Introducing Barcelona, Spain’s bustling Catalan capital, a city that has become increasingly popular with travelers from every part of Europe and vacationers from North America, as well. Frequently referred to as Spain’s “most European-like metropolis”, Barcelona is quickly developing a reputation as a city that has to be seen and experienced.
In fact, Barcelona has much to offer and interest everyone who comes to visit – business travelers and vacationers, as well. Consider …Today, Barcelona is prosperous, youthful, fun-loving … a city with excellent restaurants and cafes featuring the finest in Mediterranean cuisine. It is also a proud city, comfortable with its own image.
Often considered Spain’s second capital (after Madrid, of course), Barcelona’s Catalan citizens generally do not think of themselves as Spaniards, but prefer to be thought of as citizens of an independent nation. And, while this may rub some the wrong way in other parts of the country, Barcelona is still Spain’s second largest city and is important for its many contributions to the nation’s culture, architecture and regional history.
Located on the northeastern part of the Iberian Peninsula, facing the beautiful Mediterranean Sea, Barcelona is an increasingly-popular destination for other Spaniards, for Europeans from every part of the continent and for visitors from every other part of the world, most notably North America. There are many good reasons for this – a warm, inviting climate … superb restaurants, featuring outstanding cuisine from many different cultures … fun-filled nightlife … great shopping … and much, much more.
Put it all together and it’s easy to see why Barcelona in the 21st century has quickly become a favored destination – one of Europe’s cultural hotspots.
The city’s renaissance didn’t happen overnight. Barcelona actually began to reinvent itself in the late 1980s, shortly before it was scheduled to host the 1992 Summer Olympic Games. City planners did much to spruce up the city in anticipation of the many visitors who would be there for the games … and the rebuilding has been going on almost continuously since that time. Modernista architecture has become identifiable as the “city’s brand” and the eccentric genius and well-known architect, Antoni Gaudi is now looked upon as an icon.
Barcelona’s seafront has been completely revitalized – and revived – and is now a busy urban entertainment area with stunning new beaches, such as Barceloneta, San Sebastian, Nova Icaria and others. The area’s old warehouses and docks have been torn down and plans are underway to replace them with long promenades and seaside boulevards.
Layout of the City
The oldest section in Barcelona is called Ciutat Vella. It encompasses four distinctly different districts – Barrio Gotico, Raval, El Born and Barceloneta. Each district has a character all its own … and all are perfectly-suited for strollers. In fact, most of the streets in all of the districts are pedestrian-friendly and most of the major sights are within manageable walking distance.
It’s no secret that first-time visitors to Barcelona head straight to Las Ramblas, a tourist “must-see” hotspot that runs from the Plaza de Cataluna all the way down to the city’s port. Las Ramblas is bordered on one side by Barrio Gotico, a district that is best known for its maze of narrow, medieval streets that branch out from a central cathedral. Many believe that Barrio Gotico is the most complete gothic quarter in all of Europe.
Raval, which also borders Las Ramblas, is an up-and-coming district best known for its multicultural ambience and its art galleries.
The commercial heart of modern Barcelona is Eixample, a district which can be found when one moves inland from the Plaza Cataluna. Eixample presents an ongoing landscape for Modernista architecture. In fact, many of the best examples of this architecture can be seen in Passeig de Gracia. This handsome, tree-lined boulevard is where many of Antoni Gaudi’s most important works can be found and enjoyed. It is also a shoppers’ paradise, home to some of the finest stores in all of Barcelona.
People and Language
Barcelona has a population of approximately two million people, most of whom are Catalan and fiercely loyal to the region and to their own heritage. In recent years, however, many immigrants have arrived and become permanent residents. The result of this is that Barcelona has become something of a “melting pot” for many different cultures. It is also a much more interesting and vibrant city.
The Catalan language is very important to Barcelona. It was stifled for years under the repressive Franco regime, but has been resurrected with the considerable help of Generalitat de Cataluna (Cataluna’s government) and Ajuntament de Barcelona (Townhall). Currently, Barcelona’s schoolchildren are being taught Catalan in the early grades. Additionally, most street signs, metrosigns and many newspapers are written in Catalan.
For much of its history, Barcelona was home to many of Spain´s most important industries. It was particularly well-known for textiles manufacturing. Much has changed in recent years. Today, Barcelona’s citizens earn their livings in service-oriented businesses, including fashion, design, banking and tourism.
In fact, with more and more visitors coming to Barcelona with each passing year, the tourism industry now employs one out of every ten residents.
There is no doubt that modern Barcelona should be a preferred destination for both business and vacation travelers. It has everything that makes travel memorable – great climate … beautiful sandy beaches … superb Mediterranean and international cuisine … exciting nightlife … big city excitement … world class hotels and vacation rental apartments … and, most importantly, warm, friendly people who will welcome you with open arms.
Make your next trip a visit to Barcelona. Start planning it today.