Barcelona is one of the most popular tourist sites in Europe. Many of the buildings Barsine (the name given to the city comes for Hamilcar Barca, a Carthaginian general and statesman of Cyrene origin, leader of the Barcid family, and the father of Hannibal, who is said to have founded the Roman city of Barcino. The typically Roman grid plan is still visible today in the layout of the historical centre.
Catalan modernist architecture in Art Nouveau was formed here from 1885 to 1950 largely due to the work of the city native – the architect Antoni Gaudi, who left a lot of interesting buildings across the city including the Sagrada Familia and many of his works have become UNESCO World Heritage Site.
To date, the city is the largest industrial and commercial center of Spain, the Port of Barcelona is among the 10 busiest ports in Europe, and the city's beaches are considered among the best in the world. As well as hosting the 1992 Barcelona Summer Olympics in 2004 it was home to the World Cultural Forum.
The city has something to offer everyone: from the Gothic Quarter, Las Ramblas, numerous museums and the unique handiwork of Gaudi in the warmer months, thousands are attracted to the beaches of Barcelona to swim and sunbathe, by evening the city a mass of entertainment for lovers of music and theater, film and sport fans.
Barcelona was divided into 73 districts in 2009, neighborhoods of which many are tourist oriented. Some districts are separate cities and are part of the wider metropolitan area of Barcelona. The main districts are:
Ciutat Vella (Old City) - an area of 4.5 square kilometers with a population of 110,000 people. And is numbered as district number one, containing the famous Gothic Quarter, the popular tourist quarter of El Raval, the fashionable El Born district and the beach La Barceloneta.
Eixample (Extension) is an area of 7.46 square kilometers and home to 262,500 people. The Eixample district consists of L'Antiga Esquerra de l'Eixample, La Nova Esquerra de l'Eixample, Dreta de l'Eixample, Fort Pienc, Sagrada Familia, and Sant Antoni. As the name suggests it is in this area is the Cathedral of the Holy Family (Sagrada Familia) can be found as well as Gaudi’s Casa Mila (La Pedrera).
Sants-Montjuic covers an area of 21.6 square kilometers and has a population of about 178 000 people. The district includes; Can Tunis, Montjuic (Barcelona’s most famous hill), Hostafrancs, Sants (the main station area) and Poble Sec.
Les Corts (Les Corts) is a small district in the west of Barcelona, home to about 80,000 people. This is primarily a business district of the city, but the legendary football stadium Camp Nou is also located here.
Sarria-Sant Gervaci covers an area of 20 square kilometers and has a population of about 140,000 people living in one of the most prestigious, expensive and highest points of the city Tibidabo Hill.
Gracia (Gracia) - area 4.19 sq km, population - 120 000 . Is a popular destination among creative people - artists, musicians and artists. Here is a magnificent Park Guell (Park Guell), another brainchild of Gaudi.
Horta-Guinardo is a residential part of the city covering an area of 11.9 square kilometers and is home to a population of 170,000 people.
Nou Barris is situated on the outskirts of Barcelona and covers an area of 8 square kilometers, a population of 165,000 inhabitants live here. The area is not considered safe, as, in recent decades, immigrants flocked here from poorer countries.
Sant Andreu is a small district with a beautiful church of the same name, it’s population is 142,000 people.
Sant Marti covers an area of 10.8 square kilometers and is the most highly populated district of Barcelona, home to more than 220,000 people. Located on the Mediterranean coast, the area consists of 10 blocks. The most famous of them: Diagonal Mar is famed for its beaches and hotels, El Poblenou is a centre of modern art, and La Vila Olimpica del Poblenou was pupose built for the Olympics in 1992.
Sant Jordi - is a very traditional festivity that combines culture and romanticism. That day, on 23 April, according to tradition couples exchange gifts: a book for the men and a rose for the women.
Fair Saint-Pons is heldd on Carrer de l'Hospital and Carrer de Blai 10-11 May and on these days the streets are filled with stalls with natural products and herbs .
Sonar - International Festival of Advanced Music and New Media Art lasts for three days , usually from the third Thursday in June.
Festa Major de Gracia - Gracia Festival. Is the biggest street festival in Barcelona held every year in mid August. It is also often called the Fiestas de Gracia. The Festa Major de Gracia dates are always 15-21 August. Basically it’s a street festival that takes place in the older part of the Gracia district in Barcelona.
Festa Major de Sants - The Sants Festival is held in the Sants neighbourhood of Barcelona and overlaps with the Festa Major de Gracia. Although not quite as famous as the Gracia festival, the Festa Major de Sants is worth a visit. Many of the main activities take place in Parc de l'Espanya Industrial.
Festes de la Merce – is a festival in honour of the city patron saint la Merce (the Virgin of Mercy) on September 24 each year and is the largest and most colourful festival in the city's festival calendar and the absolute climax of Barcelona's event schedule.
Fira de Santa Llucia is held from late November to late December at Pla de la Seu and Avda de la Catedral and dates from 1786. This traditional Christmas fair has expanded to more than 300 stalls, selling all manner of handcrafted Christmas decorations and gifts, along with mistletoe, poinsettias and Christmas trees. The most popular figure on sale for Nativity scenes is the curious Catalan figure of the caganer (crapper), a small figure crouching over a steaming turd with his trousers around his ankles. There’s also a Nativity scene contest, musical parades and exhibitions, including the popular life-size Nativity scene in Placa Sant Jaume.
The Royal Fair is held from December 23 until the official celebration of Royal Day on January 6 at the following part of the city : Gran Via on Carrer d'Entenca to Carrer de Muntaner, Via Julia, Nou Barris, Plaza de Sants, Plaza de Beaune and Muihi and St. Montjuic.
El Prat - the second largest in Spain and the largest on the Mediterranean coast of an international airport located in the same city, 3 kilometers from Barcelona. The airport has two terminals T1 which is served by most major airlines and T2 , which is divided into sectors A, B and C. The terminals connected by a free shuttle bus that runs every 6-8 minutes the travel time is about 10 minutes between terminals..
To get from the airport to the centre of Barcelona is easy because it is connected with the city expressway, railway (from T2) and buses. It is best to take the train, as it goes to the centre of Barcelona - Sants Station. Trains run every half hour from six in the morning until midnight. The travel time is about 25 minutes. Buses and taxis are also available, the first slow (about 40 minutes due to many stops) and the latter is expensive (25-30 EUR).
Some low cost and charter flights land at the airports of Girona on the Costa Brava about 100 kilometres north of the city and to Reus on the Costa Dorada - 110 kilometres south.
Several trains per day (including overnight hotel trains) from other parts of Europe (via France) are regular and reliable.
Main train stations:
Barcelona-Sants is south west of the centre.
Barcelona-Passeig de GrÃcia (near Carrer d'Arago on Passeig de Gracia, in the centre of the city).
Barcelona-Estacio de Franca, Avinguda Marques de l’Argentera (on the edge of the old town next to the seafront district of Barceloneta).
From Estacio de Sants and Passeig de Gra¡cia there are several connections per day to Cerbere (France), connecting there on trains towards Marseille and Nice. There are also one or two direct "Talgo" trains a day from Sants to Perpignan, Beziers, Narbonne and Montpellier in France.
Overnight Trenhotel trains operated by Elipsos, runs daily from Paris-Austerlitz and there are departures from Milan and Zurich are every second day. All trenhotels trains stop at the Estacio de Franca station. Prices start at 74 EUR for second class.
International and long distance buses arrive in Barcelona to two stations- North (Estacio del Nord - only international) and Sants .
Bus services are carried out by Barcelona Nord.
The city's port is one of the busiest on the Mediterranean, with nine passenger terminals, seven for cruise liners and four for ferries. Large cruise ships dock 1-2 kilometres to the southwest. Many offer bus-shuttles to points near the south end of La Rambla.
You can arrive to Barcelona by boat from the Balearic Islands, Genoa, Rome, Livorno, Sardinia, Tangier, and Algiers. From Rome (Civitavecchia) it is actually cheaper than the bus. The ferry docks almost directly on the Ramblas.Ferry service operating from many ports of the Mediterranean, especially in Spain and the Canary Islands. Regular ferries run to the Balearic Islands with the company Balearia Acciona-Trasmediterranea. The company also runs ferries to Rome, Livorno and Tangier. Ferries company Grandi Navi Veloci is also associated with Tangier Barcelona and Genoa , and Grimaldi Lines - with Tangier , Livorno, Rome and Porto Torres in Sardinia . Often ferry ticket cost less than a bus.
There are several main roads leading to Barcelona from France and Spain and traffic is usually relatively light outside of peak hours. It is possible to find free parking spaces a few metro stops from the centre of the city.
The Barcelona Bus Turistic links all Barcelona tourist sites. It has three routes (map provided as you board), including a northbound and a southbound line that leave from opposite sides of the Placa de Catalunya. Each takes 1-2 hours. The buses are double-decker, with the open-air upper deck offering much better views. As you first get on, you are offered earphones. Jacks near every seat let you choose among many languages and playback volumes. You can buy tickets at the bus stops and elsewhere (e.g., better hotels) valid for one day (23 EUR) or two consecutive days (30 EUR).
Stations are marked on most maps; every station has a detailed map of exits to the city. A one-journey ticket cost 2 EUR, so it's best to buy a multi-person 10-ride ticket for 2.80 EUR for Zone 1 which includes most tourist areas (called a T-10) or a personal 50-ride monthly ticket for 37 EUR. These tickets are also valid on the buses, trams, FGC (Catalan Railway Network) and on the main Spanish Trains (RENFE). Two to five-day public transport tickets are available that allow unlimited travel on the metro and bus networks (13.40 EUR for two days, 29 EUR for five). Metro operating hours are: Sunday to Thursday 5am to 12am, Friday 5am to 2am, Saturday trains are 24 hours. Trains are fast, often coming in two minute intervals. Announcements are made only in Catalan, though signs and ticketing machines are generally trilingual in Catalan, Spanish and English.
The Barcelona Card features unlimited free travel on public transport and free admission and discounts at around 100 visitor attractions. The card is available for purchase for periods of between two and fivedays, costing 37 EUR for a two-day card and 62 EUR for a five-day card. But you will get an online discount of 10% if you are booking in advance. If you don't plan to see lots of museums every day, then it is cheaper to buy transport-only tickets (see above).
Barcelona has massive traffic jams and extremely narrow streets in some areas, coupled with a very complicated road system. As such, driving yourself around is not recommended for tourists, especially those with no driving experience in large cities.
But if you have to take a rent a car there are several companies there to get great car rental rates like Sixt rent a car, Hertz, Europecar and more.
Take a walk around the winding streets and hidden squares, fountains and palaces in the Barri Gotic (Ciutat Vella).
If you are thinking of visiting several museums, an "articket" will save you some money. It is a combined ticket costing 30 EUR and covers admission to six museums.
Gaudi architecture includes the Parc Guell in Gracia, the still unfinished Sagrada Famalia in Eixample and the houses La Pedrera/Casa Mila and La Casa Batlla both in Eixample.
The Ruta del Modernisme run by Modernisme Centre (Pl. de Catalunya, 17, subterraneo; phone +34 933 177 652): guidebook and discount voucher book for 12 EUR. Takes you round all the best Modernisme (art nouveau) buildings in Barcelona. The main part of the route can be walked in a couple of hours. The Tourist Offices offer a pack that includes discounted tickets to many attractions such as La Pedrera and La Casa Batlla. All can be seen from the outside for free.
- La Sagrada Familia
In Barcelona the most famous building in the entire city is the landmark, La Sagrada Familia. Although incomplete, the church is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and in November 2010 was consecrated and proclaimed a minor basilica by Pope Benedict XVI. The project began nearly a century ago and is Gaudi’s most famous work. The height of the church is overwhelming when standing at its base and the inside is even more impressive. The church is absolutely breathtaking. La Sagrada Familia is an absolute must see for every visitor in Spain and Barcelona. It is truly a masterpiece and is sure to please visitors of all ages.
Be careful when visiting, as there are certain restrictions on dress in this and the Barcelona Cathedral. Bare shoulders, knees and feet are not permitted To avoid the queue, tickets may be booked online and collected at Segrada Familia itself. You will need to indicate the time of visit. If you plan visit either the Passion Tower or the Nativity Tower, the ticket will grant you entry one hour before the scheduled time you booked. You can stay in Segrada Familia for as long as you want after descending the Tower. The Passion Tower has elevator both ways. The Nativity Tower option means you to take the elevator up and walk all the way down. You enjoy the view of the city as you climb down, not the external wall of the Tower.
Named the #1 Beach City in the world by National Geographic, Barcelona's beaches are world-renowned. As with many other European beaches, you will find topless (and even nudist) beach-goers. Unlike many European beaches, however, you will find fun and friendly "chiringuitos" common on Spanish beaches that offer you a place to sit down and listen to music while you have a drink and grab a bite to eat. Please be aware that the sand at the main beaches is quite rough - may have small stones and shells as well.
The Barcelona beach season starts around March 15 and ends around November 15. The High Season for beach-goers is usually from the end of May until the end of September.
Barcelona's Beaches:-Sant Sebastia
Les Rambles (Catalan)/ Las Ramblas (Spanish) or La Rambla, a gorgeous tree-lined pedestrian walkway, the busiest and most lively street of the city. Mostly occupied by tourists, expect to pay higher prices for lower-quality food and drink. Head off into some of the side streets for a cheaper, more local, and authentic experience of Barcelona.
La Placa de Catalunya. The epicenter of the city and main transportation hub connecting all the major streets, the Square is known for its fountains and statues, plus the shops that surround it. El Portal de l'Angel. This large pedestrian walkway is one of the most expensive streets in all of Spain and offers visitors many new and stylish shops to browse.
Wander the Barri Gotic in Ciutat Vella, the largely intact pseudo-medieval center of the city.
To save money and get better food, seek out cafes and restaurants where the locals go.
Set menus – such as a menu del dia (menu of the day), are available and usually mean a simple two course meal (one salad, main dish and a drink; plus a dessert sometimes), 3 or 4 options each, with a drink and a dessert, for 8 to15-20 EUR, depending on the restaurant. During the week, some smart restaurants offer lunch specials from 2pm to 4pm.
If you're looking for a place where everyone can choose their own meal, ask for restaurants that serve platos combinados, which is the closest thing to an American/Northern European meal.
Smoking: Is not permitted in restaurants anymore.
You can get food from any part of the world in Barcelona, but make sure you try some Catalan food.
The selection of seafood is consistently great, although not a lot of it is local (this part of the Mediterranean is pretty well fished-out).
Catalans generally eat three course meals (appetizer, main dish and dessert).
Typical food and drink includes:
Pa amb tomaquet: bread with tomato. The tomato (sometimes with garlic) is squashed and spread in the bread slice, dressed with extra virgin olive oil and small cuts of a very Catalan specialty: cured pork meat, "fuet", "xorÃs" or "butifarra" (spicy cured sausages), sobrassada, or other stuff like cheese or larger pieces of cooked meat.
Paella - Typical rice dish from the Catalan Lands. Catalan paella is with seafood, while Valencian paella is without seafood. There's also a variant of paella which is made up with little noodles called "fideua ". In addition, paella and fideua can be prepared with black squid ink, then it's called "fideu negra".
Catalan wine and sangria are must-try drinks.
- Barceloneta: A popular quarter for locals, where you can try fish based dishes, such as Paella.
- Eixample Esquerra (between Gran Via and Mallorca)
- Barri Gotic (especially for tapas)
- "El Born" (next to Barri Gotic)
10 EUR is the lowest price for a standard menu del dia.
On a budget expect a meal to cost up to 10 EUR, for mid-range - 10 – 25 EUR and top end is 25 EUR and up.
Banks abound in Barcelona, many with ATMs, including several around Placa de Catalunya, on La Rambla and on Placa de Sant Jaume in the Barri Gotic.
The foreign-exchange offices that you see along La Rambla and elsewhere are open for longer hours than banks but generally offer poorer rates.
Most shops and shopping malls are closed on Sundays because of law restrictions, but not all. In Ciutat Vella you will find plenty of small fashion shops, souvenir shops and small supermakets open on Sundays and on the the Port Vell, right at the end of The Ramblas there is Maremagnum, a shopping mall that stays open all Sundays.
Design lovers head for Gracia.
- El Corte Ingles, is a department store where you can find anything and is found in several parts of the city.
- La Boqueria in Ciutat Vella is a large public market with a diverse range of goods and produce.
- La Gauche Divine in Ciutat Vella is a multi-functional space that combines fashion, music, art and design.
Barcelona is a city packed with bars and clubs – from candelit, mural-covered chambers in the medieval quarter, converted antique-filled storefronts and buzzing Modernista spaces are all part of the scene. Wherever you end up, keep in mind that eating and drinking go hand in hand in Barcelona and some of the liveliest bars serve up as much tapas as they do alcohol. Barcelona’s discotecas (clubs) are at their best from Thursday to Saturday. A surprising variety of spots lurk in the labyrinth of the Ciutat Vella, ranging from plush former dance halls to grungy underground venues that fill to capacity.
Barcelona has a wide range of accommodation options, from inexpensive hostels to the luxury hotels you’d expect to find in any European city. Good-value options include the small-scale B&B-style apartment rentals scattered around the city. Typical prices for a mid-range room for two runs from about 80 EUR to 120 EUR per night.
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