The capital of Catalonia has always been a proud and fairly wealthy city but when it hosted the 1992 Olympic games it was really put on the map and has since just gone from strength to strength. Many cities find the Olympic nomination a poison chalice, not so Barcelona, and the huge investment made, combined with the city’s numerous existing attractions, revitalised large areas of the city and firmly placed it and its nation, Catalonia, on the map.
Probably the best place to regard as its centre is Plaza Catalunya from which you can walk south east along the famous Rambla which cuts through the western edge of the Barri Gtic and El Raval districts towards Port Vell (old Port) with its Marina, shops and restaurants and the nearby harbour where cruise ships mingle with the Balearic Island ferries. Just inland south west of here is the Montjuc area which was the site for much of the Olympic Games and to the North another area regenerated for the Games, the Port Olmpic Marina.
La Rambla, Barri Gotic and El Raval
Despite Barcelona becoming a city break hotspot and the rambla its most trodden path this pedestrian tree lined thoroughfare still has plenty of charm. It’s flower, pet and newspaper kiosks all add to the bustle and combined with the numerous, sometimes good sometimes not, street performers it makes for a very pleasant atmosphere. To the North east of the Rambla is the heart of the Barri Gtic are where you’ll find some fabulous medieval architecture and on the other side is El Raval, the city’s often shabby red light district but now becoming increasingly fashionable both for living and as a destination for many excellent restaurants and bars.
La Sagrada Familia
Gaudi, Barcelona‘s most famous son, designed many of the cities famous buildings and monuments including the incredible Temple de la Sagrada Familia (c/Mallorca 401) which is worthy of all the attention it receives. Gaud himself spent 40 years working on the project and the last 15 years of his life lived on site. The towers can be climbed if you’re feeling energetic, alternatively take the lift for a spectacular view of the city.
You can’t get away from Gaud in Barcelona but then again why would you want to. Its location, perched above the city looking out to sea, makes for fabulous views and there’s also the Casa-Museu Gaud, his one time residence, now a small museum. It has a vibrant, alternative atmosphere during the day but is best avoided at night. The nearest metro is Vallcarca (L3) or take bus 24. The tourist bus also stops here.
Estad Olmpic and Camp Nou
The Estad Olmpic (Olympic stadium) was originally built for the International Exhibition of 1929 but completely rebuilt to a capacity of 65,000, leaving just the facade, for the 1992 Games. The Nou Camp is the perhaps even more impressive home of FC Barcelona.
La Seu – The Cathedral
One of the greatest examples of Gothic architecture in Spain work started on La Seu in the 13th century and went on for six hundred years. The 14th century cloisters and gardens they overlook come complete with palm trees and white geese which have reputedly been a feature for five hundred years.
La Boqueria or Mercat de Sant Josep
Frequented by tourists and locals alike this market built in the 1830’s and located just off La Rambla is a feast for the senses. Beautifully presented fruit, vegetables, meat, fish and seafood will make your mouth water.
Although born in Malaga Picasso lived in Barcelona between the ages of 14 and 23 and maintained close links with the city after he left for Paris in 1904. The museum, housed in a beautiful medieval palace, is home to one of the most important and extensive collections of Picasso’s work in the world.
Dia Sant Jordi (St Georges day)
23 April Dia Sant Jordi (St Georges day), patron saint of Catalunya, is celebrated on April 23rd and is also known as the day of the book and the rose and you’ll find books stalls and rose sellers all over the city.
La Merce festival
La Merce festival is one of the biggest in Barcelona and there are usually events from the 19th-24th September including the spectacular Correfoc (Fire Run) where the streets are literally full of fireworks – stand well back from this unless you’re well protected.
There are also numerous smaller festivals that each barrio (district) of Barcelona celebrate throughout the year, one of the biggest of these is the Festa Major de Grcia which takes place in mid August.
Barcelona enjoys a classic Mediterranean climate, with cool winters and hot summers. The heat is at its harshest in July and August, with highs sometimes reaching the mid-30s C (90F)
Getting around Barcelona
The easiest way around the city is by bus or metro run by TMB (Transports Metropolitans de Barcelona) with tickets starting at 1.25 for a single journey and 6.90 for ten journeys in zone one.