Barcelona is the jewel of the Mediterranean, discover why we fell in love with this city.
Barcelona is the capital city of the autonomous community of Catalonia in Spain and Spain’s second most populated city, with a population of 1.6 million within its administrative limits. Its urban area extends beyond the administrative city limits with a population of around 4.7 million people, being the seventh-most populous urban area in the European Union after Paris, London, Madrid, the Ruhr area, Berlin and Milan. It is the largest metropolis on the Mediterranean Sea, located on the coast between the mouths of the rivers Llobregat and Besòs, and bounded to the west by the Serra de Collserola mountain range, the tallest peak of which is 512 metres (1,680 ft) high.
Founded as a Roman city, in the Middle Ages Barcelona became the capital of the County of Barcelona. After merging with the Kingdom of Aragon, it continued to be an important city in the Crown of Aragon as an economical and administrative center of this Crown and the capital of the Principality of Catalonia. Besieged several times during its history, Barcelona has a rich cultural heritage and is today an important cultural center and a major tourist destination.
Particularly renowned are the architectural works of Antoni Gaudí and Lluís Domènech i Montaner, which have been designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The headquarters of the Union for the Mediterranean is located here. The city is known for hosting the 1992 Summer Olympics as well as world-class conferences and expositions and also many international sport tournaments.
It is one of the world’s leading tourist, economic, trade fair and cultural centers, and its influence 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 cultural and economic center in southwestern Europe, 24th in the world (before Zürich, after Frankfurt) and a financial center.
The Barri Gòtic (Catalan for “Gothic Quarter”) is the center of the old city. Many of the buildings date from medieval times, some from as far back as the Roman settlement. Catalan modernista architecture (related to the movement known as Art Nouveau in the rest of Europe), developed between 1885 and 1950 and left an important legacy. Several of these buildings are World Heritage Sites.
Especially remarkable is the work of architect Antoni Gaudí, which can be seen throughout the city. His best-known work is the immense but still unfinished church of the Sagrada Família, which has been under construction since 1882 and is still financed by private donations. As of 2007, completion is planned for 2026.
The city was also home to Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona Pavilion. Designed in 1929 for the International Exposition for Germany, it is an iconic building that came to symbolize modern architecture as the embodiment of van der Rohe’s aphorisms “less is more” and “God is in the details.” The pavilion was intended as a temporary structure and was torn down in 1930 less than a year after it was constructed. A modern re-creation by Spanish architects now stands in here, however, constructed in 1986.
Barcelona won the 1999 RIBA Royal Gold Medal for its architecture, the first (and as of 2015, only) time that the winner has been a city, and not an individual architect.
Barcelona has a great number of museums, which cover different areas and eras. The National Museum of Art of Catalonia possesses a well-known collection of Romanesque art while the Museum of Contemporary Art focuses on post-1945 Catalan and Spanish art.
The Fundació Joan Miró, Picasso Museum, and Fundació Antoni Tàpies hold important collections of these world-renowned artists, as well as Can Framis Museum, focused on post-1960 Catalan Art owned by Fundació Vila Casas.
Several museums cover the fields of history and archeology, like the History Museum (MUHBA), the Museum of the History of Catalonia, the Archeology Museum of Catalonia, the Barcelona Maritime Museum and the private-owned Egyptian Museum.
The Erotic museum is among the most peculiar ones, while Cosmocaixa is a science museum that received the European Museum of the Year Award in 2006.
The FC Barcelona Museum has been the most visited museum in the city of Barcelona with 1506022 visitors in 2013.
Barcelona contains sixty-eight municipal parks, of which twelve are historic parks, five are thematic (botanical) parks, forty-five are urban parks and six are forest parks. They range from vest-pocket parks to large recreation areas. The urban parks alone cover 10% of the city.
Of Barcelona’s parks, Montjuïc is the largest, with 203 ha located on the mountain of the same name. It is followed by Parc de la Ciutadella, the Guinardó Park, Park Güell (designed by Antoni Gaudí), Oreneta Castle Park, Diagonal Mar Park, Nou Barris Central Park, Can Dragó Sports Park and Poblenou Park, the Labyrinth Park, named after the garden maze it contains.
Port Aventura, one of the largest amusement parks in Europe with 3,000,000 visitors per year, is located one hour’s drive from Barcelona.
Also, within the city lies Tibidabo Amusement Park, a smaller amusement park in Plaza del Tibidabo, with the Muntanya Russa amusement ride.
Barcelona beach was listed as number one in a list of the top ten city beaches in the world according to National Geographic and Discovery Channel.
Barcelona contains seven beaches, totalling 4.5 kilometers of coastline. Sant Sebastià, Barceloneta and Somorrostro beaches are the largest, oldest and the most-frequented beaches in here.
The Olympic Harbour separates them from the other city beaches: Nova Icària, Bogatell, Mar Bella, Nova Mar Bella, and Llevant. These beaches were opened as a result of the city restructuring to host the 1992 Summer Olympics when a great number of industrial buildings were demolished.
At present, the beach sand is artificially replenished given that storms regularly remove large quantities of material.
The 2004 Universal Forum of Cultures left the city a large concrete bathing zone on the east most part of the city’s coastline.
Barcelona’s cultural roots go back 2000 years. Since the arrival of democracy, the Catalan language (very much repressed during the dictatorship of Franco) has been promoted, both by recovering works from the past and by stimulating the creation of new works. It is designated as a world-class city by the Globalization and World Cities Study Group and Network
Barcelona has a long sporting tradition and hosted the highly successful 1992 Summer Olympics as well as several matches during the 1982 FIFA World Cup (at the two stadiums).
It has also hosted, among others, about 30 sports events of international significance.
FC Barcelona is a sports club best known worldwide for its football team, one of the largest in the world and the second richest football club in the world. It has 64 national and 16 continental trophies, including five of the UEFA Champions League and three of the FIFA Club World Cup.
Also, it is the only men’s club in the world to accomplish a sextuple.
FC Barcelona also has teams in FC Barcelona Regal (basketball), FC Barcelona Handbol (the handball), FC Barcelona Hoquei (roller hockey), FC Barcelona Ice Hockey (ice hockey), FC Barcelona Futsal (futsal) and FC Barcelona Rugby (rugby union), all of them winners of the highest country or/and European competitions.
The club’s museum is the second most visited in Catalonia. Twice a season, FC Barcelona and cross-town rivals RCD Espanyol contest in the local derby in La Liga, while its basketball section has its own local derby in Liga ACB with nearby Joventut Badalona. It also has other clubs in lower categories, like CE Europa and UE Sant Andreu.
The city has two UEFA elite stadiums: FC Barcelona’s Camp Nou, the largest stadium in Europe with a capacity of 100,000 and the publicly owned Estadi Olímpic Lluís Companys at Montjuic, with a capacity of 55,000; used for the 1992 Olympics.
Several road running competitions are organized year-round in Barcelona: the Barcelona Marathon every March with over 20,000 participants in 2016, the Cursa de Bombers in April, the Cursa de El Corte Inglés in May (with about 60,000 participants each year), the Cursa de la Mercè, the Cursa Jean Bouin, the Milla Sagrada Família and the San Silvestre.
The Open Seat Godó, a 50-year-old ATP World Tour 500 Series tennis tournament, is held annually in the facilities of the Real Club de Tenis Barcelona (Royal Tennis Club).
Also, each Christmas, a swimming race across the port is organized.
Near Barcelona, in Montmeló, the 107,000 capacity Circuit de Catalunya / Circuit de Barcelona racetrack hosts the Formula One World Championship, Formula One Spanish Grand Prix, Catalan motorcycle Grand Prix, Spanish GT Championship and GP2 Series.
Skateboarding and bicycling are also very popular. In the city and the metropolitan area, there are tens of km of bicycle paths.