Nestled along the coastline of the Mediterranean Sea is the culturally-rich city of Barcelona, Spain. A long time center of culture and entertainment in Spain, Barcelona is the second largest city in the country and serves as the capital of autonomous community of Catalonia. Offering visitors a mixture of old world class and modern advancements, Barcelona has become one of the top tourist destinations in Europe.
Barcelona is perhaps most popular as a cruise destination. Its location on the Mediterranean Sea has made it a popular stop for seafarers for centuries now. The city’s first boom occurred over 2000 years ago when the Romans controlled the region, and the city has remained popular ever since. In the 21st century, Barcelona is the 16th most visited city in the world and the fourth most visited in Europe behind Paris, London, and Rome. A mere glance at all that Barcelona has to offer will tell you why it is such a popular tourist destination. One trip to Barcelona will take visitors back through centuries of Spanish history, offering some of the greatest entertainment and cultural delights available in the world.
What makes Barcelona special as a tourist destination is the variety of attractions the city has to offer its visitors. There is truly something for everyone in Barcelona, with the city offering attractions such as:
– Historical architecture
– Cultural attractions
– Sports and entertainment
– Beaches and parks
Like many of the major cities of Europe, Barcelona has a rich history of architectural achievements to offer visitors. Barcelona’s architectural history offers visitors two phases of architecture to enjoy during a visit. These phases include:
– Ancient Architecture
– Catalan Modernisme (known as Art Nouveau throughout the rest of Europe)
Much of Barcelona’s ancient architecture is found within a region of the city known as the Barri Gotic, or Gothic Quarter. Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter is locate in the heart of the old city of Barcelona and features predominantly medieval era buildings. There are, however, a number of buildings in this portion of the city that date back as far as the occupation by the Romans. Examples of some of the city’s ancient architecture include:
– Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia: Constructed between the 13th and 15th centuries, the Barcelona Cathedral serves as the seat of the Archbishop of Barcelona.
– Santa Maria del Pi: The church was built between 1319 and 1391 in a Catalan Gothic styling with little ornamentation on the façade.
– Palau Reial Major: This site is a complex of three distinct constructive periods. The Palatine Chapel of St. Agatha was built in 1302, the Salon el Tinell was constructed between 1359 and 1362, and the Palau el Lloctinent was built in 1549. The complex of buildings served as the home of the counts of Barcelona and then the Kings of Aragon.
The majority of Barcelona’s other architectural landmarks stem from the Catalan Modernisme movement. This international philosophical movement was known as Art Nouveau across the rest of Europe and is translated as “new art.” In Spain, the movement was dominated by the works of Antoni Gaudi. This architectural movement was most popular from 1890 to 1950, but extended outside this timeline in certain regions. Popular tourist attractions in Barcelona that date back to this period include the following:
– Casa Vicens: Designed as a family residence for industrialist Manuel Vicens, this structure is considered to be Gaudi’s first important work. The house was constructed between 1883 and 1889.
– Casa Mila: Also designed as a private residence, this home was also designed by Gaudi and constructed between 1905 and 1910.
– Sagrada Familia: Perhaps the most famous work of Gaudi, the Sagrada Familia is a massive Roman Catholic church that was designed by Gaudi. Construction began in 1882 and was only one quarter completed when Gaudi died in 1926. Construction continues today and is expected to be completed in 2026 on the centennial of Gaudi’s death.
Barcelona’s attraction to tourists does not lie just within its beautiful architecture. The city is famous for its cultural entertainment which offers visitors a blend of Catalan and Spanish influences. Barcelona’s world-renowned theatres and live music spectacles attract millions of tourists each year. In addition to strolling along La Rambla to view the living statues and catching live music at the annual Sonar Festival or Primavera Sound Festival, visitors to Barcelona can soak in Spanish culture at the following venues:
– Gran Teatre del Liceu (opera theater)
– Teatre Nacional de Catalunya
– Teatre Lliure
– Palau e la Musica Catalana
Outdoor enthusiasts will quickly fall in love with Barcelona’s beaches and parks. The city boasts seven beaches with a total of 2.8 miles worth of coastline on the Mediterranean Sea. Of the city’s seven beaches, Sant Sebastia and Barceloneta are the largest, oldest, and most popular beaches in Barcelona. The other five beaches within the city’s limits were created in preparation for the 1992 Summer Olympics. During the preparation for the games, Barcelona tore down large industrial sectors of the city to make room for more beaches. Barcelona’s beaches have garnered international recognition for the city. National Geographic named the city first on its list of the Top 10 Beach Cities in the world. A 2005 Discovery Channel documentary entitled “Worlds Best Beaches” declared Barceloneta beach the best urban beach in the world, and third best beach in the world overall.
Last, but not least, Barcelona is also home to world class sporting facilities and clubs. FC Barcelona is one of the most recognizable athletic clubs in the world. The club is known largely for its football team which has won the UEFA Champions League title four times, including twice in the last three years. FC Barcelona play their home matches at the Camp Nou. The stadium has been rated an elite facility by UEFA and boasts the largest capacity in all of Europe at 100,000.
Barcelona is a one of kind city. As the largest metropolis along the Mediterranean coastline, the city has stood for centuries as a beacon of culture, entertainment, and tourism. There is no shortage of tourist attractions to see in Barcelona, and many would be hard pressed to even scratch the surface after just one visit!
By Matthew McCabe
- Barcelona Day Trips: Tarragona, Montserrat & Tibidabo (taramullally.wordpress.com)
- A Tourist’s Guide to Barcelona (travelsupermarket.com)
- Barcelona cheap hotels (ebookers.com)
- Top City Travel Guide Tours (CityGuideTours.com)