Like many other cities on the Mediterranean, Barcelona was founded by the Romans. The original settlement, called Barcino, was a small port located on the same spot as today’s cathedral. The town was overshadowed by Tarragona, the capital of the province. Both the Visigoths and the Moors invaded Barcelona; however, their influence was not as important to the future of the city as the arrival of the Franks in the late 9th century. It was at that point that Barcelona and Catalonia started shaping their own identity, different from the rest of Spain.
This is most apparent in the language - Spanish, or Castilian, has many Arabic words, while Catalan has many French words instead. So Catalan is not a Spanish dialect, but a language in its own right, related to other Romance languages.
Barcelona’s history is seen everywhere in the city. The oldest areas are located by the sea, including the shopping enclave Barri Gotic. On the other side of the main boulevard, La Rambla, lies the legendary Raval district. Until the 1980’s this was the slum area, home to the city’s own Chinatown (Barrio Chino) and the red light district. Today, designer shops and cafés have moved in. Further north is fashionable Eixample, the area created as a result of the 19th century expansion of the city.
La Sagrada Família
Antoni Gaudi's ambitious project remains, as of today, unfinished, which by no means takes away from its popularity - at nearly 3 million yearly visitors, La Sagrada Familia is Spain's most visited monument. The masterpiece was crafted meticulously to embody the Christian faith through composition, sculpture, and individualistic, offbeat design. Guided and audio tours available.
Barcelona's most well-known street is unofficially not just one uninterrupted stretch but five (hence it being known as "Las Ramblas"), each containing attractions of their own. A pedestrian-only walkway runs through the street's central section, with street artists, souvenir vendors, bars and restaurants competing for visitor attention.
The only ice bar in the world located directly on the beach, Icebarcelona offers a welcome respite from the oppressive heat of the Barcelona summer. Maintained at a chilled -5ºC, and the cool lighting and interesting ice sculptures complete the bar's unique ambience.
Good to know
Tickets for the underground and trams can be bought from travel information booths and from stations. They are valid for one trip. Bus tickets are bought from the driver. There are also a selection of different travel cards to purchase if you know that you will be travelling a lot.
220 volts (125 volts in some older buildings), 50 Hz