by Lydia Schrandt for USA TODAY 10Best

Explore beautiful Barcelona on this virtual tour

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This seaside city on the coast of Catalonia ranks among Europe’s most enticing destinations, not for any one particular attraction, but for its overall vibe.

Take a stroll on La Rambla early in the morning to admire the broad pedestrian boulevard and its lovely architecture. Hawkers and street performers set up shop later in the day.

Barcelona is home to one of the world’s most famous food markets, Mercat de la Boqueria, known for its Modernista building and variety of produce, seafood, meats, cheeses and colorful candies.

The narrow, maze-like cobblestone streets of El Gotic are lined with bars, shops, restaurants and historical treasures. It’s one of the best places in the city to get lost.

Enjoy a coffee at one of the cafes in Plaça Reial, one of Barcelona’s most beautiful public squares. This sunny, palm tree-lined square features street lamps designed by Antoni Gaudí.

There’s something magical about stumbling upon the quiet Square of Sant Felip Neri in the middle of the otherwise busy Old City. You can still see scars from 1938 bombings etched into its façade.

The city of Barcelona is dotted with works of famous Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí, perhaps none so famous as the Sagrada Familia. This UNESCO-listed grand cathedral is still under construction.

Catalans are fiercely independent, and while part of Spain, they celebrate their National Day of Catalonia each September 11. Celebrants dress up in traditional Catalan colors and take to the streets.

The Palau de la Música Catalana, one of Barcelona’s best examples of Modernista architecture wasn’t built by Gaudí at all, but by Domènech i Montaner.

This imposing column depicting Christopher Columbus was erected in 1888 at the site where Columbus returned to Spain after his journey to the Americas.

Catalans are fiercely independent, and while part of Spain, they celebrate their National Day of Catalonia each September 11. Celebrants dress up in traditional Catalan colors and take to the streets.

Gracia, one of Barcelona’s most colorful neighborhoods, also throws the city’s most colorful street party. During Festa Major de Gracia, each street goes all out to decorate better than the next.

The hallmark of many a Catalan festival is the correfoc, or fire run. These parades take place after dark, when figures dressed as devils, demons and dragons take to the streets.

Sports fans will know the Catalan capital as home of FC Barcelona, one of the world's best soccer clubs. The team plays their home games at the Camp Nou stadium, the largest stadium in Europe.

No summer in Barcelona would be complete without a day at the beach, and there are plenty to choose from, with 60 miles of coastline in the province. Busy Barceloneta ranks as the most popular stretch of sand.

Parc de la Ciutadella, the green lung of Barcelona, was built for the 1888 Universal Exposition. The park is home to the Barcelona Zoo and an impressive monumental fountain designed by Josep Fontsére.

Montjuïc, the hill just south of Barcelona’s city center, is home to many popular attractions, including a 17th century fortress, Palau Nacional and the Magic Fountain of Montjuíc.

For some of the best views of Barcelona without all the crowds, locals head to the Bunkers of Carmel. These anti-aircraft fortifications from the Spanish Civil War overlook the city from atop a hill.

Tibidabo, the highest peak in Catalonia’s Serra de Collserola range, towers over the city. People come here for the sweeping views and the impressive Sagrat Cor Catholic church.

The city of Barcelona pulls out all the stops at Christmastime. Just about every street in town is strung up with coordinated colorful lights, and Christmas markets pop up all over.

One of the most popular day trips from Barcelona takes visitors into the heart of the Catalan mountains to the monastery of Montserrat. Rugged turrets of rock tower above the Benedictine monastery.

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