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Barcelona is well placed for access to the sea and mountains, which is one of the reasons it was picked for the 1992 Olympics. A spin-off from the games was an increased provision of top-quality sports and leisure facilities throughout Catalunya. However, central Barcelona itself doesn't have too many sporting sites from which tourists will get much use. If you really want to swim or work out, you're better off using the region's natural resources: get out onto the beaches, north and south of the city or into the hills of the Catalan Pyrenees.

If you want to check forthcoming sports events , buy one of the local daily sports papers, El Mundo Deportivo or Sport ; or phone Audiotex on 934 181 021, for recorded information in Spanish and Catalan on all current sporting events in Barcelona. For details about any sport not included here, call the Ajuntament information service on 934 023 000, or drop in to the office that deals with sport, at Avda de l'Estadi 30-40 (next to the Bernat Picornell swimming pool); Metro Espanya, or bus #61 or #20.

American football
American football is an increasingly popular spectator sport in Barcelona, and the city even boasts its own team, the Barcelona Dragons , who play regularly in the Estadi Olímpic against other teams in the World League of American Football. The season is from April to June. Tickets are available from Servicaixa or El Corte Inglés, and cost around ?12. Information on 934 254 949 or 934 811 092.


Bowling
For some reason bowling has plenty of adherents in the city. Try AMF Bowling Barcelona, c/Sabino de Arana 6 (tel 933 305 048; Metro María Cristina; 11am-1.30am) or Planet Bowling, Parc Comercial Barnasud, Gavà (tel 936 383 650; 11am-1.30am; about 15km south of Barcelona on the road to Sitges).


Bullfighting
Although bullfights are an integral part of many southern Spanish festivals, there has never been great interest in Catalunya. In fact some provincial towns, such as Olot, have imposed outright bans on the activity. Barcelona has two rings, one at either end of the Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes, but such is the event's status that one has been turned over to exhibition space and the other is as likely to be used for concerts as for bullfights. It's tourism on the Costa Brava that continues to support much of Catalunya's organized bullfighting, although the Catalans don't disdain bullfighting entirely, and you may see highlights on the TV or catch small-scale fights as part of a village's festa celebrations.


Cycling
Cycling runs football a close second as a national sport and pastime. If you've got your own machine, there are a couple of events for which you can enter; otherwise, pull up a café chair and watch the puffing and groaning.

May sees the Bicycle Fiesta (info on 010, or any branch of Pans & Company who sponsor the event). September is another big month, with races during the Mercè festival and an international cycle race to Montjuïc castle (info on 934 811 003). For tours of Barcelona by bicycle, turn up at Un Cotxe Menys, c/Esparteria 3, Barri Gòtic tel 932 682 105; Sat 10am & 8.30pm, Sun 10am, Tues 8.30pm; ?12 for day-tours, ?30 for evening tours which include supper; bicycles provided.



Football
In Barcelona, football is a genuine obsession, with support for the local giants FC Barcelona (known here as El Barça ) raised to an art form. The team plays at the splendid Camp Nou Stadium in the north of the city, and even if you don't coincide with a game, the stadium's football museum alone is worth the trip. The other local team - though not to be compared - is Espanyol , whose stadium is the Olympic Stadium in Montjuïc.

Tickets (information tel 934 963 600) can be bought on match day at the ground, though for big games (against the Madrid teams, or rivals like Bilbao), tickets may not even be available for sale. The cheapest seats may cost between ?18 and ?45. In any event it's best to buy a few days in advance from the taquilla booths in the city.



Horse riding
Courses on Saturday and Sunday mornings for adults, children and disabled people, or hourly sessions at ?15 for adults, ?12 for children, at Escola Municipal d'Hípica La Foixarda, Avda Montanyans 1, Montjuïc tel 934 261 066


Ice-skating
There are a couple of ice rinks in the city: Skating , c/Roger de Flor 168, Eixample tel 932 452 800; Metro Tetuan; Mon 5-10pm, Tues-Thurs 10.30am-1.30pm & 5-10pm, Fri 10.30am-1.30pm & 5pm-midnight, Sat 10.30am-2pm & 4.30pm-midnight, Sun 10.30am-2pm & 4.30-10pm; admission ?4.50, with skate hire ?7.20.

Palacio de Hielo , at the Camp Nou Stadium, c/Arístides Maillol 12 tel 934 963 600; Metro Palau Reial; Mon-Thurs 10am-1.45pm & 4-7pm, Fri 10am-1.45pm & 4-8pm, Sat & Sun 5-9pm; admission weekdays ?3.30, with skate hire ?5.70, weekends ?4.20 and ?6.60.



Roller skating
You can rent roller skates and blades from Edelweiss, Gran Via 527 (tel 934 548 300; Metro Urgell; ?9 half-day, ?12 full day) and Scenic, c/Marina 22, Vila Olímpica (tel 932 211 666; Metro Ciutadella; ?4.50 an hour).

Popular places for skating are: Arc de Triomf (Metro Arc de Triomf); Parc Joan Miró (Metro Espanya); Barceloneta, next to the Palau del Mar (Metro Barceloneta); Plaça de les Glòries (Metro Glòries) and the Port Olímpic (Metro Ciutadella). On Tues & Thurs at 10pm, you can skate with a group leaving from the skate shop, Scenic (c/Marina 22) in the Vila Olímpica, or look for an informal group who meet in front of the cathedral at 11pm on Thurs



Sailing
There are short weekend courses in sailing and windsurfing , with special courses for children, senior citizens and people with disabilities, at the Centre Municipal de Vela, Port Olímpic 100 (tel 932 211 499; Metro Ciutadella; prices vary according to the type of course).


Sports centres
C.F. Caralleu , c/Esports 8, Sarriá tel 932 037 874; FGC Reina Elisenda; open 8am-8pm. Indoor and outdoor pools, indoor football and tennis courts.

Complex Esportiu Barceloneta , Pg Marítim s/n tel 932 210 010; Metro Barceloneta; open Mon-Sat 7am-11pm, Sun 8am-7pm; admission ?6. Central sports centre.

Dir , c/Castillejos 388 (tel 933 476 644; Metro Sagrada Família) and Gran de Gràcia 37 (tel 934 155 550; Metro Diagonal). Two branches of a chain of well-equipped private gyms. Day-pass ?10.80 (bring ID or passport). Open 7am-11pm.

Frontó Colom , La Rambla 18 tel 933 024 025; Metro Drassanes; Mon-Fri 7.30am-10pm, Sat 9am-8pm, Sun 9am-2pm; one-day membership ?4.20. Centrally situated sports centre with pool and gym, where you can see traditional Spanish frontón (handball) and you might catch a glimpse of the Basque game jai alai , a type of handball played with scoop-shaped rackets, and reputedly the fastest sport in the world.

Polisportiu Perill , c/Perill 16-22, Gràcia; tel 934 594 430; Metro Diagonal; Mon-Fri 7am-10pm, Sat & Sun 8am-3pm; one-day membership ?5. Gym with pool and sauna.



Swimming
The city beaches are fine for a stroll across the sand and an ice cream, but the water's none too clean and you'd do best to save your swimming for the coastal beaches or one of Barcelona's pools . You may need to show your passport at some of the pools before being allowed in, and you'll need to wear a swimming cap. If you're hardy enough, the annual Christmas swimming cup involves diving into the port on December 25 and racing other like-minded fools.


Tennis
The following places have tennis courts which you can rent by the hour without being a member of the club:

Centro Municipal de Tennis , Pg Vall d'Hebron 196 tel 934 276 500; Metro Montbau. Mon-Fri 8am-11pm, weekends 8am-9pm; grass courts ?13.20 an hour, clay courts ?10.20 an hour.

Club Barenys , c/Asturies 26 tel 932 380 409; Metro Fontana. Mon-Sat 8am-10pm, closed Sun; ?6 an hour mornings, ?7.80 an hour afternoons. Racquets available for rental.



Walks, hiking and running
Barcelona and its surroundings provide some fine walks. For city-based walking , you can supplement the information in this guide with a free pamphlet from the tourist office called Paseos por Barcelona (Walks around Barcelona). Or join one of the walking tours leaving from the tourist office in Plaça Catalunya; Sat 10am in English, noon in Catalan/Spanish; ?5.70, children ?3; to reserve a place call 906 301 282.

Catalunya is crisscrossed by 3000km of hiking paths and several of the long-distance footpaths (the GR routes) pass through Collserola , the massive green zone on the outskirts of the city, and Montserrat. Pick up the Generalitat 's free map/booklet Long Distance Footpaths for more details.

The Catalan Marathon is in March; information on 932 680 114. In June, El Corte Inglés sponsors a twelve- kilometre run, La Cursa ; information on 933 021 212.

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