Barcelona is, as to size and population, the second largest city in the Iberian peninsula; it is located on the northeastern coast of the aforementioned mass of land and its shores are bathed by the Mediterranean sea. It is also the capital of Catalonia, and is tethered to the Spanish monarchy since September 11th of 1714.
There are two official languages spoken in Barcelona: Catalan, which is generally spoken in all of Catalonia, and the Castilian Spanish, which was imposed by Philip V of Spain. The city of Barcelona has a population of 1.510.000, although this number is much higher if we take into account the metropolitan area surrounding Barcelona. Barcelona is unequivocally a Mediterranean city, not only because of its geographic location but also because of its history, tradition and cultural influences. The documented history of the city dates back to the times when the Romans founded a colony on its soil in the second century B.C. Modern Barcelona has experienced, during the second half of the 19th century, an spectacular growth and an economic revival as a result of the industrialization era. The 1888 World’s Fair became a symbol of the city’s capacity for both hard work and the internationalization process that has made of this city a reference for many other peer cities in the Mediterranean basin. Both culture and arts have flourished in Barcelona as a consequence of the high level of intellectuality that is found in Catalonia; also, the splendor achieved by the Catalonian modernism is one of the most patent displays.
Barcelona is not a single city in itself, but a collection of multifaceted and diverse cities. Those visitors who are unfamiliar with the city’s history might be surprised to see that this modern and enterprising city still preserves its historic Gothic center almost intact; they will also feel surprised and amazed when walking or visiting the maze of narrow streets of “Ciutat Vell, el Barri Gòtic” (the old part of the city), and the grid-like layout of the Eixample, that is, the urban planning that included an “enlargement” projected by Cerdá at the end of the 19th century.
The Saint Josep Market (in Catalan Mercat de Sant Josep), popularly known as La Boqueria (La Boqueria in Catalan), is a market town located in the Rambla de Barcelona (Catalonia). This is the place where to buy fresh produce, although at present the market has become a tourist attraction appealing. It has an area of 2583 sqm and over 300 stalls that offer a variety of local and exotic produce for both private buyers and restaurant owners of the city. It is the largest market of Catalonia, the most diverse in food supply and the most visited by tourists. The market opened in 1836, but it originally was out in the open, just at the gates of the old city, in the forecourt of the Pla de la Boqueria, where street vendors and farmers from nearby villages and farmhouses set their stalls and sold their products, just before the city would extend out of its first walls. This market was held outside the city walls to save the tax on incoming goods. Before the market existed, there was the Sant Josep convent in the same place. In 1586 the Discalced Carmelites (called the Josepets as they were the diffusers of Saint Joseph’s dedication) founded the convent at the place where the market is today. As the Rambla was becoming an important urban promenade in the eighteenth century, it was regarded necessary to remove the butcher’s shops along its length and place them, even closer to the inside, next to the orchard of the San José convent, which extremists burned, together with other monasteries that were in the Rambla, on St. James’s Day in 1835 during a revolt.
After the destruction of the convent, a large construction was built, with columns surrounded by porches; a construction that would be the largest of Barcelona at that time. It was decided to move the market temporarily inside this place, but eventually it would be its final location. Roofing works began on St. Joseph’s Day, in 1840. Early in the nineteenth century, the Rambla had, from “Carrer del Carme” to “Carrer de lle Pexina”, the same street width that today has with reference to that opposite the Palace of the Virreina. The market was located in that place, between houses and trees, and divided into distinct sectors that varied according to the products being sold. Many sellers gave a flower as a present to those who bought any food product, and here we can find the origin of a popular and inseparable part of this promenade: the current florists of la Rambla. Later on, the sale of animals, birds in special, can also be seen.
The current metal cover was inaugurated in 1914. The last architectural change took place in 2000, and there are more changes to be done in a near future that will mainly affect the Gardunya square that is located behind the current market. Over the years, the market has become the most emblematic of all in Barcelona, all of which makes of this market place a must-see location for shoppers and tourists. There is increasing number of stalls run by immigrants who sell specialties from South America, Japan, Italy, Greece and Arab countries. Las Ramblas is a fantastic promenade that is right at the oldest part of Barcelona; there are so many things to see at day, at night, at any time. There are stalls where flowers are sold, street entertainers or simply people who walk up and down this beautiful avenue and make of this central sidewalk a tourist attraction where bar-terraces are the perfect place for having a drink and feeling the pulse of the city. Barcelona is a treasure trove of delights. Starting with the Gaudi features, his three buildings, Park Güell and all the artistic benches and lamps that line the pavements. There’s a castle on the Mountjuic mountain to which you can get access using a cableway car, and enjoy the fabulous views of the coast and dock areas at the same time. For football fans, the Camp Nou is a must-see location. Then right at the other end of Barcelona is Mount Tibidabo, where you’ll discover an amazing Chapel with a huge figurine of Jesus on top of the temple that reminds that of Brazil. The Sagrada Familia is another temple designed by Gaudí that is really worth visiting, and probably is one of the best religious constructions that can be visited in Europe.
Classic attractions Tourists love these for a reason – they’re iconic and photo-worthy. The Sagrada Familia is the famous Roman Catholic church designed by Antoni Gaudi, and which is the symbol of Barcelona. Gaudi devoted his last years to project this temple, but less than a quarter of the project was complete when he died in 1926. Progress in the works has been ongoing for decades, while 2026 is the target-date. Today, both the already built part and the small Museu del Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família can be visited, and the museum exhibits scale models and drawings that show the construction process. The towers of the temple can be climbed up to the highest point where an incredible view of the city becomes a gift for the eyes.
The Guëll Palace was constructed by Gaudi in 1888; it was commissioned by a wealthy industrialist of the time. Now, it is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, “Works of Antoni Gaudi” The Catedral de la Santa Creu, also known as Barcelona’s Cathedral, dates back to the 11th century; it is surrounded by other remnants of Barcelona’s past —notably some Roman remains as well as various medieval structures. The Gothic structure of the cathedral contains gargoyles and a neo-Gothic façade that was added in the 19th century. The Gran Teatre del Liceu Barcelona was built in 1847. It is considered by many to be one of the finest opera houses in Europe; it tragically burnt to the ground in 1994. The new Liceu was re-opened in 2000, and, despite it keeps its original facade, the facilities inside the opera house are much larger than before the fire. Many of the finest operas of the international repertoire have been staged in the Liceu, and many great opera stars have performed in it; and among them, various Catalan opera artists, such as Montserrat Caballé, Josep Carreras and Jaume Aragall.
Art and culture Barcelona is home to a number of world-class museums. The Picasso Museum is the museum of choice to visit in Barcelona; not only for the art works exhibited in it, but also for the building itself; a building that is located in the Gothic Quarter —a district that contains five medieval palaces linked together. This museum is essential to understand the formative years of Pablo Picasso The Catalan National Art Museum (MNAC) is housed in the magnificent palace overlooking the Montjuic fountains. Catalan works of Romanesque, Gothic and Renaissance art from the 11th to 18th century can be found there.
The Joan Miro Foundation in Barcelona is the favorite destination of many visitors. Miró had a particular interest in the use of diverse materials, forms and colors. It led him to explore and experiment with different art forms, such as painting, sculpture, printing techniques, ceramics, theatre and tapestry For those who love contemporary art, the Barcelona Contemporary Art Museum, is a must-see location, as it exhibits the works from the second half of the 20th century. The building’s architectural style has strong references to Modernism.