Barcelona is the capital city of the autonomous community of Catalonia in Spain and the country’s 2nd largest city, with a population of 1.6 million. Its urban area extends beyond its administrative city limits with a population of around 4.5 million people, being the sixth-most populous urban area in the European Union after Paris, London, Madrid, the Ruhr area and Milan.
Barcelona is located on the northeast coast of the Iberian Peninsula, facing the Mediterranean Sea and is one of the world’s leading tourist, economic, trade fair and cultural centers, and its influence in commerce, education, entertainment, media, fashion, science, and the arts all contribute to its status as one of the world’s major global cities. In 2009 the city was ranked Europe’s third and one of the worlds most successful as a city brand.
Barcelona is a transport hub with the Port of Barcelona being one of Europe’s principal seaports and busiest European passenger port, an international airport, Barcelona–El Prat Airport, which handles above 35 million passengers per year, an extensive motorway network and a high-speed rail line with a link to France and the rest of Europe.
Barcelona has a Mediterranean climate with mild, humid winters and warm, dry summers. Its average annual temperature is 20 °C (68 °F) during the day and 11 °C (52 °F) at night.
Principal Tourist Attractions
The Barri Gòtic (Catalan for “Gothic Quarter”) 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 modernist architecture (related to the movement known as Art Nouveau in the rest of Europe), developed between 1885 and 1950 and left an important legacy in Barcelona. Several 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.
Barcelona was also home to Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona Pavilion. Designed in 1929 for the International Exposition for Germany, it is an iconic building that came to symbolize modern architecture as the embodiment of van der Rohe’s aphorisms “less is more” and “God is in the details.” The Barcelona pavilion was intended as a temporary structure, and was torn down in 1930 less than a year after it was constructed. A modern re-creation by Spanish architects now stands in Barcelona, however, constructed in 1986.
Historic Buildings and Monuments
- Palau de la Música Catalana and Hospital de Sant Pau, designed by Lluís Domènech i Montaner, included in the UNESCO Heritage 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. The first three works were inscribed as a World Heritage Site in 1984. The other four were added as extensions to the site in 2005.
- The Cathedral of the Holy Cross and St. Eulalia (Gothic).
- Gothic basilica of Santa Maria del Mar.
- Gothic basilica of Santa Maria del Pi.
- Romanesque church of Sant Pau del Camp.
- Palau Reial Major, medieval residence of the sovereign Counts of Barcelona, later Kings of Aragon.
- Las Ramblas – The city’s famous street.
- Minor basilica of Sagrada Família, the international symbol of Barcelona.
- Castell dels Tres Dragons.
- Can Framis Museum.
- Montjuïc Cable Car.
- The Magic Fountain of Montjuïc.
- Statue of Christopher Columbus.
- The Olympic Stadium.
- Barcelona Aquarium.
- The Royal Shipyard (gothic).
- Monastery of Pedralbes (gothic).
- The Columbus Monument.
- The Arc de Triomf, a triumphal arch built for entrance to 1888 Barcelona Universal Exposition.
- Expiatory church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus on the summit of Tibidabo.
Barcelona has a great number of museums, which cover different areas and eras. The National Museum of Art of Catalonia possesses a well-known collection of Romanesque art while the Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art focuses on post-1945 Catalan and Spanish art. The Fundació Joan Miró, Picasso Museum and Fundació Antoni Tàpies hold important collections of these world-renowned artists, as well as Can Framis Museum, focused on post 1960 Catalan Art owned by Fundació Vila Casas. Several museums cover the fields of history and archeology, like the Barcelona City History Museum (MUHBA), the Museum of the History of Catalonia, the Archeology Museum of Catalonia, the Barcelona Maritime Museum and the private-owned Egyptian Museum. The Erotic museum of Barcelona is among the most peculiar ones, while Cosmocaixa is a science museum that received the European Museum of the Year Award in 2006. The FC Barcelona Museum has been the most visited museum in the city of Barcelona with 1,506,022 of visitors in 2013.
Barcelona contains sixty-eight municipal parks, of which twelve are historic parks, five are thematic (botanical) parks, forty-five are urban parks and six are forest parks. They range from vest-pocket parks to large recreation areas.
Of Barcelona’s parks, Montjuïc is the largest, with 203 ha located on the mountain of the same name. It is followed by Parc de la Ciutadella (which occupies the site of the old military citadel and which houses the Parliament building, the Barcelona Zoo and several museums).
Barcelona beach was listed as number one in a list of the top ten city beaches in the world according to National Geographic and Discovery Channel. Barcelona contains seven beaches, totalling 4.5 kilometres (3 miles) of coastline. Sant Sebastià, Barceloneta and Somorrostro beaches are the largest, oldest and the most-frequented beaches in Barcelona. The Olympic Harbour 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 artificially replenished 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 east most part of the city’s coastline.
As an official language, Spanish is understood almost universally in Barcelona. In addition, 95% of the population understand Catalonia’s own native Catalan language, while 74.6% can speak it, 75% can read it, and 47.1% can write it.
Trade Fairs & Exhibitions
Barcelona is a popular location for International exhibitions and events all year round. Drawing upon its tradition of creative art and craftsmanship, Barcelona is known for its award-winning industrial design. It also has several congress halls, notably Fira de Barcelona – the second largest trade fair and exhibition centre in Europe, that host a quickly growing number of national and international events.
Barcelona is the 10th-most-visited city in the world and the third most visited in Europe after London and Paris, with 8 million tourists every year since 2012. With its Rambles, Barcelona is ranked the most popular city to visit in Spain.
Barcelona is internationally renowned as a tourist destination, with numerous recreational areas, one of the best beaches in the world, mild and warm climate, historical monuments, including eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites, many good quality hotels, and developed tourist infrastructure.
Entertainment and Performing Arts
Barcelona has many venues for live music and theatre, including the world-renowned Gran Teatre del Liceu Opera House, the Teatre Nacional de Catalunya, the Teatre Lliure and the Palau de la Música Catalana concert hall. Barcelona also is home to the Barcelona and Catalonia National Symphonic Orchestra (Orquestra Simfònica de Barcelona i Nacional de Catalunya, usually known as OBC), the largest symphonic orchestra in Catalonia. In 1999, the OBC inaugurated its new venue in the brand-new Auditorium (l’Auditori). It performs around 75 concerts per season and its current director is Eiji Oue. The major thoroughfare of Las Ramblas is home to mime artists and street performers. Yearly two major pop music festivals take place in the city, the Sónar Festival and the Primavera Sound Festival.
Barcelona has a long sporting tradition and hosted the highly successful 1992 Summer Olympics as well as several matches during the 1982 FIFA World Cup (at the two stadiums). It has also hosted, among others, about 30 sports events of international significance.
FC Barcelona is a sports club best known worldwide for its football team, one of the largest in the world and second richest football club in the world.
Barcelona has two UEFA elite stadiums: FC Barcelona’s Camp Nou, the largest stadium in Europe with a capacity of 100,000 and the publicly owned Estadi Olímpic Lluís Companys, with a capacity of 55,000; used for the 1992 Olympics.
The city is also well known for its annual Marathon, which takes place every March with over 10,000 participants in 2010.
Barcelona is served by Barcelona-El Prat Airport, about 17 km (11 miles) from the centre of Barcelona. It is the second-largest airport in Spain, and the largest on the Mediterranean coast, which handles above 35 million passengers per year and annual upward trend. It is a main hub for Vueling Airlines and Ryanair, and also a focus for Iberia and Air Europa. The airport mainly serves domestic and European destinations, but some airlines offer destinations in Latin America, Asia and the United States. The airport is connected to the city by highway, commuter train (Barcelona Airport railway station) and scheduled bus service. A new terminal (T1) has been built, and entered service on 17 June 2009.
The Port of Barcelona has a 2000-year old history and a great contemporary commercial importance. It is Europe’s ninth largest container port. The Barcelona harbour is the leading European cruiser port and a most important Mediterranean turnaround base. In 2013, 3.6 million of pleasure cruises passengers used services of the Port of Barcelona.
The Port Vell area also houses the Maremagnum (a commercial mall), a multiplex cinema, the IMAX Port Vell and one of Europe’s largest aquariums – Aquarium Barcelona, containing 8,000 fish and 11 sharks contained in 22 basins filled with 4 million litres of sea water. The Mare magnum, being situated within the confines of the port, is the only commercial mall in the city that can open on Sundays and public holidays.
Barcelona is a major hub for RENFE, the Spanish state railway network. The city’s main Inter-city rail station is Barcelona-Sants station, whilst Estació de França terminus serves a secondary role handling suburban, regional and medium distance services. Freight services operate to local industries and to the Port of Barcelona.
RENFE’s AVE high-speed rail system, which is designed for speeds of 310 km/h (193 mph), was extended from Madrid to Barcelona in 2008 in the form of the Madrid–Barcelona high-speed rail line. This line in turn, links up with the rest of the AVE train network throughout Spain, the second largest network in the world. A shared RENFE-SNCF high-speed rail connecting Barcelona and France (Paris/London, Marseilles and Toulouse, through LGV Perpignan–Figueres) was launched in 2013. Both these lines serve Barcelona Sants terminal station.
Roads and Highways
Barcelona lies on three international routes, including European route E15 that follows the Mediterranean coast, European route E90 to Madrid and Lisbon, and European route E09 to Paris. It is also served by a comprehensive network of motorways and highways throughout the metropolitan area.
Barcelona is served by a comprehensive local public transport network that includes a metro, a bus network, two separate modern tram networks, a separate historic tram line, and several funiculars and aerial cable cars. Most of these networks and lines form a coordinated fare system, administered by the Autoritat del Transport Metropolità (ATM).
The, largely underground, Barcelona Metro network comprises eleven lines, identified by an “L” followed by the line number as well as by individual colours.
Buses in Barcelona are a major form of public transport, with extensive local, interurban and night bus networks. Most local services are operated by the TMB, although some other services are operated by a number of private companies, albeit still within the ATM fare structure. A separate private bus line, known as Aerobús, links the airport with the city centre, with its own fare structure.
Barcelona has a metered taxi fleet governed by the Institut Metropolità del Taxi (Metropolitan Taxi Institute), composed of more than 10,000 cars. Most of the licenses are in the hands of self-employed drivers. With their black and yellow livery, Barcelona’s taxis are easily spotted, and can be caught from one of many taxi ranks, hailed on street, or called by telephone.
In March 2007, Barcelona’s City Council started the Biking service, a bicycle service understood as a public transport. Once the user has their user card, they can take a bicycle from any of the more than 400 stations spread around the city and use it anywhere the urban area of the city, and then leave it at another station. The service has been a success, with 50,000 subscribed users in three months.
There is no shortage of things to do and places to visit after dark in Barcelona, with a host of discos, cocktail lounges, pubs and restaurants situated in the most emblematic parts of the city. From a select ambience in Diagonal to clubs in the Barrio de Grácia and terraces in Port Vell and Port Olympic, all much alive to the early hours of the morning.
All types of gastronomy are catered for, from traditional Spanish and tapas bars to Catalan cooking, Oriental, Arab, Indian, Italian, fresh sea food, vegetarian, creative and fusion. Barcelona also has a sweet tooth – be spoilt by trying their local confectionery shops for posh chocolates delicacies.
Whilst in Barcelona, a trip along the coast is a must, especially to its famous Costa Brava region which runs from Blanes, 60 kms. north-east of Barcelona in the province of Gerona to the border with France and encompasses the now very popular towns of Tossa de Mar, Lloret de Mar, Sant Feliu de Guixols, Platja d’Aro, L’Escala, L’Estartit and Rosas.
The Costa Brava is one of Spain’s top destinations attracting millions of tourists annually to its beautiful Mediterranean coastline renowned for its lovely sandy coved beaches, lush pine tree vegetation and protected natural parks.
In winter, from December to April, you can ski in the Pyrenees at Grandvalira Andorra, La Molina and Masella. 1-day trips are available from travel agencies in the city or take a trip by car, train or bus, travelling times vary between 2 and 3 hours from Barcelona.
Barcelona has a complete network of tourist offices and information points.Call Center – Service providing personalised tourist information about Barcelona in several languages, by phone, fax, post and e-mail. Tel: (+34) 932 853 834. Fax: (+34) 932 853 831. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Plaza de Barcelona – Plaça de Catalunya, 17-S, Barcelona. Tel: (+34) 932 853 834 / 807 117 222. Email: email@example.com Columbus Monument – Pl. Portal de la Pau s/n., Barcelona. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Airport del Prat – Terminals 1 & 2. Email: email@example.com Gothic Quarter – Colegio Oficial d’Arquitectos de Catalunya (College of Architects). Plaça Nova, 5, Barcelona. Tel: (+34) 933 689 730. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Barcelona Tourist information Cabins (Cabinas)
Cabina Plaça Espanya. Pl. Espanya / Maria Cristina Av.
Cabina Colom. Pl. Portal de la Pau.
Cabina Sagrada Família. Pl. De la Sagrada Família.
Cabina Estació Nord (train station).
Cabina Sants. Pl. Joan Peiró, s/n.
Cabina Plaça Catalunya Nord. Pl. De Catalunya, s/n.
Cabina Plaça Catalunya Sud. Pl. De Catalunya, s/n.
Property in Barcelona
Map of Catalonia
Video – Must-See Attractions – Barcelona
Video – La Sagrada Familia
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