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Must-see views of Europe: London and Barcelona from above

10:30 AEST Fri Oct 28 2011

Get ready to be blown away by two of Europe's most breath-taking cities seen from a remarkable perspective you certainly don't get to see every day. London and Barcelona, here we come!


Europe's city of the moment, Barcelona is the continent's fourth most visited city after Paris, London and Rome. It has one of the world's best lifestyles and Jason was keen to check it out.

Barcelona has many examples of eccentric Catalán Modernism architect Antoni Gaudi. Much of his work is marked by the four passions of his life — architecture, nature, religion and his love of Catalonia. He integrated skilled tasks into his works — ceramics, stained glass, wrought ironwork forging and carpentry. He famously made use of waste ceramic pieces, known as 'trencadís'. Colour, natural shapes and the lack of straight lines make very interesting but difficult to construct buildings.

Seven of Gaudi's works are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. His Roman Catholic faith is evident in many religious images, leading to his being called 'God's architect' and calls for him to be beatified.

The city's centrepiece is Temple de la Sagrada Familia, Gaudi's masterpiece. Work began on the building in 1882 and is planned to be completed by 2026, the centenary of Gaudi's death! It will have 18 towers, dedicated to the 12 apostles, four evangelists, Jesus and Mary.

Nearby Casa Batlló is another of Gaudi's works. Described as 'whimsical', the façade is sprinkled with blue, mauve and green tiles and studded with wave-shaped window frames and balconies. It rises to an uneven blue-tiled roof with a solitary tower and twisted chimney pots. The roof represents St George and the Dragon. Inside the main salon, everything swirls. Doors, windows and skylights are waves of wood and coloured glass and the theme continues to other rooms and terrace.

The local name translates to House of Bones as it has a skeletal organic quality. That, and the fact that it is such a popular tourist attraction, doesn't seem to bother the people who live in the Casa Batlló apartments.

The Plaça de Catalunya, a large plaza surrounded by monumental buildings, is Barcelona's busiest square. Nine streets branch from it, including the city's most famous street, the 15km La Rambla. Its pedestrianised centre has kiosks, flower stalls and street artists. The plaza is the hub for the city's public transportation.

La Rambla joins Marina Port Vell which has been transformed into a state-of-the-art venture with five-star hotels and berths for super yachts. It is next to Barceloneta Beach, named as the best urban beach in the world and third best of all beaches. It is sandy and its boardwalk has many restaurants and nightclubs.

Cable cars run from the port to Montjuic Hill, the largest of the city's 68 municipal parks. It's at 173 metres on Montjuic Mountain, so has exceptional views. From there you can take a ride in a four-person car to the 18th century Montjuic Castle, an 18th century fortress. It has a museum housing Spain's largest collection of Catalán art. Views of the Mediterranean aren't too bad either!


Seeing London from above could at first be any modern metropolis, but once you swing around Post Office Tower, you know just where you are. There's one famous landmark after another.

The River Thames is England's longest river — 346 kilometres — and winds its way through central London. For thousands of years it has provided habitation, water power, food and drink.

These days the river is popular for boating, fishing, walking along its banks and visiting one of many pubs.

On the northern bank of the Thames are the imposing Houses of Parliament, also known as the Palace of Westminster. It is the meeting place of the House of Lords and the House of Commons.

Big Ben is the nickname for the 13 ton great bell of the clock at the north end of the Palace of Westminster. Completed in 1858, it is the world's largest four-faced chiming clock. It reaches almost 200 metres, each face measuring over 7 metres in diameter. When the Houses of Parliament sit by night, a light in the Clock Tower burns above Big Ben. It is amazingly accurate and old pennies act as counterweights to ensure it keeps time to the nearest second.

The Collegiate Church of St Peter at Westminster, known as Westminster Abbey, is an enormous and mainly Gothic church. It was begun by Henry III in 1245 with the medieval shrine of an Anglo-Saxon saint at its heart.

It is steeped in over a thousand years of history. Benedictine monks established the tradition of daily worship at the site in the middle of the 10th century.

It has been the coronation church since 1066 and is the final resting place of seventeen monarchs. It has hosted sixteen weddings.

Westminster Abbey is a treasure house of paintings, stained glass, pavements, textiles and other artefacts. Its tombs and memorials comprise the most significant single collection of monumental sculpture in the United Kingdom.

Tower Bridge is a combined bascule and suspension bridge crossing the River Thames. Its two towers are tied together at the upper level by two horizontal walkways.

It was planned in 1876 as the east of London became extremely crowded and bridge became a necessity. Eight years later, construction began and was completed in 1894.

Each 30m wide deck can be opened to an angle of 83 degrees to allow clearance for ships. Tower Bridge is at its most beautiful when lit at night.

The Tower of London, formally known as Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress, is a historic castle on the north bank of the Thames. It was founded in 1066 as part of the Norman Conquest of England. It has been a grand palace, royal residence and a prison in the 16th and 17th centuries. The complex of several buildings is set within two concentric rings of defensive walls and a moat.

The Tower of London has played a prominent role in English history. It was besieged several times and has served as an armoury, treasury, menagerie, home of the Royal Mint, a public records office and the home of the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom.

Despite its reputation as a place of torture and death, popularised by 16th century religious propagandists and 19th century writers, only seven people were executed within the Tower.

London's newest attraction is the London Eye, a 135m ferris wheel on the banks of the Thames. It was erected to celebrate the new millennium, and is now the focal point of London's New Year celebrations.

The wheel turns slowly, taking around 30 minutes to complete a full rotation. Each 10 tonne capsule holds 25 people who are free to walk around and enjoy the 360 degree views across London taking in Buckingham Palace, St Paul's Cathedral and the Houses of Parliament. On clear days you can see as far as 30 kilometres.

Trafalgar Square commemorates the 1805 Battle of Trafalgar. It is a tourist attraction and meeting place in central London. Nelson's Column rises 52m from the square. It was built in recognition of Admiral Horatio Nelson who lost his life in the Battle. It is guarded by four lion statues at its base and the pedestal is decorated with four bronze relief panels, cast from captured French guns. There are a number of statues and sculptures in the square. One plinth displays changing pieces of contemporary art.

As your flight path takes you along the Mall, you will see St James Park and the full layout of Buckingham Palace.


Barcelona and London.


Accor has a wide range of hotels in Barcelona and London. Rates start at around $80. For details log on to

Prices correct at October 29, 2011.

For further information

Accor Hotels
Ph: 1300 855 975


Visa: Australians travelling to Spain do not require a visa.

Electricity: 230v/50hz using European plugs

Time zone: GMT +2.

Currency: Euro.

Telephone code: +34.

United Kingdom

Visa: Visas are not required for Australians entering the UK for tourism for stays of under six months. If you wish to work, you must obtain the appropriate two-year visa in advance.

Electricity: 220 volts with a 3 point plug.

Time: The UK is on Greenwich Mean Time between October and March. Between March and October it is on British Summer Time.

Currency: British pound sterling.

Telephone code: +44.

It is recommended travellers see their doctor at least six weeks before departure as there may be specific vaccinations recommended. Other health precautions and preventions may also be recommended. For further information, visit and

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