Considered as a leading smart city in Europe and a major global city, Barcelona is a world leader in terms of tourism, trade, economy, culture, fashion and the arts, among others. Barcelona was initially founded as a Roman city back in the Middle Ages until it merged with the Kingdom of Aragon and survived numerous sieges and battles. Because of its eventful history, the city has become a cultural center with a rich cultural heritage, making it a major tourist destination. The city is particularly famous for the architectural masterpieces of Lluís Domènech i Montaner and Antoni Gaudí, which have been declared as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO.
Barcelona is likewise known for hosting world-class expositions, conferences, and numerous international tournaments for sports, such as the 1992 Summer Olympics.
Its fair climate, quality accommodation, developed infrastructure, cultural heritage and overall magnificence all contribute to the boom in tourism. It is Spain’s most visited city, Europe’s third most visited, just behind London and Paris, and the tenth all over the world.
Historic Monuments and Breathtaking Architecture
The old city of Barcelona, centered on Barri Gòtic, which means "Gothic Quarter" in Catalan, is home to the many buildings that date back to the medieval times, which still hold traces of Roman settlement. Though the city is studded with historic sites, its important legacy took place between 1885 and 1950 with the unique modernista Catalan architecture, also known as Art Nouveau for the rest of Europe.
Designs found all over the city can mostly be attributed to Gaudí, with one of his masterpieces, the Sagrada Familia, still under construction. The towering church began to rise in 1882 and is expected to be completed in 2026 through private donations. His other works include Park Güell, Palau Güell, Casa Vicens, and Casa Milà.
Home to World Class Football
Barcelona is home to two popular football clubs, the FC Barcelona (FCB) and RCD Espanyol, with the former being the second richest club in the world. FCB is also one of the most successful clubs in history with 64 national and 16 continental titles with numerous runners-up trophies. These include the UEFA Champions League and the FIFA Club World Cup, among others. It is the only men’s club to successfully achieve a sextuple or winning FIFA’s six confederations.
Founded in 1899 as one of La Liga’s founding members, FCB has become a symbol of Catalan culture. This is signified by its motto Més que un club, which means "more than a club." The club’s Camp Nou has a capacity of 100,000, making it the largest stadium in Europe. It is also considered a UEFA elite stadium along with the publicly owned Estadi Olímpic Lluís Companys, which was used for the Olympics in 1992.
European Spanish, which is considered the pure form of Spanish and Catalan are the two dominant languages spoken in Barcelona. Sometimes you will hear people say it's Castilian Spanish, although this is not correct. The term Castilian is attached to the Spanish spoken in Barcelona and parts of Europe because of its origin. It is said that the purest form of Spanish originated from Castile, which is in Central Spain. Castilian Spanish is called "castellano" in Spain.
Although people in Barcelona speak both Spanish and Catalan, Spanish has more speakers in the city, which roughly translates to about 98 percent of the population. Still, the residents speak Spanish and Catalan interchangeably. However, you should note that Catalan is not Spanish. It is a separate language that directly evolved from Latin. Its name came from Catalonia, which is one of Spain's autonomous regions and Barcelona is its capital.
Road signs, advertisements and the media use both languages so expect to see them alongside each other when you visit Barcelona. If you want to study Spanish, then the European Spanish is the easiest to understand because each sound and letter is pronounced carefully and clearly.
Fun and Interesting Facts About Barcelona
- Disputed origin. Barcelona’s history dates back to more than two millennia and its founding origin is still unsure. One legend suggests that Hercules founded the city 400 years before Rome was built, while the other legend says that it was in the 3rdcentury BC when Hannibal’s father, Carthaginian Hamilcar Barca, named the city after his family.
- Utopian city master plan. Following the design of Ildefons Cerdà i Sunyer, the city was intended to have the perfect environment for population expansion, considering ventilation, visibility, and sunlight in its grid pattern.
- The best beach. National Geographic considered Barcelona to be the "best beach city" even if their beaches weren’t allowed to be used for leisure until 1992 following the redevelopment for the Olympic Games. The city now has a total of 4.5km of coastline for its beaches.
- The Sagrada Familia is still under construction. While Egypt’s great Pyramid of Giza took merely 20 years to be erected with ancient tools, La Sagrada Famila has so far taken more than a hundred years already and it is still under construction, considering that it is using modern technology.
- Most visited museum is FCB's. While the city is rich in history, culture, and heritage, tourists are more interested with FC Barcelona’s museum at Camp Nou.
- La Rambla Street. This 2-kilometer long boulevard where more than 150,000 people walk daily, is actually composed of five different avenues. This stretch is where tourists usually meet to shop, have coffee or watch street artists perform day and night.
- World Book Day. St. George's Day (June 23) is like Valentine’s Day for the Catalans. It is greatly celebrated throughout the country as a romantic occasion. On this day, lovers and friends give each other roses and books as a celebration of love and literature. World Book Day is thus celebrated on the same day.
Famous People from Barcelona
- Lionel Messi. While the world’s best footballer was born in Argentina, he obtained Spanish citizenship and is currently living in Barcelona as he plays for FC Barcelona. He is the club’s all-time top scorer, and is a recipient of a number of awards including the FIFA World Player of the Year and the Ballon d’Or.
- Antoni Gaudí. From Reus, Catalonia, Gaudi mostly worked in Barcelona as a distinct and well-known architect. Most of his pieces are found in the city, as well as his magnus opus, the Sagrada Familia.
- José Carreras. The internationally acclaimed opera singer is best known for his performances as one of the Three Tenors.
- Daniel Brühl. He won the Golden Globe Award for his role as Niki Lauda in Rush (2013).
- Victoria de los Angeles. A noted lyric soprano who has performed in many great halls and festivals all over the world. She is well known for her performances of Italian roles and Spanish songs.
- Antoni Tàpies i Puig. One of the most important Spanish artists who developed his own style after following the styles of Picasso and van Gogh.
- Lluis Domènech i Montaner. Together with Gaudi, he was one of the most noted Catalan architects. He also played a significant role in the Modernisme movement for architecture.
- Joan Miró. Painter and sculptor who combined Surrealism and abstract techniques in creating his artwork.
Barcelona is one of the top destinations in Europe. It is known for its mild weather all throughout the year, with miles of beaches, fantastic architecture, wonderful Catalan cuisine and various festivals and events.