Spain’s second largest city has earned a reputation as a vibrant cultural destination, landing it on numerous must-visit lists of note. Although recent years have seen Barcelona gain notoriety as a world economic hub, its main draw for visitors remains its culture, including a robust nightlife, conveniently located beaches, and historic sites that date back to its origins as a Roman city. The Mediterranean climate delivers moderate weather most of the year, although high summer can be a trifle hot and humid, as well as the period when the city is most overrun by tourists. Locals speak both Catalan (the official language of the Catalonia region) and Castilian Spanish.
THE CITY’S CULTURE
Catalonian pride runs deep, and residents can be keen to extol the virtues of their region’s culture, particularly how it differs from that of the rest of Spain. Nowhere is this pride better evidenced than in Barcelonans’ enthusiasm for Futball Club Barcelona, one of the most prestigious soccer teams in the world, whose logos can be found emblazoned on shirts and trinkets in every corner of the city. Cuisine also plays a key role, and Barcelona often leads Spain in Michelin stars. Dinners are enjoyed late in the evening, with patrons lingering for hours over their meals of fish, fresh vegetables, and the region’s renowned local wines and cured meats.
Famed architect Antoni Gaudí left his stamp on the city, with seven of his projects enjoying status as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The most famous by far is the Sagrada Familia, the gothic/art nouveau masterpiece that is the most visited monument in Spain; construction of the church is expected to be completed in 2026, the centenary of Gaudí’s death. The city’s Picasso Museum, housed in interconnected medieval palaces, boasts one of the most extensive collections of the artist’s work. On the border of the Gothic Quarter, La Rambla offers shopping and street performances over its tree-lined 1.2-kilometer/.75-mile length, which is also home to a mosaic by Joan Miró and several performance venues, including the Gran Teatre del Liceu opera house.
WHERE TO EXPLORE
At any given hour of the day, an even mix of visitors and locals roam the narrow, labyrinthine alleys of the Barrio Gotico (Gothic Quarter), where numerous bars, cafes, and artisan boutiques have set up shop in buildings that date back to medieval and even Roman times. Remains of the Roman Wall, built in the third and fourth centuries, still stand, and numerous walking tours offer insight into the city’s early years, when it was known as Barcino. In the southeastern part of the city lies the hilled district of Montjuïc, home to a botanical garden, a museum dedicated to Barcelona native Joan Miró, and the Palau Nacional, which contains more than 5,000 works from the National Art Museum of Catalonia. Barceloneta is perhaps the most popular beach in the city, with fewer crowds in Icària and Mar Bella.