Suddenly Barcelona has become the weekender capital of Europe. Visitors jet in on low-cost flights for the fun lifestyle, superb Mediterranean climate, and an unrivalled location that offers easy access to the delectable coves of the Costa Brava, scenic mountain trails of the Pyrȳnȳes, historic cities of Gerona and Tarragona, and wealth of Gothic and Romanesque monuments that fill the countryside.
Yet for all its outward changes the city remains at heart what it’s always been: practical, businesslike, proletarian, nonconformist, rebellious, artistic, and unabashedly hedonistic. It’s a heady, complex blend that has survived many a dark time and whose freewheeling Mediterranean spirit is epitomized in the bustling Rambla avenue, which runs all the way down to the port from Plaza Catalua along the source of a former riverbed. All this makes for a spirit as communal and sociable as the city’s traditional Sardana dance, in which no one leads and no one follows and everyone moves together in unison.