Located between the sea and the mountains, with a river on either side of it, Barcelona is the capital of Catalonia. Barcelona is a lively, dynamic and active city in which history and modernity coexist alongside the historical buildings in the old quarters of the city: the Barri Gòtic, Ribera and Raval.
Barcelona is the capital and the most populous city of Catalonia and the second largest city in Spain, after Madrid. It was founded over two thousand years ago and has always been known for its vocation as a major metropolis. It is located on the Mediterranean coast between the mouths of the rivers Llobregat and Besòs and is bounded to the west by the Serra de Collserola ridge. A location which in ancient times had already made it the gateway, by sea and land, to the Iberian Peninsula and the European Continent. Barcelona is today one of the world’s leading tourist, economic and cultural centres, and its influences in commerce, education, entertainment, media, fashion, science, and the arts all contribute to its status as one of the world’s major global cities. It is a major economic centre and a growing financial centre and one of Europe’s principal Mediterranean ports can be found here as well as Barcelona international airport.
This privileged location has shaped the history of the city together with the different cultures and civilisations that have passed through it, and given its inhabitants a cosmopolitan character which is used to diversity and lives in harmony with tradition and the Mediterranean spirit. Not for nothing has Barcelona become a symbol for modernity and tradition around the world.
A short distance from the city are the mountain of Montserrat, the monumental medieval city of Girona, the surrealist Dalí Museum in Figueres, the coastal resort of Sitges and the Barcelona Coast.
Barcelona is the gateway to a range of attractions, which extend to the Pyrenees, enabling visitors to go hiking orskiing in the morning and end the day swimming in crystal-clear waters at the beach.
It is also the capital of a wine-growing region, where wine tourism enables visitors to learn about the different wine-growing areas such as the Penedès, which is the world cava capital. Wine represents the Mediterranean, tradition and modernity. It promotes territorial cohesion and sustainability in that it fosters local produce.
Barcelona’s geographical situation, two hours by road from the Pyrenees, enables tourists to combine a city visit with all kinds of activity beyond the urban area. A broad range of activities for all publics and all seasons of the year in an incomparable natural environment (including a national park and five natural parks) and cultural environment (including Romanesque UNESCO World Heritage Site architecture, spas and traditional cuisine reinterpreted by young restaurateurs).
The statue of Columbus, one of the most emblematic points of Barcelona, points his finger towards the sea. This is not a coincidence, because the Catalan capital is facing the Mediterranean, so much so that it is the only major European city that has integrated the beaches to its urban fabric. The seafront of Barcelona is a long walk of 4.5 kilometers in length, with one of the most important entertainment venues of southern Europe. It hosts luxury hotels with singular architecture, fish and seafood restaurants where you can enjoy a good paella, the famous chiringuitos, cosmopolitan bars, the large casino, bike paths, large green areas, shops and a set of excellent blue flag beaches. The Barcelonians love their eight beaches and the Forum’s swimming area, a large seawater pool. So it’s no wonder that seven million bathers come here to enjoy themselves each year. Many of the tourists who are able to come here conveniently, on foot or by public transport, from any other point in the city. Thanks to the mild climate, the beaches are open all year.
Barcelona is a city open to the sea. The broad beaches of the Catalan capital, which extend for 4.5 km, are blessed with fine golden sand and shallow waters for bathing. They are never more than just a few minutes away from any point in the city, since they are easily reached by public transport or by bicycle. Equipped with all the necessary facilities and services, every year they are visited by around 7 million people.
They provide a perfect accompaniment to the cultural attractions of the city, and all-year-round they offer a never ending variety of activities: taking a stroll, passing away the hours on a terrace or in a restaurant, simply enjoying the view and the sun, having a bathe, playing some sport, riding a bicycle…..
Two beaches are very dear to the heart of Barcelona: Barceloneta, associated with the marine district and that of Sant Sebastià, probably the most iconic. The first seems to rise from the small narrow streets and shadows that lead to the sea. The beach of Barceloneta, as well as that of Somorrostro, draws all those who come here, after or before having tasted the seafood cuisine and tapas that are on offer from the neighbourhood restaurants. This is without a doubt one of the most popular on the Catalan coast, one of its jewels. Barceloneta is ideal for any kind of activity, from playing sports to reading a good book. Next to the Barceloneta beach is that of Sant Sebastià, the oldest of all on the Barcelona coast. This is the favorite of many users, especially older bathers and the hard-working club swimming. It brings together many leisure activities associated with the sea and stretches over a kilometer long. It is also very popular with tourists because it is the closest to the Colom passig, the Rambla and Port Vell (Old Port). Here can be found restaurants, shops, entertainment, examples of all that Barcelona offers without leaving the beach.
There is a green Barcelona, the Barcelona of parks and gardens that often combines nature with its home-grown artistic elements such as modernisme, and contemporary sculpture: Parc Central de Nou Barris, Parc Central del Poblenou, Parc de Collserola, Parc de Diagonal Mar, Parc de Joan Miró, Parc de l’Espanya Industrial, Parc de l’Estació del Nord, Parc de la Ciutadella, Parc de la Creueta del Coll, Parc del Fòrum, Parc del Laberint, Park Güell. The Barcelona Botanical Gardens are also well worth a visit.
From amusement parks to belvederes overlooking the city, or both at the same time, Barcelona offers unique emotions for young and old alike. Main attractions: Montjuïc Magic Fountain, l’Aquàrium, Columbus Monument, Collserola Tower, Tibidabo amusement Park, Poble Espanyol, Barcelona Zoo and Gaudí Experiència.
The Casa Vicens, Antoni Gaudí’s first important building, 1883-1888. This UNESCO World Heritage Site building had never been open to the public until it was refurbished, making it possible to visit it on foot, as well as host exhibitions and meetings in the conference room.
The Sant Pau Art Nouveau Site is opening an information and heritage centre in the 1,400-m2 Sant Salvador Pavilion. Visitors can learn about the history of the former Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau.
Ferrari Land. PortAventura World takes the visitor experience to a new level with the opening of Europe’s first Ferrari Land. Attractions in the 60,000-m2 area include the Vertical Accelerator, which recreates a Formula 1 experience with cars that accelerate from 0 to 180 km/h in five seconds and reach a height of 112m on a one kilometre track.
Torre Baró Castle. Made up of two ancient towers dating back to the XVI and XVII centuries and a castle, it has become a fabulous lookout point from which to view Barcelona.
Disseny HUB. The new museum in the Plaça de les Glòries was designed by Oriol Bohigas and David Mackay, and gives form to Barcelona’s entire design legacy. It houses four museums: Decorative Arts, Ceramics, Textiles and Graphic Arts.
Antoni Gaudí (25 June 1852 – 10 June 1926) was a Spanish architect from Catalonia. He is the best known practitioner of Catalan Modernism. Gaudí’s works have a highly individualized, and one-of-a-kind style. Most are located in Barcelona, including his main work, the church of the Sagrada Família. He died in Barcelona in 1926, run over by a trolley.
Gaudí is Barcelona’s most famous and iconic architect. Here are his works in chronological order: Casa Vicens, Gatehouses of the Finca Güell, Palau Güell, Teresian School, Casa Calvet, Casa Bellesguard, Park Güell, Casa Batlló, Casa Milà or “La Pedrera”, Basílica of the Sagrada Família and Crypt of the Colònia Güell.
Torre Bellesguard is perhaps one of architect Antoni Gaudí’s best-kept secrets. It’s only been recently opened to the general public. Sitting at the foot of Mount Tibidabo, this was once the site of a medieval castle, and Gaudí constructed Torre Bellesguard on the same site between 1900 and 1909. Now open Monday to Saturday, visitors can tour the gardens without prior bookings, but visits to the building itself need to be booked.
Barcelona offers a large number of interesting itineraries and a number of options to help visitors get to know the city, either on foot, by bus, bike, from the sea or air. Barcelona’s weighty cultural and artistic baggage has bequeathed to the city a rich architectural and monumental heritage, ranging from Roman remains to the most daring trends in contemporary art. However, Barcelona is first and foremost the city of Gaudí and its home-grown art nouveau, modernisme. The exceptional showcase of its modernista architecture is mainly centred on the Eixample, a district designed in 1860 by the engineer Ildefons Cerdà which is a model of urban planning, unique in Europe.
Nine modernista masterpieces, seven of them designed by Gaudí, are UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites. The sea is another of the city’s main attractions. Barcelona is the only European capital with almost 5 kilometres of beaches, all of them offering every amenity for bathing and within easy access of the city centre by metro. But Barcelona is much, much more. Barcelona province offers you a whole host of possibilities so that you can enjoy leisure, culture and nature. Its three tourism
brands –Costa Barcelona, Paisatges Barcelona and Pirineus Barcelona – and its 16 tourism areas include sea and beaches, inland landscapes, art and cultural
heritage, gastronomy, the wealth of its important industrial past and the benefits of its thermal springs, among many other attractions
UNESCO World Heritage Sites
Barcelona is the only city in the world with nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites. They are modernista masterpieces that include seven buildings designed by Antoni Gaudí and two by Lluís Domènech i Montaner. Gaudí: Casa Vicens, Palau Güell, Casa Batlló, Casa Milà “La Pedrera”, Crypt of the Colònia Güell, Park Güell, and Basílica of the Sagrada Família. Domènech i Montaner: Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau and Palau de la Música Catalana.
A cultural street open to everyone that links up the newly revitalised and cosmopolitan Passeig del Born with the Parc de la Ciutadella, the former military fortress built during the War of the Spanish Succession. A hub that connects Barcelona’s past and present under the majestic structure of one of the city’s first cast-iron municipal food markets, while inviting us to reflect on and look at the future
The Park Güell, 1900-14, was an attempt to create an urban development in the country. Gaudí applied all of his knowledge to this park and incorporated in it all of his preoccupations in urban planning. There is not a single straight line; everything is curved or twisted. The columned room, space originally intended for a market, supports an impressive open terrace. Here it’s important to remember the significant contribution of Jujol in the creation of the benchrail of the park.
Casa Amatller in Barcelona was designed by Josep Puig i Cadafalch, it makes up the three most important buildings in Barcelona’s famous Illa de la Discòrdia. The building was originally designed as a residence for chocolatier Antoni Amatller and was constructed between 1898 and 1900.
This is the most majestic area of the old own and includes the former royal palace, the Palau Reial Major, the great hall, the Saló del Tinell and the Gothic chapel of Santa Àgata. The Casa Clariana-Padellàs is the home of the Museu d’Història de Barcelona (MUHBa Plaça del Rei)
Ciutat Vella or the Old Town. Barcelona’s District 1 is known as Ciutat vella, or old town, and it features a great many landmarks.This district is home to old neighbourhoods that are steeped in history, such as El Raval, la Ribera, la Barceloneta, Sant Pere and Santa Caterina. The most famous of all is the Gothic Quarter: the city’s historic, political and religious heart. Also see what treasures other areas of Barcelona hold.
A guide to some of the amazing sights throughout the city of Barcelona, separated by areas, this makes sightseeing each area easy and ensures that you will not miss the sights you want to see.
The mountain and Benedictine Monastery of Montserrat, founded in the 11th century, are located in a natural park of extraordinary beauty some 60 kilometres to the west of Barcelona. The Virgin of Montserrat, the patron saint of Catalonia – also known as “la Moreneta” or Black Madonna – is worshipped at the shrine in the monastery.
In Barcelona there are museums and art exhibitions to suit all tastes. The world’s most important collection of Romanesque art is housed in the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, which showcases 1,000 years of Catalan art. The Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA) and the Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona (CCCB), showcase artworks of quite a different style. As far as collections devoted to single artists are concerned, the Museu Picasso, Fundació Joan Miró and Fundació Antoni Tàpies are among the most important.
Barcelona’s summer festival, popularly known as the “Grec Festival de Barcelona”, is one of the main events on the city’s cultural calendar. Every summer, in July the Grec showcases the best in the performing arts with a broad appeal. The programme includes a wide variety of plays, concerts, dance and circus performances. The main venue for the festival include the Teatre Grec on Montjuïc (which gives rise to the festival name) among others.
Barcelona offers countless possibilities for taking part in sport: football stadiums, athletics tracks, a velodrome, horseriding tracks and ice rinks, marinas, urban running circuits… and all these facilities are complemented with others in neighbouring towns: the Olympic Canal in Castelldefels where you can practise rowing and canoeing; the High Performance Centre (CAR) in Sant Cugat; the Barcelona Catalonia Circuit in Montmeló; the many golf courses in the surrounding area and a whole host of other options.
Barcelona, symbol of Mediterranean cuisine. The capital of Catalonia is well placed to compete for the title of Capital of Mediterranean Cuisine. It does not just boast exceptional variety in its gastronomy but also has great ingredients (eating habits and lifestyle) that reaffirm its position as a symbol of Mediterranean cuisine.
Barcelona has very good transport links with the rest of the world, either by land, sea or air. Its excellent location, close to France and in the Mediterranean, makes a decisive contribution to this. As far as transport by land is concerned, the city has an extensive rail network and a number of mainline stations linking the city with other towns in Spain and the rest of Europe.
Barcelona is a shopping city with an urban design that invites you to stroll, window-shop, take in its architecture and enjoy mingling with its people. Barcelona is a city of retail thoroughfares. The shopping route par excellence is the Barcelona Shopping Line, which showcases top-quality, leading brands.
The city boasts the largest open-air shopping hub in Europe, the Shopping Line, consisting of 5km of boutiques and shopping centres located in an area in which trade is not the only protagonist: the architectural and cultural surroundings make this area unique. It comprises over 197 associate members, 20 open-air shopping areas and 12 shopping centres and department stores.
Barcelona has a network of over 35,000 shops, comprising traditional establishments and fashion and accessory stores.
Most shops open between 10am and 2pm and reopen at 4.30pm until 8pm. However, more and more shops in the most popular tourist areas or in the city centre, as well as the shopping centres, are open all day from 10am to 8pm.
Els Encants nous, Barcelona’s flea market, is rapidly becoming a ‘must-visit’ for anyone coming to Barcelona after opening in new purpose-built facilities. Its shinning rooftop structure glistens in the Mediterranean sunlight. Below some 280-odd stalls offer a wide range of shopping from ironwork to perfumes, collectables to antiques.
The stalls open Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 9 am to 8 pm.
For Picasso, Barcelona was not just the place where he finished his formal art studies but it also represented the first response to his questioning spirit. Its situation at the turn of the XX century as a city wholly committed to everything avant-garde made it hugely attractive and inviting to a very young Picasso, who discovered in Barcelona a window that attracted his attention towards anything and everything modern.
The Museu Picasso, located in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain, houses one of the most extensive collections of artworks by the 20th-century Spanish artist Pablo Picasso. With 4,251 works exhibited by the painter, the museum has one of the most complete permanent collections of works.
A popular way of taking holidays, especially for families, is camping which is still as popular today as it has been for many years. Hotels or youth hostels can be found all over Barcelona ans are ideal for weekend breaks and short stays, but if you are planning to see more of the city, have a family and want the freedom to do your own thing then camping is for you.
In Catalonia there are around 350 campsites, which represent 70% of the total number of campsites in Spain. The following are the campsites situated near the city of Barcelona.
The city card featuring free travel on public transport, discounts and free offers at the city’s major attractions: museums, cultural venues, entertainments, monuments, restaurants, leisure facilities, shops, night-clubs, unique means of transport and other services. Valid for two, three, four or five days.
Barcelona Bus Turístic
The Bus Turístic allows visitors to discover the city at their own pace on its fleet of doubledecker vehicles which run on three sightseeing routes. Passengers can get on and off as many times and for as long as they like at any of the stops and enjoy the three routes with the same ticket, valid for 1 or 2 consecutive days. The bus also has an audio-guide system in ten languages. A booklet is issued with the ticket and features discounts at the city’s main visitor attractions. On board, an information officer offers up-to-the minute personalized information.
Get to know Barcelona like a local on seven routes which combine travel on the metro, bus or tram with walking itineraries. It includes: free travel on public transport, as well as a guide to the routes featuring maps of the itineraries; explanations and photographs of the places of interest and a metro map.
Barcelona Walking Tours
Four walking tours led by professional guides:
• Gothic Quarter route: a journey through Barcelona’s historic and political centre.
• Picasso route: a walk through the bohemian Barcelona as experienced by Picasso. Includes a guided tour of the Museu Picasso.
• Modernisme route: an itinerary designed for you to admire the Catalan art-nouveau architecture in the Eixample district’s Quadrat d’or, or Golden Square.
• Gourmet route: a walk through the old town that allows you to enjoy the flavours and history of the gastronomy.
Get away for the day to the ski resort of La Molina and enjoy a day’s skiing. Includes coach transport, ski pass and monitor.
Catalunya Bus Turístic
Half-day and one-day excursions from Barcelona to different landmarks and towns around the region. Three routes:
• Figueres, Dalí and Girona
• Montserrat and Colònia Güell
• Wine and Cava
The product includes discounts and free offers at places of interest, shops and restaurants.
The Columbus Monument is located at the bottom of La rambla, by the sea. This major landmark was built in 1888 for the universal Exhibition and commemorates the discovery of america. The lift inside the iron column goes up to the viewing gallery at the top, 60 metres above the city, and boasts breathtaking views from the sea to the mountains.
Barcelona’s strategic location, outstanding transport network and air links makes it the main hub from where you can discover the immense wealth of the landscape and culture of Catalonia.
Heading north we find the landmark city of Girona, and Figueres, the vibrant capital of the Alt Empordà, with its Dalí Museum. Along the coastline of the counties of Girona we find the Costa Brava, or wild coast, which lives up to its name with a continuous succession of coves and cliffs where the pines seem to embrace the sea. The ruins of Empúries bear witness to the Greek and Roman settlements in the region.
And bordering with France, the Pyrenees: this mountain range which offers so many possibilities for experiencing and enjoying nature. The Boí Valley has a series of Romanesque churches of exceptional value, which have been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Other highlights include the Núria Valley, with the shrine from which it takes its name, a pleasant spot, which is only accessible by the rack railway that runs from Ribes de Freser. Just two hours away from Barcelona you can go skiing at the ski resorts in the county of La Cerdanya.
Just 60 kilometres west of Barcelona stands the natural park of the mountain of Montserrat, with its myriad cylindrical, rounded rocks, and monastery and shrine dedicated to the Black Madonna, the patron saint of Catalonia. Nearby is the county of the Penedès, which is renowned for its wines and cava.
And 35 kilometres south of Barcelona lies the bohemian town of Sitges, on the Garraf coast, famed for its carnival and the Cau Ferrat museum founded by the multi-faceted artist Santiago Rusiñol. Sitges marks the beginning of the Costa Daurada, which stretches along the coast of Tarragona with its long beaches of fine sand.
Tarragona preserves important relics of Roman architecture, such as the city walls and amphitheatre. Heading inland, the monasteries of Poblet, Santes Creus and Vallbona de les Monges are unmissable landmarks. And if you’re looking for fun, you’ll find it at the PortAventura theme park, which will take you to the most exotic corners of the planet without travelling there.
See also: Attractions in Catalonia
Situated 100 km to the north of Barcelona, a short distance from the Costa Brava, Girona is one of the best- preserved historic cities in Catalonia. Highlights include the medieval Jewish Quarter, El Call, where we find the Centre Bonastruc Sa Porta with the Jewish History Museum, the Museu d’Història dels Jueus and Nahmànides Research Institute. Recommended visits: the cathedral, built between the 11th and 18th centuries where the magnificent Tapestry of the Creation is on display; the Episcopal Palace (home of the Museu d’Art de Girona); the archaeological walkway; the brightly painted houses on the banks of the River Onyar; the church of Sant Pere de Galligants (home of the Museu d’Arqueologia); the Arab Baths; the church of Sant Nicolau; the convent of Sant Domènec; and La Rambla de la Llibertat, now the city’s shopping district. You can also visit the city’s cinema museum
The Costa Brava stretches along 200 km of the Mediterranean coastline to the north of Barcelona, from Blanes to the border town of Portbou. The diversity of its countryside and the quality of its beaches have made many of its towns and villages into major tourist resorts