MSC Cruises, Mediterranean Cruise

Barcelona to Barcelona & fly from Dublin

Fares from €1,149 per person

A combination of modern and traditional, of historical structures and national parks, of spirit and human worlds. Contemplate the great floating Torii gate, immerse yourself in fascinating history, wonderful wildlife and stunning seasonal beauty as you enjoy this cruise of the land of the rising sun and the kingdom of Silla.

Land of the Rising Sun and Kingdom of Silla

Otaru to Kobe

September 16, 2017  |  11 Days  |  Voyage 9721

Japan and South Korea are very modern and yet traditional countries. Accompany us on this semi-circumnavigation of Japan with visits to some of the most outstanding natural and man-made sites Japan has to offer: we will visit National Parks and three of Japan’s highest-ranked gardens; will see traditional buildings, such as castles, homes and warehouses; will feel spiritual powers, solemnity and serenity in shrines, temples and memorials. In South Korea we intend to see Gyeongju, once the Silla royal capital, and its historic area (UNESCO World Heritage). Under the Silla kingdom the southern part of the Korean peninsula was unified for the first time. Tongdosa, Korea’s largest temple, houses relics of the historical Buddha and Daeungjeon, its main hall, is a National Treasure.

Expedition Highlights:

• Marvel at spectacular historical constructions
• Contemplate the solemn memorials of Hiroshima
• See how international cooperation has brought the Crested Ibises back from the brink of extinction
• Visit two of the “Three Famous Gardens” of Japan
• Photograph the scarlet “floating” Torii gate – one of “The Three Views of Japan”
• Visit one of Korea’s first capitals

Day 1- Otaru, Japan                                          

Embark Silver Discoverer and depart on your exciting Silversea Expedition – “Land of the Rising Sun and the Kingdom of Silla”. After settling in you will attend a safety briefing and be introduced to your Expedition Team.  Weather permitting we will have a Sail-away Cocktail on deck.

We invite you to familiarise yourself with your new home away from home, meet some of your fellow travellers and enjoy the first of many memorable meals in The Restaurant. An aperitif will permit you to relax after your travels towards Silver Discoverer.

Day 2-Hakodate, Japan

We will start our day with a morning at sea, cruising the Sea of Japan. Relax after your long journey to Silver Discoverer or attend a lecture about Japan’s natural history before we arrive in the port of Hakodate.

Hakodate was founded in 1454 and its port was one of the few open for Western contact in the 19th century. A beautiful view of the well preserved star-shaped Goryokaku Fort, now a park and Special Historical Site, can be had from the Goryokaku Tower.

Our afternoon excursion will include a visit to Onuma Quasi-National Park, known for its picturesque island dotted lakes and majestic dormant volcano, Mount Komagatake.  A mudflow from Mount Komagatake once caused a natural dam that blocked a stream and thus led to the formation of Lake Onuma. There are now 126 islets in the lake and 18 bridges connecting a select few -so travellers and locals alike can enjoy walking amongst the lakes and islands and the surrounding birch and maple forest. Mount Komagatake stands close to Onuma and is the main symbol of the park. Volcanic activity started there in 1998 and as a result mountain climbing there is now prohibited.

Silver Discoverer will be leaving late at night giving you a chance to join a Mount Hakodate night view tour. Mount Hakodate is located south of the harbour and from the top the whole city is spread out in front of you. This view is considered one of the “Three best night views of Japan”.

Day 3 – Aomori and Noshiro, Japan

Once we have docked in Aomori we will be boarding our buses for a full-day overland excursion through Towada Hachimantai National Park to reach Noshiro –where Silver Discoverer will be awaiting us in the evening.

After leaving from Aomori Port, the busses will drive through the area around Mt Hakkoda, which is a part of Towada Hachimantai National Park. The drive will take us through one of the biggest beech tree forest in Japan. We will use the ropeway for a ride at Mt. Hakkoda –actually a set of volcanic peaks before reaching Lake Towada. Because of its seasonal beauty Mount Hakkoda is included among “Japan’s 100 Famous Mountains”. The 1585 meter high mountain is one of the first places in this area to develop autumn colours, although we are a bit too early a walk in the Tashirotai Marshland and areas surrounding Mount Hakkoda will reveal many alpine flowers. At the Oirase Gorge, which is cut by the stream of the same name that flows out of Lake Towada, we will be walking along the stream, with many scenic views. We can expect to see wildlife here, including Grey Wagtails and other birds.

After the walk, enjoy your lunch at a local restaurant. We will then drive to Lake Towada, enjoying the beautiful scenery of the area around the lake. From Lake Towada the tour will continue towards Odiako no Yakata, a museum featuring the drums for which this region is famous.  After your visit in Odaiko no Yakata, we will drive to Noshiro Port, where Silver Discoverer will wait for us.

Day 4 – Sado, Japan

Sado is Japan’s sixth-largest island and depends mainly on fishing and agriculture (rice-production). Today will be a day of unusual highlights: we will visit the Sado Gold Mine. For the adventurous a descent into the deep tunnels will show the conditions under which gold was extracted for almost 400 years. An amazing 240 miles of tunnels were dug and 41 tons of gold have been extracted. The walking distance in the mine will be only 300 meters, but you will have to manage some 200 steps. The other and more mundane highlight involves food. After your various culinary experiences aboard, be prepared for another culinary experience ashore: you can try the unique cultural experience of learning how to make Soba, Japanese noodles made of buckwheat, at a Soba Cooking School.

For the serious birders a visit to Tori Forest Park to see the successful “reintroduction” of Crested Ibises into Japan can be arranged. The Crested Ibis was down to what was believed to be a total world population of 12 birds in 1981. At that time the last five wild ibises found in Japan were taken into captivity on Sado and both Japan and China cooperated in a breeding programme for these birds. Fortunately the work has paid off and released Crested Ibises successfully nested in the wild again in 2012.

 

Day 5 – Kanazawa, Japan

Art in various forms will be today’s theme, as Kanazawa is known for its lacquer ware, Kutani-style pottery, gold-leaf workmanship and delicately painted silk kimonos. But apart from these purchasable products, Kanazawa has “Kenroku-en” -one of the most famous gardens in Japan. Located next to Kanazawa Castle “Kenroku-en” is classified as “One of the Three Gardens of Japan”.

Our tour will start with a visit to the Omi-cho Market with its many lively local seafood stalls, before we will take our time to walk through “Kenroku-en”. The garden has an artificial pond, and hills and houses are dotted within the 11.4 hectares. It has Japan’s oldest fountain using natural water pressure and a teahouse dating back to 1774.

In the afternoon a visit to the Higashi Chaya-gai Geisha District (designated a National Cultural Asset) will permit us to see the biggest of the Geisha district of Kanazawa. Some of the houses not only retain the original structure, but still are used as Geisha houses. Some of the streets have traditional shop creating a nostalgic atmosphere. This will be followed by a different cultural experience, as we will appreciate the production of Kanazawa’s famous Gold Leafs at the Imai Golden Leaf Manufacture. More than 90% of all Gold Leafs in Japan come from Kanazawa.

Day 6 – Sakaiminato, Japan

Inland from Sakaiminato the town of Matsue offers a traditional experience: Matsue is known as the “Town of Water” next to scenic Lake Shinji and Lake Nakanoumi. Matsue has one of the very few wooden castles that still remain in Japan. We will tour the castle and enjoying magnificent views of Lake Shinji, and later cruise the Horikawa River and the castle’s moat.

Day 7 – Pohang, South Korea

Once we have cleared into Korea we will want to see what the modern Korea has to offer.

Japan once occupied Korea and there are Japanese residential sectors with well-preserved buildings from the early 20th century, but our main point of interest is a very unusual museum for Korea, insofar as it is a private museum sponsored by and featuring what in 2010 was the world’s largest steel manufacturing company by market value and number 177 on the Fortune Global 500 list of 2014. Established with the aim to be a museum ‘in which the past, present and future of POSCO (formerly the ‘Pohang Iron and Steel Company’) coexist’, the POSCO Museum has come into the spotlight in Korea from the onset of its planning.

After seeing the history of success and achievements of this world leader of industry, we will turn to a different facet of Pohang:  Pohang is also famous for its traditional cultural villages and we will have a look at the largest traditional market in the Gyeongsangbuk-do area. Close-by is the Jukdo fish market. This is the largest open-run market in the east with more than 200 fish stores –offering the best of the area’s catches.

Day 8 – Ulsang, South Korea

Today we visit Gyeongju, 1.5 hours north of Ulsan. The modern city of Gyeongju is often called “the museum without walls”, and its historical area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Here the southern part of Korea was first unified under the Silla Kingdom and many archaeological remains can be seen in the area.

First we stop at the Bulguksa Temple, a grand centrepiece of a religious architectural complex of exceptional significance. Bulguksa is considered a masterpiece of Far Eastern Buddhist Art and has been inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage List since the temple complex is both an outstanding example of religious architecture of the region and the material expression of Buddhist belief.

After lunch at a local hotel we continue to Daeneungwon. This is a Tumuli Park with more than 20 tombs from the Silla period. Most of the tombs are grass-covered mounds, creating a spectacular scene, which resembles a small mountain range. Depending on the season, the park’s mounds take on different colours. One of the burial mounds can be visited and one can appreciate the painting of a heavenly horse that was found during the tomb’s excavation.

Our final stop will be at the Gyeongju Traditional Cultural Institute to witness and experience a series of various cultural traditions: a Tea Ceremony, traditional food preparation or the traditional Knot Craft, as well as traditional games like throwing arrows and dice.

Birders might want to head south to the Nakdong Estuary and Eulsukdo Migratory Bird Park. A large river mouth, sand dunes, tidal flats and reed beds are home to more than 150 bird species –depending on the time of the year. Snipes and waterfowl will pass through in autumn, and sightings of the rare White-naped Cranes and Black-faced Spoonbills have been recorded. White-tailed Eagles are known to frequent the area, as well.

Day 9 – Moji, Japan                                           

From Moji we will drive to Kokura, the financial and business capital of this area. Kokura’s landmark is its castle, which has been beautifully restored. Apart from a visit to Kokura Castle we will also stroll the small but remarkable garden located next to the main castle. Some of the best photos of the castle can be taken from this garden.

After lunch at a local restaurant we will see the Hiraodai Limestone Plateau, Japan’s most representative karst plateau. Approaching the area one could mistake the pure white limestone scattered throughout the landscape for sheep grazing in the grass. A “Natural Treasure” the plateau has underground caves as well. We will explore Hiraodai Senbutsu Cave accompanied by local guides. To get deep into the cave you will have to walk in the stream running through the cave.

Day 10   – Hiroshima and Miyajima, Japan

The name Hiroshima is linked to the dropping of the Atomic Bomb and the end of World War II. We will drive to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in central Hiroshima. The area where the park lies was Ground Zero for the Atomic Bomb on August 6, 1945. The park is dedicated to those who lost their lives in the attack. The park has many memorials and monuments, and we will stroll through it before we visit the Peace Memorial Museum. The museum surveys the history of Hiroshima and the advent of the nuclear bomb, focusing on the events of August 6 and the human suffering as a result of the bomb.

During the afternoon we will visit the small island of Miyajima (“The Shrine Island”) and get to see one of “The Three Most Beautiful Views” of Japan: the Floating Torii Gate. Built in the water, the Torii Gate leads to the Itsukushima Shrine and at high tide it seems to float. The Torii Gate is one of the most photographed sites in all of Japan. To reach the shrine we will have to walk as a group for slightly more than 1 kilometre. There are many more shrines and path on Miyajima that invite to be walked. Mount Misen has a cable car leading partly up to the top with nice views and wild monkeys and deer roaming the trails.

Day 11   -Uno-Ko for Okayama, Japan

A day of cultural experiences awaits us, as we will head for Okayama and another of Japan’s most significant gardens. Although the “Koraku-en” Garden was severely damaged by bombs in WWII, the descriptions and paintings from the Edo period permitted an exact reconstruction. Designed in the “Kaiyu”-style it is one of the “Three Gardens of Japan” and has been designated a “Special Scenic Location”. We will have time to stroll through the garden and will have a chance to taste Japanese Green Tea –a specialty of the area.

We will have lunch at a local restaurant before we continue to Kurashiki, a town known as the centre of rice-distribution in the Okayama area. The town’s name refers to the warehouses (“town of storehouses”), and many old ones next to the preserved canal have been converted into museums, boutiques and cafes.

The Ohara Museum, which we are going to see during the afternoon, was the first Japanese Museum to permanently exhibit Western Art. Specializing in French Art at the beginning we can see an eclectic mix of paintings and objects by El Greco, Renoir, Gauguin, Pissarro, Degas, Monet, Toulouse-Lautrec, Matisse, Rodin, and Picasso, as well as pieces from Jackson Pollock, de Chirico and Jasper Johns. Perhaps a visit to the nearby Piggybank Museum on your own will help you to start your personal collection.

Today we will have the videographer’s presentation of the voyage on DVD. Enjoy those marvellous takes and moments as you revisit the enchanting sites seen during our voyage “Land of the Rising Sun and the Kingdom of Silla”. Afterwards the Captain will invite you to the Farewell Cocktail Party and Dinner!

Day 12   – Kobe, Japan

After breakfast disembark Silver Discoverer.

 

Expedition highlights and wildlife listed here are possible experiences only and cannot be guaranteed. Your Expedition Leader and Captain will work together to ensure opportunities for adventure and exploration are the best possible, taking into account the prevailing weather, wildlife activity and ice conditions. Expedition Team members scheduled for this voyage are subject to change or cancellation.

Silver Discoverer

Silversea’s loyal following of adventure travellers can now explore the remote archipelagos of the vast Pacific aboard the sleek, 120-guest Silver Discoverer cruise ship. She’s the perfect platform for viewing these untamed landscapes, with all ocean-view suites and plenty of deck space so that a breaching whale or a pod of dolphins is always within sight. Silver Discoverer’s shallow draft allows her to navigate closer to shore, and with a fleet of 12 Zodiacs, guests can land on isolated shores and explore wetlands and submerged ecosystems, up-close and in-depth

Guests: 120
Crew: 96
Length: 338 Feet / 102.9 Meters
Day 1: Barcelona, Spain

Friday, 02 Nov 2018
Depart: 18:00

Barcelona – Spain’s second city, and the self-confident capital and port of Catalunya – vibrates with life, and there’s certainly not another city in the country to touch it for sheer style, looks or energy.

A cruise excursion to Barcelona city centre will take you to discover its world-class art museums and its fashionable designer restaurants, bars, galleries and shops. And in Antoni Gaudí’s extraordinary church of the Sagrada Família and the world-famous boulevard that is the Ramblas, you have two sights that are high up on any Mediterranean cruise sightseeing list.

A holiday in Barcelona can start with the Ramblas, and then dive straight into the medieval nucleus of the city, the Barri Gòtic. But there are plenty of other central old-town neighbourhoods to explore too, from La Ribera – home to the celebrated Museu Picasso – to funky El Raval, where cool bars, restaurants and boutiques have mushroomed in the wake of the striking contemporary art museum, MACBA.

Even if you think you know these heavily touristed neighbourhoods well, there’s always something else to discover during an MSC excursion – tapas bars hidden down alleys little changed for a century or two, designer boutiques in renovated old-town quarters, bargain lunches in workers’ taverns, unmarked gourmet restaurants, craft outlets and workshops, fin-de-siècle cafés, restored medieval palaces and neighbourhood markets.

On Passeig de Gràcia there is Gaudí’s Casa Batlló, designed for the industrialist Josep Batlló: the stone facade hangs in folds, like skin, while on the rooftop sprout the celebrated mosaic chimneys and a little tower topped with a three-dimensional cross. The mountain of Montserrat stands just 40km northwest of Barcelona and it’s a popular trip out from the city. Once there, you can visit the basilica and monastery buildings which fan out around an open square, and there are extraordinary mountain views from the terrace.

Day 2: Marseille, France

Saturday, 03 Nov 2018
Arrive: 09:00,  Depart: 17:00

Multicultural fragrances and flavours.  Are you ready to find your way around Marseille on an MSC Mediterranean cruise?
When cruising southern France, you have to know that Marseille is the most renowned and populated metropolitan area in the country after Paris and Lyon. When you alight from your MSC cruise ship, the cafés around the Vieux Port, where glistening fish are sold straight off the boats on quai des Belges, are wonderful spots to observe the city’s street life.

Particularly good in the afternoon is the north (Le Panier) side, where the terraces are sunnier and the views better. The best view of the Vieux Port is from the Palais du Pharo, on the headland beyond Fort St-Nicolas, or, for a wider angle, from Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde, the city’s Second Empire landmark atop the La Garde hill. To the north of the Vieux Port is the oldest part of Marseille, Le Panier, where, up until the last war, tiny streets, steep steps Mediterranean introduction and houses of every era formed a vieille ville typical of the Côte.

You can enjoy many MSC cruise excursions from the Vieux Port. Were it not for the great metropolis of Marseille, just 30 km south, Aix-en-Provence would be the dominant city of central Provence. Aix is more immediately attractive, a stately and in parts pretty place that’s traditionally seen as conservative.

Capital of the Catholic Church during the early Middle Ages and for centuries a major artistic centre, Avignon remains another unmissable excursion. Low medieval walls still encircle Avignon’s old centre, as it nestles up against a ninety-degree bend in the Rhône river. Their gates and towers restored, the ramparts dramatically mark the historic core off from the formless sprawl of the modern city beyond.

Day 3: Genoa, Italy

Sunday, 04 Nov 2018
Arrive: 08:00,  Depart: 17:00

A mix of cultures and fragrances.  Genoa is marvellously eclectic, vibrant and full of rough-edged style; it’s a great cruise excursion.  Indeed “La Superba” (The Superb), as it was known at the height of its authority as a Mediterranean superpower, boasts more zest and intrigue than all the surrounding coastal resorts put together.

During a holiday to Genoa you can explore its old town: a dense and fascinating warren of medieval alleyways home to large palazzi built in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries by Genoa’s wealthy mercantile families and now transformed into museums and art galleries. You should seek out the Cattedrale di San Lorenzo, the Palazzo Ducale, and the Renaissance palaces of Via Garibaldi which contain the cream of Genoa’s art collections, as well as furniture and decor from the grandest days of the city’s past, when its ships sailed to all corners of the Mediterranean Sea.

The Acquario di Genova is the city’s pride and joy, parked like a giant ocean liner on the waterfront, with seventy tanks housing sea creatures from all the world’s major habitats, including the world’s biggest reconstruction of a Caribbean coral reef. It’s a great aquarium by any standards, the second largest in Europe by capacity, and boasts a fashionably ecology-conscious slant and excellent background information in Italian and English.

Just 35 km south of Genoa, there’s no denying the appeal of Portofino, tucked into a protected inlet surrounded by lush cypress- and olive-clad slopes. It’s an A-list resort that has been attracting high-flying bankers, celebs and their hangers-on for years, as evidenced by the flotillas of giant yachts usually anchored just outside. It’s a tiny place that is attractive yet somehow off-putting at the same time, with a quota of fancy shops, bars and restaurants for a place twice its size.

Day 4: Naples, Italy

Monday, 05 Nov 2018
Arrive: 13:00,  Depart: 19:30

The striking Angevin keep, symbol of the city.  Naples is a large, sprawling Mediterranean port, with a centre that has many different focuses just waiting to be discovered on an MSC Mediterranean cruise excursion.  No trip to Naples is complete without visiting the area between Piazza Garibaldi and Via Toledo, roughly corresponding to the old Roman Neapolis (much of which is still unexcavated like in many other Italian cities).

The old part of Naples – the centro storico – is formed by the main streets of Via dei Tribunali and Via San Biagio dei Librai (the latter also known as “Spaccanapoli” as it literally splits Naples in two), which still follow the path of the ancient Roman roads. This is much the liveliest and most teeming part of Naples, an open-air kasbah of hawking, yelling humanity that makes up in energy what it lacks in grace. But it’s the city’s most intriguing quarter, and a must-see on any cruise to Naples. The Duomo is a Gothic building from the early thirteenth century (though with a late nineteenth-century neo-Gothic facade) dedicated to the patron saint of the city, San Gennaro.

MSC Mediterranean cruises also offer excursions to Pompeii. One of Campania’s most important Roman commercial centres – a moneyed resort for wealthy patricians and a trading town that exported wine and fish – the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79 in effect froze the town’s way of life as it stood at the time.

Trips can also be taken to the island of Capri, place of legend, home to the mythical Sirens and a much-eulogized playground of the super-rich in the years since – though now it has settled down to a lucrative existence as a target for day-trippers from the mainland.  Definitely worth a visit, but these days the origins of much of the purple prose may be hard to find.

Day 5: Messina, Italy

Tuesday, 06 Nov 2018
Arrive: 08:00,  Depart: 18:00

Gateway to Sicily.  Messina may well be your first sight of Sicily, and – from your MSC holiday cruise ship – it’s a fine one, the glittering town spread up the hillside beyond its sickle-shaped Mediterranean harbour.

On a shore excursion you can discover Messina’s most important monument, the Duomo, which epitomizes the city’s phoenix-like ability to re-create itself from the ashes of its last disaster. It’s the reconstruction of a twelfth-century cathedral erected by Roger II, one of a series of great Norman churches of Sicily that include the sumptuous cathedrals of Palermo and Cefalù. The Duomo’s detached campanile, or bell tower, claims to be the largest astronomical clock in the world, and puts on its best show at noon every day, when a bronze lion (Messina’s ancient emblem) unleashes a mighty roar over the city that can be quite alarming if you’re not expecting it!

Just back from the Duomo, the truncated section of the twelfth-century Chiesa Annunziata dei Catalani squats below pavement level, and is Messina’s only surviving example of Arab/Norman church-building.  When you are cruising the Mediterranean Sea with MSC Cruises, the most obvious excursion from Messina is to the almost too charming hill town of Taormina, spectacularly located on a rocky bluff between the Ionian Sea and the soaring peak of Mount Etna, whose summit with its bleak lava wilderness is one of the most memorable landscapes Italy has to offer.  Once the beloved retreat of poets and writers, Taormina is now the most illustrious resort on the entire island, captivating its visitors with its famous ancient theatre, grand hotels and engaging small-town charm.

Day 6: Valletta, Malta

Wednesday, 07 Nov 2018
Arrive: 08:00,  Depart: 18:00

A 16th century city. The UNESCO-protected port of Valletta, the capital of the island of Malta, is one of the must-see stops for every Mediterranean cruise of merit.

You can admire this port, constructed in the second half of the 16th century by the Frenchman Jean de la Valette and moulded by the religious and military Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, from your MSC ship even before disembarking. The over 300 monuments rising in little more than half a square kilometre make this a place with one of the greatest density of historical attractions to visit during a cruise, not mentioning other attractions such as its beaches, seaside locales and restaurants.

An excursion to the island can start right from its capital, Valletta, which enchants the cruise-goer with its famous Maltese balconies, which decorate the facades of houses in its old quarter. Surrounded by a multitude of churches, which the islanders assure are as many as the days of the year, the St. John’s Co-Cathedral is one of Malta’s biggest tourist attractions.

The National Museum of Archaeology, on the other hand, hosts prehistoric artefacts found on the island. By the Grand Harbour, one can visit the underground passages of Auberge de Castille and the beautiful Baracca Gardens, which overlook the harbour; at night, when the city gates would close, its porticoes served as shelter for travellers. To get a taste of the life of Malta’s ancient nobility, visit Casa Rocca Piccola.

A 16th century Palazzo now the residence of the 9th Marquis De Piro, it has period furnishings and has a bomb shelter built for protection against bombings during the Second World War. The set of the film Popeye can still be seen from Malta’s largest beach, as well as the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Mellieha with a fresco of the Blessed Virgin Mary with Christ; according to tradition, Saint Luke, who was shipwrecked on the island with Saint Paul, is the author of this Byzantine-style fresco.

Day 7: At Sea

Thursday, 08 Nov 2018

Explore the ship’s available entertainment.  Indulge in the available cuisine.  Lounge by the pool with a beverage.  The day is yours as you sail to your next destination.

Day 8: Barcelona, Spain

Friday, 09 Nov 2018
Arrive: 09:00

Barcelona – Spain’s second city, and the self-confident capital and port of Catalunya – vibrates with life, and there’s certainly not another city in the country to touch it for sheer style, looks or energy.

A cruise excursion to Barcelona city centre will take you to discover its world-class art museums and its fashionable designer restaurants, bars, galleries and shops. And in Antoni Gaudí’s extraordinary church of the Sagrada Família and the world-famous boulevard that is the Ramblas, you have two sights that are high up on any Mediterranean cruise sightseeing list.

A holiday in Barcelona can start with the Ramblas, and then dive straight into the medieval nucleus of the city, the Barri Gòtic. But there are plenty of other central old-town neighbourhoods to explore too, from La Ribera – home to the celebrated Museu Picasso – to funky El Raval, where cool bars, restaurants and boutiques have mushroomed in the wake of the striking contemporary art museum, MACBA.

Even if you think you know these heavily touristed neighbourhoods well, there’s always something else to discover during an MSC excursion – tapas bars hidden down alleys little changed for a century or two, designer boutiques in renovated old-town quarters, bargain lunches in workers’ taverns, unmarked gourmet restaurants, craft outlets and workshops, fin-de-siècle cafés, restored medieval palaces and neighbourhood markets.

On Passeig de Gràcia there is Gaudí’s Casa Batlló, designed for the industrialist Josep Batlló: the stone facade hangs in folds, like skin, while on the rooftop sprout the celebrated mosaic chimneys and a little tower topped with a three-dimensional cross.  The mountain of Montserrat stands just 40km northwest of Barcelona and it’s a popular trip out from the city. Once there, you can visit the basilica and monastery buildings which fan out around an open square, and there are extraordinary mountain views from the terrace.

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