On the first day follow the "In One Day" itinerary. On the second day stroll through the pond- and garden-filled Parc de la Ciutadella and visit the zoo, time permitting. Then explore the narrow-laned barrio of La Ribera, with its Museu Picasso and imposing Santa María del Mar church, and walk down to the old (but gentrified) maritime quarter and beachfront of La Barceloneta with its modern adjoining Port Olímpic area. It's the ideal spot for an atmospheric seafood lunch. In the afternoon wander around Port Vell and explore the regenerated El Raval district.
1. Parc de la Ciutadella
Once the site of a fort (ciutadella is Catalan for "citadel"), this verdant park is the most attractive and popular spot in lower Barcelona, complete with two lush but small botanical gardens, a Gaudí-designed fountain (La Cascada) with a huge statue of a primeval elephant, and a quiet lake where you can go rowing. Other attractions include the Castell dels Tres Dragons (Castle of the Three Dragons) and the Parlament de Catalunya (Catalan Parliament; Passeig de Pujades), which you can visit for free if you make an appointment. The zoo's well worth a look; it has a charming park setting, and houses hippos, elephants, komodo dragons, and dolphins. Kiddies enjoy the zoo "train" rides and play areas.
2. La Ribera
The western part of Ciutat Vella is really two districts, El Born and Sant Pere (referring to the area's oldest square and church, respectively). Its name, La Ribera, actually means "the shore," as the sea once reached its southern edge. The central Carrer Montcada is lined with museums and the whole former medieval merchants' quarter is packed with traditional shops, tiny squares, and narrow streets named after various local trades that were carried out here—hence Carrer Cotoners (weavers), Carrer Corders (rope makers), Carrer Mirallers (mirror makers), and Carrer Vidrieria (glazers).
3. Museu Picasso
By far the most popular art museum in town, the Picasso is tastefully spread throughout a quintet of fine old mansions in the heart of La Ribera. Be prepared for a long wait, but if you do manage to squeeze it into your time-challenged schedule, don't miss the Malagueño artist's version of Velazquez's Las Meninas. The museum concentrates on more conventional works and etchings of the adolescent artist, who arrived in town with his family in 1895 and wasted no time in opening his first (very modest) studio in Carrer de la Plata.
4. Santa María del Mar
Once upon a time this magnificent church, with its soaring vaults and wonderful stained-glass windows, stood right on the shore of the Mediterranean (ribera is Spanish for "shore"). It was the focal point of a then-vibrant seafaring and trading quarter, which eventually receded, as did the sea. Today it's one of the best-preserved Gothic monuments in the city, most evocative for being less crowded than some of the better-known sights.
5. La Barceloneta & Port Olímpic
Built on the compact triangle of land (reclaimed from marshes) between the Port Vell and the first of the city beaches (Sant Sebastiá), this 18th-century working-class zone—which is built in a formal grid system of lanes around a central market—has today become more gentrified and sought-after by visitors and residents alike. Its once-neglected beach is now well cared for and has a palm-lined promenade where folks walk their pooches. The original, tatty, much-loved chiringuitos (shacks) that bordered the shore, serving delicious seafood dishes, were demolished pre-1992 to make way for today's more acceptably salubrious establishments (still known as chiringuitos), which sell exactly the same food at much increased prices. Moving with the times, it remains a great location and a fun spot for paella, as does the vibrant adjoining Port Olímpic with its long promenade, beaches, yachting marinas, and trendy eating spots and nightclubs.
6. Take a Break — Can Solé
You can't pass though Barceloneta without sampling one of its finest seafood eating spots, Can Sole, Carrer San Charles 4. It's located a block back from the waterfront, as all the genuine locals are. This is the real thing, with excellent fideuà de paella (made with noodles, not rice) and baby calamares that are worth leaving home for. It can get busy for lunch, so arrive early—and that's anytime before 2pm in Spain.
7. Marina Port Vell
The main port is the most visibly changed part of Barcelona's waterfront, which for decades notoriously "turned its back on the sea." Today the once-drab industrial zone, where piles of containers brooded under sad-looking palms, has been cleansed, revitalized, and transformed. At its northern end, the large yachting marina beside the older Moll de Barceloneta is lined with international vessels of all shapes and sizes. A smart promenade with public seats runs southward around the harbor past two large, modern jetties: the Moll d'Espanya, whose exclusive Club Marítim, aquarium, IMAX cinema, and Maremagnum zone of trendy shops and nightspots are all linked to the promenade by the curving Rambla de Mar footbridge; and the Moll de Barcelona, with its high, modern World Trade Center and Torre de Jaume I, opposite the 14th-century Reials Drassanes (Royal Shipyards), housing the Museu Marítim.
8. Museu Marítim
The Gothic arches inside the Royal Shipyards loom impressively over what's probably the best nautical museum in the Mediterranean: A superb testament to Barcelona's great naval past. Check out the marvelous "Great Adventure of the Sea" collection, with its full-scale replica of Don Juan of Austria's Royal Galley from the decisive 16th-century Battle of Lepanto, when Spain defeated the Ottomans. There are smaller models of Magellan's world-navigating Santa María, and one of the earliest submarines, the Ictíneo; and just outside you can go on board the old Santa Eulàlia sailing ship moored in Moll de la Fusta.
9. El Raval
Once largely a seedy, run-down district, with red-light sections (some of which still exist) and many buildings little more than slums, this is another rejuvenated corner of the city, more polyglot than most due to the large number of immigrant residents. In 2000, the center was bulldozed to provide much-needed breathing space in the form of a fairly new Rambla, complete with trees, benches, and kiddies' play areas—part of an ambitious "Ravall obert al cel" (Ravall open to the sky) project. Around it some of the city's most stimulating new art galleries sprang up, spearheaded by the MACBA (Museum of Contemporary Art of Barcelona). The continuing proliferation of rough edges enhances the barrio's appeal, giving it massive street cred. A few classic local buildings like Gaudí's Palau Güell and the Romanesque Sant Pau del Camp retain a real sense of history in this atmospheric western corner of the Ciutat Vella.
10. Take a Break — Bar Marsella
It's the end of your second day, so why not treat yourself to a well-earned snifter of cloudy anise-flavored pastis at Bar Marsella? A Provençal-cum-Catalan landmark to hedonism, it's a 19th-century oasis of huge mirrors, heavy drapes, creaky rafters, and high chandeliers. The place has been run by the same family for five generations. Among its first customers was young French poet Jean Genet, who in the 1930s reveled in the degeneracy of those early Raval days.
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