics. Acres of parks and sculptured gardens, sweeping views of the city. Don’t-miss attractions on Montjuïc include the Fundació Joan Miró (Avingudade Miramar; tel. 34 93 443 9470), the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya with its unique Romanesque and early medieval collection (Mirador del Palau Nacional; tel. 34 93 622 0376., the Olympic Stadium and adjacent Palau Sant Jordi (Passeig Olímpic; tel. 34 93 426 2089), and the Poble Espanyol open-air museum of representative buildings from different regions of Spain (Avinguda del Marquès de Comillas; tel. 34 93 508 6300; Tip: Poble Espanyol also has a flamenco dinner show at the Tablao de Carmen (tel. 34 93 325 6895); if you have confirmed reservations, admission to the rest of the complex is free.<br />Climate<br />Barcelona has a Mediterranean climate,[24] with mild, humid winters and warm, dry summers. Barcelona is located on the eastern coast of the Iberian Peninsula, so Atlantic west winds often arrive in Barcelona with low humidity, producing no rain. The proximity of the Atlantic, its latitude, and the relief, are the reasons why the summers are not as dry as in most other Mediterranean Basin locations. Lows (not surface lows but high-atmospheric "cold invasions") can easily affect the area of Barcelona (and Catalonia), causing storms, particularly in August. Some years, the beginning of June is still cool and rainy, like April and May. Together with August, September, October and November these months are the wettest of the year. The driest are February, March, June and July. As in many parts of Catalonia, the annual weather pattern varies greatly from year to year.[25]<br />Weather data for BarcelonaMonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecYearAverage high °C (°F)13.4(56)14.6(58)15.9(61)17.6(64)20.5(69)24.2(76)27.5(82)28.0(82)25.5(78)21.5(71)17.0(63)14.3(58)20.0(68)Daily mean °C (°F)8.9(48)9.95(50)11.3(52)13.05(55)16.25(61)19.95(68)23.05(73)23.65(75)21.1(70)17.05(63)12.55(55)10.0(50)15.56(60)Average low °C (°F)4.4(40)5.3(42)6.7(44)8.5(47)12.0(54)15.7(60)18.6(65)19.3(67)16.7(62)12.6(55)8.1(47)5.7(42)11.1(52)Precipitation mm (inches)41(1.61)29(1.14)42(1.65)49(1.93)59(2.32)42(1.65)20(0.79)61(2.4)85(3.35)91(3.58)58(2.28)51(2.01)628(24.72)Avg. precipitation days65677636686672Source: World Meteorological Organization (UN)[28]<br />So, on average, the rainy seasons are spring and autumn, and the dry ones are winter and summer. The order from wettest to driest is: AUT-SPR-WIN-SUM. The Western Mediterranean Climate is one of the most irregular climates in the world. For instance, one year October can be very dry and July or February wet months. Barcelona and London have the same annual rainfall, but London's climate is not as irregular and torrential as Barcelona's.<br />As for temperatures, December, January and February are the coldest months, averaging temperatures of 9°C at the Airport and over 10°C in the city. July and August are the hottest months, averaging temperatures of 24°C . The highest temperature recorded in the city centre is 38.6°C.[26] The coldest temperature recorded was –6.7 °C on 11 February 1956 and –5°C on 12 January 1985. However, in the 19th century –9.6°C was recorded in January 1896.<br />At the Fabra Observatory, situated on the Tibidabo hill, 412 m above the sea level, the record summer temperature is 39.8°C [27] on 7 July 1982, and the lowest temperature ever registered, -10.0°C on 11 February 1956. Near the hills and the Airport annual rainfall reaches 650 mm, and in the city centre about 600 mm.<br />