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Barcelona by cable car, bike or on foot

The Olympic Stadium in Barcelona is at the

The Olympic Stadium in Barcelona is at the top of Montjuic, a hill 700 feet high, with views of the city and port below. Photo Credit: Stock.xchng

By metro, tram, bus, bike or on foot, taking in the streetscapes, panoramas and often-startling architecture of Barcelona can make for a full itinerary.

But while you're here, you'll also want to check out what's inside - art, history and, of course, tapas and wine.

Exploring the sites and neighborhoods can be particularly enjoyable.


BY CABLE CAR

There are two cable car experiences in Barcelona, and each makes a stop at Montjuïc, a popular mountainous park that looms over the city, where you can get an overview of what awaits you.

It is Montjuïc where tourists congregate on the steps of the National Museum of Art of Catalonia for a bird's-eye view of the Barcelona area.

Nearby are the Olympic Stadium (built for the 1929 Great Exposition and refurbished for the 1992 Games), gardens, the Spanish village, a major Joan Miró museum and, at the top, the Castell de Montjuïc, an 18th century fortress.

You can get there by tour bus, or your choice of cable car rides. The most dramatic is the Transbordador Aeri that carries passengers who board at San Sebastián beach or the World Trade Centre over the harbor, providing spectacular panoramic views of the city and the Mediterranean Sea (about $16).

A less-imposing but equally enjoyable cable car ride is the Teleferic de Montjuïc. This ride starts mid-mountain, running to and from the highest point, Castell de Montjuïc (about $11 round-trip). To get there, take the metro, which connects to a funicular.


BY BICYCLE

Barcelona residents are encouraged to use bicycles, and the city has set up a system whereby they can pay a fee for access to bike racks throughout the city, pick one up and drop it off elsewhere. As one local put it with understated pride: "It's really very nice." Visitors can rent them, too.

There are miles of bike lanes set aside for the pedalers, although motorbikes still seem to be more popular.

To use the citywide biking system, pedalers register and pay about 25 euro ($32) for an annual pass to use the fleet of red-and-white bikes. Riders are charged about 50 cents for each half-hour of use. The service is intended as practical transportation (not leisurely sightseeing), so riders incur penalty fees of $3 an hour if bicycles are kept longer than two hours at a time.

Otherwise, there are many stand-alone shops where you can rent a bicycle for the day, or take a guided tour. Among them: Barcelona CicloTour, a daily three-hour pedal led by English-speaking guides that covers several city attractions and neighborhoods ($26-$28, including bicycle and helmet; barcelonaturisme.com).


BY FOOT

But walking may be the most enjoyable mode of transportation for the tourist.

Barcelona is, above all, a visual city, an urban easel for the creative artists that Catalonia is famous for (and proud of), beginning with the architect Antoni Gaudí, whose stunning works can be seen throughout the city, topped by the still-in-progress La Sagrada Familia, designed as an 18-tower cathedral telling the tale of the Holy Family.

This is a spacious city, with wide avenues flanked, in many areas, by narrow side streets. It has neighborhoods that vary - from the medieval Old City, including Barri Gotic, Raval and Ribera, to the more fashionable Eixample, which touts the iconic Sagrada Familia church and the unusual, cylindrical Agbar Tower.

Best known, though, and best seen, is Las Ramblas, the nerve center for tourists from around the globe, many of whom come off cruise ships.

The promenade that runs from Plaza de Catalunya to the port is lined with stalls selling everything from postcards to parrots. It is street theater with mimes, magicians, acrobats and, at times, the Spanish equivalent of the three-card Monte-like shell game. As a tourist attraction, though, it is mobbed with gawkers and hawkers, and thus presents opportunities for petty thievery.

It has its share of cafes along the way, or you can stroll all the way down to the port, where a monument to Christopher Columbus stands 197 feet high overlooking the marina, the beach and the sea.

If you're a camera-toter, you'll be filling up your memory card.

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