Since hosting the Summer Olympics in 1992, Barcelona has gained increased and deserved attention as a premier vacation destination, and most major cruise lines have made it a regular port of call on their Mediterranean itineraries.
The capital of Spain's Catalonia region is one of the country's -- maybe even Europe's -- most beautiful and vibrant places. A city of contrasts, it is like no other in Spain; this is most evident in its architecture, a marriage of Gothic spikes and modern curves. (One name to keep an eye out for is Antoni Gaudi, Barcelona's most famous and unique architect.)
Barcelona is also a city of distinct neighborhoods. The old city is the heart of everything, with museums, shopping and cafes. Then, there's the port area that's interesting to visitors (Port Vell features bars, restaurants, shops, an IMAX theater and the largest aquarium in Europe), which is not the same working port area where cruise ships dock, but it's not too far away.
In fact, one of Barcelona's best attributes is that while it seems large and spread out, its neighborhoods are surprisingly walkable and easily accessible by bus, metro or even on foot (in comfortable shoes). Don't miss a stroll along Las Ramblas, replete with produce and flower stands, a historic opera house and a thoroughly intriguing open pet market with cages of for-sale lizards, chirping birds and other exotic animals.
Just be sure to rest your feet now and then over a few plates of tapas (which are meant to be shared, but we won't tell) and an ice-cold pitcher of sangria.