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For many visitors, and certainly those who arrive by sea, the mountain of Montjuïc is their first glimpse of Barcelona. Jutting out over the port on one side and facing the monumental Plaça Espanya on the other, Montjuïc is strategically placed as a pleasure ground, and a fortunate lack of a constant water source has deterred residential development. Instead it became the focal point of two of the city's key international events: The World's Fair of 1929, of which many structures still remain, and the 1992 Olympic Games.

The largest "green zone" in the city, Montjuïc's forests and parks have always been popular with joggers, cyclists, and strollers. In recent years the city council embarked on a project to spruce these up, install walkways and connecting escalators, and reclaim some forgotten gems in the process. One of these is the Font del Gat, Passeig Santa Madrona 28 (www.lafontdelgat.com; tel. 93-289-04-04), a once-fashionable cafe built by moderniste architect Josep Puig i Cadafalch, which now acts as a Montjuïc information point and restaurant. Top-flight hillside museums such as the Fundacío Miró and the Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya (MNAC) are further good reasons to leave the bustle of the city behind and take the rewarding climb up here.

The Magic Fountain

Without a doubt, the most popular attraction for young and old alike in the Montjuïc area is the Font Màgica (Magic Fountain). During the day, the grandiose fountain at the base of the staircase to the MNAC seems like any other, but at night it takes on a different personality. At regular intervals, the fountain puts on a spectacular show. Music, from pop ballads to classics, belts out from loudspeakers, and different colored lights are beamed from inside the fountain itself. The fountains of water, controlled by computer, "dance" to the mixture of light and sound. Supposedly the only one of its kind in the world, the fountain was designed by the visionary engineer Carles Buïgas for the 1929 World's Fair, predating similar Vegas-type attractions by decades. It's free and never fails to enthrall. Grab a seat at one of the nearby outdoor cafes and enjoy. It's at Plaça Carles Buïgas 1 (Metro: Espanya). The sound and light shows run from May to early October, Thursday through Sunday at 9:30, 10, 10:30, 11, and 11:30pm. The rest of the year, they are held on Friday and Saturday at 7, 7:30, 8, and 8:30pm.

Swinging over the Port

Unless you suffer from vertigo, the most spectacular way to reach the Castell and other attractions at Montjuïc is via the cable car that crosses the port. The Transbordador Aeri starts at Torre de Sant Sebastiá at the end of the Passeig de Joan de Borbó in Barceloneta (bus: 17, 64, or 39), stops at the World Trade Center on the way, and finishes at the peak of Montjuïc. The cable car runs every 15 minutes daily -- from 10am to 8pm June 19 to September 14, 10am to 6pm October 20 to February 28, and 10:45am to 7pm the rest of the year. Cost is 11€ one-way, 16.50€ round-trip. Call tel. 93-430-47-16 or 93-441-50-71 for more information.

If you're afraid of heights, take the Telefèric de Montjuïc (tel. 93-441-48-20; www.tmb.net/en_US/turistes/busturistic/teleferic.jsp), a funicular-style, land-based service that climbs the hillside from Paral.lel Metro station in Poble Sec, and makes a final stop immediately below the castle at the top of Montjuïc. It costs 10.80€ roundtrip, 7.92€ children 4 to 12.

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.