|Area:||504 645 km²|
|Population:||47 150 thousand|
|Currency:||Euro (EUR), 1 EUR = 100 cents|
Barcelona - the capital of Catalonia, which will delight everyone with its atmosphere, beauty and wealth. The capital of the famous FC Barcelona team, a place of inspiration for Zafon, Picasso, Miro and Gaudi and one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world, is a Spanish tourist mecca.
The settlement was founded by the Phoenicians, and as a Roman colony it developed into one of the most important merchant republics of the Mediterranean. The ruins of the fortified walls in the Gothic Quarter are the memorabilia of those times. The rapidly developing city became a valuable trophy for Carthagine, which occupied it for a short time, followed by the Sweb family, the Vandalists and Vizzygoths, who formed their country here. In 712, the Moors came to it, and occupied the city for almost a hundred years - in 802 Barcelona was reclaimed by Ludwik, son of Charles the Great, and soon became the capital of the "Spanish March". Until the 12th century, its importance increased even more, it became the capital of the independent county and then the Kingdom of Aragon. After being incorporated into Castile, the position of the city weakened. When Spain was busy with ocean conquests, Barcelona started to develop as a transshipment port and then as an industrial city, which ensured its further development and gave it a fourth place among the world's industrialised powers. Catalonia, headed by Barcelona, has tried to gain autonomy on many occasions, and the last one has been ruined by General Franco's victory in the civil war. After his death, there was a revival of culture in the region - there was a return to the old traditions, the use of the Catalan language banned for the last 36 years, which was officially recognised as the second language of the region during the Olympic Games held in 1992.
The city is limited on the one hand by the sea and on the other by high hills, but it is still developing. The old part of the city lost its importance in the mid-19th century, when Eixample was established - a network of wide streets and avenues covering the area between the old town and the port. At the end of the last century, the area was extended towards the sea, and Via Olimpica and Port Olimpic were built on the site of the old industrial districts on the occasion of the organization of the Games.
Being in Barcelona, it is worth seeing the oldest part of the city - Barri Gotic - a Gothic quarter with narrow and charming streets, monuments remembering the 13th century and even remnants of ancient times. The erection in the district was once a separate village called Laia, where after the conquest of the city, the Romans built a temple of Augustus and surrounded the settlement by walls. The most important monument of the district is the Cathedral of La Seu, which was built at the turn of the 13th and 14th centuries, although its main facade was not completed until the end of the 19th century. The most impressive part of the church are two high, octagonal bell towers, and the inner, quiet galleries with magnolias, citrus trees and running thickets belong to the most picturesque corners of the city. Walking along the streets, one can get the impression that we have gone back to the Middle Ages. Stone gothic houses, the bustle of a merchant's shops and the music played on traditional instruments by local musicians make a great impression, especially on people expecting the modern city's dialect in Barcelona. Next to the cathedral there is the Reial Major Palace, which was once the seat of the counts of Barcelona and then the rulers of Aragón. Next to it there is St. Augustine's Chapel, which is an excellent example of the characteristic Catalan Gothic. There are many beautiful buildings in the neighbourhood, and often in their cellars you can see the foundations laid in ancient times. The distinctiveness and uniqueness of the Catalan construction industry can be evidenced by the Palau de la Generalitat de Catalunya, which since the 14th century has been the seat of the autonomous government. The beautifully decorated Gothic elements of the building is one of the most unique in the whole city, and its chapel Sant Jordi, patio with orange trees or gold-plated chamber will take us to the world of fairy tales.Tresc opisow dostarczana przez merlinx.
Near the Gothic district, there is an impressive church of Santa Maria del Mar, dating back to the 14th century, which was once the most important point of the boating and merchant district, and its size and beauty were to evoke the memory of the city's power in the Mediterranean Sea. In the vicinity of the church, the beautifully restored five palaces house the Picasso Museum, rich in collections. The Palace de la Musica Catalana, which is a magnificent example of Art Nouveau architecture of the early 20th century, with its huge concert hall, which was inscribed on the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage List as the only venue in the world illuminated by natural light, must surely not be overlooked.
Barceloneta is an interesting part of the city - a district whose narrow streets, colourful houses and laundry hanging above the sidewalks reflect the atmosphere of a fishing town, and local restaurants tempt with aromas of well prepared seafood. From Catalonia Square to Columbus monument there is a 2-kilometre-long walking alley La Rombla, built in the place of a former seasonal river. There are many fountains, shops, cafes and sculptures for strolling and the biggest marketplace in Barcelona, Boqueria. In its vicinity there are also valuable art museums and galleries with works by outstanding Spanish artists. At the end of the alley there is a very interesting Martim Museum located in the old Gothic shipyard, which was once able to accommodate up to 30 war galleys. Undoubtedly, the most interesting exhibit is a replica (naturally large) of the "Galera Real" ship, which is the flagship of the Holy League, which in 1571 defeated the Turks at Lepanto.
Barcelona has a great deal to offer: from historical monuments remembering different epochs to modern attractions such as amusement parks, water park, zoo and cable car from Barcelona to the Montjuice Hill, but without a doubt its greatest treasure are the works of Gaudi. No architect in the world had such a significant influence on the appearance of the city as the artist born in nearby Reus. He created new sculptural and architectural forms by mixing Art Nouveau with modernism, many of which can be admired in this city, which is open to art. The most characteristic building is the church of Sagrada Familia (the Holy Family) - which was originally supposed to be a neo-Gothic building, but the work was taken over by Antonio Gaudi, who completed the crypt and created an impressive project of a 150 m high temple. The artist was very much alive in building the church and made every effort to make his work perfect, but he was unable to see the completion of the construction. The building consists of three main naves, the most interesting of which is the eastern nave devoted to Christ's Birth, completed by the artist. The others are dedicated to the Passion of the Lord (Western) and the glory of Christ (Southern). It is also worth seeing other works by Gaudi, such as Casa Mila, Casa Batllo and Parc Guell, where the artist lived in one of his houses and then a museum of his name was built there.
Walking around Barcelona is an incredible experience, and getting to know it from many angles requires comfortable shoes and a lot of time, because there are many charming places here that show different faces of this world's metropolis. One can be sure - there is no other city like this.
The regional diversity, the richness of flavours and aromas of Spanish cuisine make it one of the best and most appreciated in the world. The richness of flavours and diversity of the menu can be seen not only by comparing the dishes of coastal, plain or mountainous regions, but also between the provinces and even neighbouring cities. In many regions, mainly central ones, there are several dishes of the same type as gazpacho (cooler) or ajo-arriero (stewed salt cod), but there are many cuisines that only in their region cultivate old culinary traditions such as Catalonia, Castile-Leon, Lewant and the cities of Segowia, Cuenca or San Sebastian.
A characteristic feature of all regional cuisines is the passion for freshness, and a very well-developed transport makes the trade in goods very fast. The richness of seafood in the menu of the central regions is not a coincidence either, as a few hours after the fish or other sea specialties were caught, they are already delivered to the cities of central Spain. For curiosity we can add that it is in the central Madrid that the second largest fish wholesaler in the world is located.
Tapas is very popular in Spain - snacks served for wine, beer or as a small dish between main meals. They come from Andalusia and initially it was a piece of cheese or ham placed at a glass of wine so that no dust could get into it. Today, every region of Spain has its own original and varied tapas, and even small restaurants with the same name, serving only appetizers and wine. Sevilla is appreciated for the best traditional appetizers, and modern and fancy you will get at San Sebastian. Sometimes they are served in small quantities for free if you choose wine for tasting or other local drinks. The most popular Andalusian tapas are olive rolls, Serrano ham and all the small snacks served with the typical Tampenade sauce. It has been made according to the same recipe for centuries and contains finely chopped black and green olives, minced almonds, garlic and mixed anchois.
Spanish wines have been known around the world for many centuries, but when you visit different regions of this beautiful country, you will discover local specialities available only in a small area near the nearby vineyards. The most famous and valued quality of Spanish wines is Rioja, a red wine made from the juice of fruit growing in different zones in the region of the same name. The tradition of its production dates back to the 2nd century, when the Romans commissioned wine-growing for Legionarians. There is also a hypothesis that thanks to the Roman conquests, strains of local plants have reached Bordoux, where the best wines are also made from them. In the Middle Ages, thanks to its location on the route to Santiago de Compostella, wine became more famous and in the 16th century it was exported to the Netherlands and England through the seaports of Bilbao and Santander. At the end of the 18th century, Don Manuel Quintano of Burgos, inspired by a trip to Bordoux, introduced oak barrels to the production process, which significantly improved the quality of wines and the speed of their transportation. In the middle of the 19th century, the neighbouring vineyards in Galicia, followed by the majority of French vineyards, were affected by outbreaks of disease, which resulted in the spread and increased production of the La Rioja region. Development and expansion into the world markets were halted by the famine of the 1930s, when most of the vineyards were grubbed up for grain. Many vineyards still exist today, however, and there are museums in 2 of them which present the processes of wine production in the past.
Eastern Spain is famous for its rich red balsamic wines, which have a history dating back to the times when Carthusian monks planted special vine varieties on the dark hills of Tarragona. Today, it is here that the strongest and most expensive Spanish wines come from.
Another traditional alcoholic beverage is sangria, which is made on the basis of wine, fruit juices and often other flavour additives. The drink comes from Valencia, but is mainly distributed on the coast and in the centre of the country.
The main meals are seldom served with any salad or even vegetables for decoration, which does not mean that Andalusia does not offer salads in its menu. They are highly appreciated here and can be found in many interesting varieties.
The Mediterranean coast is mainly fish served in many forms - from fried, grilled, smoked, cooked, to delicious soups and casseroles. The tables are dominated by salads of sun-ripened products, casseroles and oven vegetables, often filled with local specialities.
Catalan cuisine prides itself on the local romesco - a sauce with almond and pepper, which is served with fish or grilled onions. It is also worthwhile to try the Sarsuela - stewed seafood and escudella - the Catalan equivalent of a broth. The region is also famous for its traditionally made sausages fuet and the 'Pa amb tomaquet' as a starter of bread with tomato paste.
Spanish people are a nation that loves the crowd and fun. They often meet in bars for conversation or fun together running away from sitting at home. In most, even small towns, afternoons are the perfect time for meetings, and 20 streets and bars fill up with people of all ages who are in conversation. They also love to have fun, which is what they are famous for all over the world, and a huge number of festivals and holidays is a great opportunity for this.
There's no doubt that the most famous Spanish tradition is corrida - a spectacle of man's fight against bull watched in specially adapted arenas with huge audiences. This kind of entertainment came along with the Arab tribes and was a spectacle only for the elite. A torreador fighting bull - with his richly decorated outfits and headgear - irritates the bull and encourages the bull to fight with a red cloth (mulet) to finally knock the spear into his neck. Being a torreador was once an activity for the chosen people, and extraordinary courage and cunning were rewarded with a position in society. In most of the countries where Spanish traditions have spread, the brutality of the spectacle has turned it into a theatrical performance, but in Spain alone it has been increasingly opposed by different circles for many years. However, some regions of Spain are withdrawing from traditional corrida, as did the Catalonia Parliament giving up bloody performances from 1 January 2012.
The most famous Spanish dance is undoubtedly flamenco - a very expressive dance referring to the traditions of Andalusian gypsies. Not only specific music and singing, but also colorful costumes, facial expressions and dancers' gestures are connected with it. Ladies proudly present themselves in frilliant dresses and colourful corsets, while men wear black or dark blue, tight trousers and a white shirt with an apasse. This dance is performed both in pair and solo most often accompanied by guitar, but sometimes also in the background it sounds flute or cello. The rhythm is most important in flamenco - it is played on drums, castanets, heels of shoes, and the most frequent props include fans, flowers and scarves. The performances take place in special bars, sometimes in taverns, on small theatres and sometimes even on the streets. Expression, pride, liveliness and beauty of dance eloquently reflects the Spanish people's attachment to tradition and their provenance. On November 17th, 2010, this dance was inscribed on the UNESCO List of Oral and Non-Material Heritage Sites.
The inhabitants of different regions of the country are very different, which is influenced by the long history of the country, access to natural resources or succumbing to the influence of other nations. That is why the Spanish people often say that they are not a single nation, but because of this very interesting and diverse. The majority of foreigners associate Spain with hot Andalusia, where proud and very experienced Spanish people express their emotions through flamenco rhythms. Galicia, on the other hand, is a green hill often covered in fog, where conservative yet hospitable residents love to return to the past. The Catalans and Basqueans dream of noticing their political, social and cultural separateness and even their independence from Spain. The regional traditions of these areas are most evident in the small towns, which live their slow life.
For the Spaniards, it is very important to have a family, not only as a large, multi-generation assembly, but also as a support and social force. This results in the characteristics of this society - courage in proclaiming their views, striving to achieve goals, openness to novelties and adaptation to changes. Although usually the most important authority of the family was man, it is the woman who has the greatest impact on the life of the family. Radical changes in the model of the family and the role of women came after Franco's death and overthrow of the regime. Earlier, still in the 1970s, a woman who wanted to leave the city had to have a written authorization from her husband to leave the family - of course for a short time. Today, the number of marriages since then has almost halved, and emancipation and family models from other developed countries have resulted in lighter treatment of family traditions.
A feature that connects all Spanish people is a loose approach to the sense of time. Joy flowing from life and meeting with friends or time for oneself is as important in this culture as work, and the famous saying "manana" - i. e. putting everything into a later course has become a tradition and a normal approach to dealing with matters. When you are going to make a meeting with a Spaniard, you have to set an exact time, because often during the delay there is an excuse that the hour is 60 minutes. Such an approach to life makes people from other European countries often find their lack of punctuality bad, but the Spanish themselves treat it as a normal lifestyle.Tresc opisow dostarczana przez merlinx.
The national dance of Catalonia is sardana, which is derived from the tradition of old sardana curta dance. Very often this dance competition is organized, during which dance schools exhibit six pairs competing with each other with the technique and harmony of movements and colourful costumes.
During various holidays in the streets of Catalonia you can see the inhabitants wearing colorful costumes dancing with sticks. It is a characteristic dance, which probably originated from war or shepherd dances, danced by more than 100 different bands, each of which has the same costume. This is a very exciting show, where the build-up of tension and the interplay of movements and rhythms is very important and requires long training sessions.
On numerous marches in Catalonia, there are figures with large heads - Capgrossos, which in the eighteenth century were used to pave the way for an orchestral, usually religious, colic. They had mainly human faces, but after the end of the civil war, when the street became a place of play, they started to take various characters. They are usually accompanied by Gegants, but in recent years there have been many more of them, and their role has changed from auxiliary to one of the main dancers, they are mascots of clubs, schools, they entertain crowds and do tricks.
The Corpus Christi celebrations are often accompanied here by Cavalletes - figures reminiscent of our Lajkonikas or small horses, which have been used since the 15th century to showcase the Christian's victorious battle against the Mauro family, and nowadays they are often used to parodiate the cavalry. On the occasion of this holiday there are also devils and other figures referring to Christian traditions and the history of the region, which go in the great parade. The street is often treated as a theatre during religious holidays and various festivals.
A unique spectacle from Catalonia is Castells - the construction of structures from human bodies that were to symbolize the unity of the Catalan people, and the struggle to build them - the struggle for the freedom of Catalonia. In recent years, this tradition has gained in importance thanks to numerous new teams and the construction of up to five floors.
Ethnic instruments, traditional only for the region, are very popular in Catalonia. Numerous schools of playing these instruments are also being created, and their sounds can often be heard on the streets.
In contrast to most of the world's metropolises, Barcelona also has a relaxing holiday to offer. The seven sandy beaches of the northern coastline offer a wide range of water sports - from windsurfing, diving, water skiing to sailing. The picturesque marina is a must-see destination for sailors sailing in the Mediterranean Sea. Nearby mountains are an ambitious challenge for climbers and trekking enthusiasts, and many horse stables allow you to explore the coastline on the horseback. Bicycles are very popular in Barcelona, and their rentals can be found every step of the way.
Barcelona is a very interesting and absorbing city, but if you have time you should also visit the area.
Girona - a city dating back to the history of Roman times, which, due to many battles and the desire to seize it, has been called "the city of a thousand sieges". An interesting part of the city is the Call district, one of the best preserved and largest Jewish districts in Europe. There are many memorabilia of past history, such as the Banys Arabs - Arabian baths from the 13th century, the former Sant Pere de Galligants Monastery, where now houses the Archaeological Museum and Girona's most important church, the Gothic cathedral, which has only one but the world's largest nave.
Empuries - the ruins in the vicinity of L' Escala, which are considered one of the most important archaeological discoveries of Greek and Roman colonization. The ruins of the Greek city are closer to the coast, Roman ruins are situated on a nearby hill, and between them there is a museum with a valuable statue of Greek medical father Asklepjos.
Figures - a Catalan city whose most famous point is the Museum of Dali, which was the only one in the world created by the artist during his lifetime. Dali designed the museum as a large labyrinth of different shapes and his rooms are decorated with surrealistic works by the artist. An interesting thing is a very intriguing painting located under the dome, whose illusionistic performance makes it possible to see the face of the artist's wife - Gala. Strange enough, by looking at them through an inverted telescope you can see a portrait of A. Linkoln, President of the United States. Other interesting works are "Rain Cadillak" with Persian queen and car tyre totem floating above it. You need to spend a few hours exploring the place.
Ripoll - a medieval town with its fortress and the 9th century monastery of Santa Maria, considered one of the most outstanding Romanesque works in Spain. This is where the conquist began, and the place was named the cradle of Catalonia.
Andora - one of the smallest countries in Europe in the heart of the Pyrenees, which, apart from breathtaking views and beautiful monuments, attracts visitors to the duty-free zone. Andorra is a democratic principality - there are two heads of state: the Spanish bishop and the French President, who are representative, and the exercise of power belongs to the General Council and the Prime Minister. The official language is Catalan, but you can communicate in French and Spanish because the native Andorians are a minority in their country. Since the last years of the last century tourism and its service have been the main driving force behind the development of regional trade in souvenirs, duty-free goods and catering services. A passport is required for the trip.Tresc opisow dostarczana przez merlinx.
Saragossa - the fifth largest city in Spain, whose history dates back to the 1st century BC. For many centuries it was a Roman colony, home of Vandalists and Vizzygotas, until the 11th century when the city became the capital of the Muslim state. After the conquest by Christians, Saragossa became the capital of Aragon and then the seat of the bishopric. The city was a place of many fighting and conspiracy activities until the Second World War. The most characteristic monument of the town is the beautiful basilica of the Nuestra Senora del Pilar with four towers and eleven domes. Inside there is a statue of the Virgin Mary on the Column (el Pilar), which is said to have appeared to St. Jacob in the year 40 A. D. The church is a destination of pilgrimages in Spain, and the main holiday combined with a huge influx of visitors is the Fiesta de la Raza reminding of the discovery of America and the former Spanish power (the main celebration on 12 October). Other valuable monuments include the Cathedral of Salvador dating back to the 12th century, which is a combination of Gothic, Mauritanian and Baroque style, the Renaissance stock exchange with visible Florentine influences, the Puente de Piedra bridge and the impressive Alkazar de la Aljaferia, dating back to the 11th century with a mosque, the Mauritanian courtyard and the King's Palace.
Montserrat - Benedictine monastery located in the mountains near Barcelona, which is the main religious centre of Catalonia thanks to the Black Madonna known as La Morenet. Legend has it that St. Luke carved the statue and brought St. Peter to this area. During the reign of the Moors, it was hidden in these areas and found only in the 9th century in one of the nearby caves. A monastery was built close to the "Holy Cave", where 4 mountain trails and a mountain railway run into the place.
Terrassa - a charming city whose traces of history go back to Roman times. In the Middle Ages, they were surrounded by walls and a huge castle and palace complex was built, from which a defensive tower has survived to this day. The largest development of the city took place after the industrial revolution, mainly textile industry. Many modernist buildings, such as Casa Baumann and Masia Frexia Church, were built at that time. Many of the memorabilia after this period can be admired at the Museum of Science and Technology in Catalonia, which is located in one of the factories.
Aventura Port - the largest amusement park in Spain, located near Tarragona, which offers plenty of attractions within the thematic park - we can move to China, soon afterwards to Polynesia, Mexico or the Wild West. The main attractions are Dragon Khan, Europe's largest mountain lift, Stampida, a wooden lift and Hurakan Condor, a tower that can be fired.
Tarragona - the city whose greatest wealth is its impressive 12th century cathedral, magnificent works of Roman art and ancient memorabilia. It is also worth seeing the ruins of the amphitheatre, which is located by the beach, using the natural fracture of the shore. There are also walking alleys, the largest of which, Rambla, leads to the sea, sandy beach and the harbour. Some of the best wines come from the area around Tarragona vineyards, and the process of making this drink can be seen in the local museum.
Frequently Asked Questions
When is it best to go to Barcelona?
Barcelona is a city that surprises with its attractions all year round, but the main holiday season starts from March and lasts until the end of October, as rains often occur during the winter months. Most tourists come here during the summer season because apart from sightseeing, the city offers excellent conditions for relaxation on the beach. It is also a must-seeing sightseeing destination for those who relax on the Costa Brava and Costa Dorado.
The calendar of events in the city as well as in the region is very extensive. On the eve of January 6th, three kings appear in the whole region and come on camels, ships, sometimes helicopter and give small gifts. The last week of the carnival is celebrated very huely, and even during the Holy Week, colourful processions are taking place. Undoubtedly, St. George's Day, celebrated on April 23rd, is an interesting event - the birthday of Shakespeare and Cervantes, who, as a Spanish festival of roses and books, is considered in Catalonia to be a holiday of those in love. Flower carpets, colorful processions and many theatre performances on the street can be seen on Corpus Christi day, and on the eve of St. John (June 23rd) there is a glory of summer and fireworks shows. In Barcelona and many coastal towns, fishermen's feast is also celebrated in mid-July. The biggest festival in the city is La Merce Festival, which begins on September 24th - it is a crazy week of dragon parades, camels, fun and setting up Castells - human castles.
Where and what souvenirs to buy in Barcelona?
The most popular souvenirs are fans, decorated castanets, jewellery, ceramic products and gadgets related to Barcelona. Although the region's mascot is a donkey, usually souvenirs related to bulls are more popular. Wines that are not exported abroad, fruits and large pieces of smoked jamon hams, which are famous for the region, are often bought.
There is a huge selection of shops and shopping malls in Barcelona, but an interesting experience will be a visit to the city's largest marketplace - Boqueria, where you can find original souvenirs, handmade works, leather goods and many souvenirs related to the city. There is also a huge selection of fruits and regional products - from cold meats, through wine, marinated preserves and sweets, which make the region famous.
Another interesting place to visit is the flea market, located in the vicinity of the church of Sagrada Familia, where on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays in the morning you can find interesting and original treasures.
Spain's siesta has a big influence on the rhythm of the day, but in larger cities such as Barcelona large shops and shopping centres have no breaks. Spaniards usually come back for lunch at home during the siesta, which is the main meal during the day.
How to navigate in Barcelona?
Barcelona is a well-organised city in terms of public transport, which is a great help in exploring the city. The most important means of transport is an extensive metro system and a bus network. Barcelona has two large bus stations serving local and national connections, while Nord Station is centrally located, also internationally. There are also two large railway stations (RENFE) in the city - Estacio de Franca near the port and Sants in the west, which serve long-distance high-speed trains, as well as many smaller stations serving suburban railways.
There are also excellent connections between Barcelona airport - El Prat, 12 km away from the city centre, from where buses and trains run every several minutes.
Contrary to the general claim that a large city is subject to high charges, taxis are cheaper than in other regions of Spain. There is no general obligation to give tips, but it is generally accepted that the taxi driver's account should be rounded up.
What beaches are there in Barcelona?
Barcelona has seven sandy beaches separated by rocks, piers or marinas, and they stretch north of Barcelona. They are very well developed for recreational purposes, and the most popular are the beaches of Sant Sebatia and divided into two parts of Barceloneta, where beach parties and numerous sports competitions are organized.
At higher class hotels or in selected resorts, the beach is flooded artificially or significantly different from the typical urban beaches, so when choosing a resort and hotel it is worth to make sure which beach we will have access to.
Important information MFA