Tourist in Güell Park
Casa Milá house
Magic Fountains in Montjuïc
Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia, is a Mediterranean and cosmopolitan city with Roman remains, medieval quarters and the most beautiful examples of 20th century Modernism and avant-garde. It is no surprise that emblematic constructions by the Catalan architects Antoni Gaudí and Lluís Doménech i Montaner have been declared World Heritage Sites by the UNESCO.
The city's origins are Roman, and its long history and economic dynamism have made Barcelona a cultural city, which can be seen in the historic-artistic heritage and the promotion of the most innovative artistic trends. A wide cultural programme will take visitors to museums, exhibitions, open-air sculptures… and many concerts, plays and dances.
Popular culture also has its manifestations in this city, which still conserves its most cherished traditions, like the fiestas of La Mercè or the festivities in the neighbourhoods of Gràcia, Sants and Poblenou. These are all exceptional opportunities for getting to know the city's more festive side.
Tradition and modernity can also be seen in its innovative and imaginative gastronomy, based on fresh garden produce, fresh fish, a wide variety of sausages and olive oil. Traditional handmade cakes and pastries and sparkling wines are some of the other highlights in this brief overview of Barcelona's gastronomic culture.
Strolling around the streets of Barcelona will bring surprises at every turn. Pedestrian streets in the old quarter, green spaces, and a splendid seafront with a range of modern facilities are a reflection of its multi-faceted character. Barcelona has cleverly succeeded in embracing its past without forgetting its commitment to the future. The city is endowed with some exceptional infrastructures which are in demand as venues for seminars, symposia and international events. Its exceptional transport connections, the Mediterranean climate and the multitude of attractions for visitors make Barcelona one of the world's leading business cities. Business parks and exhibition and conference centres host a wide range of initiatives.
Visitors coming to Barcelona for pleasure or on business can also enjoy the city's Mediterranean character, which can so clearly be seen on the Barc elona coast. The city also has lovely urban beaches, marine resorts, and golf courses on the seashore. Nature lovers will not have to go far to explore the mountains in the Cordillera Litoral range and the Catalan Pyrenees.
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© Rafael Vargas, 2008
Rafael Vargas, 2008
Barcelona For you
Barcelona, a real open-air museum
Thanks to the rich and varied heritage in Barcelona, there are many routes round the city. That way visitors will be able to discover everything the city has to offer.
The city's original site, which was surrounded by walls in the Roman period, is today the Barrio Gótico (Gothic Quarter). Along narrow streets, with secluded squares and charming corners, you will find a series of civil and religious Gothic constructions. Medieval palaces such as the Casa dels Canonges, La Pia Almoina or Casa d'Ardiaca stand around the impressive cathedral. The Plaça del Rei is a square with an array of spectacular buildings such as the Reial Major Palace, the Santa Ágata Chapel or the History of the City Museum. In the Plaça de Sant Jaume there are important institutions, such as the Regional Parliament and the City Hall. And, of course, the Mercè Church, patron saint of Barcelona.
Next to the Gothic Quarter is the Ribera district, which is also medieval. Originally, traders and fishermen gathered there, but over the years magnificent mansions were built. Some of them have been fitted out to be used as important museums. The Palace of the Marquises of Llió (Textile and Clothing Museum), Palau Nadal (Barbier-Mueller Museum of Pre-Columbine Art) or the Palau Aguilar (Picasso Museum) are some examples. Barcelona has many different styles in the same place - from the Gothic structures of the Santa María del Mar Church to the Modernism of the Palau de la Música Catalana auditorium.
At the end of the 19th century the new urban development area in the centre of Barcelona was built - L'Eixample. A vast grid plan, with large avenues and chamfered corners joined the irregular plan of old districts and suburbs with the hills in the surrounding areas. The emerging Catalan bourgeoisie built up their daring Modernist mansions here.
Architects such as Gaudí, Doménech i Montaner or Puig i Cadafalch relied on the help of master craftsmen to fill the streets of Barcelona with fantasy. Works by Gaudí, such as Park Güell, the Palau Güell, and Casa Milà “La Pedrera”, as well as Doménech i Montaner's Palau de la Música Catalana, and the Sant Pau Hospital have been declared World Heritage Sites by UNESCO. The temple of the Sagrada Familia (the Holy Family), and houses such as Casa Lleó Morera, Casa Amatller, and Casa Batlló are just a few of the many modernist gems treasured by the city. One of the main arteries of the historic quarter, La Rambla, leads to the Mediterranean Sea, and it is one of the best places to catch the rhythm of the city. The visitor is led through its different sections, from the Romanesque church of Santa Anna, to the bird and flower stalls, passing gorgeous examples of Baroque and Renaissance architecture on the way. The Palau Moja, the church of Betlem and the Santa Creu Hospital serve as guides. There are other centres of cultural activity and daily life in this area, such as the Palau de la Virreina, (now a gallery), the Boquería Market and the Liceu Opera House. Barcelona overlooks the sea, and it has a waterfront that encompasses many different artistic styles. Les Drassanes, formerly a dockyard and now home to the Maritime Museum, and the Llotja del Mar are part of the medieval port facilities. Arcaded houses lead to the Ciutadella Park, the Olympic Village and the Port Olímpic. Beaches, piers and an impressive array of museums and leisure centres (such as the Aquarium, the 3D IMAX Theatre, the Colon viewing point, etc.) make Barcelona's seaport a cosmopolitan place, full of life. Some of these modern facilities are the inheritance from the 1992 Olympics. Their mark can also be seen on the hill at Montjuïc, beside the monumental work from the 1929 World Exhibition. The castle of Montjuïc, (now the Army Museum) takes over this symbolic hill, where true gems of Barcelona's architecture can be found. The Plaça d'Espanya, the Magic Fountain, the Palau Nacional (with the medieval collection of the Catalan National Museum of Art - MNAC) and the Olympic Ring are a few of its most important works. The Olympic Stadium, the Calatrava Tower, the Sant Jordi Sports Centre and the INEFC (Catalonia National Institute of Physical Education) Pavilion, built by Ricardo Bofill, rise among gorgeous gardens. Barcelona's culture is not only evident in its buildings, parks and outdoor sculptures, but also in its countless museum collections. Artists of the stature of Picasso, Miró, Tàpies or Gaudí, have museums entirely devoted to collect their works. Artistic pieces from all periods are kept in the city's History Museum, the Museum of the History of Catalonia, the Museum of Modern Art and the Museum of Contemporary Art. Many other institutions also bring the avant-garde movement to the eyes of the general public, through permanent and temporary collections. Sometimes the container is as important as the contents it preserves, and, in the case of buildings and museums, this is true of the collections found in the beautiful structures that the Barcelona Centre for Contemporary Culture (CCCB) and Caixa Forum. The museums of Barcelona, however, cover a wider variety of subjects; namely: archaeology, zoology, science, ethnology, pre-Colombian art and more. A large number of exhibition halls round off this rich and diverse cultural selection. Barcelona's City Council has created the Barcelona Card especially for visitors; it is valid for 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5 days. Its main attractions are free transport and great discounts on entertainment, museums, and even restaurants. The visitor can also get an Articket, which is a multi-pass allowing entry to the MNAC, the MACBA (Barcelona Contemporary Art Museum, built by architect Richard Meier), the Joan Miró Foundation, the Antoni Tàpies Foundation, the CCCB, and Caixa Catalunya Cultural Centre, located in "La Pedrera", all at a discounted price.
Sports for everybody
With the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, large sports facilities were built in the city. These facilities are used for important shows, professional training and for the general public to practise sports.
Thanks to Barcelona's exceptional location, surrounded by mountains and next to the sea, it offers a wide range of possibilities. All water sports are possible with courses and activities organised in the marinas. Sailing, windsurfing, scuba diving or snorkelling are just some examples of what can be done. In the city you can also find a wide variety of sports activities: football and athletics fields, swimming pools, ice rinks, horse riding circuits, shooting ranges… All these spaces are well-communicated by public transport, as well as the golf courses, which are situated in nearby towns. There are beautiful greens next to the Mediterranean, where golfers will enjoy both the game and the stunning views. The natural surroundings of Barcelona are also perfect for practising many adventure sports and enjoying nature. Hang-gliding, paragliding, quads, hiking and cycle touring are some examples.
The scenic wealth of Catalonia can be seen in places near Barcelona like the Barcelona coast, the Cordillera Costera mountains and the Catalan Pyrenees. An extensive coastline with broad expanses of sand, cliffs dropping steeply into the sea, and pine groves growing down to the shore... these are a few of the features of the ecological diversity of its seaboard. For those who prefer the mountains, there are the peaks and crests of the pre-Pyrenees and the eastern Pyrenean mountains in the provinces of Lleida and Girona.
The protected spaces of Barcelona, which include the nature reserves of Montseny, San Llorenç de Munt i Serra d'Obac and the Muntanya de Montserrat, are also well worth a visit. In fact, the forests of holm oak, cork oak, pine, oak and beech in Montseny have been declared a Biosphere Reserve by the UNESCO. The visitor centres and interpretation centres can provide travellers with information about the most attractive routes and activities for exploring and enjoying the area.
Cosmopolitan, with Mediterranean essences, the gastronomy in Barcelona is a showcase for the great Catalan recipes.
Some typical dishes are the butifarra amb mongetes (white beans with Catalan pork sausage), escudella and carn d'olla (hearty casseroles), and the famous pa amb tomàquet (country bread with tomato and olive oil). And we must not forget desserts such as crema catalana (similar to crème brûlée) or the excellent wines of Alella, Pla de Bages and Penedès.
For young people
The latest art and music trends
Barcelona is a city of the future which caters for the tastes and hobbies of young people.
It offers a broad programme including cinema, theatre, music and art, which is highlighted with the different festivals that take place in Barcelona. The BAM (Barcelona Acció Musical) and Sónar (Barcelona International Festival of Progressive Music and Multimedia Arts) prove that the city is interested in the latest art and music trends. Visitors will find a music, film or theatre festival at almost any time of the year.
Hundreds of people gather at traditional Catalan festivities, such as the Mercè Fiestas (declared of National Tourist Interest), to attend gigs by the most prestigious international bands.
There is also interesting nightlife in Barcelona - visitors can find the most innovative clubs next to important museums, parks, historic gardens and shopping centres. Discos, live music, pubs and restaurants are situated in the most emblematic places in town. Select atmosphere in Diagonal, original clubs in the Barrio de Gràcia area and terraces in Port Vell, Port Olímpic and any square in the city are some of the attractions of the nightlife in Barcelona.
The excellent sports facilities in Barcelona are available for visitors who want to practise any sport. The marinas and facilities that were built for the 1992 Olympic Games are worth visiting both for their architecture and their activities. Large concerts and important competitions also take place in these facilities. Football fans will have the chance to watch memorable matches in the FC Barcelona and Espanyol stadiums, respectively.
Situated on the shore of the Mediterranean, Barcelona has a good number of urban beaches, where visitors will be able to enjoy the great climate of this coast. The opportunity for windsurfing, sailing, scuba diving or canoeing will be exciting for both beginners and pros and if visitors want to continue with open-air sports, the fact that Barcelona is very near the Pyrenees and to the coastal hills that make up the Cordillera Litoral should not be forgotten. Hiking, cycle touring, paragliding and hang-gliding are activities enabling travellers to discover the Catalan capital's natural surroundings. Young people travelling with an ISIC card and student identification will enjoy numerous discounts at museums and exhibitions. They will also benefit from discounts on public transport. A wonderful option is to buy the Barcelona Card. This card, created for one to five-day stays, includes urban public transport and significant discounts at museums, shows, leisure facilities, nightclubs, stores and restaurants. Those interested in visiting the city's most important museums can buy the Articket, saving them a considerable amount of money.
Activities for all the family
A large capital like Barcelona has an amazing and varied range of activities available all over the city, as well as urban beaches - La Barceloneta, Marbella, Nova Marbella, Nova Icaria and Bogatell.
The nautical facilities at the port offer the chance to practise many water sports where the children will be able to take their first steps in these sports. Children and grown-ups alike will love a boat trip along the port in the popular "Golondrinas", where they will be able to see the most modern face of Barcelona's coast.
If you want to see many species of animals, you can go to L'Aquàrium and the Zoo. Direct observation, animated films, workshops, stories and interactive spaces for exploring are some of the proposals for children to have fun whilst learning.
The Barcelona Maritime Museum (MMB) is also sea-related. This centre, situated in the historic building of Drassanes Reials, has an important educational programme. Activities in the museum, the Spharea (an inflatable and portable planetarium) and the boat anchored in the port are all part of the educational programme at the Sea Educational Resources Centre.
Museums of Science, Textile and Clothing, Decorative Art or Ceramics have prepared educational workshops and programmes for children of different ages. The programme for children continues in galleries such as the Joan Miró Foundation, the National Art Museum of Catalonia (MNAC) or the Barcelona Contemporary Art Museum (MACBA), amongst many others. Different activities and guided visits that are particularly aimed at children and young people enable them to have fun and take in these art collections.
Barcelona with children
Barcelona's calendar of events never forgets youngsters. The Liceu Opera House and the Fundació La Caixa Cultural Centre host family concerts, while the Catalan Government Film Archive shows films suitable for all ages during its family showings. One of the most impressive venues in Barcelona is the IMAX 3D, located in Port Vell. In addition, the Jove Teatre Regina specialises in staging plays geared to young theatre lovers. Barcelona's vast network of cultural centres and public libraries is also responsible for organising theatre and storytelling workshops. To all these choices, the visitor must add a visit to the Museum of the Barcelona Football Club, to the Camp Nou (the club's official stadium) and to the Olympic Stadium, where Barcelona's other football club, R.C.D. Espanyol, plays. The Amusement Park and the Museum of Robots can be found at the top of the Tibidabo mountain. Many parks and gardens are spread throughout the city, offering unforgettable leisure opportunities for the whole family. The Park Güell (a World Heritage Site), the Migdia Park (located at the Montjuïc hill), the Ciutadella Park and the Paseo Marítimo are some of the best places to take a stroll and play games.
Municipal markets, art galleries and antique shops can be found in Barcelona alongside crafts shops, fashion shops and open-air markets. To stroll around the streets of Barcelona from shop to shop is to discover a world full of possibilities to satisfy all kinds of taste and all pockets.
Barcelona itself is like a large shop whose main axis of shops, known as the Shopping Line, consists of five-kilometre pedestrian precinct with wide pavements which can satisfy the most demanding requirements. Craftsmen’s workshops, exclusive shops, franchises, shopping centres and street markets all make up the shopping offer of Barcelona. There are three main shopping areas in the city: Centro, Eixample and Diagonal.
Other useful information
Opening times: most of the shops and shopping centres are open from 10am-8.30 or 9.30 in the evening. Traditional shops open from 10am-2pm and from 4.30-8.30pm.
Sales: the winter sales generally begin in the second week of January and go on until the end of February, and the summer sales begin on 1 July and run until the end of August.
How to pay: most people pay in cash or with a credit card, when you must show your passport or identity card.
Tax free: residents from outside the European Union are entitled to have Value Added Tax (IVA) refunded on purchases of more than €90.15.
La Roca Village Shopping Tour: just 45 minutes outside Barcelona, this option offers a day of fashion in over 100 cut-price outlet shops with goods by major Spanish and international labels, with a range of exclusive advantages. More information on tel: +34 938423900.
Modern infrastructures at the service of the visitor
Barcelona is a dynamic and modern city that looks to the future. Established as an important financial and business centre, the city offers first-class infrastructures to the visitor.
Thanks to its excellent communications network, its wide range of culture and entertainment, and its excellent climate, Barcelona is the city of choice each year for holding innumerable trade fairs, symposiums and international conferences.
The Fira de Barcelona, the city's largest trade fair complex, is located next to the hill at Montjuïc. Monumental buildings, the heritage of the 1929 World Exhibition and the 1992 Olympics, as well as museums and gardens surround some 250,000 square meters of exhibition space. Halls and pavilions, with different capacities, host the most varied events. The Barcelona Convention Centre is the space best suited for conferences and conventions. The nearby premises in Gran Vía (the M2, 3km from Montjuïc) have another Convention Centre equipped with the most innovative services. Taxis, underground, suburban trains and the cable car all reach the Fira, which is a short distance from El Prat airport, the port of Barcelona, and L'Estació de França railway station.
Many of the city's most emblematic buildings are equipped with auditoriums and conference rooms ideal for holding business meetings and all kinds of exhibitions. The Palau de Sant Jordi, built at Montjuïc by Japanese architect Arata Isozaki, is one of the most surprising of them all. The Catalonia Convention Centre is also an important venue for business meetings.
Many other institutions offer facilities and services for holding exhibitions, receptions and meetings to the highest standards. The Estació de França railway station; historic buildings such as the Palau de la Virreina, and the Palau Nacional de Montjuïc; museums such as the Picasso Museum or the Joan Miró Foundation, and cultural centres such as the Barcelona Centre for Contemporary Culture are all equipped with impressive buildings that host a wide variety of exhibitions and events.
Gems of modern architecture like L'Auditori and the National Theatre of Catalonia, built by the Spanish architects Ricardo Bofill and Rafael Moneo respectively, are also examples of highly versatile spaces. The World Trade Centre, on the shore of the Mediterranean, is also home to a very important business centre. Many companies hold their largest meetings there.
It should be noted that Barcelona has more than 200 hotels, with more than 34,000 places, spread throughout the city. Classic historic buildings, Modernist monuments that the visitor must not miss and buildings designed by acclaimed architects are all part of the extensive array of accommodation available. Innovative infrastructure, with computer technology and web access, is present in many of the hotels, especially in the ones designed for executive use.
Discos, live music, pubs and restaurants are situated in the most emblematic places in town. Select atmosphere in Diagonal, original clubs in the Barrio de Gràcia area and terraces in Port Vell, Port Olímpic and any square in the city are some of the attractions of the nightlife in Barcelona. We propose a range of ideas to help you enjoy the nightlife in this city from the early evening until dawn.
(between 8 pm and 11 pm approximately) For dinner: in Barcelona you’ll be able to enjoy exquisitely prepared modern Mediterranean cuisine at the hands of some of Spain’s greatest chefs such as Martín Berasategui. What’s more, Barcelona’s restaurants offer the chance to dine in unique and original venues, including an enormous glass dome with views over the city or a large tower in the harbour overlooking the sea. You’ll also be able to treat yourself to this cuisine in one of the restaurants frequented by Dalí, or in a building designed by Gaudí.
All in all, you’ll find over twenty exclusive restaurants where you can see for yourself “in situ” why expert food critics hold Barcelona in such high esteem. Try the neighbourhoods of Eixample, Gràcia, Saint Gervasi and Ciutat Vella. You won’t be sorry.
The city’s line-up of restaurants also includes numerous places where you can surprise your palate with a whole range of different tastes and flavours imported from other continents. Oriental, Arab, Indian, vegetarian, creative, fusion… Every day you’ll have the chance to try a new and exotic menu. You’ll also find places full of character, where the décor and special atmosphere will guarantee a pleasant dining experience. You’ll come across many of these restaurants while you stroll around the Barrio Gótico or El Born neighbourhoods; or if you visit the areas of El Raval or the left part of Eixample.
Early drinks: the city of Barcelona is the perfect place to enjoy a few drinks while looking out over the Mediterranean, strolling through its streets or dining in any of its restaurants. A good area for this is the Port Vell harbour which has numerous bars and restaurants overlooking the sea, and outdoor terraces in summer. The Gothic quarter has designer restaurants, tea shops and traditional beer halls which are ideal for whiling away a few pleasant hours. It also has some of the best-known live jazz venues in the whole city, as well as classic indie sounds. Then there’s the area around the Barrio de Gràcia neighbourhood, packed with cosy bars and restaurants with a bohemian atmosphere and offering a varied gastronomy. Another sure-fire choice is the Raval neighbourhood, where you’ll find an abundance of multicultural venues, and streets teeming with life.
Or else you could opt to take a bus tour that includes dinner and a flamenco show.
The “Movida” in Spain, or how to party all night long
A good way to enjoy the nightlife on offer in Barcelona is by dancing to all hours of the night to the latest techno sounds. The nightclubs in Barcelona are famous all over the world for their electronic music. Many of the top names come to deejay in the city’s discos. In areas such as the Eixample and Sant Gervasi – Santaló there are numerous venues where techno sounds can be heard all night. Particularly lively spots include the well-known Gaixample, much frequented by the LGBT community, with its easy-going, anything-goes atmosphere.
In the Poble Nou area there are numerous large discos and spacious bars featuring alternative rock, indie and the latest pop sounds. In the Port Olimpic, one of the city’s most popular areas, the nightlife is intense and sophisticated. If you’re looking for cutting-edge design, the latest trends and good cocktail bars, you should opt for El Born, where the music attracts a wide range of personalities from Barcelona’s night scene.