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Barcelona the capital and largest city of Catalonia and Spain's second largest city, with a population of nearly two million people. The city, located directly on the northeastern Mediterranean coast of Spain, has a rich history dating back at least 2,000 years when it gained prominence as a Roman town under its old name, Barcino. In 1992, Barcelona gained international recognition by hosting the Olympic games which brought a massive uptick to the tourism industry in the city. This had the effect of changing the city in ways that are still felt today with neighborhoods renovated (and in some cases leveled) and the intense focus of modern design permeating all aspects of life in Barcelona from public buildings to something as simple as a park bench or an event poster. For visitors, this has translated in to the very modern, yet incredibly old city you see now in the 21st century where the new elements work to both preserve and celebrate the ancient. This beautiful city is full of what European cities are known for (outdoor markets, restaurants, shops, museums, and churches) and is fantastic for walking with an extensive and reliable Metro system for more far-flung destinations. The core center of town, focused around the Ciutat Vella provides days of enjoyment for those looking to experience the life of Barcelona while the beaches the city was built upon provide sun and relaxation during the long periods of agreeably warm weather. (less...) (more...)
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Points of Interest in Barcelona
Walk around the winding streets and hidden squares, fountains and palaces in the Barri Gòtic (Ciutat Vella). Highlights include the Catedral, the Museu d'Història de Barcelona (formerly known as the Museu d'Història de la Ciutat), and Plaça Reial.
Harbour Cable Car and Montjuic
Harbour Cable Car. Jun-Sep: 11AM-8PM. The 1450 metre long harbour aerial tramway with red cars connects Montjuic and Barceloneta. It starts in Barceloneta on the top of the 78 metre tall Torre San Sebastian tower, which has also a restaurant at its top accessible by an elevator. It has an intermediate stop at Torre Jaume I tower (close to Columbus monument), which can be reached by elevator from ground—107 metre tall tower, the second tallest aerial tramway support tower in the world. The final point of the tramway is Montjuic. Overall, the tramway is quite old (built in 1929), and the car is packed with tourists during the daytime—particularly sensitive for a stroller or a wheelchair. Currently, the Torre Jaume I tower in Barceloneta is temporarily closed for renovation, while two other stops work as usual. One-way €10, round trip €15.1.
When you arrive on Montjuic, you can visit the fortress on the hill and get amazing views of the city of Barcelona and the harbor areas. It's a pleasant area comprised mostly of public parks. You don't need to take the cable car to reach Montjuic. You can also use the funicular railway, which is part of the city's mass transit network.
Gaudí architecture and Modernist Barcelona
Gaudí architecture includes the Parc Güell in Gràcia, the still unfinished (as of 2011) Sagrada Família in Eixample and the houses La Pedrera/Casa Milà and La Casa Batlló both in Eixample. The Ruta del Modernisme run by Modernisme Centre (Pl. de Catalunya, 17, subterráneo; phone +34 933 177 652): guidebook and discount voucher book for €12. Takes you round all the best Modernisme (art nouveau) buildings in Barcelona. The main part of the route can be walked in a couple of hours, providing you don't stray too far from the main routes. The Tourist Offices offer a pack that includes discounted tickets to many attractions such as La Pedrera and La Casa Batlló. All can be seen from the outside for free.
- Museum of Natural History in the Forum - Museu Blau
- CosmoCaixa: Museum of Science Amazing museum for kids from 4-5 onwards. Adults will really enjoy it also.
When to visit
August is probably the busiest time in Barcelona; at the same time about 10% of shops and restaurants can be found closed from mid-August to early September, when the owners go on vacations. You'll find cheap accommodation and a much quieter city as a vast majority of Spaniards go on vacation in August. Business is low, people from Barcelona tend to be on vacation, hotels that remain open but don't have their business customers tend to lower prices and make offers. However there will still be plenty of tourists. Barcelona has decent enough beaches but the locals will really appreciate it if visitors do not consider it a beach resort and don't wear beachwear when visiting churches, restaurants, etc.
Barcelona is great off-season and is a lovely city even in winter months of January and February as long as the possibility of rain is low. Given the high humidity, 19-23°C is considered comfortable weather, which is normally the temperature between April and June and between late September–November. This is the best time to visit the city. Anything warmer than this can feel too hot.
Toddler happiness is considered a public responsibility in Spain: in any public place people around you put every effort into making your toddler happy: whenever he or she looks bored or is crying, everyone does their best to entertain or to calm them.
A tourist office is at Plaça de Catalunya, 17.
- Stroll along the following famous streets in Ciutat Vella:
- Las Ramblas or La Rambla, a gorgeous tree-lined pedestrian walkway, the busiest and most lively street of the city. Mostly occupied by tourists, expect to pay higher prices for food and drink. Avoid the groups of people supposedly betting on a game played on a cardboard table, they are thieves. Head off into some of the side streets for a cheaper, more local, and authentic experience of Barcelona. Often called Las Ramblas, because it is actually a series of several different streets each called 'Rambla de ____', the sections also have distinct feels. As you get closer to Plaça Catalunya, you find more street performers doing stunts. In the middle, you'll find street performers in costumes. Towards the pier, there are artists who will do pencil drawings, paintings, etc. Beware, you might find it boring.
- La Plaça Catalunya. Connecting all the major streets in the city, the Plaça is known for its fountains and statues, and the central location to everything in the city. A favourite meeting spot for locals.
- El Portal de l'Àngel. Large pedestrian walkway with many new and stylish shops to browse in.
- Cruise miles of beachfront boardwalk starting from Barceloneta or get a tan on the beach.
- Sit on a wooden bridge to Maremagnum in Ciutat Vella and cool your toes at the water's edge: with a book, sandwich or just for a short rest.
- Wander the Barri Gotic in Ciutat Vella, the largely intact medieval center of the city.
- Enjoy your Sangria at La Plaça Reial in Ciutat Vella, near the La Rambla Street. Great place to sit,relax and drink. While visiting La Placa Reial
- Walk in Born in Ciutat Vella, a very popular area with great restaurants and places to have a few drinks. If your accommodation is on Rambla, Born is a great place to escape the crowds, enjoy a relaxed atmosphere and meet off-the-beaten track travellers and non-tourist-industry locals—especially in the evenings.
- Visit a Flamenco Show in a real tablao. One of the best is Tablao de Carmen in Sants-Montjuïc. A cheaper alternative is in the jazzclub Jazz Si in Ciutat Vella.
- Ride the Cable Way to get from the sea front to Montjuïc mountain in Sants-Montjuïc
- Sit and sip on a coffee in Plaça dels Àngels in Ciutat Vella, while admiring the whiteness of the MACBA and the best street skate tricks in town.
- Catch a performance at the beautiful Teatre del Liceu or the Palau de la Musica Catalana both in Ciutat Vella.
- Rent a bike or join a bike tour and get to see the highlights of the city in a different way. Ride from the magic beaches of the Mediterranean, to Gaudí's modernist buildings through the medieval atmosphere of the Gothic Quarter.
- Sail 3 hours to see Barcelona from the sea.
- Mail boats serve almost all populated in Barcelona, and are among the cheapest way to reach many areas, though far from the fastest or most comfortable. The government has a mailboat schedule of mailboat routes online  which may or may not reflect reality.
- Sail on a classic yacht. Enjoy a day trip sailing along the Barcelona coastline on a classic yacht.
Festivals and events
Barcelona hosts a number of annual fiestas, many of which are unique to Catalonia and offer an insight into its distinctive culture.
- Sónar. A annual three-day music festival. It is described officially as a festival of Advanced Music and Multimedia Art. Music is by far the main aspect of the festival. The festival runs for three days and nights, usually starting on a Thursday in the third week of June.
- Monegros Desert Festival. The most famous and biggest one day/night electronic music festivals in Spain is in desert of Fraga 200 km from Barcelona. More than 40 000 people gather every July to celebrate the electronic music with the best DJs representing styles from house, electro, minimal, techno, to drum&bass, dubstep and hiphop. 20hours nonstop, unique desert experience.
- Festes de la Mercè. Barcelona's main annual festival around the 24th of September, encompassing many events such as which group of 'castellers' can form the highest human tower, live music events, firework displays and processions involving wooden giants. All of this is accompanied by a heavy consumption of Cava, the national drink of Catalonia.
- Festes de Gràcia. The Festes de Gracia is a Catalonian celebration, held around the 15th of August each year to commemorate the Assumption. During the week of festivities that mark one of Barcelona's most important fiestas, the city of Gracia explodes with fun, excitement, color and fireworks. Many streets are decorated by the neighbours, live music, food in the street, and the parties continue all night.
- Festes de Sants. Similar to Gracia's event, but smaller and later on in August. If you can't go to the Gracia's, try to go to this festival instead.
- Sant Jordi. 23 April. Considered to be like Valentine's Day. People give roses and books around the streets. Traditionally men give women roses and women give men books. It is one of the most popular and interesting celebrations in Catalonia.
- Corpus. Late in May (Corpus Christi day). An egg is put over the fountains (most of them in the churches, and decorated with flowers), and "magically dances" over the water. Most of the churches are in the city center: Cathedral's cloister, Santa Anna, Casa de l'Ardiaca, Museu Frederic Marés, and over 10 more fountains.
- Fira de Santa Llúcia. From December 2/3 to December 23, to commemorate Sta. Llúcia (December 13). During this time, in front of the Cathedral, Christmas objects are sold. Some places sell Christmas trees, but most of them sell elements for making the pessebres (Nativity scenes). These include small sculptures, wooden pieces and moss used to simulate grass.
- Revetlla de Sant Joan. This is the midsummer solstice celebration. It is celebrated on 23 June every year and is signified by the fireworks (note that there are frequent and loud amateur fireworks all night long, which may make it hard to sleep) that are permanently on display during this time.
- Fira de Barcelona. There are trade events all year round in Barcelona.
- La Mercè. (few days before Sept 24): Another day that is famous, but not that important. It is a holiday and the city offers a lot of activities to have fun. Enjoy a fountains and fireworks show at the base of the Montjuic hill.
During festivals and especially during mobile world congress  which is a major trade show at the Fira, accommodation in Barcelona and especially near the Fira is much more difficult to find and more expensive than usual.
Barcelona's cuisine is inconsistent in quality, as with all highly touristic cities, but good food does exist at reasonable prices. The golden rule of thumb applies well in Barcelona; to save money and get better food, look for places off the beaten track by fellow travellers and seek out cafes and restaurants where the locals frequent. A good idea is to avoid restaurants with touts outside.
Set menus (menú del dia) Most restaurants (and some bars) offer a menú del dia (menu of the day), which usually means a simple and unpretentious two course meal (one salad, main dish and a drink; plus a dessert sometimes), 3 or 4 options each, with a drink and a dessert, for €8 to €20, depending on the restaurant. Depending on the restaurant, the portions may be quite generous, or rather small. During the week, some smart restaurants offer lunch specials from 2PM to 4PM. The savvy traveler will try the hip places for a fraction of the price during the day.
If you're looking for a place where everyone can choose their own meal, ask for restaurants that serve platos combinados, which is the closest thing to an American/Northern European meal.
Smoking: Is not permitted in restaurants anymore.
You can get food from any part of the world in Barcelona, but make sure you try some Catalan food.
See Catalan cuisine section in the Catalonia article.
The selection of seafood is consistently great, although not a lot of it is local (this part of the Mediterranean is pretty well fished-out).
A treat to try that no travel guide mentions is waffles sold at street stands. They will tempt you with their mouth watering smell and taste.
Even though tapas restaurants are now all over the city, tapas itself originated in Andalusia in the south of Spain and is NOT native to Catalan cuisine. Catalans generally eat three course meals (appetizer, main dish and dessert) and would more likely go for a pre-dinner drink and pintxos (Basque counterpart for tapas) at a Basque taverna than for a meal consisting entirely of the new trend in tapas-only dining. As you travel to smaller towns in Catalonia outside of Barcelona, it is less likely that you will find tapas and more likely to see restaurants serving traditional Catalan food in three courses.
Areas to eat
Depending on where you are in the city, there may be restaurants galore, or none at all. The following areas tend to be restaurant "hubs", with a large variety of restaurants to choose from:
- Barceloneta: A popular quarter for locals, where you can try fish based dishes, such as Paella (a name that may hide many different kinds of rice concoctions) or Arròs negre (Black Rice), that takes its colour because it is made using squid ink. It's a very good place to eat tapas as well.
- Eixample Esquerra (between Gran Via and Mallorca)
- Barri Gòtic (especially for tapas)
- "El Born" (next to Barri Gòtic)
Around Plaça Catalunya there are dozens of restaurants serving excellent tapas.
For budget eating you may choose "menu del dia" in small bars on the Avinguda del Parallel for €9-€11 per person. Be aware that sometimes the menu and the staff are only in Spanish.
The large cafes that line the Passeig de Gràcia and the Rambla Catalunya, just north of the Plaça Catalunya, offer a variety of acceptable tapas. This part of the town is quite touristy and a bit expensive.
€10 is the lowest price for a standard menu del dia; for less it can be only canteen or budget-style eating—or fast food.
In several supermarkets you can find a wide stall with a great selection of ready-to-eat dishes. You can get a two-course lunch for less than €5.
- Kebap: There is no shortage of Durum or Shawarma stands in Barcelona, offering tasty beef or chicken and salad in toasted flatbread for around €3.50. Gyro is the Greek name and version of the Turkish doner-kebab and it is delicious! You could live on these things for a week!
- Also you can consider the Asiatic offer, with a lot of Chinese, Japanese and Indian restaurants.
- Comer y no Bombas (location variable) shares free vegan food.
- Maoz. Offers excellent vegan falafel (including unlimited salad) for around €4. There are several around Barcelona including one on 95, La Rambla, about 10 minutes walk from Pl Catalunya.
- Juicy Jones c/ Cardenal Casañas (just off La Rambla) vegan restaurant & juice bar. Nice big meals and the best salads in Barcelona. Average price around 6€.
- More organic restaurants. Check out the independent Bio Barcelona site for more organic options.
Traditional Catalan cuisine
- El Glop. Three locations, in Eixample and Gràcia. Excellent Catalan meals. Allow about €20 per person, although you could get out of there for half of that if you let the price dictate your choice of dishes.
- Les Quinze Nits, Plaza Real 6, ☎ +34 93 317 30 75. Good typical paella in a beautiful location, but below average service.
- La Esquinica, Passeig de Fabra i Puig, 296, ☎ +34 933 582 519. 12:30PM-12AM Mon-Thu, 8AM-4PM and 6:30PM-12AM Sat, 8AM-4PM Sun. One of the best known tapas restaurant in Barcelona, there's usually a long queue outside. About 20€.
- Bar Pinotxo, Mercat de la Boqueria, 466-470 (Located on the Rambla entrance to the Boqueria Market), ☎ +34 933 171 731. 6:30AM-4PM. The best Catalan dishes. No reservations. Always full, don't be surprised if you aren't able to sit. About 20€.
Try a "café con hielo" an espresso served with a glass of ice cubes on the side and any local 'cafeteria'
- Chupitos, are located in several locations throughout the city, including one in Barceloneta. Chupitos is Spanish for "shots" and offers hundreds of unique shots including the "Harry Potter" (a shot that sparks as cinnamon is sprinkled over it), and "Monica Lewinsky" (a variety of flaming shots) among others. As much a show as it is a place to get a drink, it's a fun night out.
- L’Ovella Negra (The Black Sheep), Carrer de Zamora, 78, 08018 Barcelona, Spain, ☎ +34 933 09 59 38. Is a great place to meet up with a large group of friends or to make a large group of new friends! It is a beer hall styled in a traditional Catalan manner. It has been around for decades in the Poble Nou district of Barcelona. It has huge wooden tables that seat no less than ten people. It has exposed stone walls and large wood supports so you feel you are in a barn or old farm house. The Black Sheep is also immediately opposite one of the finest clubs Barcelona has to offer "Sala Razzmatazz" and acts as the perfect pre-gamer spot (Inc. Sangria & Beer pitchers!) before heading across the road to dance late into the night / early morning! Please note: There are 2 bar locations. One in Raval close to Las Ramblas and one in Poble Nou (The one mentioned here).
- Connect Club Discount Card, Pl. Urquinaona 11, ☎ +34 93 317 0474, e-mail: email@example.com. The Connect Club Discount Card is a possibility to have an affordable stay in Barcelona. The discount card offers significant discounts and special privileges for nightclubs, bars, and restaurants. It costs only €18 and is valid for a whole year.
Most shops and shopping malls are closed on Sundays because of law restrictions, but not all. In Ciutat Vella you will find plenty of small fashion shops, souvenir shops and small supermakets open on Sundays. The souvenir shopping scattered throughout the Barri Gotic and all along La Rambla are tourist traps, none of them sell Catalan or Spanish products but the typical array of Chinese general souvenirs, they should be avoided. Moreover on the Port Vell, right at the end of The Ramblas there is Maremagnum, a shopping mall that stays open all Sundays.
- Secondhand English books in Grácia.
- Design lovers head for Grácia.
- El Corte Inglés. Spanning several floors and several buildings, and in several locations around town, many in Eixample and Inland Suburbs and a couple also in Ciutat Vella. You can find anything and everything in this department store, from gastronomy to pneumatics. Tax return checks are made on a separate floor of the store. See review for the whole chain in the Spain article.
- La Boqueria. In Ciutat Vella. Large public market with a diverse range of goods and produce. Enjoy freshly squeezed organic fruit juices for €1.5 per cup. If you go near closing time (20h, 8PM) sellers will make you a special price (2 or 3 for 2€). Closed Sundays.
- Stamps are actually sold in 'Tabacs' or tobacconists. Once you know what they look like, you'll notice them on every block or so. To post your mail, you need to find one of the yellow letter box located rather infrequently along the sidewalks.
- Records For vinyl records, try the wonderful shop Discos Revolver located at 13 Carrer dels Tallers.
This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article Barcelona on Wikivoyage.