Barcelona, Spain’s second largest city, has a unique blend of sophisticated city life mixed with a laid-back beach vibe, and is a must-visit destination, whether for a weekend break or a two week vacation. Back in 1992 Barcelona was the host city of the Summer Olympic Games, which helped bring widespread regeneration across the city. Ever since then the number of tourists visiting this historic city have grown every year, and it has flourished into vibrant hub for travellers and holidaymakers, along with the almost two million local residents who call Barcelona home.
History and Culture
The settlement that became modern day Barcelona was once a Roman city, and ruins from this era can still be seen beneath the Plaça del Rei. Since then the city has been besieged a number of times, but many of its historic buildings still stand to this day. Barcelona’s Cathedral, called the Basilica La Seu, is believed to have been founded over 1600 years ago in 343 AD.
Some of the most famous attractions Barcelona has to offer are thanks to Antoni Guadí, a world famous architect whose work can be seen in various spots across the city. His most famous design is the Sagrada Família, a huge Roman Catholic church that has been under construction since 1882, and still isn’t finished. It is estimated that the project will be finally completed in 2026, the centennial of Guadí’s death, and it is already protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Another must-see attraction designed by Guadí is the Park Güell, built over fourteen years between 1900 and 1914. Guadí’s unique architectural style is seen throughout the park, and you can visit the house where Guadí lived for twenty years, which still contains many of his original works. If there is one reason why you absolutely must visit the Parc Güell, it’s that the views from the park’s high point offer unmatchable views over the entire city.
Barcelona has many beaches, all split up along its southern Mediterranean coastline. The Plajita de la Barceloneta is the busiest of them all, but also the easiest to get to from the city. Lively and often noisy, energy flows on this beach, so if you are looking for a quiet time perhaps it’s better to head elsewhere. Keep walking to the west and you’ll eventually come to Platja de Sant Sebatià, which is part of the same beach as Barceloneta but has a much different feel. If sunbathing and relaxing is what you desire, take the time to wander down here and you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Other popular beaches to the east of Barceloneta include Nova Icària, which is surrounded by entertainment venues and restaurants, and Mar Bella, Barcelona’s unofficial nudist beach.
The first place to go out for newcomers to the city is Las Ramblas, and this boulevard is equally busy in the day as it is in the night. You won’t have to walk far before you come across the many bars and clubs that are strewn along this lively street. The Boulevard Club and Kiosk La Cazalla are two great venues to try, but the real fun lies in exploring the narrow streets shooting off into the medieval Old Town, and getting lost among the hustle and bustle of the bars and clubs hidden away from the main strip.
Getting In, Out, and Around
You really are spoilt for choice when it comes to transportation in, around, and out of Barcelona. A variety of train lines connect it to the rest of the country, and mainland Europe via France. For those of you coming from overseas, the international airport allows people from all over the world to easily travel to the city. With Barcelona being right next to the coast as well, all sorts of boats, big and small, arrive at the ports and docks every day. Cruise liners often stop at Barcelona, and you may be able to find a cheap ticket on a cruise in 2013 if you book in advance. While in the city, it’s easy to rent a bicycle to get around, or use the extensive metro rail system to move yourself from your hotel to the many attractions throughout the city. On top of all that, you’ll always be able to flag down a taxi if you find yourself exhausted or with too many bags full of souvenirs!