I’ve got some must-know information from BBC News today about Spain, and I wanted to share it. For those who do not know yet, Barcelona is the soul of Catalonia and a modern, world-class destination. It boasts its grand 19th-century boulevards which is studded with Art Nouveau buildings, including Antoni Gaudi’s La Pedrera, run straight as arrows, pointing to the heart of the Ciutat Vella (Old Town) and the narrow, tangled streets of the Barri Gotic (Gothic Quarter), which hides dusty plazas and Moorish eight-pointed fountains. The city has successfully preserved its historic buildings and streets, bolstered its cultural institutions such as the Picasso Museum and MACBA (Museum of Contemporary Art), developed a comprehensive public transportation system and transformed its waterfront.

Eating well and healthy is not hard in a city that is home to one of the best chefs in the world, former El Bulli master Ferran Adria, who in 2011 opened Tickets, a tapas bar in the Sant Antoni neighbourhood, and is also home to institutions including the century-old, 14-seat Bar Pinotxo in La Boqueria market.  Residents in this cosmopolitan Spanish city enjoy spectacular cuisine, inimitable style and contemporary culture year round.

And the fans of the Barça football club do not need telling, but the club is currently the best in the world, due in no small part to Lionel Messi, their star player. Barcelona’s strong sporting heritage and past as an Olympic host city is leveraging their bid to host the 2022 Winter Olympics.

Where would you prefer to live?
The Ciutat Vella, which includes the neighbourhoods and pedestrianised streets of El Raval and Born-Ribera, are very popular with young couples and expats. However, it is also expensive and many people look in areas of just outside the historic centre, such as the Sant Antoni neighbourhood in the Eixample district and Poble Sec in the Sants-Montjuïc district. Both of these are filled with lively restaurants and bars and are close to the large Parc de Montjuic. “Eixample is one of the most popular districts,” said David Franks, sales agent for Lucas Fox estate agents. “It appeals to all groups, while the Old Town appeals to couples between the ages 25 and 40.”

Further out from the centre, the Zona Alta area is popular with families, and Diagonal Mar, a beachfront neighbourhood, is popular with Russian and Scandinavian buyers.

Side trips
Barcelonés have miles of Mediterranean beaches at their doorstep, not only such city beaches as Barceloneta, but beach resorts like Sitges (which has 17 beaches itself), just a 45-minute train ride south of the city. Northeast of Barcelona, the beautiful small city of Girona is about an hour and a half away by train, while the beach towns of Calella de Palafrugell, Tamariu and Begur are about a 130km drive drive north along the Costa Brava. A little further north the whitewashed town ofCadaques, home to Salvador Dali’s house and studio, clings to the cliffs of the Cap de Creus peninsula, reached by a hair-raising drive over the steep hills. During the winter months, people head to ski resorts such as La Molina in the Pyrenees Mountains, a three-hour train ride north from Barcelona.

The AVE high-speed train reaches Madrid in just two-and-a-half hours and Valencia is about three hours away. The Barcelona-El Prat Airport is close to the city centre and has flights to regional cities, European capitals and international destinations. Flights to London are about two hours and New York is eight-and-a-half hours.

Practical info
Spain’s economic woes can be directly linked to the housing boom, bubble and bust of the last decade, and the economy has been contracting since 1997. Property prices have fallen as much as 40% since 2007, but Barcelona’s vibrant tourism has helped it fare better than other regions. “The housing market is performing better here than in many coastal areas,” explained Alex Vaughan, director of Lucas Fox. “The lower prices and higher rental yields are attracting more and more buyers drawn by the rental potential.” Vaughan points to new developments such as the Port Vell superyacht marina and the proposed plan to grant residency to non-EU property buyers that will encourage foreign investors to enter the market.

A two-bedroom flat near the popular Passieg del Born, the main drag of the Born district, rents for around 1,500 euros a month, while prices for a similar property start around 700 euros in the rest of the Old Town. Rents are lower in Eixample Left than in Eixample Right, and start at around 1,200 euros a month for a two-bed flat. For buyers, a similar 80sqm to 120sqm property in central Barcelona will cost anywhere from 300,000 to 600,000 euros.

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