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Barcelona is one of the most beautiful cities on the planet and is also one of the largest cities in all of Europe.
Founded as a Roman city, Barcelona overlooks the Mediterranean Sea and is known for incredible architecture and cultural events. It is a leading economic center, attracts tourists from around the world, and influences global education, politics, and even sports philosophies. Why should people visit Barcelona? Because you’ll be able to experience the legend of the city while enjoying the many sights, sounds, and events in the nearly perfect surroundings.
Visit the Many World Heritage Sights
Barcelona is home to eight distinct world heritage sights, which by themselves can fill up a week long visit to the city. One of the more impressive sites is Park Güell, which is one of the largest architectural sights in all of Southern Europe. Designed by Antoni Gaudi and having taken 14 years to build, this complex designed by Antoni Gaudi was initially supposed to be a housing site, but it failed commercially.. Today you can find beautiful mosaics, incredible masterpieces, and truly unique architecture that could compete with anything built in our modern times.
Also designed by Gaudi is the Church of the Holy Family, which was recently named a minor basilica by the Roman Catholic church. Though it is still incomplete, beautiful spires stretch to the sky as the church is slowly being completed. The Nativity facade is picturesque, tranquil, and the spires stretch up to 560 feet.
The National Museum of Art of Catalonia
Like the World Heritage Sites, visiting the many museums of Barcelona could fill a trip by themselves. If you do decide on visiting just one museum, the National Museum of Art of Catalonia should be the one to go see. It has a world renown collection of Romanesque art, featuring many instances of panel art and wood carvings. If you’ve got a little extra time, the Museum of Contemporary Art also has several fabulous displays of modern Catalonian art.
You’ve Got to Visit the Beach!
Ranked as the best city beaches in the world by several publications, the beaches in Barcelona are the perfect way to spend an afternoon. Lay out in the sun, play in the Sea, and have a drink while you simply let the day pass away. When you’re ready for some dinner, there are several five star restaurants within easy walking distance that you’ll be able to enjoy. What is unique about the beaches is that the city of Barcelona artificially replenishes the sand because the tides of the Sea currently aren’t enough to do it naturally! Prepare for the beach to be busy on a warm day!
Are You Ready To Visit Barcelona?
Barcelona is an incredible city filled with incredible sights. Whether you plan on spending just a couple days there or a few weeks, you’ll be able to do something unique and fun every single day.
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Travel and vacation in Barcelona, Spain
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The best sights in Barcelona
Antoni Gaudi, native Catalan architect, left his mark on this great city and a visit to Barcelona wouldn’t be complete without taking in some of his greatest works, four of them rated as World Heritage site by UNESCO, Gaudi’s free-flowing post modern creations were decades ahead of his time.
Temple de la Sagrada Familia.
This large Roman Catholic church in Barcelona has commenced construction in 1882 under the architect Antoni Gaudi and now stands protected by UNESCO World Heritage as one of the most spectacular basilicas in Spain. The temple is most famous for its multiple slender towers rising nearly 100 metres above ground. Without doubt Gaudi’s “magnum opus”, the Sagrada Familia was to be the architect’s unfinished masterpiece. Gaudi took charge of the project in 1885 and continued working on it, even living on site in his latter years, right up until his death over forty years later. A massive project to undertake, Gaudi intended it to be a monument to 20th century architecture with sixteen towers representing the twelve apostles, the four evangelists, the virgin Mary and Christ; the latter was due to tower 170 metres above the city. Tragedy struck in 1926 when Gaudi was run down by a streetcar and killed, halting his work on the project. A further setback struck in 1936 when a fire caused by Civil War bombings claimed his notes, designs and models. Today, over 120 years after the first brick was laid, building continues.
La Pedrera (Casa Mila).
The real name for this building is in fact, Casa Mila – La Pedrera is a nickname and means “the quarry” in Catalan. La Pedrera was built by Gaudi between 1906 and 1912. Architecturally it is considered an innovative work for its steel structure and curtain walls, displaying a controversial design at the time of construction. Standing on the Passeig de Gracia the building does not contain one single straight line, instead following a wave-like, organic form. It has also been declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO.
Gaudi was commissioned to refurbish this building by the owner, Josep Batllo. Taking this brief Gaudi embarked on one of his most daring and easily recognisable designs as he completely transformed the old building. His radical design showed equal disregard for the straight line and he added bone-like balconies and used the “trencadis” technique of using shards of broken tiles to create a shimmering mosaic of colour on the façade, reminiscent of the nearby ocean (a recurrent theme in Gaudi’s work). All of this combined to lend the building a fluid quality. The arched roof has been likened to the back of a dragon and some theorise that the turret and cross, which extend from the roof of the building, are said to represent the sword of St George, plunged into the back of the dragon. Casa Batllo is located close to La Pedrera on the Passeig de Gracia.
Gaudi’s surreal garden complex is located in the Gracia district of the city as well. Originally intended as part of a commercial housing site, the project never came to full fruition due to the financial downturn in the city. Despite this, Park Guell is still one of Gaudi’s most magical creations and displays his versatility. Undulating, organic shapes abound, decorated with the colourful “trencadis” technique – what amazes here is that his designs seem to mould into the natural topography of the landscape. The most famous part of the Park is the distinctive main terrace with its long mosaic benches and the sea-serpent feature, colourfully adorned with shimmering shards of tile. Gaudi’s house, which can be visited within the otherwise free Park for a small cost, exhibits furniture designed by the great man and is worth checking out if you’re a fan of the enigmatic architect.
Palau de la Música Catalana.
Built 1905 and 1908, this beautiful concert hall boasts a great interior which solely by itself commands anyone appreciative of beauty to stop by for a visit. But if you are also a lover of music, then you may attend the musical performances which range from symphonic to jazz music, with more than half a million people per year attending these performances.
Barcelona has one of the world’s largest aquariums. Children and adults alike will enjoy the thrill of going into a tunnel under the water while the sharks swim right over their heads! The aquarium is open 9:30am – 9pm (Jan-Jun, Sep-Dec).
Fundacio Joan Miro
One of Spain’s most important artists and often overlooked due to the lure of Picasso and Dali, the Fundacio Joan Miro in the Montjuic area of Barcelona is well worth a visit. Spacious and set in its own grounds, the museum is a step away from the regular metropolitan museums and galleries – the white building built around an internal courtyard is typically Mediterranean. Huge amounts of natural light help to bring Miro’s surrealist works to life and the museum also houses some of his sculptures and ceramic works as well as the paintings he’s more famous for. The museum also has a permanent exhibition space in which the foundation gives special attention to Spain’s more experimental artists. Website
Exploring Montjuic – best view in Barcelona
The mountain of Montjuic juts over Barcelona’s port on one face, and on the other side overhangs the Placa Espanya. With this location, it is ideal for playing. The mountain became the central mark of the World Fair of 1929 and the 1992 Olympic games. It’s beautiful and green, still forested and covered in parks.
On Montjuic is the Font del Gat, once a fashionable modernista cafe designed by Josep Puig i Cadafalch. Today, it’s an information and visitors center and restaurant, and a great starting place to explore Montjuic. Also in the tall mountain you’ll find some of the best museums in Barcelona like the MNAC and the Miro Foundation.
The most popular attraction around Montjuic is the Magic Fountain, or Font Magica. In daytime, the grand fountain beneath the MNAC staircase seems ordinary, but after dark, you’ll see the magic part. Music blasts from loudspeakers, and varicolored lighting illuminates the dancing waters of the fountain. Carles Buigas designed it for the 1929 World Fair, and it’s perfect for watching from one of the cafes surrounding it.
If you want to visit the Castell de Montjuic on the sea side of the mountain, your best choice is via the cable car, the Transbordador Aeri, that runs across the port. Once you’re settled on Montjuic, there’s plenty to see and do.
At the CaixaForum, you can view rotating diverse art exhibitions on three floors of a building that used to be a textile factory designed by modernista architect Puig i Cadalfach. Later, Japanese architect Arata Isozaki added a walkway, courtyard, and entrance to set off the art stored within. You can find more modern art at the Fundacio Joan Miro, devoted to the master of contemporary Catalan art. The Miro collection, donated by the artist, is so large that only part of it can be displayed at any given time. In sports-mad Barcelona, you’ll also find the Galeria Olimpica, a museum devoted to the games held in 1992. This museum is located in the cellar of the old Olympic Stadium.
The Jardi Botanic opened in 1999, but has already received international admiration for landscaping and concept. Most species are Mediterranean, or from a similar climate like Australia and California, and the park is divided into regions for each area. The telecommunications aerial, rather than detracting from the beauty, is designed to blend with the landscaping, and because of the way it leans, it acts as a giant sundial.
The Poble Espanyol will keep you outside. It’s a recreated Spanish village built for the 1929 World Fair and has almost a Disneyish feel. You can find over a hundred styles of Spanish architecture in one tiny spot, from the Levante to Galicia and Castilian high gothic. The entrance, a facsimile of the gateway to Avila, leads you to the center of the village, where you can have drinks at the outdoor cafe, or visit the flamenco taberna and other nightspots. Though some see this as a tourist trap, if you won’t be able to see much of Spain outside Barcelona this is a good choice for finding almost everything you’re interested in.
And history, of course, is not neglected. The Museu Militar de Montjuic is found inside the Castell de Montjuic, a fortress dating back to the 1600s that overlooks the sea. The collection is a treasury of military artifacts from armor to weapons to accoutrements to military art, and the fortress itself provides breathtaking views of the Barcelona skyline and the sea. The Museu d’Arquelogia de Catalunya occupies the former Palace of Graphic Arts of the 1929 World Fair. It surveys the long history of Barcelona, from the Iberian prehistory to the Greek, Roman, and Carthaginian periods, including many artifacts that were unearthed very close by. On the floor, you’ll find actual mosaics moved here from the places where they were unearthed; the curators invite visitors to walk over them, as they believe using them as they were intended provides better preservation for them.
There is much more to do on Montjuic, including visiting the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalynya (MNAC) or the Pavello Mies van der Rohe.
In 1992, the Olympics were held in Barcelona, Spain, exposing most of the world for the first time to the vibrant, wealthy city that had grown here over the years. Port Olimpic was built specifically to host the Olympics, and became the most successful and popular section of the Nova Icaria project. In this bright, modern area, it was almost too easy to forget how ancient Barcelona really is.
Today Port Olimpic is still a beautiful place to visit when you’ve come to Barcelona. With a brilliant night life filled with bars, restaurants, dance clubs, and people, the evenings here can be magical. And during the day, the same restaurants are just up the street from excellent places to shop, visit, and stay. Port Olimpic is located beneath the twin skyscrapers Mapfre Tower and Hotel Arts Barcelona.
Port Olimpic is one of the more enjoyable places in Europe to rent a speedboat and just tool around for the day. Port Olimpic is perfect for most boating ventures; its marina was built specifically for Olympic sailing competitions, and you’ll find the flats where athletes were housed close by.
Don’t Forget To Feed The Animals
The Barcelona Zoo was started in 1892. It is located in the center of the city and was started through donations. It is primarily located in the port area of La Ciutat Vella. There are more than 7,500 different animals here. They are very proud of their primate collection which at one point included an albino. There are animals from all over the world that can be seen here without having to go anywhere to find them. Due to the mild weather of the region these animals are able to be viewed year round. If you go during the summer you will be able to see Aquarama Barcelona, which is the water park of Barcelona to see Dolphin shows and much aquatic life.
Barcelona’s sights offered to tourists are not limited to the aforementioned main four, and the city offers many more attractions for a tourist to fall in love with. Other UNESCO World Heritage sites, chosen for their cultural significance and architectural wonder, are: Park Güell, Palau Güell, Casa Vicens, and Hospital de Sant Pau. Apart from the UNESCO sites, you may consider visiting CosmoCaiza Barcelona, recognized in 2006 as Europe’s best museum, CaixaForum Barcelon, an interesting exhibition hall, and the Museu Picasso, displaying the early works of the great artist.
Barcelona Liceu and the “popular cast”.
In addition to the street festivals, balladeers, and other cultural events, there are other inexpensive ways to take in a concert and enjoy some good music. Visit the Liceu (the city’s famous opera house) to take in a show. Because they have recently added a cast of new, not-so-famous performers, it’s possible to watch a show for less money than you’d have to spend to see the veterans. Called the “popular cast,” this group of talented artists takes over on the main cast’s night off. Other than the cast – and the price – the show is identical. You can save at least 50% off the regular ticket price for these performances.
La Mercé Fiesta
Towards the end of September Barcelona begins to limber up for the largest event on its festival calendar, La Mercé, a celebration of the city’s patron saint “Mare de Deu de la Mercé”. The festival heralds the end of summer and the onset of the autumn months. The festival is a real big deal for the people of Barcelona and the still temperate weather means that, in true Mediterranean fashion, must of the fun takes place outside. There’s a massive amount to do whilst the festival is on with events popping up all over the city and over 3000 artists and performers on display with over 500 activities to watch or take part in. The festival has a long and proud and first took place in 1902; today it’s a fantastic blend of tradition and innovation.
Enjoy watching one of the oldest traditions; the human towers or “Castells” are a real must-see, sometimes as much as ten stories high they’re a fantastic display of teamwork, agility and balance. Do not miss the celebration of fire and one of the most exhilarating experiences of La Mercé, the “Correfoc” (the “Fire Run”) where costumed fire-breathing devils rampage around the streets in a colourful pyrotechnic display. One of the childrens favourites is the “Dragons and Giants” procession which starts in the Plaza Real next to Las Ramblas.
Festivities aren’t just kept on the ground either, La Mercé also celebrates the sky with static hot air balloon flights, kite displays and other aerial exhibitions taking place throughout the festival on the city’s beaches. Other areas around the city to look out for are the Centro de Cultura Contemperanea de Barcelona where you can view street theatre, Moll de la Fusta which will be giving centre stage to numerous circus acts and Plaza St Rei where various dance troupes and performing artists will be vying for your attention.
The culmination of the festivities is called “Piromusica”l – the finale involves music and a huge fireworks display choreographed together for an amazing audio-visual experience.
* Festes de la Mercè Around the 24th of September, the main celebrations in the city. Live music during all the day and night, theatre, life in the streets, castellers, and most of it for free!
* Festes de Gràcia – around the 15th of August, the celebrations from the Gràcia quarter. Many streets are decorated by the neighbours, live music, food in the street, party all night long.
* Festes de Sants – similar to Gracia’s event, but smaller and a bit later in August. If you can’t go to the Gracia’s, try these!
* Sant Jordi 23rd of April. Is like Saint Valentine’s in many places. People give roses and books around the streets. Is one of the most popular and interesting celebrations in Catalonia.
Casa de l’Ardiaca during Corpus:
* Corpus. Late in May (Corpus Christi day). An egg is put over the fountains (most of them in the churches, and decorated with flowers), and “magically dances” over the water. Most of the churches are in the city centre: Cathedral’s cloister, Santa Anna, Casa de l’Ardiaca, Museu Frederic Marés, and over 10 more fountains.
* Fira de Santa Llúcia From December 2nd/3rd to December 23rd, to commemorate Sta Llúcia (December 13th). In front of the Cathedral, is where the Christmas objects are sold. Some places sell Christmas trees, but most of them sell elements for making the pessebres, the representations of the birth of Jesus that people uses to put at home. These include small sculptures, wooden pieces and moss used to simulate grass.
* Revetlla de Sant Joan: for weeks on end, listen to kids shoot off caps and fire crackers. Finish the week with San Juan, head down to the beach for various music stations and all night festivities.
Getting around in Barcelona
Barcelona Bus Turístic
Links all of the Barcelona tourist sites you could possibly want to visit. It has three routes, with maps obtainable as you board. Tickets can be purchased at bus stops, 23 euros for one day, or 30 euros for two consecutive days.
Barcelona Metro, Trams and Buses
The metro will take you to many places. Stations are marked <M> on most maps. One ride costs 2 euros, so it is best to buy a multi-person 10-ride ticket for 9.80 euros or a personal 50-ride monthly ticket for 37 euros, also valid on buses, trams, FGC (Catalan Railway Network) and on the main Spanish Trains (RENFE).