Originally established by the Romans, Barcelona is a city with a rich cultural history. Today, it serves as the capital of Catalonia and is still one of the busiest port towns in the Mediterranean. In addition to being an economic powerhouse, it is one of the top tourist destinations in Europe, drawing sports and art enthusiasts alike. Visitors can wander through the streets of the city and experience the whimsical genius of Antoni Gaudí firsthand, relax on a boat in the sunny harbor, or cheer on their favorite sports teams in one of the city’s many world-class stadiums.
Barcelona's old town, or Ciutat Vella, is the heart of the city. It's made up of many small neighborhoods, full of old-world character, linked by narrow, winding streets. Students, foreigners and artists thrive in this area, attracted by its sense of history and cosmopolitan feel along with its trendy bars, concert halls and good restaurants.
Start your tour from
When the old town became overpopulated in the mid-19th Century, the city expanded inland, north of Plaça Catalunya. The streets of the new suburb, called
As Barcelona expanded further north, more new neighborhoods were built. Villages were absorbed within the city boundaries giving rise to districts like the charming
Both Montjüic and Tibidabo offer good sports facilities as well, like tennis, jogging, and horseback riding. It's easiest to get there by car, though you could also take the cable car to Montjüic, which the kids would love. The cable car also offers a great view of the city.
The mild Mediterranean climate and calm seas mean you can sail and windsurf all year round from
Sant Adrià de Besòs - El Fòrum
Constructed and remodeled to host the Fòrum de Les Cultures in 2004, this area located to the north of the city has bloomed as a new cultural center. The beautiful architecture, designed by Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron, as well as the numerous events that take place in the ultra-modern location of
From cheap hostels to modern, luxurious five-star hotels, Barcelona offers its guests a variety of lodging choices in every neighborhood.
Gothic Quarter, Raval & La Ribera
Whether you wish to stay in a newly renovated hotel by the Plaça Reial, or pass the night with like-minded backpackers at a more economical accommodation like Kabul, you will not be at a loss for options. If you enjoy the relaxing atmosphere of a modernist building, Le Meridien on Rambla dels Estudis is a perfect choice. Many of the three-star hotels within the Barri Gòtic maintain the medieval architecture characteristic of the neighborhood inside and out. Hotel Gotico is just one of these beauties, located close to Plaça Sant Jaume. For a more high-end place in the same district, Hotel Colón, located in front of the Catedral La Seu, offers excellent views of the city.
Without leaving the heart of the city, there are numerous other cozy accommodations, such as the Hotel Rivoli Ramlas. Also nearby is the recently renovated yet wallet-friendly Hotel Husa International, which allows you to watch colorful tourists walk Las Ramblas from your room window.
If you're looking for an upscale room in an elegant hotel, don't miss the Hotel Rey Juan Carlos I, located at the end of Diagonal. Another hotel that combines luxury and comfort seamlessly is the grand Hotel Princess Sofía, suiting even the finickiest traveler. The top floor restaurant offers panoramic views and a menu as exquisite as that of the Hotel Rey Juan Carlos I.
Port Olímpic (Olympic Port)
This neighborhood's most fascinating piece of architecture is surely the Hotel Arts Barcelona, which you should at least take a photo of, even if you can't afford to stay there.
The Hilton Barcelona offers comfort and relaxation, living up to its reputation. Here you will enjoy calm gardens, a central location by the shopping and business district, and panoramic views of the city and the sea.
The sleek, marble entryway of Hotel Majestic sits on Passeig de Gràcia, one of the most elegant avenues to walk down in all of Barcelona. Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes, where the Hotel Palace is located, is another one of the most emblematic areas in the city. The Regina is located within walking distance of the commercial district.
Arc de Triomf & Urquinaona
Hotel NH Pódium on Bailén street is a four-star option with a beautiful neoclassical façade.
Comfortable, no-nonsense Hotel NH Numància is conveniently located near the Sants train station.
Montjuïc & Plaça Espanya
You will not have a hard time finding a hotel within easy reach of the Muntanya de Montjuïc, a popular hill that offers a pleasant view of the city. Located right on Plaça Espanya is the four-star AC Diplomatic, and on Avinguda del Paral.lel you'll find the Barcelona Plaza (facing the Palau Nacional). The nearby Expo Hotel offers exceptional service in a modern ambiance. From here, you can enjoy a rejuvenating stroll to Plaça Espanya by crossing Tarragona Avenue and passing Miró's sculpture, Dona i l'Ocell ("Woman with Bird"), and la plaza de toros Arenas de Barcelona along the way, which has not been used since 1977.
The 1992 Olympic Games turned the world's eye to this age old city that has been, and continues to be, a modern presence in Spain. Barcelona has many districts, giving it the feel of a large, Roman city with an old, Gothic atmosphere. As a powerful Mediterranean port and the capital of Catalonia, this rich, historical past is the foundation on which the new city was based. Barcelona's residents are open-minded and cosmopolitan, bringing a Bohemian flavor to the city that lies between the mountains and sea.
Romans arrived in Tarragona, making it their first priority, and giving Barcelona subordinate status. Later in the Visigothic period, this Roman capital par excellence, also had a downward fall.
After a century of Muslim dominion, there was a period of intense commercial activity and religious coexistence between Jews, Christians and Muslims. With the arrival of the Christian governors to the city, the Muslim community was forced into a prisoner zone named The Call. In present day, The Call is located around the streets Palla, Banys Nous, Bisbe and Plaça Sant Jaume. Already, the large city had been named the Condal City, acting as the mighty capital of Old Catalonia. Following the expansionist interests of Corona de Aragón, Barcelona developed a powerful naval base. Catalano-Aragonese's power extended as far as Sicily, Sardinia, Malta, Naples, Albania, Corsica and part of Greece. They pioneered, establishing social norms, marine rules and other customs that would later be imitated in other European cities. In the 15th century, the Maxima institution of self-government of Catalonia was given an admirable seat in the Palau de la Generalitat. The medieval growth of the city is represented in its Gothic architecture, with magnificent works like the cathedral, the churches of Sant Just, and Sant Jaume, and the basilicas of Santa María del Pi and Santa María del Mar
After the 15th-century reign of Castilla, Barcelona, Catalonia and the Kingdom of Aragón fell into a deep economic and political depression because of the marriage between Isabel and Fernando (the famous post-Muslim era Catholic monarchs). During these years, conquest and colonization in America damaged Mediterranean commerce during the height of Turkey's great marine power. The final blow came when Archduke Carlos of Austria, whom Barcelona supported, lost the War of Spanish Succession.
During the Industrial Revolution and the period of cultural renaissance, the city grew to its maximum splendor. With this came the literary rebirth of the Catalan language and the modernist movement, in which artists and architects alike created a city that would be admired worldwide. All these movements were led by the industrial bourgeoisie, and influenced by the nationalistic movements of the European countries that resisted the Castellanizadora force. The houses built in the Barcelonian Eixample display architecture from a diverse range of historical influences. Ildefons Cerdà, influenced by local folklore, designed rectangular buildings for the bourgeois. The most well-known and loved artist during this period was Antoni Gaudí, who designed remarkable, modernist works, such as the La Sagrada Familia, Casa Milà (La Pedrera), the Casa Batlló, and the Parc Güell.
During the postwar period and Francisco Franco's dictatorship, a political and cultural repression occurred across Spain until Franco's death in 1975. Since then, democracy has reigned. Under the mandate of Pasqual Maragall, the city began the construction of infrastructures necessary for the 1992 Olympic Games. Some of these structures are the Olympic Vila, of accentuated modern design, the Anella Olimpica of Montjüic and the Port Olimpic.
Barcelona's many restaurants and bars offer the best of Catalonia's diverse cuisine. Other Mediterranean countries, like France and Italy, have heavily influenced Catalan cooking, which features lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, seafood, pork and veal.
Catalans love cold meats or (embutidos) of all sorts, especially pork sausage (butifarra). The staple dish is butifarra amb mongetes, a stew of pork sausage and white beans. Escudella is a traditional stew made with sausage, chickpeas, pasta and a giant pork meatball. It's generally eaten at Christmas time and followed by crema catalana, a sweet egg custard topped with caramelized sugar that has become a popular dessert throughout Spain. Fish is also a major part of the Catalan diet. Zarzuela is a tasty seafood casserole that originated in Barcelona and spread to other parts of the country. Bacallà a la llauna is cod cooked in a tin dish. In summer, you can enjoy lighter dishes like escalibada (red peppers mixed with eggplant and onions) and esqueixada (red peppers with cod and onions). Or head for one of the many farmhouse (masía) restaurants on the outskirts of the city and try some traditional dishes. If you're lucky, the restaurant will serve calçotada, a sauce (calçots) made from tender spring onions served on an oven-fired tile, followed by grilled meat. Catalan dishes are usually accompanied by pan con tomate, country-style bread smeared liberally with ripe tomato, olive oil and salt.
There are eight different areas in Catalonia that produce good quality wines. The region is famous for its white wines from the Penedés area and cava, sparkling white wines. There are also quality red wines, particularly from the Priorato area.
Gothic Quarter, Raval & La Ribera
Basque cuisine is served in Irati and Zure Etxea. You'll find three famous traditional Catalan restaurants worth visiting in the area around Monumento a Colón (Columbus Monument): Ca l'Isidre, Botafumeiro and Casa Leopoldo. For bullfighting memorabilia and tapas, try Los Toreros on Calle Xuclà, close to Las Ramblas. There are also some seafood restaurants with great views in the Maremàgnum, an ultra-modern shopping center by the harbor, close to Las Ramblas.
This part of town is also great for drinks - you'll find traditional, old-fashioned bars and cafés as well as trendy, modern places with stylish interior decor, like Glaciar at the Plaça Reial. Nearby, check out Sidecar. There's a good selection of pubs on Calle Escudellers on your way into the well-known Plaça George Orwell. For pure modernist style inside and out, try El Ascensor. If you want to sit outside and enjoy an impressive view with your drinks, try the square that looks on to Santa María del Mar, Plaça del Pi or Sant Felip Neri.
This part of town has quite a few Galician restaurants like the famous Beltxenea, which offers a variety of traditional dishes. Don't miss the finger foods at Tapa Tapa.
Barceloneta & The Born
There are plenty of reasonably-priced seafood restaurants down by the harbor that specialize in paella and the Catalan equivalent, fideuà, which is noodle-based rather than rice-based. Arròs negre is a kind of paella cooked in a stock of squid's ink. Can Ramonet and Set Portes are two of the best places for rice dishes in this district. Munch on great tapas at Moncho's.
If it's drinks you seek, Passeig del Born is lined with trendy bars and the adjacent streets are full of well-preserved medieval houses and mansions. This area attracts couples and groups in their 30s and 40s looking for sophisticated, relaxing and intimate bars like the Miramelindo, Salero and Gimlet.
The seafood restaurants at Port Olímpic display their fresh fish in cases by the door and many offer sea views.
Horta, Guinardó & Alfons X
Lots of informal tapas restaurants are located along Passeig de Gràcia and Rambla Catalunya. Traditional tapas are small portions of things like pescaíto frito (mixture of deep-fried Mediterranean fish), patatas bravas (chunks of potato, deep-fried and served with spicy garlic sauce), calamares a la romana (squid rings fried in batter) and boquerones en vinagre (marinated anchovies). For the best tapas in the whole city, try La Esquinica. However, make sure you come early because there is a line every night.
It's tapas central at Ciudad Condal, but this bustling square knows no bounds in terms of culinary diversity.