Barcelona is the capital of the autonomous region of Catalonia. With 1.6 million people, it is the second most populated city in Spain. The larger urban area of Barcelona has 4.8 million people. The city is located on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea and is bound in the west by the Sierra Collserola Mountains. It is an extremely popular city with tourists. Plan your trip to the city with our Barcelona travel guide.
Barcelona is one of the world’s major global cities. It is a hub for commerce, industry, culture, finance, education, fashion, and of course tourism. In 2017, an estimated 8.9 million tourists stayed in hotels in Barcelona. Tourist spending in the city in 2017 was approximately 30 billion Euros.
It is a city of contrasts – You will find beach clubs and a vibrant nightlife, churches and artistic history. There is shopping, unbeatable food and drinks and a many colorful festivals. There is something here for everyone. It is popular as a tourist destination both with European and non-EU tourists. The top draws in Barcelona are the beautiful beaches, Sagrada Familia church, Park Güell, and the La Rambla District.
“Barcelona is called the ‘City of Counts’ or Ciudad Condal in Spanish. This is because, in the past, it was the seat of the Count of Barcelona.”
The history of the city is traced back to 500 B.C. when there was a settlement in the area. The Romans, Carthaginians, and Visigoths also had control of this region over centuries. Barcelona came under the Spanish monarchy with the merging of the royal bloodlines of Catalonia and Spain. During the Spanish Civil War, Barcelona was also the capital of the Spanish Republic from November 1937 to January 1939.
Barcelona Quick Facts
- Barcelona is the capital of the autonomous region of Catalonia in Spain.
- Currency – Euro
- Barcelona is spread over 102 square kilometers.
- Population – 1.6 million as of 2017
- Time Zone – Central European Standard Time
- The ISD code is +34
- Most people speak both Spanish and Catalan.
- 8.Nine million tourists visited Barcelona in 2017.
- There is only 1 airport – El-Prat, which is 13 kilometers from the city.
- Extensive public transport system – TMB operated buses, subway trains, suburban railway called Rodalies and trams.
- All the beaches in Barcelona are artificial, but according to National Geographic, it is the ‘best beach city’ in the world.
- It took longer to build the La Sagrada Familia than the Great Pyramids of Egypt.
- The city is the largest metropolis in Europe on the Mediterranean coast.
- There are 9 UNESCO Heritage sites in the city.
- The Flamenco dance is not very popular in Barcelona.
Top 10 Reasons To Visit Barcelona
1. Architecture – There are gorgeous buildings and architectural heritage to see. See the famous architect, Antoni Gaudí’s work, Sagrada Familia, Casa Batllo, Casa Milà, Park Guell, La Pedrera, and more. The Basilica of Santa Maria del Mar is a fantastic example of a Gothic cathedral.
2. Museums – For history and culture. There are many museums worth visiting in Barcelona. Go to the National Museum of the Art of Catalonia, where you can see murals and a rich collection of Romanesque Art. The Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art houses Catalan and Spanish art pieces from 1945. You can also visit the Erotic Museum and the FC Barcelona Museum.
3. Contemporary Art – Artists like Salvador Dalí and Pablo Picasso have made the city a must-visit for art lovers. The contemporary art scene carries forward that legacy. Visit The MACBA, the contemporary art museum, which many consider one of a kind in Europe. Art galleries are spread throughout the city. Art admirers also love the street art of Barcelona.
4. Beaches – Barcelona on the Mediterranean coast has 7 beaches that stretch for 4.5 kilometers. The seaside is a leisure area, where you will see many swimmers and sun-bathers. The beach area is also nightlife and party destination. The most famous beaches are Bogatell, Barceloneta, Somorrostro, Nova Icaria, Mar Bela, and Sant Sebastia.
5. Festivals – Barcelona is a city of festivals, with the calendar marked from January to December. The important ones are the Barcelona Carnival, which is in spring. The city comes alive with parades, dancing, floats, and merriment for an entire week. Fiesta de Barceloneta is a summer festival of fireworks, giant papiér maché sculptures, and human castles.
6. Nightlife – Barcelona’s nightlife is famous. It is one of the world’s party capitals. Visit the El Raval neighborhood for its hipster vibes, underground bars, happening clubs with the best DJs. Even the Gothic Quarter and the Plaza Real have great cocktail bars. You will see some of the best street performers at Las Ramblas after sundown.
7. Food – The food is inspired by Mediterranean cuisine. Fresh tomatoes, artichokes, and eggplants are used liberally with generous dozes of olive oil. Try the famous Spanish dishes of tapas and paella, bombas (meat and mashed potatoes formed into balls and crumb fried), pa amb tomaquet (tomatoes rubbed on bread), and bocadillos (sandwiches).
8. Football – The city is crazy about the national sport of Spain: football. Barcelona Football Club is one of the most successful teams in the world. Great players like Lionel Messi, Neymar, Ronaldinho, and none other than Diego Maradona have played for this club. Camp Nou is the home of FC Barcelona. You can visit the ground and see the museum.
9. Shopping – It is often said that Passeig de Gràcia is the Champs-Elysées of Barcelona. This is Barcelona’s designer shopping district. On this boulevard, you will find some of the best-known designer labels like Gucci, Chanel, and Stella McCartney.
Weather – The weather is perfect for a holiday any time of the year. The winter temperature rarely dips below 6 degrees Celsius and in the summers it reaches highs of about 30 degrees. Summers are packed with tourists who come to enjoy the beaches and Catalan culture. There are fewer tourists in the winter, so you will have fewer crowds.
National Geographic feels Barcelona is the ‘best beach city’ in the world. According to Discovery Channel, the ‘Barceloneta Beach’ is the world’s 3rd best beach, and the best urban beach in the world.
How To Visit Barcelona On A Budget
Barcelona is costly for many tourists, but you can still save money on a trip to this city.
- The time of year will affect your budget. The city is packed with tourists in the summer. This is the best time for the beaches and sunshine. But prices will be high. Spring and autumn will be better if you are on a budget. The weather continues to be mild. There are fewer tourists. You can get some good deals.
- Get a T10 pass. It offers 10 journeys on buses, metros, trams and local trains within Zone 1 of Barcelona, which covers pretty much all the sights and attractions. You can share the pass with others, and it is valid for 1 year. You will get the T10 pass at kiosks at the airport and other places.
- There are a lot of activities that are worth your time and absolutely free. There are many museums showcasing art by Spanish greats like Picasso, Miro, and Dali. Most of these museums have a free entry day in the spirit of making art accessible to all. The Picasso museum is free on the first Sunday of every month. The Museum of Contemporary Culture is free on the first Monday. A walk through La Rambla or a visit to Park Güell is also free.
- Prepare your own meal. Visit the Boqueria Market, which is one of the largest in Europe for fresh produce. There are spices, fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, and dairy items.
- If you cannot make your own meal, then eat like the locals. Avoid the Passeig de Gracia and the touristy La Rambla. Head to Gracia, Sants, and Poble Sec, which are more local. The restaurants, cafes, and bars here are much cheaper.
- Go on a street-art walk. It costs nothing and is an interesting window to the city’s artistic life. Neighborhoods like Raval are full of murals, graffiti, and colorful flyers.
“Barcelona is the only city to have won a medal for architecture. In 1999 The Royal Institute for British Architects awarded a medal to the city for its outstanding contribution to global architecture.”
Barcelona Travel Guide – Weather
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The Best Time To Visit Barcelona
Spring – This is a magical season. The parks and gardens are full of colorful flowers. Cafés set up outdoor seating and tourists head towards the beach again. Spring is a great season for walking and cycling through the city without feeling too hot. There are many festivals to enjoy as well like the Barcelona Beer Festival in April, The Flamenco Festival in May, and the festivities around the holy week of Easter.
Summer – This is the high tourist season. The beaches are packed but still fun to visit. Barceloneta is one of the liveliest beaches you can visit. Most locals will be on vacation in July and August, so there is less traffic. You can enjoy festivals like the 5-day Primavera Festival of Music in late May and the Saint Joan Festival in June.
Autumn – Avoid the crowds by visiting Barcelona in the autumn. Weather averages around 20 degrees Celsius. There are very few rainy days. Enjoy the outdoors in pleasant weather. Autumn is marked by the pop-up chestnut stalls all around the city. You can buy roasted sweet potatoes and chestnuts on the street and have them hot. La Mercé Festival is celebrated for a week in late September with spectacular fireworks. You can also catch the Barcelona International Jazz Festival, which has been happening every year since 1966.
Winter – Barcelona never gets too cold because of the Mediterranean. It is not freezing, even at night, and the days are quite pleasant. Experience Christmas with Catalan traditions. It will be unique. The Three Kings Parade in January is a traditional festival you cannot miss. If you are missing the snow you can head to an ice rink for a bit of skating fun.
Barcelona Travel Guide for the Famous Neighborhoods
Gothic Quarter – The famous Gothic Quarter of Barcelona was the center of the Old City. It extends from La Rambla to Via Laietana. This is the oldest part of the city where you can still see remains from medieval times. Visit the Old Synagogue in Gothic style in the Jewish Quarter. The famous artist Pablo Picasso went to art school in one of the streets in this area. Can Culleretes, the oldest Spanish restaurant in Barcelona that first opened in 1786 is located here. La Boqueria, the famous market, is on the fringe of the Gothic Quarter and is a must-visit.
El Raval – This part of the city borders La Rambla, in the Ciutat Vella district of Barcelona. Earlier this area was called Chinatown. However, it is now centrally located as the city has grown. El Raval has a strong immigrant population with South Americans, Filipinos, East Europeans, and Pakistani families. The Contemporary Art Museum of Barcelona and the Maritime Museum are located here. There are many restaurants, pubs, bars, and nightclubs making it popular with locals and tourists.
La Barceloneta: An 18th-century neighborhood to house the people of Ribera. Barceloneta has a stretch of sandy beach, the most popular in the city. There are many restaurants and bars on the boardwalk. You can have your tapas, fresh paella, or a glass of beer here. Port Vell is at one end of this neighborhood. It was the home of fishermen and seafaring people once. Now this area is a very popular spot with tourists.