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Return to Barcelona Guide Overview

Sheila Umolu

Port Vell from above

credit Espana Tourism



    Located on the northeastern coast of the Spanish Mediterranean, Barcelona is really a collection of diverse cities in one. It has all the conveniences of a large modern Western city such has a Metro system, plenty of taxis, a working port city, portside attractions, major museums, grand monuments, an Olympic Village, an extraordinary park designed by a foremost artist of the 20th century and the little something extra that makes residents artist park. As the capital of Catalonia, which is similar to a state capital in America, you'll be as impressed with the Capital building as the U.S. Capitol.

Why does a 21st century city with wide boulevards strike such a contrast with its maze of narrow streets at its core? Visitors unfamiliar with Barcelona's history are surprised that such a modern city preserves its historic center almost intact. Turns out the city dates back to the founding of a Roman colony here in the second century B.C. You can see Roman ruins exposed under the Plaça del Rei, entrance by the city museum. Roman street grid-planning is visible today in the layout of the historical center of the Gothic Quarter.


   Another important artifact of Roman times is the Basilica La Seu founded in 343 AD. Barcelona was conquered by the Visigoths in the 5th century, by the Moors in the 8th century, reconquered by Charlemagne's son Louis, and then reconquered by the Moors again in 985 AD. Of those conquerors, the Moors left the biggest architectural impact. Modern Barcelona blossomed after 1888 World's Fair in terms of industrialization, culture events and the arts. In fact, Barcelona is known for the award-winning industrial design of its hotels and convention center. As a result, a growing number of national and international events are attracted here each year, where Catalonian pride is in full display.

    Barcelona has seven beaches totaling about 3 miles of
Mediterranean coastline. Sant Sebastià and Barceloneta beaches are the most popular, but Nova Icària, Bogatell, Mar Bella, Nova Mar Bella and Llevant are respectable as well. These beaches were opened to host the 1992 Summer Olympics. Speaking of those Olympics, the city is blessed with many sports Barcelona has several business districts  L'Illa, Diagonal Mar, La Maquinista, Glòries and the Maremagnum by the port. Americans think of Barcelona as a shopping capital, but surprisingly you can load up on local jewelry and designer gears, or sink all day parsing the many antique shops for great deals.

    Though Barcelona celebrates the great Spanish artist Pablo Picasso with a museum, the revered Antonio Gaudi has made the city his personal playground. Gaudi's Güell Park, Casa Batllo, Casa Milo and the triumphant Sagrada Familia are masterpieces of outdoor art that are experienced as much as seen. Las Ramblas is half-mile walkway through the heart of the city hosting kiosks, restaurants, bars and street performers until the early hours of the morning
. Plaza Catalunya has a large central square hosting a modern monument, fountains, sculptures and grass. Some consider it the unofficial heart of the city.

    Barcelona could have been just another working port city on the
Mediterranean like Marseille, but clearly set its sights to higher, diverse purposes. When you summarize all the attractions today and those to come, Barcelona may well be the most exciting  coastal city in Europe.


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