Ask Lonely Planet: Spanish mix of art, architecture, ambience

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Valencia's Palace of Arts. Photo / Supplied
Valencia's Palace of Arts. Photo / Supplied

We are planning to go on a sea cruise in the Mediterranean area in July for 13 days. The cruise ends in Barcelona, and we would be interested in information on budget accommodation (apartment style), which is centrally located.

We would like to see in particular the Pueblo Espanol, plus Sagrada Familia, spending three days in Barcelona. Can you suggest other areas of interest? From Barcelona we wish to go to Valencia to visit the Lladro Porcelain City, and spend about three days there.

From Valencia we will go to Santiago de Compostela to surprise family living in Galicia. Is it better to fly the distances between Barcelona/Valencia/Compostela, rather than buses or trains?

We wish to use every minute.
-Jenny Schaaf

Andy Symington, co-author of Lonely Planet's Europe on a Shoestring, writes:

You'll easily fill three days in Barcelona, which is packed with interesting things to see. As well as the Sagrada Familia, you could explore more of Gaudi's wildly imaginative work by visiting the park he landscaped, Parc Guell.

Highlights on the art trail include the Picasso Museum, with works from his early career, and Fundacio Joan Miro, while the Barri Gotic, centred on the city's magnificent cathedral, makes for atmospheric wandering, as does the nearby harbour area, Port Vell.

While there are several apartment hotels around central Barcelona, better value can be had by renting an apartment - there are hundreds of these available by the day.

Websites such as apartmentsramblas.com or barcelona-on-line.es allow you to browse a good selection. Valencia is a friendly, vibrant city with a comfortable size.

The Ciudad de las Artes y Ciencias is a stunning series of modern buildings in the dry riverbed largely designed by famous local architect Santiago Calatrava, while the excellent Museo de Bellas Artes is one of Spain's finest art galleries.

The eating scene in the old town is also great - Valencia is famous for paella, but make sure you also try the huge Mediterranean mussels they call clochinas.

The same advice as for Barcelona goes for apartment accommodation in Valencia. Useful websites include valenciaflats.com and apartamentoselpilar.com.

A fast train will get you from Barcelona to Valencia in just three hours, but it's a long journey by land transport from Valencia to Santiago so, unless you want to see places on the way, flying is a worthwhile option.

Iberia has daily direct flights and cheaper connections via Madrid.

Santiago's major festival is July 25, and 2010 is a so-called Holy Year, as that day falls on a Sunday. That means a great atmosphere and huge festivities but also heavy bookings.

- NZ Herald

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