Barcelona, Spain

At a time when Madrid was still an inconsequential Moorish outpost, Barcelona was the center of a powerful commercial empire. The city was established in the time of Augustus as a Roman colony, and was alternately conquered and retaken by Carthage, Rome, and France, each of which left an indelible mark on its identity. As a result, Barcelona often seems to have more in common with Marseille or Milan than with any Spanish city. The Catalan people have clung fiercely to their unique culture and language - hybrid of French and Spanish with a character of its own - which was nearly eradicated by the Dictator Franco. "The Great Enchantress," as the city is known, lures visitors with the bustle of the world's busiest seaport, the medieval romance of its Gothic Quarter, and a flurry of Art Nouveau buildings topped by the knock-out creations of Antonio Gaudí. In addition to its architecture, the city is a cradle of art, housing seminal works byPicasso, Miró, and Dalí.

Even back in the 2nd century, this city was a paragon of ambition and modernity, quick to accept the most recent innovations. Its democratic form of government harks back to the 11th century, one of the earliest known examples of government "by the people." Its Electric lights, public gas, and telephone exchange were among the first in the world. This 2,000-year-old master of perpetual novelty is now Spain's most visited city, thanks to its personality of enterprise, quiet excitement, and good taste.
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