Like many other cities on the Mediterranean, Barcelona was founded by the Romans. The original settlement, called Barcino, was a small port located on the same spot as today’s cathedral.
The town was overshadowed by Tarragona, the capital of the province. Both the Visigoths and the Moors invaded Barcelona; however, their influence was not as important to the future of the city as the arrival of the Franks in the late 9th century.
It was at that point that Barcelona and Catalonia started shaping their own identity, different from the rest of Spain. This is most apparent in the language - Spanish, or Castilian, has many Arabic words, while Catalan has many French words instead. So Catalan is not a Spanish dialect, but a language in its own right, related to other Romance languages. Barcelona’s history is seen everywhere in the city. The oldest areas are located by the sea, including the shopping enclave Barri Gotic.
On the other side of the main boulevard, La Rambla, lies the legendary Raval district. Until the 1980’s this was the slum area, home to the city’s own Chinatown (Barrio Chino) and the red light district. Today, designer shops and cafés have moved in. Further north is fashionable Eixample, the area created as a result of the 19th century expansion of the city.
Fanciful architecture and hip restaurants have come together with the sunny southern Spanish climate and beaches. This has transformed Barcelona in just a few decades from a rough port city to one of Europe’s—if not the world’s—premier destinations.
Stroll along La Rambla, admire the Casa Calvet’s façade or the Casa Mila designed by Gaudi, visit the Market of la Boqueria or shop at El Corte Inglés, and sample some of the many bars, cafés and late night haunts while you’re at it.
Top 10 represents the list of must see attractions when planning your trip to magnificent Barcelona. Here you will find not only stunning architecture but also amazing beaches and lots of parks. So try to imagine yourself walking all over the city when reading the Top 10.
Much of the attraction of Barcelona is the city’s wide range of sights. The architect, the design nerd, the football fan, the art historian, the city planner - there is something for all of them in the most self-assured city on the Mediterranean. A visit to Sagrada Familia, Casa Mila and Casa Calvet is a must when visiting Barcelona.
The easiest thing is to divide Barcelona’s overwhelming range of restaurants into two parts: the new and the old. Some of the world’s most modern restaurants, managed by the world’s most innovative chefs (the most famous is Ferrán Adrià) can be found here, but there is also traditional Catalonian cuisine which despite being heavy on occasion, includes very good vegetable dishes (samfaina, a kind of ratatouille, escalivada, grilled, peeled peppers, aubergines and onions espinacs a la catalan, spinach fried with garlic, pine nuts and raisins). Best known is the simple rustic pa amb tomàquet: a slice of bread with olive oil, salt and freshly crushed tomatoes.
"The new ones" in particular may be expensive, but many of the best known chefs’ apprentices have now opened their own lower-priced restaurants. Generally speaking, "the old ones" provide better value for money, although even the traditional restaurants know how to charge. You should always reserve a table in Barcelona. Dinner is not served until 9pm.
Barcelona’s café culture is half Italian, and comes with its own set of simple rules.
Café con leche (café amb llet in Catalan) is for breakfast, preferably with a croissant.
Mid-day, especially after a meal, the locals have an espresso, café solo (un café) or a cortado (un tallat), which is an espresso with milk. Café Americano is what some would call watered down versions of the two first coffees.
In the afternoon, or after dinner, order a café solo corto, a strong espresso, or a carajillo—a café solo with Spanish brandy.
Barcelona stays awake while the rest of Europe sleeps. Nightlife starts late, preferably at a bar. Spaniards believe it’s smart to eat while drinking, so most bars also serve tapas.
Barcelona’s trendy nightlife is in a constant state of change so the best advice is to ask around for the latest and greatest places, especially in fashion and record shops.
Shopping in Barcelona offers lots of interesting browsing. Unusual shops can be found in most parts of the city, but those who want to be efficient should focus on Placa Catalunya and Barri Gotic. The amusing and gigantic department store El Corte Ingles is located by Placa Catalunya. Come here for the wares, but also for the people. Across the street is El Triangle, a grotesquely large shopping palace with a good perfumery and a Camper shoe store.