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Guide to Barcelona

What to do and see in Barcelona?

Barcelona is one of Spain's most important cities. The capital of Catalunya.

Well known as a cultural centre, it boasts splendid architecture, monuments, historical sites, natural resources, beaches and much more. It has developed over the last decade and a half at a breathtaking pace. Some people say that it is Spain´s most European city because it is always open to new ideas and trends. This can be noted in its people, the Catalans. It is a very modern, multicultural, cosmopolitan city.

Enjoying the benefits of a typical mediterranean climate Barcelona attracts tourists from all over the world. Following the Olympics in 1992 tourism to the city dramatically increased, partly due to the massive building programme and modernisation that went hand in hand with the games. Barcelona isn´t just the city itself mountians, beaches and villages are also within easy reach for tourists planning to spend more than just a few days in the province. Multinational companies based in Barcelona also contribute to the high number of foreign residents. Infact Barcelona is probably Spain's most cosmopolitan city.






Places to visit in Barcelona

Barcelona has such a rich heritage that you need at least a week to be able to visit it all. Here are what we consider to be the most important sites to visit.

The actual city itself is quite large. But it is quite easy to find your way around thanks to the way the streets are set out in grid form.

Walking: strolling around Barceloneta is a very pleasant experience - the old port Vell and the Atarazanas; the Maremagnum is a modern leisure centre featuring an Aquarium, restaurants, multiscreen cinema, shops, it also has bars with open terraces where you can enjoy a relaxing drink. Also within walking distance - The Ramblas, the Catalunya Square, the Gothic quarter, the Paseo de Gracia, the Avenida Diagonal with its fabulous shops, expensive boutiques, trendy cafes, bars and hotels. The Eixample (Ensanche) street with its modern buildings is now Barcelona´s business centre.

The atmosphere changes going from the Avenida Diagonal towards the north of the city which is more elegant and peaceful. The Pedralbes neighbourhood, Sant Gervasi and Sarriá (Av. Diagonal/Universitad north direction) are residential areas but worth a visit as they are very pretty. The Gracia neighbourhood has still got it´s old streets and continues to celebrate its fiestas and traditions. But perhaps the most interesting place to visit if you like art and history is the Gothic quarter (el barrio Gótico) especially during the weekend. There are many street musicians, singers, street theatre groups... allthis and more, something which creates a wonderful atmosphere. You can cross the whole area on foot going from the Ramblas to the Cathedral Square. The Real Square (Plaza Real) has a weekly antique market on Sundays (coins, stamps and old train sets among other things). Other places to see on foot are the Plaza del Pí (Iglesia del Pí), Plaza del Rei, Calle Montcada (an authentic medieval street), Basílica de Santa María del Mar, La Llotja, the Grand Lyceum theatre (Gran Teatro del Liceo) and the Mercado de la Boquería.



La Ciutadella Park, 30 hectres: a large lake, palm trees, orange trees...The Zoolological park is based here and also The Modern Art Museum.

Guell Park, magnificently built by Gaudi in 1922 this park is a world heritage.

Montjuic Mountain apart from the castle, there is a Roase garden and museums aswell as an open air theatre.a parte del Castillo y todos los Museos tiene un parque con una rosaleda, Mercat de las Flors, the Olympic Stadium, the Sant Jordi sports complex (used in the Olympics) and a theme park (El Poble Espagnol) .

Tibidabo Theme Park situated on Tibidabo mountain;

Also worth visiting are Joan Miró Park and l'Espanya Industrial Park.

The Congress Centre: located between the Plaza de España and the National Palace (Montjuic mountain). The Plaza de España was built for the 1929 Great Exhibition, its two bell towers forming the entrance to the site. From here you get onto Reina María Cristina avenue which is where the Congress Centre is (the former exhibition centre).


Castles and Palaces

The Montjuich château: (18th century) located in Ciutat Vella has magnificent views over the Mediterranean, the Vell Port, the shipyards and the Olympic Port in the distance. It formed the headquarters to the Great Exhibition in 1929 and today serves as a military museum.

Guell Palace: neogothic palace built by Gaudi (his first building)

Virreina Palace: (18th century) the first person to inhabit this palace was the viceroy for Spain in Peru.

Pedralbes Palace: In the past it was used by the Spanish Royal family when visiting the city. Given National Historic status in 1931. Now open to the public, it has a museum with a permanent collection including decorative ceramic pieces, Catalan and Arabic pottery and works by Miró and Picasso. The gardens were designed by J.C.Forestier; Royale Mayor Palace, (13th century) used by the Counts of Barcelona and Royal family during that period. It houses the famous Tinell room (14th century) which was used by the Reyes Católicos (Catholic King and Queen) to welcome Christopher Columbus following his return from America..

The Mayor´s Office: also called the" Casa de la Ciutat " it is a 14th century palace which is located in the Gothic quarter (Barrio Gótico) in Sant Jaume square, in front of the Generalitat Palace.

The Generalitat Palace (the Catalan Parliament Palace): The renaissance facade has a statue of Sant Jordi, the Patron Saint of Barcelona. The head of parliament uses his office here daily or works across the road in his office in the Casa de los Canonges (Canónigos) which is connected by a Venecian style bridge built in 1928.

Cathedrals and Churches

Most can be found within the Gothic quarter (Barrio Gótico) one of Europe's largest remaining medieval centres.

  • Eixample neighbourhood: The Sagrada Familia Cathedral, built by Gaudí on a neogothic church which he began renovating in 1883 and in the process of doing so changed completely. This Cathedral is modern and its originality is outstanding. It remained unfinished for decades and continued to be built using money from donations and other sources, following the plans set out by Gaudí. Also within this neighbourhood - Eglise de la Purísima Concepció and Asunción de Nuestra Señora (c/Aragón/Lauria) 16th century.
  • The Gothic Quarter: Basilica de Santa María del Mar - Baroque Catalan style one of the favourite churches for the people of Barcelona. It has wonderful acoustics and sometimes holds concerts. Basilica de la Merçé(near to port Vell), originally 13th century gothic style but in was restored in the Baroque style in the 18th century.; Santa Agata Chapel, 15th century, located within the Real Mayor Palace.
  • Barcelona Cathedral: It was built upon the remains of a Roman church and a Mosque in 1298 and was finished in the 14th century. It is Gothic Catalan in style, however within its interior a Roman style chapel has been preserved. Santa Lucía Chapel, the crypt of Santa Eulalia, which contains a very interesting sarcpophagus,is situated below the high alter. The cloister is Gothic. The Sacristía museum has a collection of valuable antique objects.Santísimo Sacramento Chapel holds the crucifix of Cristo de Lepanto 16th century.
  • Pedralbes neighbourhood: Santa María de Pedralbes Monastery :built in 1326 by queen Elisenda de Montcada, 60 paintings from the Thyssen Bornemisza collection have been on show in the Sant Miquel Chapel since 1989.
  • Museums in the Gothic Quarter: The Art Modern Museum, located in the Ciutadella park; Frederic Marès Museum, an 18th century palace which has been used to host important visitors since 1948. One of the best Roman and Gothic religious art museums in the city. L'Ardiaca House, 12th century, restored in 1500, built above a Roman wall in gothic-renaissance style - it currently holds the cities historical archives.The City History Museum, 14th century mansion. The Wax Museum, it holds more than 300 wax models of famous people. Moja Palace, a Baroque palace, the first floor holds temporary exhibitions. The Picasso Museum, comprises of 3 buildings inMontcada street: one is Baroque style and the other two are medieval - it holds more than 3000 pictures. The Maritime Museum, located in Drassanes (in the shipyards) :The Geological Museum; The Zoological Museum.
  • Museums on Montjuic Mountain: National Museum for Catalan Art, situated in the National Palace this museum holds Europe´s best collection of art from the Middle Ages. The Archeological Museum, it has important Prehistoric art remains found in Catalunya and the Balearic Islands. The Joan Miró Foundation; in aJ.L.Sert building - a good collection of Miró's work. The Etnological Museum.
  • Museums in the Eixample neighbourhood :The Antoni Tàpies Foundation, in Aragón street this museums contains surreal works by Tàpies.
  • Museums in the Pedralbes-Sant Gervasi neighbourhood: The Science Museum: very good - located in Tibidabo Avenue - it has a planetarium and a metereological station. The Collserola Tower: located in Tibidabo, it is a communications tower built by Norman Foster for the Olympics. It has an observatory and a 360 degrees viewing point giving- amazing!The Royal Academy of the Arts and Sciences: place of the first public clock in Barcelona, it was once a theatre.
  • The Lyceum Theatre: a grand opera house. Opened in 1847 and it has been destroyed on three occassions, the most recent being a fire in 1994. Fortunately, it has now been fully restored and is open once again.
  • The Catalanan Concert Hall : A modern Palace built in 1908 by Domènech i Montaner. The only concert hall in the world that has natural lighting. en 1908 : The decor is amazing.
  • La Llotja : Headquarters for the stockmarket set in a former customs building in the port. Remodelled in the 18th century, the great hall where transactions are carried out is Gothic.
  • Modernist buildings : Casa Milà-La Pedrera, built by Gaudí in 1910 located in the Paseo de Gracia; Casa Terrades-Casa de les Punxes 1905 built by Puig i Cadafach; Hospital de la Santa Creu i de Sant Pau, built by Gaudí in 1902, and still in use as a hospital. Illa de la Discordia, 3 houses located in the Paseo de Gracia: Casa Batlló 1904,Gaudí, Casa Lleó i Morera 1902 ,Domenech i Montaner, and Casa Ametller 1898 ,Puig i Cadafach; Guell Palace, located in the Guell Park, Gaudí.



Barcelona Barcelona is the undisputed design centre of Spain. For clothes shopping the best place is the Paseo de Gracia and all the surrounding streets; there are also very good art, decoration and antique shops such as Bd-Ediciones de Diseño (pieces by Gaudí, Charles Mackintosh and other more modern designers), the Mercado de la Boquería - a food market - one of the biggest in Europe; El Mercat dels Encants - a secondhand market - a bit like the Rastro market in Madrid. The Gothic Quarter has a large number of specialist shops, usually very old, selling everything from hats to religious objects. Wines: we recommend the Penedès reds and rosés and white wines from Alella (bodegas Quilez).

Accommodation in Barcelona


As any major city, Barcelona has a very wide selection of hotels. Click on the links below for detailed reviews of the hotels we recommend.

Travelling to Barcelona? The following links may also be useful
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