Barcelona is unlike any other Spanish city. Its entrepreneurial energy and artistic creativity have shone through even in the hardest times, and its complex and brilliant cultural world is the envy of the country, although arch-rival Madrid would be the last to admit this. Gothic buildings and world-class museums fill the historic center, while the whimsical creations of the modernisme movement and cutting-edge contemporary architecture line the wide boulevards of the newer city.

You'll find more sophisticated shops, avant-garde restaurants, and sleek hotels here than anywhere else in Spain, plus an eclectic nightlife that extends way around the clock.

Nature, too, plays a surprisingly prominent role. Wooded hills enclose the Catalan capital, oasis-like parks alleviate the urban sprawl, and sandy beaches extend north from Barcelona's lively port area. North toward France the cove-indented Costa Brava offers what many regard as the loveliest scenery in all the Mediterranean, while inland the towering Pyrénées boasts some of the finest mountain walks and skiing in Europe.

The delights of a visit to Barcelona, with its glorious architecture and enviable seaside setting, are made easy for visitors to experience, despite its three million inhabitants, sometimes humid climate, congested streets, and inevitable rush-hour traffic jams. You don't need to bother with the hassle of arranging visas before you set off, and once you arrive, there's an abundance of helpful oficinas de turismo (tourist information offices) to ensure you're briefed on what to see and do.

A very good local transportation system includes buses, the Metro (subway), tramvías (the new, streamlined trams), and rodalíes (suburban train services); plus the cost of travel is extremely low -- particularly if you purchase the 10-tickets-in-one deal available on all transport. Additionally, there is an ever-increasing number of amenities for travelers with disabilities.

The benign Mediterranean climate ensures Barcelona is rarely uncomfortably cold, even in winter. Summers can be hot and humid, though, and this may restrict mobility for older visitors when they're touring the sights. But you can always take a break and relish verdant shady areas like Parc de la Ciutadella, Montjuïc, and Tibidabo, which have panoramic Mediterranean and city vistas.

Violent crime is fairly uncommon, but you should definitely watch out for potential bag snatchers and muggers in the narrow lanes around La Rambla and around the Plaça Reial -- especially late at night.

If you take your laptop you'll find a choice of places where you can connect to the Internet. Most of the more expensive hotels are equipped with Wi-Fi, and there are plenty of cybercafes throughout the city.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.