Proud, narcissistic, explosive, full of beauty and masterpieces... All this is about Barcelona, one of the most beautiful cities not only in Europe but in the whole world. It would be foolish to begin enumerating some of the Catalan capital's attractions in the introduction: they can be found literally at every step; the ancient Roman port breathes history; every stone is ready to tell its legend, and all modern monuments are worthy of at least an anthem or ode. In short, Barcelona is a city of the arts. After visiting Barcelona, you leave the city of love with a charge of creative energy, sunshine, strength, and a good mood. The glow of Barcelona will stay with you for a long time, casting a Mediterranean glare over cozy winter evenings.
The Gothic Quarter is the heart of ancient Barcelona. It remembers the Roman legions, medieval processions, and Christopher Columbus. It was from these narrow streets that the history of the Catalan capital began, once centered between the promenade of the Ramblas and the beautiful Rue Laietana. Despite its historical status and the age of most buildings, which have crossed the 500-year mark, the Gothic Quarter is full of entertainment, fine restaurants, and cozy hotels. It's easy to get lost in narrow streets, but sooner or later your feet will lead you to one of the squares. For example, St. James Square, which today houses the spiffy Barcelona City Hall, the Royal Plaza, with its fountains and palm trees. Besides the splendid Cathedral of S. Eulalia, there is the main temple of the city — the Basilica of Santa Maria del Pi, with its marvelous rose window, and the Church of La Merce are worth seeing.
Then take a walk to the Bridge of Sighs. Despite its medieval appearance, it was created less than 100 years ago. You can now see this "lace" bridge on most Gothic Quarter advertising posters. Nearby are the ruins of an ancient Roman wall. Throughout the city, you can find elements of these impressive structures, but it is in the Old Town area where the most impressive towers and remains of the fortress walls are. If you want, you can visit the Museum of the History of Barcelona. Here you can trace the entire history of the city from the Roman period to the time of the great geographical discoveries. The collection is housed in a fifteenth-century palace, an authentic one, with courtyards, secret labyrinths, and impressively thick walls. Ancient ruins, mosaics, fragments of ancient temples and palaces, jewelry, antique tableware, and interior items from the Middle Ages — this place is a must-see for history buffs.
Temples and cathedrals of Barcelona
Even though, officially, the main temple of the city is considered to be the Cathedral of St. Eulalia, the most visited and favorite is, of course, the Cathedral of the Holy Family. And this is the first time in world history that a still unfinished structure has become both the city's landmark and an object under the protection of the UNESCO Committee. The Cathedral of the Holy Family is a unique architectural phenomenon; it is like a portal linking generations, eras, and cultural traditions. For almost 150 years, the temple has been under construction, changing, and growing. The first stone was laid in 1882 by the not-too-famous architect, Francisco de Villar. The temple was originally planned to be built in the Neo-Gothic style, popular at the end of the 19th century, but later, when the cathedral project came into the hands of Antoni Gaudi, everything changed. Eighteen towers would rise above the temple, creating, according to the Maestro's idea, a unique wind melody. The construction of the temple is entirely funded by donations. You too can contribute to a unique architectural masterpiece by purchasing a ticket to the cathedral.
Don't miss the temple of Santa Maria del Mar in the historic center of Barcelona. The church, built in the 14th century, has become a symbol of the new, flourishing Catalonia. It is considered a shining example of early medieval Gothic architecture, the first mention of which dates back to 988. According to the inscription on the facade of the temple, the construction of the stone cathedral began in 1329. Despite troubles and fires, the temple was rebuilt in 30 years, and the first divine service in the cathedral was held at the end of the fourteenth century. At the beginning of the XX century, the church was granted the status of Minor Papal Basilica. Nowadays, it is open to visitors.
Wandering around the streets of the Old Town, you can't miss Barcelona Cathedral. It is officially called the Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Sant'Eulalia, despite the misconception that it is the main cathedral of the capital of Catalonia. The Cathedral was built on the ruins of an ancient Roman basilica, and the official date of its completion is 1459. The interior decoration of the temple is made up of 25 graceful chapels, a magnificent altar from the XIV century, and a great number of beautiful stained-glass windows. Do not miss the inner courtyard, to which several portals lead at once. Here you can see the chapel of St. Lucia, which is almost 200 years older than the cathedral, and a flock of merry geese, with which one of the legends of the cathedral is connected.
Another pearl of sacral architecture is the Montserrat Monastery. A true spiritual symbol of Catalonia, this holy cloister is located at the foot of the Montserrat Mountains, and its name can be translated as "cut mountains". The natural terrain of this area is very unusual indeed, and it has recently been considered a national park in Catalonia. The monastery is located 725 meters above sea level, 50 kilometers from Barcelona. Despite its difficult accessibility, the mountain monastery remains one of the most popular tourist and pilgrim points of attraction in Spain. The holy place is lost among the mountain trails, but a cable car will bring you here. About 80 monks permanently reside in the monastery and receive worshippers from all over the world. A special pride of the monastery is the statue of the Black Madonna, an amazing ancient relic that attracts pilgrims and penitents. The natural landscape is just like the cloister-unusual outlines of mountains, endless expanses, lots of paths, and viewing platforms ideally shade the monastery. These mountains are considered a place of power for believers and atheists alike — just an incredibly spectacular natural site. Take the funicular up to the top, stroll along the serpentine mountains, and admire the scenery — a walk to remember!
Parks and squares
A great starting point for exploring Barcelona is the city's main square, Plaça Catalunya. One of the city's most popular landmarks, it divides the Old Town from the Eixample district and is equally close to the Gothic Quarter, Gaud's masterpieces, the 24-hour sleepy Ramblas, and the chic Passeig de Gràcia. This green oasis in the heart of the city also boasts interesting architectural structures — there are fountains and numerous sculptures, bank headquarters, and administrative buildings. Cafes and restaurants are nearby. You will also find tourist information centers and many interesting stores for shopping lovers.
The second important square in the city is the Plaza Espana. This is also an ideal starting point for exploring the city and offers plenty of entertainment and cultural attractions. Piazza Espana is the largest square in Barcelona and the second largest in the country. Besides the beauty of the square's design, travelers' attention is also attracted by the Magic Fountains show, the luxurious National Palace, and the Venetian Towers. Although the history of the square dates back to the Middle Ages, it flourished at the beginning of the twentieth century. In 1929, Barcelona hosted the World's Fair, and the square was completely rebuilt to become the city's new landmark. The Magic Fountain, the Venetian Towers, and the National Palace of Catalonia with its museum and excellent viewing platform attract many tourists. If you want to take a photo without the crowds of idlers, come early in the morning!
If you are looking for a walk or a picnic in the center of the city, Ciutadella Park would be the best place for it. It's a popular destination not only with tourists but also with Barcelonans, who love this blooming oasis. It has a huge green area with paths and walks, a lake where you can go boating, a waterfall, historic buildings and monuments, museums, and a big zoo. The area of Citadel Park is impressive — 30 hectares, which grows more than a hundred species of different plants, trees, and flowers. The biggest transformation of the park took place in 1888. It was timed to coincide with the start of the World's Fair. The Triumphal Arch, the grand entrance to the park, was built then.
Palaces of Barcelona
The Palau Güell is the best place to start with Barcelona's palaces. The palace, designed by Antoni Gaudi for his friend and patron, Count Guell, was built in 1890. Conceived as a residential home, today the palace's doors are open to the public. One of Gaudi's first works, Palacio Guell, is impressive. The main room in the house is a large reception hall with a starry sky effect on the ceiling. Massive front gates received guests' horse-drawn carriages; the carriages proceeded to the stables, and the guests passed into the front reception room. These days, visitors can tour the interiors and learn the history of the masterpiece and also climb to the roof.
It is impossible to miss the Palau de la Msica Catalana. The unique concert hall, decorated in the Art Nouveau style, is even included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The famous guru of Art Nouveau, Luis Domènech I Montanier, was responsible for the decoration of the mansion, and its construction was completed in 1908. Thus, for more than 100 years, the Palace has been considered the main concert hall of Catalonia. As in any building in the Art Nouveau style, the music palace has almost no straight lines, but lots of flowing curves, colors, fantastic images, and the faces of famous composers. But the best thing that awaits you is the concert hall, which has no equal in Europe. Its natural light is unique, with light streaming through an amazing glass ceiling stacked with colored mosaics, a combination of tones, and superb acoustics. You can visit the palace either by listening to a concert or by booking a guided tour.
Walking around the Old Town, you will surely notice the Great Royal Palace. The complex is located in King's Square and includes three sites: the Tinel Hall, the Chapel of St. Agatha, and the Lloctinent Palace. The first structures in stone appeared here in the 5th century under the Visigoths when King Ataulf moved his capital to Barcelona. The earliest documentary evidence of the Royal Palace dates back to 1116. In the Middle Ages, the complex was used as the royal residence of the rulers of Barcelona and Aragon.
There are excellent sand and equipped beaches with showers, toilets, bars, and restaurants both in and around Barcelona. In general, the beach area of the city stretches for more than 4 km and consists of 4 main areas. The most popular is the beach of Barceloneta, almost in the center of Barcelona, where locals and visitors love to spend hours. A rental of deck chairs will cost 10 EUR per person, and an umbrella, 6 EUR (regardless of the number of people who fit under it). A little to the north of Barceloneta (10–15 min. walk along the quay), there are even whole beach clubs, where for an extra 2,30 EUR you can "secure" a locker room and a storage room.
Next is “Icaria” beach, which turns into Barceloneta right after Frank Gehry's modern sculpture "Fish". Then comes "Mar Bella" beach, unofficially considered a nudist beach-although not only naturist fans rest here freely. And finally, the most distant beach, "Sitges". It is already outside the city, and you can get here from Barcelona in half an hour by train from the station Sants. There are many resorts with beautiful beaches around Barcelona.
Shopping in Barcelona
Barcelona is a shopper's paradise. Stores, malls, brand-name boutiques, colorful markets, and whole shopping streets are waiting for shoppers literally at every turn! If you decide to do shopping responsibly, you can buy the "Shopping Guide" on sale at any newsstand. All the stores in Barcelona are collected here, organized by orientation and alphabetical order. Shopping enthusiasts can also take advantage of the bus shopping route, the Barcelona Shopping Line. It starts in the Old Port area and ends at Avinguda Diagonal, on the outskirts of Barcelona. The route covers all the interesting shopping areas of the city. Its convenience lies in the fact that you can join a pleasant walk at any bus stop. And you can get off wherever you want and spend the necessary amount of time at the stop. One day is enough for such a shopping stroll. If you decide to do some shopping on foot and mix business with pleasure, look no further than Passeig de Gràcia. Barcelona's most elegant street offers both French and Spanish luxury and mass-market brands. From Plaça Catalunya, Carrer de Pelaye begins, offering mainly democratic brands such as Zara and Mango.
If you want everything at once, head to the malls. The respectable Bulevard Rosa is located on the Passeig de Gràcia and awaits guests daily from Monday to Saturday with the traditional siesta break. For a beautiful view of the sea and affordable shopping, go to Maremagnum. It is close to the Columbus Monument, if you need a good reference point, and offers cafes, restaurants, and a movie theater, in addition to shopping. A quality family shopping experience is provided by the popular Spanish shopping mall El Corte Ingles. Women's, men's, and children's clothing, textiles, and home goods-the choice are excellent. The shopping center is located in the city center, on Plaza Catalunya, which is also very convenient for travelers. Want to save money? Visit La Roca Village, one of the largest outlet stores in Spain. Approximately 400 stores of clothing, footwear, cosmetics, sports equipment, jewelry, and accessories are gathered under one roof, offering year-round discounts of up to 60-70%. During sale seasons, discounts reach an enticing 80–90%.
For a colorful shopping experience, head to a market like Barcelona's famous La Boqueria. La Boqueria might as well be a local landmark because it's so well known. Barcelona's most touristy bazaar is located in the city center, next to the Ramblas. Fresh fruits and vegetables, cheese, ham and sausages, and rows of fish and seafood. Almost everything may be tasted right there, and there are small stalls for snacks on site. Despite the inflated prices, the market is very popular with travelers and locals. You can buy absolutely everything here, from fruit cocktails to live oysters. A larger and completely non-tourist selection can be found in the Sant Antoni market. It is well worth a visit not only for the food but also for the excellent tapas bars that are so popular with the locals. The food is good and not expensive. The famous jamón, Spanish sausages, and numerous varieties of cheeses are diverse in every region of the country. Soft cottage cheese, soft goat, sheep's cheese, which matures under a layer of ash, or the analog of the French cheese Brie-only you can choose. To accompany the cheese, do not forget to buy a bottle of Spanish wine, white or dry. Some of the best wines in the country are recognized as Rioja. Their price starts at 8 euros per bottle.
Sales in Barcelona
Sales in Barcelona are held in conjunction with the rest of Europe: a winter sale falls in January-March, and a summer sale pleases with great prices from early July to late August. Maximum discounts are available up to 90%, but on average, you should expect to pay 50-70% less than the original price. Do not miss the leather goods, shoes, bags, jackets, and accessories: all that have the highest quality and an attractive price in Spain. Spanish cosmetics are also well-known. Local brands offer products based on olive oil, which are sold in pharmacies, as well as great lines of hair care. Olive oil is worth buying not only in creams but also in pure form. Food and wine are things that are traditionally bought a lot in Barcelona, for tasting on the spot as well as nice gifts to take home.
Catalonia, located at the crossroads of different cultures and traditions, has absorbed all the best. Italian recipes, seafood, and fish-a tribute to the Mediterranean region, the influence of neighboring France, Spanish paella, sangria and tapas, snacks — you can taste everything here! Traditional Catalan dishes are made with seafood and what grows in the mountains. This style of cooking is called "mar i muntanya," or "sea and mountains." Barcelona, located just between them, lives and enjoys this principle. Another important point is the product quality: nuts, fruits, farm vegetables and meat, fresh fish, honey, spices, and the best olive oil. If you want to start your meal with something typically Catalan, order white bread with tomatoes. Slices of fresh bread, lightly browned, soaked in tomato flesh, drizzled with olive oil. Simple but very tasty! The most common choices are paella with seafood, paella de marisco, or paella mixta — rice combined with meat, vegetables, seafood, and beans. Traditionally, paella is served in a large pan, in portions for two people. If you want unusual combinations, locals have invented black paella dyed with cuttlefish ink. If you have a sweet tooth, you should order the crema Catalana. Tender and airy cream under a caramel crust, baked in the oven. It is the local equivalent of a crème brûlée dessert.
In addition to traditional Spanish wines, usually dry and slightly tart, in Catalonia, it is worth trying sangria. Sangria, a light, sweet, refreshing fruit drink, has become a true symbol of the gastronomic culture of Barcelona. Having won the hearts of both locals, who have passed on their family recipes from generation to generation, and visitors to the country, sangria is becoming more and more popular from year to year. Fruity sangria is considered a low-strength alcoholic drink and is divided into the classic sangria with citrus and grapes and the white sangria infused with a light wine. Sangria is also made with cava, the local sparkling wine, and when paired with strawberries, the drink looks very dressy!
The best time to visit Barcelona
The climate of Barcelona, the beautiful capital of Catalonia, can be described as mildly Mediterranean. It has dry, cool winters and humid, warm summers. As a rule, the temperatures allow you to enjoy the beauty of the city all year round. The best time to travel to Barcelona is more a matter of taste. The bathing season starts mid-May to early June and lasts until the end of September. The most pleasant times are in May and September. The end of July and the first half of August is the time when there are more foreigners on the streets of the city than residents of Barcelona.
The best time to visit Barcelona is September.