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Widely known for Flamenco music, dance, bull-fights, fantastic beaches and lots of sunshine, Spain has to offer much more than that. It is - and has been for thousands of years - one of the cultural centres of Europe. It has beautiful cities and towns, offering really old monuments as well as futuristic architecture. Its various regions are all different one to each other, geographically, climatically and even in personality.

In a privileged position on the northeastern coast of the Iberian peninsula and the shores of the Mediterranean, the city of Barcelona is the second largest city in Spain in both size and popularity. Barcelona has transformed itself from smug backwater into one of the most dynamic and stylish capitals in the world. Summer is serious party time, with week-long festa fun. But year-round the city sizzles - it's always on the biting edge of architecture, food, fashion, style, music and good times.

The buildings, many the work of an eccentric genius named Gaudí, will blow you away. The art, with significant collections by Picasso and Miró, will make you clammy all over.

You can get to the Balearic Islands and Italy via ferry from the Barcelona. From the Balearics there are standard boats, on which you can get beds in cabins of up to four people and high-speed boats on which sleepers are not necessary.

Barcelona's airport is 12km (7.5mi) southwest of the city centre at El Prat de Llobregat. The city is a big international and domestic destination, with direct flights from North America and many European cities.