Rick Steves: What’s new in Spain and Portugal for 2019

Like many travelers, last spring I visited Barcelona dreaming of seeing Antoni Gaudí’s breathtaking Sagrada Família church. When I got there, the ticket office was closed, with a posted sign: “No more tickets today. Buy your ticket for another day online.” Thankfully, I’d known to book tickets in advance.

Along with Sagrada Família, Spain’s sights to book ahead include Barcelona’s Picasso Museum, La Pedrera, Casa Batlló and Park Güell; the Palacios Nazaríes at the Alhambra in Granada; and the Royal Alcazar Moorish palace, Church of the Savior and cathedral in Sevilla. Barcelona’s Casa Amatller and Palace of Catalan Music, and Salvador Dalí’s house in Cadaqués all require a guided tour, which also must be booked ahead. Advance tickets for the Dalí Theater-Museum in nearby Figueres are also a good idea. While it may be technically possible to buy tickets on-site, in my guidebooks I simply say you must reserve in advance. It’s much smarter.

Barcelona continues to evolve. After a long renovation, the Maritime Museum has reopened, displaying 13th- to 18th-century ships (restoration continues on the later-century ships). The El Raval neighborhood is rising up as the new bohemian zone. While this area has rough edges, its recently reopened Sant Antoni market hall, new Museum of Contemporary Art and pedestrian-friendly streets contribute to its boom of creative shops, bars, and restaurants.

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