The city of Barcelona is the second largest city in Spain, and the capital of Catalonia, with a population of 1,7 million inhabitants and 3 million in the metropolitan area. Its cultural richness, vibrant life, and splendid location has made it one of the most visited cities in the world, with over 4 million visitors per year.
Over two thousands years old, there is not just one Barcelona, but several. The old city (Ciutat Vella ) offers the visitor a wide range of routes to follow and reconstruct the history of Barcelona by starting at the Roman walls, moving to the medieval streets of the Gothic Quarter and going to the popular promenade know as La Rambla. The city expansion (Eixample), formed from 1860 to 1930, bears witness to the wealth brought about by the economic growth of the period. Barcelona is best known for its architectural treasures, featuring many unique buildings from the “Modernist” period (late 19th-early 20th centuries), seven of which have declared World Heritage Sites by UNESCO. Furthermore, in the last two decades, Barcelona has been an experimentation ground for the most innovative architectural concepts.
Barcelona is also famous for its cultural tradition. The city has over twenty museums, covering all aspects of art and culture. The best known are the National Museum of Art of Catalonia with one of the major collections of Romanesque and Gothic art, the Museum of Historic Art, the Picasso Museum, the Miró Foundation and the Tàpies Foundation. The Science Museum presents a wideranging display of scientific and technological advances. The Fòrum de les Cultures, recently built, is another cultural target.
Besides some major art show rooms, most musical events take place in three large venues: the Palau de la Música Catalana, a real modernist gem (and venue for the conference gala dinner), the Auditorium, and the Gran Teatre del Liceu, which is a leading opera house, reconstructed after its burning in 1994. Many stage troupes and actors in Barcelona are the best in Spain, and achieve international acclaim. A glance at the programme of cultural and entertainment events published in the Barcelona daily newspapers is the best way of finding out of what going on in the city.
Barcelona enjoys a Mediterranean climate, in which extreme temperatures are rare. The average temperature for the month of September is 21 degrees Celsius. September is one of the wettest months of the year with occasional thunderstorms so we recommend that you come prepared for rain.
Barcelona is a generally safe city, visited every year by millions of tourists. However, pick pocketing and bag snatching are one of the most common problems that visitors encounter while in the city. Pick pocketing and bag snatching is most common on La Rambla area, at rail stations, on the beaches, and in the metro (subway).
In order to avoid them it is sufficient to observe the following common-sense precautions:
- Keep always an eye on your belongings, never leave them unattended.
- Pay special attention in crowds, restaurants, and public transport, where thieves are most active.
- Try to check maps in advance and look confident of where you are going.
- Do not carry your passport with you unless necessary. A photocopy will do for most situations where you must prove your identity.
- At La Rambla and other crowded areas, carry your backpack on your chest rather than on your back, and your wallet on your front rather than your back pocket.
- If you have more than one credit card do not carry all of them with you. Have your credit card numbers, and contact phone numbers, written down in your hotel.
- Avoid walking in dark isolated back streets, specially if going alone.
By observing these simple precautions you will be able to enjoy the city without problems.
Food and Drinks
Lunchtime (comida ) is basically from 2pm to 4pm and is the main meal of the day. No local would contemplate chomping into dinner (cena ) before 9pm. That said, although restaurants tend to stay open until 1am or so, most kitchens closed by 11.30pm.
La Rambla and the city center
Right in the center of the city, the street called La Rambla is well known for walking around. It is a favorite tourist attraction, with flower sellers, street performers, the beautiful market of La Boqueria , the Liceu Opera house, among many other attractions. From La Rambla you can visit the Barri Gotic and El Raval.
The Barri Gotic is the old city of Barcelona which was built on and around the old Roman town of Barcino. This part of the city is an attraction in itself with many churches, plazas, markets and museums. You can see parts of the old Roman walls and below the city history museum – Museu d’Història de la Ciutat – there are remains of Roman houses and streets of Barcino. There are metro stops on both sides of the Gothic Quarter, there are 3 on La Rambla which runs up one side of the area, and on the other is Jaume I.
A giant temple, probably Gaudi’s greatest work, and the most visited attraction in Barcelona.
Address: Calle Mallorca 401, 08034, Barcelona
Metro: Sagrada Familia (Blue Line, L5) and (Purple Line, L2)
A magical park with amazing buildings, sculptures, and tile work designed by Gaudi. You will also find Gaudi’s old home in Park Guell which is now open to the public as a small museum.
Metro: Lesseps (Green Line, L3). On leaving the metro follow the street signposts for the park.
Another one of Antoni Gaudi’s creations once again hits the top 5 most visited attractions in Barcelona. This building used to be called Casa Mila but nowadays it’s more commonly known as La Pedrera (meaning The Quarry). Gaudi was instrumental in completing this building and his characteristic wavy brick work and colourful tiles are also evident on this masterpiece.
Address: La Pedrera, Provenca, 261-265, 08008 Barcelona.
Metro: Diagonal (Green Line, L3) and (Blue Line, L5)
This area was fully regenerated before the 1992 Olympic games. The Port is close to both Barceloneta beach and Icaria Beach.
Metro: Ciutadella Vila Olimpica (Yellow Line, L4). You then have a 10 minute walk to the Barcelona Olympic Port and the beach areas.
The Magic Fountain of Montjuic
The Magic Fountain is definately a “must see.” It is a magnificent spectacle of water, light and music built in 1929 as one of the biggest attractions of the 1929 Barcelona World Fair and Universal Exposition. To this day it remains one of the most famous spots in Barcelona with an estimated 2.5 million visitors annually. The shows run every half hour, thursday to sunday, from 9pm to 11pm.
Metro: Placa Espanya (Green Line, L3) and (Red Line, L1)
General and touristic information:
- Ajuntament de Barcelona – Barcelona city hall website. Lots of information.
- Ajuntament de Barcelona – Tourist info
- Visca Barcelona!
- Transports Municipals – public transportation
- Guia Urbana de Barcelona – Map and street finder
Information on current events, restaurants and bars reviews, nightlife…
- Guia del Ocio
- LeCool Magazine
- Barcelona Football Club (tickets)