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With such a wealth of information available when planning any holiday or short break, it’s difficult to know where to start. Traditional guidebooks, Internet sites, Travel forums or discussion boards and photo sites like Flickr can turn planning into an ordeal longer than you plan on going for! Technology has also advanced so much in the past ten years that places such as Google Maps have become a great source of information and one doesn’t have to rely on the hotel website photo of the location you’re thinking of staying – you can check it out right there, often with 360º extensions, too.
The city council in Barcelona have recently launched a clever way to “fly” over the city without even leaving your computer screen. To coincide with the 150th anniversary of Ildefons Cerdà’s plans for Eixample being approved, this virtual tour is similar to a flight simulator. Eixample is Barcelona’s biggest neighbourhood, and joins the old town to the smaller neighbourhoods in the hills which used to be their own towns outright. The virtual tour can be accessed through the city council’s website, and although the program requires a download, it’s a fun way to plan tourist visits, and get an idea of the size of the city and how easy or difficult it might be to get around.
However, early 2010 will see a massive project unveiled by Barcelona Media Group in conjunction with the city council. This is almost like a Microsoft Virtual World (the company behind the digital landscapes has done extensive work on Second Life) or a Google maps street view on steroids! The images that the council released in March of 2009 look amazing, with the user being able to see incredible colours and 3 dimensional images, as well as being able to enter into some of the most famous monuments the city has to offer. The benefits have been touted not only from a tourist point of view or even a curious local, but also for strategic planning such as the fire service being able to view the structure of a building quickly in responding to an emergency call, for example. This is certainly one to watch out for, and will be a valuable resource for any traveller wanting to “visit” the city before they even get here!