Barcelona is the capital and largest city of Catalonia and Spain's second largest city, with a population of over 1.500.000 people (over five million in the whole province).
The city is located on the northeastern Mediterranean coast of Spain, has a rich history, having been under Roman, then Frank law before declaring its independence.
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.
Weather in Barcelona
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 late September to November. This is the best time to visit the city. Anything warmer than this can feel too hot.
What to see in Barcelona
Barcelona is a fascinating city and there are many things to see.
- Sagrada Família Church - The real name of the church is the Expiatory Church of La Sagrada Família. The church was designed to have a total length of 110 m, and a height of 45 m, with twelve towers between 100 and 115 m high. The ground plan is a Gothic basilical plan in the shape of a Latin cross, with five naves connecting with a transept that connects to three naves, apse, and ambulatory. Three facades which will represent the Nativity, the Passion and Death, and the Glory of Christ. The twelve towers will symbolize the twelve apostles. Four monumental bell towers will represent the four Evangelists. Two colossal domes will represent Christ and the Virgin Mary. The temple crypt began by Villar was finished by Gaudi in 1885.
- The sculptor Josep Maria Subirachs has been working on the sculptures of the church in his own style for the last 20 years. The church building now represents Barcelona to the whole world and millions visit it to study its architecture.
- 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.
- Park Güell - Count Eusebi Güell was a prominent industrialist in Barcelona and he decided to build a garden city with 60 houses on a hill called Montaña Pelada (Bare Mountain). The venture was not successful and only two houses were built (not by Gaudí), and Güell convinced Gaudí to buy one of them (designed by Ramon Berenguer). This house is now the Casa-Museu Gaudí, which contains furniture designed by Gaudí and other personal effects of the architect.
- Barcelona Cathedral (La Seu) - The Barcelona Cathedral uses the Catalan Gothic architecture of the 14th century. The name of the church is the Cathedral of Santa Eulàlia. The church was started in 1298 and finished in 1448, while the main front was done in 1898 and the dome tower in 1913. The site first had a Roman temple, then a mosque, and then a Christian church before the Cathedral was finally built, under the reign of King Jaume II. The church has flying buttresses and gargoyles. The interior has slender pillars.
The most spectacular sights in the night are:
- Musical fountains, in Plaça d'Espanya. From Th-Su, May to October, 9:00PM. Each session lasts 30 minutes, with the last one starting at 11PM.
- Casa Batlló
- Torre Agbar office tower, highlighted F-Su 7-11PM.
- City views from Montjuic hill
What to do in Barcelona
- Walk in Born in Ciutat Vella, a very popular area with great restaurants and places to have a few drinks. If your accommodation is on Rambla, Born is a great place to escape the crowds, enjoy a relaxed atmosphere and meet off-the-beaten track travellers and non-tourist-industry locals--especially in the evenings.
- Ride the Cable Way to get from the sea front to Montjuïc mountain in Sants-Montjuïc
- Sit and sip on a coffee in Plaça dels Àngels in Ciutat Vella, while admiring the whiteness of the MACBA and the best street skate tricks in town.
- Catch a performance at the beautiful Teatre del Liceu or the Palau de la Musica Catalana both in Ciutat Vella.
- Visit a Flamenco Show in a real tablao. Although the dance is not local to Catalunya, one of the best Flamenco Shows in the city is Tablao de Carmen in Sants-Montjuïc. A cheaper alternative is in the jazzclub Jazz Si in Ciutat Vella.
- Rent a bike or join a Biketour and get to see the highlights of the city in a different way. Ride from the magic beaches of the Mediterranean, to Gaudí's modernist buildings through the medieval atmosphere of the Old Quarter.
- Sail 3 hours to see Barcelona from the sea.
- Take a relaxing stroll along beautiful Port Vell Marina.
- Be inspired by the stunning Sagrada Familia Basilica.
- Take a behind the scenes tour of FC Barcelona's Camp Nou Stadium.
- Experience a bird's eye view of Barcelona at Tibidabo mountain.
- Relax at one of Barcelona's beach bars.
- Enjoy a coffee in the historic Gothic Quarter.
- Cruise miles of beachfront boardwalk starting from Barceloneta or get a tan on the beach.
- Barceloneta Beach - Sit on a wooden bridge to Maremagnum in Ciutat Vella and cool your toes at the water's edge: with a book, sandwich or just for a short rest.
- Wander the Barri Gòtic in Ciutat Vella, the largely intact pseudo-medieval center of the city.
- Plaça Reial - Enjoy your Sangria at La Plaça Reial in Ciutat Vella, near the La Rambla Street. Great place to sit, relax and drink. While visiting La Plaça Reial.
Shopping in Barcelona
Most shops and shopping malls are closed on Sundays because of law restrictions, but not all. In Ciutat Vella you will find plenty of small fashion shops, souvenir shops and small supermakets open on Sundays. The souvenir shopping scattered throughout the Barri Gotic and all along La Rambla are tourist traps, none of them sell Catalan or Spanish products but the typical array of Chinese general souvenirs, they should be avoided. Moreover on the the Port Vell, right at the end of The Ramblas there is Maremagnum, a shopping mall that stays open all Sundays.
What to eat in Barcelona
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.
You can get food from any part of the world in Barcelona, but make sure you try some Catalan food.
Pa amb tomàquet: bread with tomato. Many people in Spain are surprised when discover the Catalan way to prepare "pa amb tomàquet", because instead of being sliced tomato with bread, the tomato (sometimes with garlic) is squashed and spread in the bread slice, dressed with extra virgin olive oil and small cuts of a very Catalan specialty: cured pork meat, that is, the famous Iberic ham (Spanish for "jamón" and "pernil" in catalan"), "fuet", "xorís" or "butifarra" (spicy cured sausages), sobrassada, or other stuff like cheese or larger pieces of cooked meat. "Pa amb tomàquet" is a very deeply rooted meal in Catalan houses.
Paella - Typical rice dish from the Catalan Lands. Catalan paella is with seafood, while Valencian paella is without seafood. There's also a variant of paella which is made up with little noodles called "fideuà". In addition, paella and fideuà can be prepared with black squid ink, then it's called "fideuà negra" or "arròs negre" (black fideuà and black rice respectively).
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.
Don't miss the good Catalan wines and Caves. Catalonia has had a very rich tradition of wine makers through history, and nowadays is a credited producer of world famous wines. "Penedès", "Priorat", "Costers del Segre", "Alella" and "Terra Alta" are good "D.O."s ("Denominació d'Origen" or designation of origin, the spanish administrative division to control and preserve wine producing areas). Sangría is also served in most restaurants, with large variations in quality.
Nightlife in Barcelona
Barcelona is a city known for its amazing nightlife. There is a huge variety in bars, pubs and clubs. From a tiny, cozy traditional Spanish bar to a lot of different amazing clubs. The entrances for the clubs vary from 10 Euros to a maximum of 25 Euros. Although you can gain free entry into many of the top venues on special guestlists that are open for anyone to use, (you just need to know what to quote on the door).
The great party in Barcelona are also the erasmus parties in Barcelona. You can go out every night of the week if you´re willing to. There are special theme nights on almost every night. Like the ´Love Mondays´ at Opium Mar and the ironically named ´Crappy Tuesday´ at Apollo for example. It's all about finding your own cup of tea.. or something a little stronger! During the summer, Barcelona´s nightlife becomes even more varied - with open air cinemas, live dj sets on rooftops, and paradise beach bars springing up all over the city.
Fridays and Saturdays are dominated by a cosmopolitan mix of tourists, and stag & hen parties. Sunday nights are busy with locals as many shops and restaurants are closed on Mondays. Most of the action is centred around La Rambla, the wide boulevard stretching from Placa de Catalunya to the Port Vell. There are usually street entertainers wowing the crowds - mime artists, clowns, acrobats, flamenco dancers etc. Wandering the streets adjacent to La Rambla - the Gothic district (Barrí Gotic), Raval and Born will reveal many fun bars, often aimed at students and budget travelers.
Barcelona's nightlife is very much in keeping with the city itself, trendy, varied and sometimes spectacular. Even if you aren't really a clubber at heart it's worth going out to at least one night club just to see what's on offer, and remember there are more and more "lounge" clubs springing up if you like to take your drinks whilst reclining!
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