by Anthony Vaarwerk
Barcelona is the second largest city in Spain and the best place for vacations in Europe. Whether you like art, architecture, nice weather, the sea, a good meal, shopping or any kind of outdoor sport; Barcelona has it.
The cosmopolitan city is one of the top destinations in Europe, perfect for families with little kids as well as for a romantic getaway or young travelers looking for fun with its historical places, theme parks, well known designers shops, over 2,000 restaurants and beautiful beaches facing the Mediterranean.
The history of Barcelona stretches back well over 2000 years to its origins as an Iberian village, named Barkeno.
The origins of the city of Barcelona are unclear. There are at least two founding myths proposed by romantic historians since the 15th century. One credits it to the Carthaginian general HamilcarBarca, around 230 BC. The second attributes the foundation of the city to Hercules before the foundation of Rome but really the information about the period from 218 BC until the 1st century BC is scarce.
Barcelona has over 4 kilometers of sanded beaches facing the Mediterranean. The most popular one is the Barceloneta where you can not only enjoy the sun and the sea but also eat good fresh sea food, go out for a drink in any of the many cocktail bars right next to the beach or visit the biggest night clubs in the city.
It is the perfect combination for the historical and cultural attractions Barcelona has to offer like the numerous museums such as the Picasso Museum, The Museum of History (where you can visit the roman legacy), the Museum of Contemporary Art of Barcelona, the worldwide known houses built by AntoniGaudì, the SagradaFamilia, among many others.
If travelling with kids there is plenty to do as well, you can visit Barcelona’s Zoo and swim with the dolphins, go to the Amusements Park called Tibidabo located in the top of a mountain where you can also enjoy beautiful views, step by the Acquarium or simply take a walk around the different parks in the city.
Shopping in Barcelona
If you are fashion seeker or you simply enjoy shopping, you will definitely not regret coming to Barcelona. You can find over 30,000 shops. Either the famouos street Paseo de Gracia, home of renown designers such as Channel, Valentino, Carolina Herrera, Versace, Giorgio Armani, Calvin Klein, Burberry or Cartier, among others; or the high streets brands all over the city like H&M, Zara, Mango, Massimo Dutti, etc.
Around the old part of the city and the neighborhood called Gracia you can discover a world of not so famous independent designer with all kind of original clothes, worth stepping by.
The bargain-hunters should note that the winter sales officially start on or around January 7th and their summer equivalents on or around July 5th.
Dining in Barcelona
The Catalan cuisine, considered Mediterranean, is composed by fresh vegetables, olive oil, bread, legumes, garlic, seafood and pork. The most typical dishes of the region are: tomato bread, calçots, aioli, and crema catalane but it also includes dishes and foods common in other regions of Spain, such as the famous paella (rice with seafood) or Spanish tortilla (egg and potato omelet).
The city is full of restaurants, bars, night clubs and fresh food markets where to eat but for a good sea food meal we would recommend you to visit the old fishermen village called la Barceloneta, where you can find the best fishes for a reasonable price.
Catalonia has managed to maintain many customs and traditions over the years, which are very common in everyday life.
The most important from a tourist point of view are:
Sardanas: The traditional Catalan dance. The participants form a circle by joining hands raised in the air, alternating male and female. All ages and social statuses are welcomed to join in as a statement of unity. Catalans usually meet in front of cathedrals or in plazas on Sundays to dance it.
Castellers: The "castells" (castles) are impressive human towers of up to 10 "floors" and different teams compete. They can be seen in popular festivals in Barcelona, especially during the "Mercè".
Saint George (SantJordi), patron saint of Catalonia: On 23 April the Catalans celebrate Saint George's day by offering a rose to women and a book to men, and the main shopping streets of Barcelona are filled with book and rosesstands.
Eve of Saint John's: On the 23 June, the summer solstice is celebrated with big bonfires, firecrackers and fireworks, and people eat the traditional "coca de Sant Joan" (a pastry). It is common for young people to meet at the beach to have a drink and watch the bonfires.
La Mercè festival: This is the festival for Barcelona's patron saint, held in the week of the 24 September, the day of La Mercè. All kinds of activities are organized, for all tastes and all ages. Of particular interest is the "correfoc" (fire-breathing dragons from all over Catalonia), the “Castellers” and the pyrotechnical music show that takes place the last day.
Map of Barcelona Catalonia