This city, located directly on the northeastern Mediterranean coast of Spain, has a rich history, having been under Roman, then Frank law before declaring its independence.
In 1992, Barcelona gained international recognition by hosting the Olympic games which brought a massive upturn in its tourism industry.
This had the effect of changing the city in ways that are still felt today with neighbourhoods renovated (and in some cases leveled) and the intense focus of modern design permeating all aspects of life in Barcelona from public buildings to something as simple as a park bench or an event poster.
For visitors, this has translated into the very modern, yet incredibly old city you see now in the 21st century, where the new elements work to both preserve and celebrate the ancient.
This beautiful city is full of what European cities are known for (outdoor markets, restaurants, shops, museums and churches) and is fantastic for walking with an extensive and reliable Metro system for more far-flung destinations. The core centre of town, focused around the Ciutat Vella ("Old City") provides days of enjoyment for those looking to experience the life of Barcelona while the beaches the city was built upon provide sun and relaxation during the long periods of agreeably warm weather.
The exact circumstances of the founding of the city of Barcelona are uncertain, but the remains of a settlement many thousands of years old have been found in the neighborhood of Raval. While legend has Hannibal's father founding Barcelona in the 3rd Century B.C., there is no substantiating evidence.
The Roman Period
Around 15 B.C., the Romans established the military camp of Faventia near the present-day Barcelona city hall. The colony was, at first, dwarfed in size by nearby Tarraco but soon grew large and prosperous, largely due to its excellent harbor.
To this day, there are vestiges in Barcelona of its Roman past, many on display at the Barcelona City History Museum. In the city's historic center, the original Roman street grid is still discernible. There are also fragments of ancient Roman walls built into the Basilica La Seu, a cathedral dating from the 4th Century A.D.
Invading Visigoths captured Barcelona in the 5th Century and made it, though briefly, the capital of Gothic Spain. By the 8th Century, Islamic invaders took the city, but in 801, the French wrested it back into Christian hands and made it the capital of a new buffer state called the "Hispanic March.
The Hispanic March was ruled by the Count of Barcelona, and as time wore on, local counts became increasingly independent of French rule. The County of Barcelona soon annexed all Catalonia and generally prospered, though in 985, the city was sacked by Almanzor, ruler of Muslim Andalusia.
In 1137, the County of Barcelona was united to Aragon by royal marriage, ultimately forming the single Crown of Aragon. The County of Barcelona, united with the rest of the Catalan Counties, formed the Principality of Catalonia, which remained in personal union with the kingdoms of Aragon, Valencia, Majorca and others under the Crown. Aragon then built up an empire, which included Naples and Sicily and achieved naval domination of the western Mediterranean.
In 1469, Aragon was united to Castile, again by royal marriage, and Madrid instead of Barcelona became the capital of the Monarchy of Spain. When Spain gained a New World Empire, the importance of Mediterranean commerce, and thus of Barcelona, declined.
Barcelona remained a hotbed of insurgency long after union with Castile, and this led to the failed Catalan Revolt of 1640 to 1652. Also damaging the city at this time was the Great Plague, which killed half the population. Barcelona took some damage during the Napoleanic Wars, but the 19th Century Industrial Revolution improved the city's fortunes, while at the same time it turned into a revolutionary center.
In 1931 Barcelona was one of the first cities to proclaim the Second Spanish Republic and it was declared the capital of the autonomous region of Catalonia the same year. During the Spanish Civil War of the 1930's, Barcelona was a stronghold of Republicanism but was eventually overrun by Anarchists and Communists until the Fascist Franco regime took the city and won the war. Francisco Franco ruled as dictator until his death in 1975, after which the monarchy was re-established under Juan Carlos I, who in turn, transitioned to democratic rule.
In more recent decades, Barcelona, again the capital of the autonomous Catalonia, has gained importance as an economic center and as one of Europe's busiest ports. In 1992, the city garnered attention by hosting the Summer Olympics.
The city of Barcelona has a classic "Mediterranean climate" with mild, humid winters and hot, dry summers. While there are four distinct seasons to the year, they are not at all of equal length if measured by conditions rather than equinoxes: "summer" lasts from May till October (half the year), cooler winter temperatures continue for three months, (December, January and February), and the transitional periods of spring and fall are only represented by the single months of April and November.
The hottest month of the year is August, which has average highs of 84º F (29º C) and average lows of 74º F (23º C). The coldest month is January, with highs averaging 59º F (14º C) and lows averaging 49º F (9º C). April has average highs of 66º F (19º C) and average lows of 55º F (13º C), while November has highs of 64º F (18º C) and lows of 53º F (12º C).
As Barcelona's position on the Mediterranean coast makes it a haven for swimming and sailing, the sea temperature is of interest to many tourists. The average annual mean of seawater near Barcelona is 68º F (20º C). In January, the mean is 55º F (13º C), and in August, it is 79º F (26º C).
Temperatures tend to be relatively steady in Barcelona, rarely going through drastic fluctuation during the day- and this is especially the case in the summer. During winter, the warm seawater prevents most frosts, temperatures almost never drop below freezing and snow only falls once or twice in a decade.
Barcelona receives 25 Inches (640 mm) of rainfall per year, with the rainiest season being autumn and the least-rainy season being the summer. A typical year has 55 rain days, meaning days during which rainfall is one millimeter or greater. The important things for tourists to note are that September and October see a good deal of rain, June and July are very dry and the rest of the year has moderate to light rainfall.
Humidity, Fog and Sunshine
Relative humidity averages 72% across the year, with July being the least-humid month (69% humidity) and October being the most-humid month (75% humidity). While fog is relatively infrequent in Barcelona during most of the year, in early springtime sea fog often lingers in the area as warm African air masses move in over significantly colder sea water.
There are over 2,500 sunlight hours per year, and there is great seasonal fluctuation. December has the fewest sunshine hours at 138 and 4.5 per day, and July gets the most sunshine at 310 hours and 10 hours per day.
Wind and Storms
Overall, Barcelona is not a particularly windy city, but sea breezes are not uncommon in the summer, and they can occasionally bring storms that flood the coastline. During the summer and fall, thunderstorms are common and occasionally quite severe. Winds blowing from the Atlantic and across the Iberian Peninsula usually arrive in Barcelona with little humidity and no rain.
Barcelona has a population of 1.6 million within its city limits and 5.3 million within its metropolitan area, making it the second-most populous city in Spain. Its also one of the most densely populated cities in all of Europe, having over 40,000 residents per square mile. Furthermore, since half the city's territory contains only 10% of the population, the other half has nearly double the density of the city as a whole.
Sixty-two percent of Barcelona's people are native to Catalonia, and another 24% moved there from some other part of Spain. Thus, a large majority of the population are of Spanish descent. However, 17% of residents hail from another country — up from only four percent in 2001. The foreign-born populations consists of Arabs, Italians, Chinese, Ecuadorians and Bolivians among others. There is also a Jewish community of 3,500 — the largest in Spain — and a small Japanese community.
Spanish is spoken almost universally in Barcelona, but the Catalan language has also made a comeback due to intensive efforts in the school systems in recent years. Catalan is understood by 95% of residents, spoken by 72% and written by 53%.
While a majority of Barcelona's people have historically been Roman Catholic, a 2011 survey found that just 49.5% identify as Catholic. There are a number of other religious groups in the city that have sizable followings. First, there are over 300,000 Muslims, which is the largest Muslim population in all of Spain. The Jewish community of 3,500, as one could well guess, continues to follow Judaism. Finally, there are a good number of Evangelicals, Eastern Orthodox, Jehovah's Witnesses and Buddhists present in Barcelona.
Economically, Barcelona's people are fairly well off. The city's GDP is over €200 million and €28,510 per capita.
Ever since the 18th Century, when Barcelona and Catalonia were among the first parts of Europe to industrialize, manufacturing has been a major occupation of the city's residents. Commerce has an even longer history in Barcelona, and that tradition continues to the present day. Trade fairs, media outlets, fashion centers, educational institutions and scientific endeavors are also all prevalent in the city. Tourism, however, is one of the biggest industries. Specifically, Barcelona is the tenth-most visited city on the planet and the third-most visited in Europe, seeing over eight million tourists every single year."
As the capital and main cultural center of Catalonia, Barcelona is also the central "literary hub" of works produced in the Catalan language. Under the long rule of the Franco dictatorship, Catalan was systematically suppressed and discouraged, but in recent decades, it has emerged with new life. It is being taught once again in Barcelona's school system, and most of the city's people now understand it. Spanish works are also, of course, important in Barcelona's literary tradition, and is the vehicle through which the city interacts with the rest of Spain and much of the world.
Some of the most popular literary works of Barcelona, both in Catalan and in Spanish (and often with an English translation) are as follows:
When to visit
August is probably the busiest time in Barcelona; at the same time about 10% of shops and restaurants can be found closed from mid-August to early September, when the owners go on vacations. In the centre of Barcelona you will find most shops and restaurants open. However there will still be plenty of tourists. Barcelona has decent enough beaches but the locals will really appreciate it if visitors do not consider it a beach resort and don't wear beachwear when visiting churches, restaurants, etc.
Barcelona is great off-season and is a lovely city even in winter months of January and February as long as the possibility of rain is low. During these months the city is not too cold averaging between 9-10°C with sunny and blue skies. Given the high humidity, 19-23°C is considered comfortable weather, which is normally the temperature between April and June and between late September to November. This is the best time to visit the city. Anything warmer than this can feel too hot.
Easter week, as well as Christmas to New Year's Eve are very busy times. If you'd rather avoid the crowds, don't come during those dates. Also, avoid visiting during the Mobile World Congress or the Formula 1 racing, unless you are ready to pay extremely expensive hotel rates.
Toddler happiness is considered a public responsibility in Spain: in any public place people around you put every effort into making your toddler happy: whenever he or she looks bored or is crying, everyone does their best to entertain or to calm them.
Barcelona's Visitor Information office can be reached on +34 932 853 834 M-Sa 08:00-20:00, Su/Holidays 08:00-14:00 and offers tourist information, hotel bookings and more.
Tourist Offices are located at:
Low cost carriers include: Norwegian, Air Berlin, Monarch Airlines, Jet2.com, Vueling (a discount subsidiary of Iberia), Wizz Air, easyJet, Ryanair , Blue Air, Transavia, Germanwings, TUI Fly among many others.
Trick: You can also take a Ryanair carrier to an inner city like Zaragoza and then use the train to reach Barcelona one hour and 30 minutes later. Those flights are usually much cheaper (around 35 euros from Paris, London or Brussels).
Barcelona International Airport
In the city centre (Vila Olímpica), there is a service offering Lockers designed for Hand-Luggage and Suitcases. These Lockers worked with a system of RFiD Card. This store called "ChillZone Lockers Barcelona" is located on Carrer Salvador Espriu, 61 (Local 39) 08005 Barcelona, in the comercial center EL CENTRE DE LA VILA, 2 minutes away from the Beach of Nova Icaria. Additionally, you have the possibility to use their changing rooms and charge your smartphone by using the plug installed in each locker. Prices start at €9 per day for a Medium Locker allowing to store up to 3 hand-luggage. More information on ChillZone Lockers Barcelona.
In the city centre, there is a baggage storage service with keypad-based lockers on Carrer Estruc, 36 (right next to Plaça Catalunya) called "Locker Barcelona". Their prices start from €3.50 per day for a medium locker that stores 1 luggage bag.
There is also a collecting service from Barcelona Airport and from your accommodation in Barcelona delivered by different companies. They are responsible for collecting your luggage at the airport on arrival or at the hotel / apartment when leaving and deliver it at the agreed location and time (airport or hotel / apartment, respectively). The price is very interesting: 10 € for the first bag and 5 € for each additional bag. You can also ask for 5 € per suitcase, plasticizing it, thus protecting from bumps on the plane. The price includes insurance value of € 3,000 for the content of the suitcase.
There are now two terminals, T1 and T2, the latter with A, B, and C subdivisions. T1 and T2 are linked by a bus shuttle (every 5-7 min, travel time 12 min).
T1, the newer terminal, hosts Iberia, Air Europa, Vueling and a variety of major international airlines, including Singapore Airlines, Qatar, Pakistan Intl., Emirates, Delta Air Lines, US Airways, American Airlines, Air Canada, Avianca, Aerolíneas Argentinas, Alitalia, CSA, SAS, TAP, Lufthansa, Austrian, Air France, KLM, British Airways, LOT, Tarom, etc.
Sectors A, B and C of T2 are all within fairly easy walking distance of each other.
Please be aware that you can check in for your flight only at the respective terminal T1 or T2 and, since they are 7 km apart and there is little information available at the train station and bus stops, it's good to know which terminal you need before arriving at the airport! AENA provides information about the allocation of airlines to terminals.
The airport is only about 12-14 km away from the city centre.
Aerobús is a shuttle bus service that connects the Airport (both terminals) with the centre of Barcelona (Plaça de Catalunya), leaving every 5-10 minutes (A1), every 10-20minutes (A2), every day of the year. The "A1" line takes you to/from Terminal 1 and the "A2" line takes you to/from Terminal 2. The shuttle bus service is available everyday from 5:30am to 1am, and the journey lasts about 30 minutes (although it can take considerably longer during rush hour). From the Airport, the shuttle bus makes a total of 4 stops: Plaça Espanya, Gran Via - Urgell, Plaça Universitat, and finally Plaça de Catalunya. To the Airport from Plaça de Catalunya, the shuttle bus only makes a total of 3 stops: Sepúlveda - Urgell, Plaça Espanya, and finally the Airport. A one-way ticket to/from either Terminal costs €5.90 or you can buy a return ticket for €10.20 which you must use within 15 days. You can pay by either credit card (machine only) or cash (machine/ticket agent). Buses are heavily air-conditioned in Summer, so consider having something extra to wear during the journey. Aerobús stops running after 1am, but you can catch a Nitbús night bus service instead (line N17 to T1 or line N16 to T2, 22.00-05.00 every 20 min. The ride from Plaça de Catalunya to the Airport takes about 40-50 min).
The cheapest, but slower option than Aerobús, is a bus 46 serving both T1 & T2. Its last stop in Barcelona is Plaça Espanya reached in 25-30 minutes. The one-way ticket costs €2 and can be purchased from the driver. Even cheaper is to buy a T10 Travelcard from the machine located at the train station outside Terminal 2; this offers even greater value and convenience if further transfer by metro, bus, tram etc. will be needed as the T10 Travelcard journey is valid for 75 mins - see the Transfer by Train section for details. Between 11 pm and 6 am the 46 bus service is replaced by N16/17 buses; they take a diversion adding some ten minutes to otherwise a very rapid journey ending at the same Plaça Espanya.
A cheap and fast option is the half-hourly RENFE R2 Nord suburban train line calling at Sants (travel time is 18 min), Passeig de Gràcia (24 min), El Clot-Aragó (30 min) and more stations beyond Barcelona city limits. Please be advised that this airport train has changed, and no longer terminates at Estació de França (it now goes through the centre of Barcelona and into the suburbs, so it is important to know at which station you should get off). The train terminates next to T2 by section B, with a connecting green coloured bus service to T1 (plan for an extra 15 min of travel). The airport train station has got facilities for disabled people: escalators, lifts, etc. A single ticket for the train is €4.10 (April 2014), but you can also buy a T10 travelcard (€9.95 for ten trips over any period of time; each of those trips includes 3 bus, metro, train or tramway transfers made within 75 min) instead. You can buy a T10 from the ticket vending machine at the airport station and at the tobacco shop in front of Terminal 2B; you can buy a T10 travelcard at Terminal 1 in the tobacco shop just outside the arrival lounge exit.
If you arrive at T1, you'll need to catch the free airport transfer bus (it goes from T1 to T2B then T2C then loops again to T1) and stops right next to the Aerobus stop. The ride is at least 10 minutes long. Get off the bus, head into the terminal, follow the sign to Renfe, go up the escalators, leave the terminal building, go through the overhead pass until you get to the train station. About a 10-20 minute walk. Buy the T-10 pass and use it to access the station.
Taxis and Transfer Services
Airport transfers can be arranged for groups, taxis are available but expensive (€30-40 to the city centre). Taxis and Minibuses can be pre-booked on-line:
Some low-cost carriers, notably Ryanair, use airports in Girona, nearly 100 km to the north, or Reus, around the same distance to the south, instead. Since Ryanair recently started operating at Barcelona El Prat (airport code BCN) check using the three-letter airport codes where your flight actually goes. Girona's airport code is GRO and Reus's airport code is REU.
For Girona Airport, the Barcelona Bus service runs a shuttle bus from Estació del Nord (which is walking distance to the Arc de Triomf metro stop) in Barcelona to Girona Airport and this ties in with various flight times. A one-way ticket costs €16 and a return ticket costs €25. The journey takes approximately one hour and ten minutes. Timetables are available on-line.
For Reus Airport, the easiest way to get there is to take the bus run by Hispano Igualadina from the Barcelona Sants bus station to the airport. Bus departures are synchronized with Ryanair plane departures/arrivals. One way ticket costs €13 and a return ticket costs €24. The journey takes c. 100 min, depending on the traffic on the motorway. Timetables are available on-line. A slightly cheaper, yet longer option is to take a train from Barcelona Sants station to Reus and then the local bus no. 50 to the airport. The train costs €8.40 (Regional) or €9.55 (Regional Express) and then the bus costs €2.10. This takes roughly about two and a half hours. Train timetables can be checked at Rodalies de Catalunya website. The bus timetable is available at the website of Reus public transport.
Several trains per day (including overnight hotel trains) from other parts of Europe (via France) are regular and reliable.
Main train stations:
From Estació de Sants and Passeig de Grácia there are several connections per day to Cerbère (France), connecting there on trains towards Marseille and Nice. There are also one or two direct "Talgo" trains a day from Sants to Perpignan, Beziers, Narbonne and Montpellier in France.
Overnight Trenhotel trains operated by Elipsos runs daily from Paris-Austerlitz while depatures from Milan and Zurich are every second day. All trenhotels trains terminates at the Estació de França station. Prices starts at €74 for second class.
There is also a less-well-known rail line over the Pyrenees to Toulouse. There are four trains per day to La Tor de Querol (Latour-de-Carol), where it is possible to transfer to a French train bound for Toulouse. The journey takes 7-8 hr (including transfer) and costs roughly €30 one way.
After very long delays, the high-speed line between Barcelona and Figueres finally opened in early 2013. The new SNCF and RENFE cooperation offers service between cities in France and Barcelona. Paris to Barcelona is 6 hours, 25 minutes. Barcelona to Lyon takes just under 5 hours. Barcelona to Marseille is about 4 hours, 17 minutes. Barcelona to Toulouse is just over 3 hours.
The long-delayed AVE high-speed train line to Madrid finally opened in February 2008. Travel time is 3 hr with intermediate stops (11 trains a day) or 2.5 hr non-stop (6 trains a day during morning and evening peak hours).
The city's port is one of the busiest on the Mediterranean, with nine passenger terminals, seven for cruise liners and four for ferries. Large cruise ships dock 1-2 km to the southwest. Many offer bus-shuttles to points near the south end of La Rambla.
You can arrive to Barcelona by boat from the Balearic Islands, Genoa, Rome, Livorno, Sardinia, Tangier, and Algiers. From Rome (Civitavecchia) it is actually cheaper than the bus. The ferry docks almost directly on the Ramblas.
There are several main roads leading to Barcelona from France and Spain and traffic is usually relatively light outside of peak hours. It is possible to find free parking spaces a few metro stops from the centre of the city.
Blue parking spaces must be paid for M-Sa 09:00-14:00 and 16:00-18:00. At some crossroads the free time ends at 08:00. Anyone can use a blue space but they aren't that easy to find. You pay at the meter and put the ticket on the dashboard. Green parking spaces are for residents only. White parking spaces are free at all times but there aren't any in the city centre.
The city car parks have some special offers for tourists.
The department store El Corte Inglés publishes a helpful (and free) street map for tourists. You can pick a copy at the store, or from most hotel front desks. They're also available at the tourism information offices (including one at each terminal at Barcelona El Prat Airport).
At the Tourism Information Offices they also sell "official city maps", but they aren't that worth. Ask instead for the free "Barcelona Hotel Map", which contains a pretty good blow-up of the Old Town alleys.
By public transport
Due to the demands of bicycle hire companies, the city's bike share system 'Bicing' is not available to tourists. Therefore maybe consider walking instead.
Offers different routes through Barcelona city and most visited spots. Also offers open routes up to clients preferences, friendly and multilingual. The tour is fun, silent and smart, and 100% ecological. more info: [email protected], tel 93 5195700.
Explore highlights the of Barcelona by segway in hours. Several tours give you the opportunity to Get to know the history of Barcelona from professional tour guides also get advice for the best places for eating, going out and shopping.
Parking around all major tourist destinations is expensive (€3/hour, €20-36/day) and the spaces are difficult to navigate, as there are several classes of public parking spaces, with complicated rules for each class. Barcelona is plagued with the same problems that plague other major European cities; massive traffic jams and extremely narrow streets in some areas, coupled with a very complicated road system. As such, driving yourself around is not recommended for tourists, especially those with no driving experience in large cities. Public transport will get you to all the major areas, and you should use that as your main mode of transport.
Having a driving map is essential - plan your route before you set off. Navigating with an average tourist map is frequently misleading: many streets are one-way; left turns are more rare than rights (and are unpredictable). As an example, Gran via de Les Corts Catalanes is technically two-way, but in one direction supports only minor traffic: after every crossroad you'll find the traffic light on the next crossroad turns red by the time you reach it.
But if you have to take a rent a car there are several companies there to get great car rental rates. Some free parking spots reported by travelers are:
Getting around by car makes sense if you plan to spend much more time driving outside the city borders than inside it - and ideally if you don't plan to park overnight at all. Otherwise, for purely in-city transportation, consider renting a scooter, or using public transportation instead.
Barcelona's official languages are Catalan and Spanish. However, most signs are indicated only in Catalan because it is established by law as the administrative language. Yet, Spanish is also widely used in public transport and other facilities. As in most other cities, any attempt by visitors to use the native languages is always appreciated. Most locals are bilingual in Catalan and Spanish, and instinctively address foreigners in Spanish. Catalan is a language, not a dialect of Spanish, and sounds closer to Italian, Portuguese, and French in many ways. Avoid referring to Catalan as a dialect, which will offend Catalans.
These issues regarding language, national identity, and politics are like politics anywhere, and there's no way to summarize here. The percentage of Catalan speakers is much lower In the city of Barcelona than in the rest of Catalonia. People here thus generally use Catalan with family members, close friends, and others that they are sure speak the language, and use Spanish, which is understood universally, with strangers. Spanish-speaking visitors will have no problems in Barcelona.
In tourist areas, almost all shops and bars have some English speaking staff. People will generally make an effort to try to help you if you speak in English. If you are an English speaker you will not have any problem as Barcelona is a very touristic city.
Walk around the winding streets and hidden squares, fountains and palaces in the Barri Gòtic (Ciutat Vella).
If you are thinking of visiting several museums, an "articket" will save you some money. It is a combined ticket costing €30 and covering admission to six museums.
Attractions spanning several districts
Temple of Augustus
The Temple of the Roman colony of Barcino date of the first century BC, was dedicated to the imperial cult. The building was located on the axis of the Forum, an arcaded square where the main public buildings clustered in the city, the church or the bar, where he met the Ordo Decurionum or municipal senate, there was the market on all products sold arriving anywhere in the Mediterranean. The temple overlooking the city, which rises on a podium which is accessed by a staircase, but had also built a small hill's highest point, known as Mons Taber on which built Barcino. Today the remains of the Temple is located inside a building which houses four columns and Corinthian fluted shaft, and architrave of the podium. Address: Paradís street, 10 
Gaudi architecture and Modernist Barcelona
Gaudi's masterpieces are the Parc Güell in Gràcia, the still unfinished (as of 2017) Sagrada Família in Eixample and the houses La Pedrera/Casa Milà and La Casa Batlló both in Eixample. Other Gaudi works open to the public are Palau Güell and Torre Bellesguard, while Casa Vicenç" is expected to open in autumn 2017. The Ruta del Modernisme  run by Modernisme Centre (Pl. de Catalunya, 17, subterráneo; phone +34 933 177 652): guidebook and discount voucher book for €12. Takes you round all the best Modernisme (art nouveau) buildings in Barcelona. The main part of the route can be walked in a couple of hours, providing you don't stray too far from the main routes. The Tourist Offices offer a pack that includes discounted tickets to many attractions such as La Pedrera and La Casa Batlló. All can be seen from the outside for free. Outside of Barcelona you can also visit the Cripta Güell (accessible by FFCC train) and the Artigas Gardens (accessible by Alsa buses).
La Sagrada Familia
One of the most famous and breathtaking locations to visit in Barcelona the most famous building in the entire city and its landmark, La Sagrada Familia. Although incomplete, the church is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and in November 2010 was consecrated and proclaimed a minor basilica by Pope Benedict XVI. From the outside, visitors are astonished by the sheer height and intricacy of the design of the church and although it is not completed yet, the progress that has been made is incredibly impressive. The project began nearly a century ago and was designed by one of Spain’s most well known and respected architects in Spanish history, Antoni Gaudi. Gaudi was born a Catalan (ethnic group in Spain) and produced some of the most moving buildings and works of art that are still standing and praised by the Spanish people. Undoubtedly, his most famous work is La Sagrada Familia. La Sagrada familia is a masterpiece in the center of the city of Barcelona. The height of the church will be, once it's finished, exactly equal to the height of the largest mountain in the nearby hills, the reason being because Gaudi felt that no man-made creation should ever rise above God’s natural creations. The height of the church is overwhelming when standing at its base and the inside is even more impressive.
Upon first walking into the church one cannot help to feel their stomach drop as they witness one of the most impressive and beautiful creations known to man. Visitors first gaze up at the height that the ceiling extends to, supported by beautiful hand shaped columns, which were hand-shaped to resemble the trunks of trees. As a lover of nature, Gaudi included many elements of God’s natural beauty within his work. As visitors move towards the center of church they cannot help but to twist their head in a full 360 to admire all of the stained glass windows that line the walls of the basilica. During the day these windows produce incredible natural light (a personal favorite of Gaudi) that illuminates the sheer beauty of the inner church.
The church is absolutely breathtaking. La Sagrada Familia is an absolute must see for every visitor in Spain and the Barcelona. It is truly a masterpiece and is sure to please visitors of all ages. Images of this majestic church can be found here.
To avoid the queue, tickets may be booked online and collected at Sagrada Familia itself. You will need to indicate the time of visit. If you plan visit either the Passion Tower or the Nativity Tower. You can stay in Segrada Familia for as long as you want after descending the Tower. The Passion Tower has elevator both ways. The Nativity Tower option means you to take the elevator up and walk all the way down. You enjoy the view of the city as you climb down, not the external wall of the Tower.
Named the #1 Beach City in the world by National Geographic, Barcelona's beaches are world-renowned. Although locals prefer that you do not stroll through the city in beachwear, the beaches themselves have a very open and relaxed atmosphere. As with many other European beaches, you will find topless (and even nudist) beach-goers. Unlike many European beaches, however, you will find fun and friendly "chiringuitos" common on Spanish beaches that offer you a place to sit down and listen to music while you have a drink and grab a bite to eat directly on the sand as you watch beach-goers strolling by. Please be aware that the sand at the main beaches is quite rough - may have small stones and shells as well.
The Barcelona beach season starts around March 15th and goes until around November 15th. The High Season for beach-goers is usually from the end of May until the end of September.
Despite having 1.6 million people within its city limits and nearly five million in its metropolitan area, Barcelona is a relatively compact city, with many of its top tourist attractions within easy walking distance of each other. This makes it practical to "do" Barcelona by means of a professional walking tour or even to explore its streets and attractions entirely on your own.
Things to Do in the Ciutat Vella
The Ciutat Vella, meaning "Old City," is the oldest, most central and most tourist-visited neighborhood of Barcelona. Some of its famous streets and their attractions are:
Things to Do in Other Barcelona Neighborhoods
Festivals and events
Barcelona hosts a number of annual fiestas, many of which are unique to Catalonia and offer an insight into its distinctive culture.
During festivals and especially during mobile world congress which is a major trade show at the Fira, accommodation in Barcelona and especially near the Fira is much more difficult to find and more expensive than usual.
Take a walking tour
For those visitors who wish to get a real taste of Barcelona, you can join a group of English-speaking local guides for free sightseeing tours. In addition to exploring major landmarks and famous streets, you will also get stories, recommendations and tips that only a local could provide. These professional guides are passionate about their city and offer tours which are both educational and fun. These walking tours are based on a tip supported service.
There are also tours run by the City Council starting from the Tourist Information Point in Plaça Catalunya. Their fees are around €15/person.
For those wishing to make a real attempt at learning the language, there are plenty of Catalan and Spanish language schools in Barcelona, as well as universities/schools which offer degree courses in English.
Barcelona has an astounding 35,000 shops for tourists to explore, but since no one could hope to exhaustively shop Barcelona, a "buyers guide" is in order. First of all, you will want to walk the three-mile (five-kilometer) "shopping line" that stretches along the Las Ramblas pedestrian pathway. There is very little vehicle traffic along this run, though there will be plenty of other tourists to navigate around. Along the route, you will find plenty of shops selling "big-name" items along with many specialty designer shops selling Spanish-made apparel, shoes, jewelry and more.
Most shops and malls in Barcelona will be closed for business on Sundays (by force of law), but there are exceptions- especially in the Ciutat Vella. There, you will find fashionable clothing outlets, small souvenir shops and local supermarkets open all week long.
Some of the best specific shopping opportunities that await the visitor to Barcelona include the following:
Barcelona is a city with more than 20 Michelin stars in all its restaurants. The Catalans pride themselves in great food, which is anchored in centuries of history and the us of fresh products. However, Barcelona's cuisine is inconsistent in quality, as with all highly touristic cities, but good food does exist at reasonable prices. The golden rule of thumb applies well in Barcelona; to save money and get better food, look for places off the beaten track by fellow travellers and seek out cafes and restaurants where the locals frequent. A good idea is to avoid restaurants with touts outside.
If you're looking for a place where everyone can choose their own meal, ask for restaurants that serve platos combinados, which is the closest thing to an American/Northern European meal.
Smoking: Is not permitted in restaurants anymore.
You can get food from any part of the world in Barcelona, but make sure you try some Catalan food.
The selection of seafood is consistently great, although not a lot of it is local (this part of the Mediterranean is pretty well fished-out).
A treat to try that no travel guide mentions is waffles sold at street stands. They will tempt you with their mouth watering smell and taste.
Even though tapas restaurants are now all over the city, tapas itself originated in Andalusia in the south of Spain and is NOT native to Catalan cuisine. Catalans generally eat three course meals (appetizer, main dish and dessert) and would more likely go for a pre-dinner drink and pintxos (Basque counterpart for tapas) at a Basque taverna than for a meal consisting entirely of the new trend in tapas-only dining. As you travel to smaller towns in Catalonia outside of Barcelona, it is less likely that you will find tapas and more likely to see restaurants serving traditional Catalan food in three courses.
If you are looking for a quick introduction to Barcelona's cuisine, you could consider going on a food tour - wine tour, tapas tour, cooking classes, market tour... options are plentiful and the hard part is to choose one.
Foodie&Tours  is a local company that is catered towards foodies traveling in Spain. They have consolidated more than 40 food tours in Barcelona, offering a wide variety of culinary experiences - Spanish food tours, Catalan food tours, Penedes winery day trips, paella cooking classes, Boqueria visits, and more.
Barcelona Eat Local Food Tours  is a small business dedicated to showcase the best of Catalan Gastronomy. It works only with family own local business in non-touristy areas of the city, where the curious traveler get immerse into the tapas tradition, wine and cava worlds and the culture of distinct neighborhoods of the city. Their food tours have been praised among the top 10 walking tours of Barcelona.
Areas to eat
Depending on where you are in the city, there may be restaurants galore, or none at all. The following areas tend to be restaurant "hubs", with a large variety of restaurants to choose from:
Around Plaça Catalunya there are dozens of restaurants serving excellent tapas.
For budget eating you may choose "menu del dia" in small bars on the Avinguda del Parallel for €9-€11 per person. Be aware that sometimes the menu and the staff are only in Spanish.
The large cafes that line the Passeig de Gràcia and the Rambla Catalunya, just north of the Plaça Catalunya, offer a variety of acceptable tapas. This part of the town is quite touristy and a bit expensive.
In several supermarkets you can find a wide stall with a great selection of ready-to-eat dishes. You can get a two-course lunch for less than €5.
€10 is the lowest price for a standard menu del dia; for less it can be only canteen or budget-style eating--or fast food.
Traditional Catalan cuisine
Other Spanish cuisine
Try a "cafè amb gel" an espresso with a drop of milk served with a glass of ice cubes on the side at any local 'cafeteria'
Barcelona is a city with a longstanding heritage of locally produced beers and wines. In fact, it has some unique drinks of other kinds as well, such as orxata which is a drink made from chufa (papyrus) juice, sugar and water as well as granizados, which consist of sweetened orange juice, lemon juice or coffee poured over crushed ice. As to alcoholic beverages, however, those most commonly consumed in Barcelona include:
Barcelona has a large number of both beer bars and wine bars, and there are some establishments that cross the line and double as both. The fact that the wine vineyards of Penedes lie within only a couple miles of Barcelona explains, in part, why wine bars are such a common sight in this city.
Some of the most popular places to go for a taste of Catalonian beer and wine include:
Most people who visit Barcelona wish to tour the major sites in city center first and foremost, and therefore it makes sense to be located downtown. With your "headquarters" in Old City areas like Las Ramblas, the Gothic Quarter or the inner-city beachfront zone known as La Barceloneta, you have immediate access to the city's transportation hub and plenty of places to visit on foot.
A handful of the numerous hotels of Barcelona are listed below to give you a taste of what is available, but the options are nearly endless:
As of april 2016 there is free internet service provided by the city council with 591 spots availables. . It's slow connection, limited to 256kbps and schedule limitation. City council provides a map with the position of the spots available.
One of the best options is rent a prepaid portable WiFi Hot spot. Service is available in Barcelona and whole Spain provided by some Telco companies, one of them is AlldayInternet which allows the connection to any WiFi device without roaming charges: Smart-phones, Tablets, PCs…
Telephone and mobile services
Visitors can pick up a Prepaid SIM which will allow them access to internet on their smartphone or device. There are many options to choose from, you can buy from the telephone companies or from the local shops or internet cafes. As an example, a Lycamobile prepaid card bought recently cost 8.50 and allows one to buy a 250mb plan for 30 days. Options run up to 2G for 30 days. Please note that your passport or ID is needed to register the prepaid SIM.
Barcelona is Europe's pickpocketing capital. Never keep your wallet, cash or important documents in trouser pockets or in bag pockets: a money belt is an easy and inexpensive way to prevent being robbed. As always, be alert in crowded places, such as public transport, train and bus stations, La Rambla and Raval. People may approach you asking for change, or to change money. Just ignore them. If you are asked to change money, then official-looking police may approach you afterwards to 'check' your wallet for ID, etc. These are not police, so be at your most vigilant or you might find they have taken a few cards or cash upon returning your wallet.
Pickpockets use the football trick as the local specialty. At certain tourist hotspots, there are people who will try to show you a 'magic trick'. This involves tying a piece of string around your finger. While you are distracted (and your arm is effectively disabled), an accomplice will pickpocket you. It is also possible that criminals will pose as tourists and ask directions to approach their victims. Keep your distance and be careful in tourist places.
The subway is a hotbed for pickpocketing activity, which can range from simple opportunistic thefts to coordinated attacks. Be especially wary on the subway platforms at Sants train station and Sagrada Família. A group of men will come out of seemingly nowhere while you attempt to enter a subway car and block your entrance and exit in a coordinated manner, effectively pinning you against the doors while they close. They will act as if the car is just crowded and they are trying to get on as well, but, in reality, they have already gone through your pockets. Once they take stuff, they quickly return to the platform and walk off calmly while you are trapped in the departing subway as they make sure they exit just before the doors cannot be reopened. Violence in these situations is rare, and in most cases the goal of the thieves is to rob you undetected.
Stay vigilant: do not leave anything in a back trouser pocket (except maybe a map of the city). Hold on to your bag or purse at all times. Do not leave anything unattended while you sit in a cafe or restaurant. Traveling with another person or persons is a good practice. Have the others look out. The impression that you are paying attention is enough to deter most thieves. This makes someone else an easier target than yourself.
Scams are incredibly common, especially in very touristy areas. The number one thing to remember about a scam is that you should never speak with someone you don't know who walks up to you in a crowded area. Do not sign their petition, give them directions, or help them with their problem. Being rude is actually your best defense against scams. You can't be tricked if they don't have time to speak with you.
A common scam in Barcelona involves fake police officers, usually claiming to be "undercover" who will ask to see your passport or identification, then take your belongings when they can and run away. Overall various scams happen in the city which seems always performed by a group of professional scam artists. When it happens, it's pretty ok to just walk away instead of start any sort of conversations with them. Another trick is that one seemingly confused person will ask you for directions, diverting your attention and then suddenly fake police will appear asking for your ID. These are organized scams to steal things from you. If such incident happens, follow the advice above and just walk away, without listening to any of their conversation or speaking to them. Stay alert, especially in busy tourist areas near the Sants station and Plaça d'Espanya.
Another popular scam happens in the metro. A group of scammers (often middle-aged women) will surround a tourist, frantically asking for directions. Most tourists wont know what to say while one of the scammers empties their pockets. They will try to confuse the tourist while the metro stays in the platform, and will get out just before the doors are closed. When you realize you've been scammed, the train will have already left and they will be safely outside with your belongings.
The bird droppings scam is also common. One or more accomplices will secretly spray or throw a smelly liquid on you. When you look up thinking a passing bird has pooped on you, they will run up to you and tell you that they saw a bird poop on you. They will offer to help you clean up, and while you are cleaning they will go through your pockets and any bags you have set down. It is wise to beware of anyone who is attempting to touch a complete stranger.
A version of Three Card Monte is one of many common scams played on Las Ramblas. There are also people holding petitions to install a wheelchair lift in locations with a lot of stairs (or any other thing, usually very vague, that they think you won't be in favor of, such as a petition "against drugs"). Once your signature is obtained they will then aggressively ask for a donation. Sometimes there can be crowds of children demanding money with hardly anyone else in the area, making it difficult to get away.
There is a flat tire scam that seems to be popular in Barcelona that targets rental cars or those with foreign license plates. There are a few varieties of this particular scam, but it involves distracting the driver and passengers by mentioning a flat tire. Sometimes they are pedestrians crossing the street, other times they are people on motorcycles, but they are almost always working in teams. Those in the car check to see if their tire is actually flat while someone reaches in to grab whatever they can. This can happen in traffic, but sometimes they'll offer to show you a garage nearby where you can get it fixed or they will offer to help you. In some instances, there will be absolutely no damage to your tire and in other cases the thieves will actually knife your tire. Be sure to keep your doors locked while driving in the city and watch for any suspicious motorbikes stopping near your car.
Choose an ATM in a busy area and merge quickly into the crowd to avoid being targeted. Barcelona is particularly well-equipped with ATMs. Many offer a wide range of services (withdrawals, transfers, mobile credit recharges, ticketing, etc.) and accept credit cards of various banks.
Most ATMs will not charge you a fee to withdraw funds (though your bank still may, of course). Catalunya Caixa is an exception: they will charge a several euro fee, so avoid their ATMs.
Areas of caution
Women traveling alone should exercise caution while exploring the more isolated parts of Montjuïc. The city beaches, particularly the ones adjoining Barceloneta, have proven to be quite lucrative for bag snatchers. Anything that one would rather not lose is best left, locked, in one's hostel or hotel.
Men traveling alone should expect the prostitutes on Las Ramblas in the early hours to be very aggressive and in league with pickpockets and robbers.
Also, people need to be careful when leaving the bars of the Olympic Port late as there are many pickpockets around.
Women should be wary of wearing exposed jewellery such as gold chains and necklaces. People walking down a street may be attacked from behind by a thief who may grab the necklace and try to rip it off the woman's neck before quickly running away, often down a convenient side street. This can even happen in daylight hours and in the full sight of others on the street.
In the event of such a robbery, people will need to find the local police station to report the incident, especially if a travel insurance claim is going to be made.
Parts of Barcelona are covered by closed circuit TV surveillance, but only the more popular spots.
If you need to report a crime (for example, to claim on travel insurance), be prepared for the reality that is the downtown police station, officers may not speak English, despite that fact the official theft report form is in both English and Spanish. The police station most often used to report theft is the one underneath Plaça Catalunya beside the metro station, they have translators for English, French, etc.
EU citizens can get free or reduced cost medical treatment on presentation of an EHIC card and passport.
Luggage Locker city center
Day trips from Barcelona include: