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Paris, Rome, Venice, and Barcelona are among the top-visited destinations in Europe. Beyond the Old World, New York City, Toronto and Whistler await shopping, dining and skiing enthusiasts, as well as businessmen and students. Quality accommodation is always in demand, and nowadays travellers have the freedom to choose not only hotels, but also apartment rentals.
Conveniently located and fully furnished, apartments of Sweet Home Abroad are excellently suited for short-term rentals and could be your next great vacation! All apartments are meant for travellers looking for comfort and independence regardless of their activities of interest. Beach lovers could opt for an apartment rental in Israel or rent a villa in Spain. Lovers of outdoor winter activities like skiing and snowboarding will find Whistler, located in Canada, a great destination: the co-host of Winter Olympic Games in 2010, Whistler is perfectly equipped to provide you with great skiing and riding trails, impeccable customer service and top-notch long-term accommodation. History and culture buffs will enjoy a great selection of accommodation we offer in Paris, Prague, Madrid, and, of course, Barcelona.
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Landmarks of Barcelona

La Sagrada Família

Lа Sagrada Família is the unquestionable symbol of Barcelona, its wonder and its most essential attraction. If for some reason you have time for only one sightseeing trip in Barcelona, that should be it – this masterpiece of Gaudí, unfinished yet dominating everything around it with its grandeur and verticality in homage to European cathedrals of the Middle Ages. True to the medieval traditions, La Sagrada Família is still under construction, more than a century after Gaudí began his project of a lifetime. Despite its unfinished look and the constant presence of cranes on the background, the church draws more than 2,8 million visitors annually, twice as much as other attractions of Barcelona combined.

The Expiаtory Temple of the Holy Family became the last creation of Gaudí and his relentless obsession. It was commissioned by the conservative public who sought to buy salvation and atone for sins of modernity with a great monument. That is why Gaudí saw the completion of his work as a holy mission and did not stop when the money ceased coming in: he used his own funds to finance the construction and did not shy away from pleading wealthy patrons to donate some more.

While Lа Sagrada Família is still being built, the completed sections along with Gaudí’s museum are open to public in all their glory. The Nativity facade and the Passion facade, both with four towers added, are only the sides of the church. The main Glory facade is the focus of construction today. Gaudí devised a temple that would be 95m long and 60m wide, would accommodate 13000 people, with a central tower 170m high, above the transept that represents Christ, and 17 more towers 100m high or even higher! Twelve of them are meant to represent the Apostles, and other five are dedicated to the Virgin Mary and the four Evangelists. Gaudí once again showed his disdain for straight lines (they did not exist in nature, he said) in designing his towers whose distending contours remind of the holy mountain of Montserrat. The towers, it seems, grow out of the stone foundation itself.

Аt the time of Gaudí’s death only the crypt, the apse walls, one of the portals and one of the towers had been finished. Three more towers were added by 1930 thus completing the Nativity facade. Everything that could be burned and damaged in the church was destroyed by anarchists in 1936 who left nothing intact, not even the plans, sketches, nor models. The work was resumed only in 1952. The Passion facade was completed between 1954 and 1978, with four towers and one portal, as Gaudí planned. The sculptor, Josep Subirach, continues to decorate it without attempting to imitate Gaudí’s style, but adding controversial images of his own. The principle series of sculptures is located on three levels in S-shaped arrangement, starting with the Last Supper at the bottom left and ending with the burial of Christ at the top right.

Аccording to the estimates of the architects, the temple will be completed between 2020 and 2040, and by this time the older parts of the structure would undoubtedly need restoration. The grand plan is to wrap up the construction in 2026, just in time for the centennial of Gaudí's tragic death. The roof has been recently completed, which made the celebration of Mass possible - on 7th November 2010 Barcelona welcomed Pope Benedict XVI who consecrated the unfinished church.

Finаlly, the Gaudí museum, located at the crypt of the church, is dedicated to the life and work of the Barcelona genius. The collection includes models of his works and projects, photographs and other documents related to La Sagrada Família. A side hall at the eastern end of the museum leads to a viewing point above the crypt in which Antoni Gaudí i Cornet himself is buried.

Another Modernist masterpiece, Santa Creu i Sant Pau Hospital, is located a few minutes' walk away from La Sagrada Família.

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La Sagrada Família Passion facade of La Sagrada Família
Sculptures on the Passion facade Crucified Jesus Christ on the Passion facade
Entrance to La Sagrada Família from the Passion facade side Flogging of Christ
La Sagrada Família towers The Ascension of Christ
North-west wall of La Sagrada Família Pinnacles of the Nativity facade
Crown of one of the pinnacles of the Nativity facade Crown of another pinnacle of the Nativity facade
The Nativity facade of La Sagrada Família Cypress on the Nativity facade
Pinnacles of main spires of La Sagrada Família Interior of La Sagrada Família
Ceilings of La Sagrada Família Ceilings of La Sagrada Família (detail)
Stained glass windows and pillars of La Sagrada Família Stained glass window of La Sagrada Família
Light playing on pillars of La Sagrada Família La Sagrada Família is still under construction
Las Ramblas

La Rambla is a kilometre-long street in Barcelona filled with cafes, restaurants, shops, ice-cream parlours, pizza places, street artists and characters of every stripe. The street separates two significant neighbourhoods in the Old Town (Ciutat Vella) from one another, with El Raval located to the west and Barri Gòtic to the east of La Rambla. Las Ramblas are often pluralized, because the street itself is actually divided into five sections: Rambla de Canaletes, Rambla d'Estudis, Rambla de Sant Josep, Rambla de Caputxins, Rambla de Santa Mònica. Locals rarely refer to them by their specific names though. It is fun to stroll down the avenue while noticing subtle changes that mark the boundaries of each section.

Several metro stops are conveniently placed at strategic points along the way, but the street itself is largely pedestrian and can be walked in its entirety in less than half an hour. Do not miss famous buildings and sights on the way, including Palau Guell, the Liceu Opera House, and La Boqueria, the world-famous farmers market. La Rambla itself is a source of a lot of entertainment, what with its human statues, fortune-tellers, merchants selling handmade jewelry, flowers and exotic pets, souvenirs. Beware of pickpockets and scam artists - they are part of the scene as well.

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La Rambla La Rambla live statues
La Catedral

When approached from the side of the avinguda de la Catedral, the central cathedral of Barcelona is a magical sight. Officially named the Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia, it is frequently referred to as simply La Catedral. Its main facade (the northwestern one) is richly decorated with gargoyles and stone labyrinths, as it follows the North European Gothic tradition. Thus la Catedral is distinctly different from the majority of other churches of Barcelona. The facade was added to the church only in 1870, even though its design dates back to the plan of 1408. Nowadays the facade is periodically covered with scaffolds and restored here and there.

The rest of the impressive structure was built between 1298 and 1460. Other facades are barely decorated at all. The octagonal towers with flat roofs remind us that the church stands in Catalonia and is not immune from the influence of Catalan Gothic tradition. The interior of the church is vast and domineering, with the central nave separated from the aisles with rows of tall slender pillars. La Catedral is one of few churches of Barcelona that were spared from the anarchist looting during the civil war: its ornaments and decorations, although quite frugal anyway, are intact.

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La Catedral, the Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia,Catedral de la Santa Creu i Santa Eulàlia La Catedral (the Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia or Catedral de la Santa Creu i Santa Eulàlia)
One of the towers of la Catedral (the Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia or Catedral de la Santa Creu i Santa Eulàlia) One of the sides of la Catedral (the Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia or Catedral de la Santa Creu i Santa Eulàlia)
Plaça Reial

Plaça Reial (the Royal square) can be found to the south from Carrer de Ferran and to the east of Las Ramblas. It is a pedestrians-only plaza whose neoclassic facades of the 19th century hide numerous cafés, bars and night clubs. The square was built in place of a demolished monastery, one among many religious structures on Las Ramblas that had been destroyed at the dire time of the Church's dispossession. The lampposts around the central fountain are the first famous work of Antoni Gaudí.

If you decided to rent an apartment in Barcelona and yet prefer quiet nights, this is not a spot for you (there are many other apartments in Barcelona). Locals find it tough living here: the noisy square never sleeps thanks to countless visitors of restaurants, bars and discos, who walk in and out 24/7. Before 1980 this area had been infamous for its restless and unsafe atmosphere, the remnants of which are still evident in the encounters of tourists and law-abiding citizens with untidy buskers, vagrants and pickpockets.

The southern part of Barri Gòtic keeps memories of Pablo Picasso's early years. Picasso lived in Carrer de la Mercè with his family, rented his first studio in Carrer de la Plata and frequented a brothel at 27 Carrer d’Avinyó. It is possible that his painting "Demoiselles d'Avignon" was influenced by this experience.

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Plaça Reial Plaça Reial
Santa Maria del Mar Church

At the southwestern end of Passeig del Born one of the most beautiful churches of Barcelona can be found. Església de Santa Maria del Mar literally means a dedication to "Our Lady of the Sea". Built in the 14th century, this Catalan Gothic church had not stood out as a particularly showy architectural piece even before anarchists damaged it in 1909 and 1936. A lack of decorative elements was meant to emphasize its harmonious proportions and refined graceful outlines.

It was built in a record-breaking period: the construction took only 59 years, which was considered fast at the time. Even today Santa Maria del Mar never ceases to amaze the visitors by its architectural harmony which had become possible due to the hasty construction. The majority of European churches blend several architectural styles in their appearances, because it took ages (literally centuries) to complete them; Santa Maria del Mar, however, managed to retain the aesthetic integrity of its look. The main body of the church is made up of a central nave and two side aisles separated by slim pillars, which creates an enormous lateral space.

The church was build for the people by the people. City porters made everyday trips to and from Montjuïc quarries to snatch and carry on their backs the stone required to build Santa Maria. The memory of their titanic efforts lives on in the carvings in the church doors and elsewhere inside the church. Santa Maria del Mar frequently serves as a place to hold musical concerts of classical and baroque periods. The acoustics may not be the best, but the surrounding architecture makes up for that hundredfold.

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Church of Santa Maria del Mar Gothic facade of Santa Maria del Mar
Reliefs and ornaments of Santa Maria del Mar The relief centrepiece of Santa Maria del Mar
Liceu (Gran Teatre del Liceu)

The theatre Liceu (Gran Teatre del Liceu) is the most famous opera theatre in Barcelona with the infamously bad luck. It was founded in 1847 as a private function theatre and from that year one frequently fell victim to fires, arson, bombings of anarchists and, consequently, numerous renovations and reconstructions. The first of many reconstructions took place in 1861 after a big fire, which in some sense did the Liceu good, since after the renovation the theatre became the grandest opera house in Spain. It was always positioned as an exclusively politics-free haven of intelligentsia and bourgeoisie – to this day there is no royal box in Liceu.

In 1893, during the production of “Wilhelm Tell” there was a blast – two bombs thrown by an anarchist served as revenge for a recent execution of this anarchist's comrade and resulted in death of 20 people. The third fire was not an arson, but rather a negligent oversight of a worker whose blunder almost destroyed the theatre in its entirety in 1994. After that the Liceu closed its doors for five years. In 1999 it quite literally rose like a phoenix from the ashes, more sumptuous and grandiose than ever. It can seat almost 2300 guests simultaneously, which makes it one of the biggest opera houses in the world.

Every morning at 10 am there are paid walking tours of the Liceu, during which visitors have a chance to peek into exclusive chambers of the Cercle del Liceu – a private club of opera members. The rooms are staggering. Decorated with rich wood, mosaics, colourfully tiled floors and painted ceilings, they also bring a Modernist touch to the interior, especially in the beautiful Games room adorned with series of paintings by Ramon Casas. Throughout the 160-year history of this club, only men could become its members, until this rule was challenged in court by a famous opera singer Montserrat Caballé. She debuted on the Liceu stage in 1962, subsequently became the first woman to join the club and went on to be recognized as Spain's greatest female soprano.

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Arc de Triomf

In the north-eastern part of the Park Ciutadella stands the Triumph Arch (Arc de Triomf in Catalan), a modernist structure designed by Josep Vilaseca. The arch served as a main entrance to the Universal Exhibition of 1888 and was commissioned for this very purpose. The quaint oriental and Islamic motifs are prevalent in the brickwork of the arch. Its reliefs were completed by Josep Llimona.

It is unclear what triumph the arch was supposed to symbolize, as the Exhibition resulted in massive financial losses both for the city of Barcelona and Spain. However, if viewed as merely a brick-and-cement symbol of the end of the 19th century, the arch is worthy of a couple of minutes of pondering and admiration.

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Arc de Triomf in Barcelona Arc de Triomf Barcelona
Monument a Colom

Looming high above the busy roundabout congested with traffic exiting and entering Las Ramblas, the Monument to Columbus (Monument a Colom in Catalan) is a tall structure with intricate sculptures at the base and with the statue of Columbus himself placed at the top. Columbus points in the direction of the Mediterranean sea or, quite possibly, of his native Genoa. The monument is popular not only among tourists, but also among pigeons who mark their territory right on the modest bronze body of the famed navigator.

The height of the monument, which had been erected for the Universal Exhibition of 1888, tops at 60 meters. There is a tiny elevator inside that anyone can ride up for 3€ and gaze at the surrounding buildings, ports of Barcelona and the rest of the city.

The legend has it that it was in Barcelona in 1492 that Columbus first told European royalties about his voyages, including the discovery of the American continent. In the 19th century Columbus was thought to be a citizen of Barcelona, and a very honourable one at that, and even today some historians are willing to debate the famous explorer's roots.

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Monument a Colom base Monument a Colom
Plaça de Catalunya

Plaça Catalunya is found in the heart of Barcelona, on top of Las Ramblas, with the Old town and the Barcelona port to the south and the Eixample to the north and beyond. With its beautiful fountain, sculptures, trees and flowers planted in orderly fashion, the modern look of Plaça de Catalunya had been largely complete by the 1920s. Note the bust dedicated to the leader of the republican left, Fransesc Macià, on the square: it is remarkable for its sculptor, Josep María Subirach, who has assumed a leading role in completing La Sagrada Família after Antoni Gaudí’s death.

Whenever a gathering or a demonstration is about to happen, Plaça de Catalunya is the place to be. It is also well-known for hosting New Year’s Eve celebrations, a winter-time skating ring, as well as being a useful orienting point for tourists. Many buses, including the Aerobús airport bus, stop here. The main tourist office is located on Plaça Catalunya as well.

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Plaça de Catalunya Plaça de Catalunya
Passeig de Gràcia

The wide and gorgeous Passeig de Gràcia stretches in the northwestern direction from Plaça Catalunya towards the edge of Eixample, Avinguda Diagonal, where Eixample ends and La Vila de Gràcia begins. Gaudí's most famous houses, Casa Batllò and La Pedrera, are found on Passeig de Gràcia as well.

Passeig de Gràcia had acquired its modern look by 1827. It is a wide tree-lined boulevard with the most exclusive brands and expensive shops you can find in Barcelona. Passeig de Gràcia intersects with one of the most important arteries of Barcelona besides Diagonal, Gran Vía de les Corts Catalanes. Walking along Passeig de Gràcia, you can rest on elaborate stone benches complete with street lamps designed by Pere Falqués and installed on the street in 1900.

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Passeig de Gràcia Passeig de Gràcia seen from above
Torre Agbar

Torre Agbar is an emblematic 38-stories high skyscraper in the @22 district of Poblenou, famous for its unusual shape resembling that of The Gherkin in London. Torre Agbar belongs to the water supply company Aigües de Barcelona to which it serves as headquarters and from which it derives its name, AgBar.

The architect of Torre Agbar is the Frenchman Jean Nouvel, who created the project for Torre Agbar in early 2000s, which was executed by the engineering company Dragados and opened in June 2005. Torre Agbar serves primarily as an office building and is in general not open to public. However, in December 2013 a free-access permanent exhibition "Agua, Aguas", dedicated to the topic of water supply, opened in the tower.

Torre Agbar is regularly illuminated to commemorate important Spanish and Catalan holidays. The Torre Agbar light show makes it a notable landmark in Poblenou.

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Torre Agbar Torre Agbar illuminated
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