Barcelona

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Barcelona

Impressive architecture and hip restaurants meet a sunny Spanish climate and beautiful beaches. This has transformed Barcelona, in just a few decades, from a rough port city into one of Europe's — if not the world's — premier destinations. Stroll along La Rambla and Passeig de Gràcia, admire Gaudí's masterpieces, visit the colourful Market of La Boqueria, lose yourself in the Gothic Quarter, bask in the sun at Barceloneta beach, and discover some of the city's vibrant late-night haunts while you're at it.

The City

Like many other cities in the Mediterranean, Barcelona was founded by the Romans. The original settlement, called Barcino, was a small port located in the same spot as today's cathedral. The town was overshadowed by Tarragona, the capital of the province. Both the Visigoths and the Moors invaded Barcelona; however, their influence was not as important to the future of the city as the arrival of the Franks in the late 9th century. It was at that point that Barcelona and Catalonia started shaping their own identity, different from the rest of Spain. This is most apparent in the language – Spanish, or Castilian, has many Arabic words, while Catalan has many French words instead. So Catalan is not a Spanish dialect, but a language in its own right, related to other Romance languages. Barcelona's history is seen everywhere in the city. The oldest areas are located by the sea, including the shopping enclave Barri Gotic. On the other side of the main boulevard, La Rambla, lies the legendary Raval district. Until the 1980s, this was the slum area, home to the city's own Chinatown (Barrio Chino) and the red light district. Today, designer shops and cafés have moved in. Further north is the fashionable Eixample neighbourhood, an area created as a result of the 19th-century expansion of the city. Download our free, in-depth pdf guide for up-to-date tourist and general information on Barcelona, including the best places to stay, where to eat, drink, and party, as well as main attractions and must-have experiences in the Catalonian capital.

Top 10 for Architecture Lovers

Barcelona is known for its rich architectural heritage and is home to some of the most iconic and innovative buildings in the world. The architecture of Barcelona is special for a number of reasons, including its unique blend of historical and modern styles, its use of light and colour, and its emphasis on functionality and innovation. One of the most notable architectural movements in Barcelona is the Art Nouveau style, also known as the Catalan modernism or modernism, which was developed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This style is characterized by its use of organic forms, intricate decoration, and bold use of colour and light. The most famous examples of this style in Barcelona include the works of Antoni Gaudí, such as the Sagrada Familia, La Pedrera and Park Güell. In addition to the Art Nouveau style, Barcelona is known for its modernist architecture, which emerged in the 20th century and was characterized by the use of new materials and techniques, as well as a focus on functionality and simplicity. These buildings, such as the former Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau, Norman Foster's Torre de Collserola and Calatrava's Torre Telefónica, are considered to be some of the most innovative and influential works of modern architecture.

Do & See

Barcelona's impressive range of sights caters to all tastes – whether you're an architect, a designer, a football fan, a historian, or even a city planner – there is something for everyone in the most self-assured city on the Mediterranean. You can start your day by losing yourself in the narrow medieval streets of the Gothic Quarter, then take a stroll on La Rambla and Passeig de Gràcia, and why not enjoy the Meditteranean sun in one of the city's many stunning beaches? Just be sure to visit some of Gaudí's masterpieces, including La Sagrada Familia, Casa Milà, Casa Batlló, and the mesmerizing Park Güell.

Dining

The easiest thing is to divide Barcelona's overwhelming range of restaurants into two categories: the new and the old. Some of the world's most modern restaurants, managed by the world's most innovative chefs (the most famous is Ferrán Adrià) can be found here, but there is also traditional Catalonian cuisine, which, despite being heavy on occasion, includes very good vegetable dishes: samfaina, a kind of ratatouille; escalivada, grilled, peeled peppers, aubergines, and onions; espinacs a la Catalana, spinach fried with garlic, pine nuts, and raisins, among others. Best known is the simple rustic pa amb tomàquet: a slice of bread with olive oil, salt, and freshly crushed tomatoes. "The new ones" in particular may be expensive, but many of the best-known chefs' apprentices have now opened their own lower-priced restaurants. Generally speaking, "the old ones" provide better value for money, although even the traditional restaurants know how to charge. You should always reserve a table in Barcelona, and dinner here is not served until 9 pm.

Cafes

Barcelona's cafe culture is half Italian and comes with its own set of simple rules: café con leche (cafè amb llet in Catalan) is for breakfast, preferably with a croissant; mid-day, especially after a meal, the locals have an espresso, café solo (un cafè) or a cortado (un tallat), which is an espresso with milk (café Americano is what some would call watered-down versions of the two first coffees); in the afternoon, or after dinner, order a café solo corto, a strong espresso, or a carajillo — a café solo with Spanish brandy. And since you are in Barcelona, you cannot leave the city without having some crispy churros with a hearty cup of hot chocolate.

Bars & Nightlife

Barcelona stays awake while the rest of Europe sleeps. Nightlife starts late, preferably at a bar. Catalans believe it’s smart to eat while drinking, so most bars also serve tapas. Barcelona’s trendy nightlife is constantly changing, so the best advice is to ask around for the latest and greatest places.

Shopping

Shopping in Barcelona offers lots of interesting browsing. Unusual shops can be found in most parts of the city, but those who want to be efficient should focus on Plaça Catalunya and the Gothic Quarter. This last one offers plenty of shopping opportunities throughout its maze of medieval streets – souvenirs, clothing, shoes, quirky shops, and everything you can think of, you will find here. For those into high-end fashion, head to Passeig de Gràcia, Barcelona's version of the Champs-Élysées. Shopping malls abound around Barcelona, El Triangle and Maremagnum are the most popular ones among tourists due to their central location. The gigantic department store El Corte Inglés is located at Plaça Catalunya. Come here for the wares, but also for the people-watching.

Tourist Information