Archive for November, 2008

Christmas Holidays: The European Way

Wednesday, November 26th, 2008

Christmas Holidays: The European Way

So you find yourself at the Old Continent wondering what you could do to spend this coming holiday season. Well, luckily for you, Europe is one of the most culturally rich and diverse places when it comes to holidays; you will never be short of things to do, traditions to discover and dishes to taste. The warmth of Christmas season will certainly touch your heart while at this enchanting destination.

Christmas Carols and the Christmas Tree at the Trafalgar Square

If you are at London don’t miss the Carol singing tradition at the Trafalgar Square. This year, from Monday December 8, to Friday December 19 all visitors to Trafalgar Square will be able to enjoy a myriad of singing groups from around the country, who wish to raise funds for voluntary or charitable organizations. Also make sure to take a picture to the famous Norwegian tree; a 60 year old, 20 meter tree, that was a present from Norway for the country’s help during the Second World War. The tree’s lights are usually switched in the evening on the first Thursday of December.

Viewing the Holiday Lights at The City of Lights

Although Paris may not turn completely snowy white during Christmas, it certainly lives up to its name during this season. The city is widely illuminated during December as many neighborhoods compete to have the biggest light display. Some of the best places to visit in order to appreciate the holiday lights include the Notre Dame Cathedral and the Champs Elysees. Another Christmas tradition in Paris is the ice skating rinks and the Christmas Markets.

From Christmas Eve to Epiphany in Italy

Unlike many other places where Christmas season reaches its end on Christmas Eve, in Italy it is traditionally celebrated starting December 24th until January 6th. The feast of Epiphany, celebrated on January 6th is a national holiday and it commemorates the 12th day of Christmas when the three wise men arrived at the manger. It is during this day that kids receive presents from “La Befana,” a white-haired witch that arrives during the night of January 5th and fills the stockings with toys and sweets. But if you are in Italy during early December, there is still a lot of things to do. One of the biggest traditions is to see the “presepi” or nativity scenes that are the focus of Italy’s Christmas decorations. The best place to see them is Naples, where hundreds of “presepis” decorate the city. Some of them are very elaborated.

St. Lucia, Trivoli Gardens and The Ice Hotel in Scandinavia

Those who love Christmas will love it in Scandinavian Europe. The Christmas celebration starts with St. Lucia day on December 13, commemorating Lucia, a Christian that died for her faith; and it lasts until January 13th. The eldest girl of the family dresses up with a robe in the morning of December 13th to portray St. Lucia and wears a crown of lights which symbolizes how St. Lucia overcame the darkness and found the light. Some of the most famous attractions of the area during this season include the Trivoli Park in Copenhagen, a beautifully decorated attraction park, opened every single day of Christmas and the Sweden Ice Hotel, one of the most unique vacation spots on the planet.

Although these are only some of the traditions and places to visit during a Christmas in Europe, regardless of the place in Europe you decide to spend the holidays, there is no doubt that you will be filled with the holiday spirit, the European way.

Barcelona: Something For Everyone!

Wednesday, November 26th, 2008

If playing hard is what you like to do, then Barcelona will not disappoint you. This eclectic city; the second largest in Spain and a major economic center, has something for everyone. Its privileged location in the Mediterranean coast, between the mouths of the rivers Llobregat and Besos, make it one of Europe’s principal Mediterranean ports and a preferred tourist destination.

Once you step on it, Barcelona will embrace you. Its magic spreads from the sea to the mountains and its unique blend of culture, history and modernity, make it one of the most visited cities in the planet. Museums, theaters and art galleries of impressive high standard enchant even the most experienced travelers.

Las Ramblas: The Emotional Hub of Barcelona

If you are ready for a discharge of emotions, head to Las Ramblas. This three-lined walkway is popular among tourists and locals alike and it is divided in different sections: Rambla Canaletes, Rambla Dels Ocells, Rambla de Sant Josep and Rambla Caputxins. Street performers, statues, flower stands, book kiosks, and market stalls attract pedestrians that are always strolling around.

Other Points of Interest at Las Ramblas
Gran Teatre del Liceu
Museu Marítim
Monument a Colon

Barri Gotic: The Medieval Gothic Buildings
If you are looking for some history, head to the Barri Gotic. Located only a few blocks away from Las Ramblas, the Barri Gotic is home to a beautiful concentration of Medieval Gothic buildings dating from the 14th to the 15th century. It is the nucleus of Old Barcelona and features such buildings as the Catedral as well as pleny of cafes and bars to spend a relaxing afternoon.

Other Points of Interest at Barri Gotic

The Ajuntament
Palau de la Generalitat
Plaça de Sant Jaume

Plaça Catalunia: Where all Roads Start

Considered the center of the city, Plaça Catalunia is a large square in Barcelona, where the most important streets and avenues of the city meet. Tourists like this Plaça due to its fountains and statues and because it is a central location to everything in the city, making an excellent meeting point.

La Sagrada Familia: A Symbol of the City
Even if you are not a religious person, or are not into architecture, don’t miss La Sagrada Familia. This unfinished temple is one of Gaudi’s most famous works in Barcelona and also a symbol of the city. Construction of this temple started in 1882 and it is expected to continue from 30 to 80 years more.

The Picasso Museum and Other Museums: Barcelona’s Cultural Heritage

If you feel like visiting a museum, Barcelona has a lot to offer. The Picasso Museum contains an important collection of works from the early years of Pablo Picasso while the Museum of Modern Art offers paintings and sculptures from the Romantic Period. The City’s History Museum takes visitors on a voyage through Barcelona’s heritage while the Gaudi’s House-Museum features Gaudi’s work and memorabilia.

Montjuic
This hill that overlooks the city center is ideal for those who love art galleries and parks. With a unique atmosphere Montjuic is home to the main group of 1992 Olympic sites, a magical font or Font Magica which comes alive with a lights and music show during summer, the Spanish Village and the Museau Nacional d’Art among other things.

Barcelona Famous Events

Sónar by Day
Sónar by Night
Primavera Sound Festival

Barcelona Restaurants: Our Picks

Amaya
Los Caracoles
Agut d’Avignon
Romesco

Check out accommodations in Barcelona