Spain's second largest city and the capital of Catalonia, Barcelona is full of markets, shops, museums, churches, and beaches too. Barcelona's official languages are Catalan (not a dialect) and Spanish. Local people consider that Catalonia is a nation, with its own culture, history and traditions, different from the other regions in Spain. Its tradition of creative art and craftsmanship, Barcelona is known for its award-winning industrial design.
In 1992 Barcelona hosted the World Olympics which transformed the city and it became well known all over the world, many claim that before this Barcelona was not recognised on a global scale, but after the games it all changed with increased number of tourism.
Barcelona is a great city to walk around, "La Rambla", a tree-lined pedestrian walkway, is the busiest and most lively street of the city with flower sellers, street performers, paintings and restaurants. For great panoramic views over the city visit Montju?c Castle on Montjuic Mount. At the base of Montjuic mount is Pla?a d'Espanya, once used for public hangings, during the summer music and festivals are held around the fountain. Most impressive is the Barri Gotic, the largely intact medieval center of the city, many of the buildings date from medieval times, some from as far back as the Roman settlement of Barcelona, 400 years before the building of Rome, remaining fragments of the Roman walls have been incorporated into the cathedral, basilica La Seu, said to have been founded in 343.
Catalan modernism architecture (known as Art Nouveau), developed between 1885 and 1950 and left an important legacy in Barcelona. Works of architect Antoni Gaud? can be seen throughout the city including his still unfinished church of the Sagrada Fam?lia, which has been under construction since 1882, financed by private donations, completion is planned for 2026, 100 years after his death. Also worth visiting is the Parc G?ell on a hill overlooking Barcelona including the famous colourful terrace, and the houses La Pedrera/Casa Mil? and La Casa Batll?.
Barcelona's architecture is beyond its time, as with Salvator Dali, it seems that this part of Spain seems to export originality and creative vavoom. The Gaudi Park is like a candy land, the walkways and terraces are simply too colourful, almost edible but again a triumph towards the imagination of Gaudi.
The city comes alive at night as the spanish demonstrate that life continues after hours. Even in winter Barcelona is still warm enough to go out in light wear, with fewer tourists at this time of year.
Video of Barcelona, Spain 2012 © Joe Mendonca
Gaudi architecture includes the Parc Güell in Gràcia, the still unfinished Sagrada Família in Eixample and the houses La Pedrera/Casa Milà and La Casa Batlló both in Eixample.
La Rambla, a gorgeous tree-lined pedestrian walkway, the busiest and most lively street of the city. Often called Las Ramblas, because it is actually a series of several different streets each called 'Rambla de ____', the sections also have distinct feels. As you get closer to Placa Catalunya, you find more street performers doing stunts. In the middle, you'll find street performers in costumes. Towards the pier, there are artists who will do pencil drawings, paintings, etc.
La Plaça Catalunya. Connecting all the major streets in the city, the Placa is known for its fountains and statues, and the central location to everything in the city. A favourite meeting spot for locals.
Harbour Cable Car - The 1450 metre long harbour aerial tramway with red cars connects Montjuic and Barceloneta. It starts in Barceloneta on the top of the 78 metre tall Torre San Sebastian tower, which has also a restaurant qt its top accessible by an elevator. It has an intermediate stop at Torre Jaume I tower (close to Columbus monument), which can be reached by elevator from ground--107 metre tall tower, the second tallest aerial tramway support tower in the world. The final point of the tramway is Montjuic. Overall, the tramway is quite old (built in 1929).
El Portal de l'Àngel. Large pedestrian walkway with many new and stylish shops to browse in. Cruise miles of beachfront boardwalk starting from Barceloneta or get a tan on the beach.
Hospital de Sant Pau
The Barri Gòtic (“Gothic Quarter” in Catalan) is the centre of the old city of Barcelona. Many of the buildings date from medieval times, some from as far back as the Roman settlement of Barcelona. Catalan modernisme architecture (often known as Art Nouveau in the rest of Europe), developed between 1885 and 1950 and left an important legacy in Barcelona. A great number of these buildings are World Heritage Sites. Especially remarkable is the work of architect Antoni Gaudí, which can be seen throughout the city. His best known work is the immense but still unfinished church of the Sagrada Família, which has been under construction since 1882, and is still financed by private donations. As of 2007, completion is planned for 2026.
Palau de la Música Catalana and Hospital de Sant Pau, designed by Lluís Domènech i Montaner, included in the UNESCO Heritage List list in 1997.
Works by Antoni Gaudí, including Park Güell, Palau Güell, Casa Milà (La Pedrera), Casa Vicens, Sagrada Família (Nativity façade and crypt), Casa Batlló, Crypt in Colonia Güell, all are World Heritage Sites listed in 1984.
The Cathedral of St. Eulalia
Church of Santa Maria del Mar (Gothic)
Gothic church of Santa Maria del Pi
Church of Sant Pau del Camp
Palau Reial Major, medieval residence of the counts of Barcelona and the Kings of Aragon
The Columbus Monument
Forum Building, an example of contemporary architecture
The Arc de Triomf, a triumphal arch built in 1888
Medieval church of Sant Pau del Camp
Local festival of parades,human pyramids, and celebrations. TheFestes de la Mercè, Barcelona's main annual festival around the 24th of September, encompasses many events such as which group of 'castellers' can form the highest human tower, live music events, firework displays and processions involving wooden giants all accompanied by a heavy consumption of Cava, the national drink of Catalonia.
I witnessed the building of human pyramids and ladders, part of an annual festival dedicated to the giants which may have roamed here before, unique to Barcelona and not celebrated elsewhere in Spain. Giant figures of people and dragons along with street performers with acrobatic skills come out to perform.
Sant Jordi. 23rd of April. Considered to be like Valentine's Day. People give roses and books around the streets. Traditionally men give women roses and women give men books.
Revetlla de Sant Joan. This is the midsummer solstice celebration. It is celebrated on 23rd June every year and is signified by the fireworks that are frequent and loud amateur fireworks all night long.
Beach in Barcelona gained status as the best urban beach in the World according to National Geographic and Discovery Channel, with total third best beach in the World. Barcelona contains seven beaches, totalling 4.5 km (2.8 mi) of coastline.
Sant Sebastià and Barceloneta beaches, are the largest, oldest and the most frequented beaches in Barcelona. The Olympic Port separates them from the other city beaches: Nova Icària, Bogatell, Mar Bella, Nova Mar Bella and Llevant.
These beaches were opened as a result of the city restructuring to host the 1992 Summer Olympics, when a great number of industrial buildings were demolished. At present, the beach sand is replenished from quarries given that storms regularly remove large quantities of material. The 2004 Universal Forum of Cultures left the city a large concrete bathing zone on the eastmost part of the city's coastline.
A history dating back at least 2,000 years when it gained prominence as a Roman town under its old name, Barcino. Founded as a Roman city, Barcelona became the capital of the Counts of Barcelona. After merging with the Kingdom of Aragon, it became one of the most important cities of the Crown of Aragon. Besieged several times during its history.
The founding of Barcelona is the subject of two different legends. The first attributes the founding of the city to the mythological Hercules 400 years before the building of Rome. The second legend attributes the foundation of the city directly to the historical Carthaginian Hamilcar Barca, father of Hannibal, who named the city Barcino after his family, in the 3rd century BC.
About 15 BC, the Romans redrew the town as a Roman military camp centred on the “Mons Taber”, a little hill near the contemporary city hall (Plaça de Sant Jaume). Some Roman ruins are exposed under the Pla?a del Rei, entrance by the city museum (Museu d'Història de la Ciutat), and the typically Roman grid-planning is still visible today in the layout of the historical centre, the Barri Gòtic (“Gothic Quarter”). Some remaining fragments of the Roman walls have been incorporated into the cathedral, also known as basilica La Seu, is said to have been founded in 343.
The city was conquered by the Visigoths in the early 5th century becoming for a few years the capital of the whole Hispania. Afterwards by the Arabs in the early 8th century, and reconquered in 801.
The Counts of Barcelona became increasingly independent and expanded their territory to include all of Catalonia. In 1137, Aragon and the County of Barcelona merged by dynastic union. Territories were later to be known as the Crown of Aragon which conquered many overseas possessions, ruling the western Mediterranean Sea with outlying territories in Naples and Sicily and as far as Athens in the 13th century. The forging of a dynastic link between the Crowns of Aragon and Castile marked the beginning of Barcelona's decline.
The marriage of Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile in 1469 united the two royal lines. The centre of political power became Madrid and the colonisation of the Americas reduced the financial importance of Mediterranean trade.
Barcelona was always the stronghold of Catalan separatism and was the center of the Catalan Revolt (1640?52) against Philip IV of Spain. The great plague of 1650?1654 had halved the city's population. The Napoleonic wars left the province ravaged, but the postwar period saw the start of industrialization.
In the eighteenth century a fortress was built at Montju?c that overlooked the harbour. In 1794, this fortress was used by the French astronomers Pierre Fran?ois Andr? M?chain for observations relating to a survey stretching to Dunkirk that provided the basis of the metre. The definitive metre bar, manufactured from platinum, was presented to the French legislative assembly on 22 June 1799.
The resistance of Barcelona to Franco's coup d'?tat was to have lasting effects after the defeat of the Republican government. The autonomous institutions of Catalonia were abolished and the use of the Catalan language in public life was suppressed. Barcelona remained the second largest city in Spain, at the heart of a region which was relatively industrialised and prosperous, despite the devastation of the civil war. The result was a large-scale immigration from poorer regions of Spain (particularly Andalucia, Murcia and Galicia), which in turn led to rapid urbanisation.