Barcelona

Barcelona is very easy to travel around, with an efficient, clean, air-conditioned metro network which will take you to most of the main attractions. There are also buses that are reliable that serve the city centre. More information can be found on the TMB website.  Taxis are also a fairly good method to get around the city, although not in the heart of the city, due to pedestrianised areas.  However, the best way to explore Barcelona is by foot, and it’s not as big as you might think. The added benefit to this is that you can soak up the atmosphere and architecture at the same time.

La Pedrera

Barcelona is a very cosmopolitan city, and has millions of tourists visiting every year so communication is no problem. Many people speak English as well as Spanish. However, the two languages that are officially spoken in Barcelona are Spanish and Catalan, because Barcelona is the capital of Catalunya.

In case you want to practice some of the language whilst in Barcelona, here is some useful vocabulary in Catalan.

Usual vocabulary in Catalan

yes si
no No
good morning Bon dia
good afternoon Bona tarda
hello hola
today avui
yesterday ahir
tomorrow demà
good bye adéu, areveure
please si us plau
thank you gràcies
you are welcome de res
sorry perdoni

Shopping & Eating

The main place to shop is from the top of the Ramblas, through Placa de Catalunya along Passeig de Gràcia and up Avenue Diagonal. Much of the shopping line is pedestriansed making it a pleasant experience to wander from shop to shop without worrying about traffic.

Shops are generally open Monday to Saturday, 10am – 8:30pm, with a lunch break between 2 pm and 4 pm. Large shops often don’t close for siesta, whilst most establishments usually remain closed on Sundays.

Mealtimes are slightly different here compared to the rest of Europe and America. Lunch time is from 1pm until 4pm, whilst dinner is between 9pm and 11pm. Going out drinking or to a nightclub starts later here as well, with some clubs becoming busy at 3am.

If going to a restaurant, remember that the tip is not included in the note. However it is not obligatory, but is courteous to leave approximately 7-10%, similar to the UK. The currency used here is the Euro.

In case of emergency, the emergency number for the police, ambulance and fire services is 112.

The time zone in Barcelona is GMT +1.

Context

 

Barcelona has a long and interesting history dating back to almost 4000 years, and some of this history can still be seen within the city today. The city has undergone many different rulers throughout time, as well as many different names. The first to arrive were the Carthaginians and Phoenicians, who called the city ‘Barcino’. But it was the Romans to shape and establish the city who arrived in the 1st century BC and stayed until 3rd century AD. Today, remains of the Romans can still be seen in the city, especially in the Plaza del Rei, as well as the Gothic quarter.

During the 5th and 8th centuries, Barcelona saw a change to its rule, with Muslims taking control, whilst in the year 801, Charlemagne’s troops entered the city. The north of Catalonia and the old Visigothic Gaul were now Frankish territories. With the Muslim forces invading the city, this led to the near destruction of the city, but consequently gained independence from the Franks.

Later on in the 11th century, Barcelona gained an important victory by invading Córdoba and brought great wealth and economic benefits. However, this was not to last, as Barcelona began to lose importance and power due to conflicts between the city and Madrid, and Madrid becoming the capital city of Spain. Barcelona was banned to trade with American colonies. To top this off, Catalonia went to war with Spain.

In spite of all this, the Industrial Revolution in the 19th Century led to Barcelona gaining in importance once again. Today, Barcelona has become an important city internationally, from hosting the Olympic Games in 1992, to being the seat for the Universal Forum of Cultures in 2004.

The city is governed by a city council which is elected for four years by those eligible to vote; a system somewhat similar to the UK. Spain is governed by the king- Juan Carlos I, who became King in 1975.

There are many famous people renowned in Barcelona. These include Antonio Gaudi born in June 1852, who was a Spanish Catalan architect famed for his impressive architecture featuring all around the city, and Pablo Picasso an impressive artist, who was born in Malaga, and then lived in Barcelona. José Carreras, an opera tenor was born in Barcelona and lived there until 1951 before moving to Argentina with his family.

Key Attractions

 

Barcelona is home to some of the most magnificent architecture. The Spanish Catalan architect, Antonio Gaudi, who operated during the Art Nouveau Movement is famed for his unique and highly individualistic designs which feature all over the city. In particular, Gaudi’s masterpieces include the Sagrada Familia, Casa Mila and Casa Batlló.

The Sagrada Familia is a cathedral that has been under construction since 1882, and is expected to be completed by 2025. It is the only cathedral in the world still under construction, but is a spectacular sight. Take the time to climb the towers, and walk across the bridge, and descend down the other side. Visitors can also go into the Nave, Crypt, Museum and shop.

Much of the work by Gaudi is featured all over the city, and the Park Güell is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Originally, the park was part of a commercially unsuccessful housing site. Now, it has been converted into a municipal garden, and transpires peace within its surroundings. The main focal point is the main terrace, surrounded by a long bench in the formation of a sea serpent.

There are also Modernist buildings on Passeig de Gracia worth taking a look at, as well as the Barcelona Aquarium, which is a popular place to visit, especially with the kids.

One of the most popular tourist attractions in Barcelona, and a definite must see if you’re a football fan is to the Barcelona FC Museum, where you have the opportunity to see the Camp Nou Stadium up close and personal, as well as the trophy memorabilia in the museum. Visitors can also set foot in the VIP lounge, and marvel at the changing rooms.

For art enthusiasts, a visit to Barcelona is not complete unless you’ve been to the Picasso Museum. There you will find mostly his earliest works, with a few of his final pieces.

If you’re looking for something to do during the evening, the Magic Fountain will provide a breathtaking experience, located in the Plaza Espanya. This is a light and sound show, which was built in 1929. The water dances to the music, as the colours of the lights change, and will leave you completely amazed. This is found in front of the Museu Nacional d’Arte de Catalunya, and shows run between October and May between 9.30pm until 11pm.

To sample a piece of the culture, take a walk along La Rambla, a long boulevard joining the Columbus monument (monument a Colom) by the port to Plaza Catalunya. Buskers, and mime artists line the street, alongside stalls selling all sorts, including flowers. This is a busy street, but the pace slows right down here, so soak up the atmosphere and enjoy all that there is to see, whilst stopping at a little cafe for a well earned break. However, take care whilst walking and beware of pickpockets.

The Boqueria market (Mercat de la Boqueria) is famed as one of Europe’s great food markets full of fresh fish and seafood, fruit and vegetables, and so much more. Even if you don’t buy anything, it’s still a great experience, full of various smells, flavours and an exquisite atmosphere. Get there early for breakfast and sample the Spanish tortilla- it’s delicious.

Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya

There are many tours that you can go on, to see the highlights of the city. But if you’re looking for something a little different, then hop on a segway tour with Barcelona Segway Glides, lasting approximately two hours. This is a fun and memorable way to see the city, from the Gothic Quarter full of Roman history to the Statue of Colombus and the harbour.

Barcelona is home to fashion and shopping. There are many large department stores. One of the largest is El Corte Inglés where you will find almost everything under one roof. If you venture to the 9th floor, there’s a cafe and restaurant to take in those stunning views and rest those legs.

There are many top-label boutiques on the streets of Barcelona, from the likes of Versace to Calvin Klein, as well as the famous 5km shopping line. This runs from the top of the Ramblas, through Placa de Catalunya along Passeig de Gracia and up Avenue Diagonal. There are around 35,000 shops in Barcelona, making it a shopper’s paradise.

Must Sees

Whilst in Barcelona, make some time to see the Gothic area. The Ciutat Vella, is the Old Gothic city of Barcelona, built on the Old Roman town, where Roman walls and ruins still remain today. Many beautiful plazas and churches are also located here which are worth checking out.

Poble Espanyol (The Spanish Village on Montjuic), was designed by the Catalan architect Josep Puigi Cadafalch and built in 1929 for the World Fair and Universal Exposition in Barcelona. It features a replicated style of houses, and is still intact today. Visitors can occupy themselves in the 40 or more craft workshops where Spanish hand crafted goods can be purchased. There are also a selection of cafes and restaurants to relax in and sample delicious Spanish cuisine.

Something which cannot be missed is a trip to Tibidabo. A trip on an old tram (Tramvia Blau) takes you halfway up the mountain, and the furnicular can be taken to the top, to overlook spectacular views across the city. Up here is a beautiful Catholic church, and a communications tower (Torre de Collserola) which provides the highest viewpoint over Barcelona. Not forgetting an amusement park to entertain the kids, built in 1889.

Quirky Facts

  • FC Barcelona is the biggest privately owned stadium in the world (seating 100,000 people) and is one of Barcelona’s most visited tourist attractions.

    The geese in the cloisters at the cathedral

  • The nickname of FC Barcelona’s football squad is the blaugrana. This is because of the colours of their uniform (blue and dark red).
  • There are over 130 hectares of pedestrian spaces in Barcelona. If put end to end, it would cover the equivalent of 260 football pitches.
  • Gaudi based the carving of the donkey, found in La Sagrada Familia on an old, broken down beast belonging to a woman selling sand.
  • 150,000 people on average every day walk along the Rambla.
  • In Barcelona on Saint Georges Day (April 23rd), it is the tradition to present loved ones with roses and books.
  • 13 geese live in the cloisters of the Cathedral. there are 13 to represent the age of St Eulalia when she was martyred.