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Spain & Portugal in Depth 2015

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Trip Extensions

Pre-trip: Barcelona, Spain

More than 50% of our travelers have reserved this extension in 2015

Discover a vibrant confluence of medieval charm and modern, avant-garde grandeur on an optional pre-trip extension to one of Europe’s greatest cities. Located in the northeast corner of the Iberian Peninsula, Barcelona’s grand boulevards and narrow Barri Gotic alleyways are an invitation to discovery that reveals a wealth of cultural and historical gems. From its coastal views to Gaudi's fairy-tale architecture, Barcelona is a city you will not soon forget.

It's Included:
Transportation from Barcelona to Madrid
Accommodations for 4 nights in Barcelona at the unrated Hotel Barcelona Center or similar
4 meals: 4 breakfasts
Included tour: Barcelona, including the Sagrada Familia cathedral
Exclusive services of a local Grand Circle representative
All transfers
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    Fly from one of several gateway cities to Barcelona.

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    Arrive in Barcelona today. A Grand Circle representative meets you at the airport and assists you to your hotel.

    Enjoy the balance of the afternoon at leisure to settle into your room and relax after your flight. You are invited to join a short walk around the neighborhood of your hotel.

    Capital of the autonomous region of Catalonia, Barcelona is the second-largest city in Spain and Europe’s largest metropolitan area along the Mediterranean Sea. Legend attributes the city’s founding to the mythological Hercules, but historians believe the city was originally founded by the ancient Carthaginians around the third century BC. Since that time, Barcelona and the Catalonia region have flown under many flags. From the Romans and the Visigoths to the French and native Catalonians themselves, Barcelona’s rich and varied history remains evident in the architecture and cultural pastiche of its warm and inviting people.

    An abundance of sites and one-of-a-kind experiences make Barcelona one of the most-visited cities in the world, and while most travelers prefer to see the attractions by foot, you’ll find an easy-to-navigate subway system connects you to all corners of the city.

    As you explore, you’ll find a bounty of culinary delights pulled from the sea. An assortment of oysters, shrimp, squid, fish and other seafood can be found at restaurants all over the city. Perhaps you’ll have your first sample this evening, over dinner on your own. Your Grand Circle Hospitality Desk representative can give you some suggestions.

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    The winding alleyways of Barcelona’s old city center, or Barri Gotic (Gothic Quarter), offer visitors a glimpse of medieval Barcelona. Some of the structures in this charming section of the city date as far back as the first Roman settlements of Barcelona. Today, centurions and garrisons have been replaced by quaint antique shops, hidden courtyards, and strolling street musicians. Get acquainted with this section of the city on an included tour.

    Later, we’ll visit the famed Sagrada Família cathedral. The massive UNESCO World Heritage Site is the unfinished masterpiece of Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi. While construction of the cathedral began in 1882, the colossal structure isn’t scheduled for completion until 2026. Originally started by architect Francisco de Paula del Villa, Gaudí took over in 1883 and then devoted his entire life to its construction. When he died in 1926, after nearly 43 years of work on the cathedral, the project was only 15 percent completed. At first blush, the breathtaking mixture of Gothic and geometric Art Nouveau forms appear to be dripping in melted wax, but closer inspection reveals a meticulous stone tapestry depicting the life and acts of Jesus Christ. Once completed, the church will accommodate some 13,000 worshipers.

    You'll also visit the wooded slopes of Montjuic Hill, which hosts Castell de Montjuic, a 17th-century fortress. Scattered along the hillside are buildings from the 1992 Olympic Games, including Santiago Calatrava's Olympic Needle.

    The remainder of the afternoon is yours to soak up the splendors of Barcelona. Perhaps you’ll visit the Museu Picasso, a gallery devoted to Picasso's formative years. Or ride the old tram, Funicular del Tibidabo, to the top of Barcelona’s highest mountain for an unparalleled view of the city.

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    Today is yours to pursue your own interests in Barcelona. Perhaps you'll spend the day savoring the cuisine of Barcelona. Be sure to try pintxos (platters of bite-sized food served on bread) at one of the many excellent restaurants during a day at leisure here.

    Or, you can choose to join an optional half-day tour to Montserrat, a jagged mountain range outside the city which offers exhilarating hikes past peculiar rock formations and spectacular views of the Catalonian countryside below. The mountain is also home to a Benedictine abbey, which hosts the Virgin of Montserrat, a Black Madonna statue which attracts many devout pilgrims.

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    Spend another day enjoying the myriad attractions of Barcelona. Spend the day marveling at more of the modern architecture throughout the city, including one of Gaudi's other masterpieces. While nowhere near as colossal as the Sagrada Familia, Gaudí's luminous Casa Batllo is just as stunning. Referred to by locals as “the house of bones,” this impressive building is decorated with a mosaic of broken ceramic tiles of golden orange and greenish blues that lend it its skeletal facade.

    Or perhaps you’ll spend some time in the sun on a visit to the golden beaches of Barcelona. Take a dip in the Mediterranean, unwind with a good book in the shade, or simply enjoy a cerveza (beer) in the salt-tinged breeze.

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    • Meals included:

    After breakfast, you’ll transfer to the airport for your flight to Madrid, where you'll begin your escorted tour of Spain & Portugal in Depth.