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I went on a monthlong tour of Europe in 2005, visiting London, Paris, Rome, and Barcellona each for one week. Barcelona was the only city where I made a point to leave early. It does have its finer points -- the Marina and beaches were worth visiting -- but the heart of the city, Ramblas, had a very tense, uneasy feeling about it. I couldn't put my finger on it, but I knew that the city did not have a homey or vacationy feeling about it. In the evenings, it became apparent very quickly that this area draws a big drunk and wild crowd. Now, I love drinking and partying myself, but this was not a fun, happy crowd -- it was the sort of crowd that brought around lots of crime, drugs, and violence. I wish I could say that the Cultural scene would save my trip, but that was disappointing too. I was not moved by any one particular structure, and I am easily moved. If you find yourself there already, I recommend taking a bus tour of the city, stopping at the interesting spots, and heading to…
If you're looking for a good free map of Barcellona, don't use the one the tourist office gives you for the Bus Turistic. Instead, ask them for a brochure from City Tour by ALSAtouring. This brochure includes a map that actually details all of Barcelona's streets, especially the confusing ones in Barri Gotic and Ribera. This is essential to finding your way around.
It's an amazing city, one of the most interesting I've ever been to. It's not nearly as bad as people say -- especially La Rambla. Our apartment was on a side street right off La Rambla and we had no problems at all. Of course if you go there looking for a nice, peaceful evening, that's not gonna happen, and I wouldn't wander the side streets alone late at night, but all in all I didn't feel in danger at any point. Barcellona reminded me a lot of Rome -- there's just too much to see in a short time span, and it gives the appearance of being dangerous when it really isn't. I'll be going back.
Barcellona is beautiful city! If you are thinking about Barcelona -- do not think, just go!
We had no problems in Barcellona. Everyone was friendly enough and those who didn't speak English were very patient with my pseudo-Spanish-Italian! Gorgeous cathedrals, fun art galleries, and the magic fountain is a spectacle in itself! Getting to Neucamp was an adventure (we ended up at the end of the line where no one had seen lost, pale Scottish people before) but once we were there it was easy enough to get back! Everything public oriented was in at least three languages and the streets were like most other cities. You just need to keep your eyes open for weirdos, a couple had their bag nicked as we were talking with them, but not much harm was done. I've been in cities where you'd be stabbed over a bag!
I would not go back to Barcellona. The whole city seems to have a sewerage smell about it which is very unpleasant. The back streets also don't feel very safe. It seems like a fairly poor city. It also takes a lot of walking around to get from one sight to another. Having said all that, the old palace (now an art gallery) is utterly magnificent and provides a commanding view of the city. Gaudi's cathedral is also an impressive spectacle of engineering. Some of the more busy streets become beautiful and very pleasant at night, but plain by day. The city is worth stopping by if you're in or near the region but I wouldn't plan a holiday specially to Barcelona.


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