Barcelona the largest capital city on the Mediterranean, has burst into the third millennium of its history with the looks and the energy of a young debutante.
The 1992 Olympic Games gave the impetus for a spectacular transformation, now complete in the reforms required to accommodate Forum 2004. The city has managed to retain all its traditional charm – its open and welcoming character, its sunny climate with an average temperature of 17 degrees, its architectural treasures, its natural environment.
But within this, it has also been brought completely up to date: the building of a new airport and new residential, leisure and services areas, and the renewal of its communications networks. Its urban face has also been extensively renovated, a fact that is particularly visible along the seafront, which the city has reclaimed as its own.
Visitors returning to the city after a long absence will discover a Barcelona that has changed but only for the better.
Barcelona is a city that encourages you to wander. The climate, the Mediterranean light, the roads full of life as well as the feeling all encourage you to go through the city intensely. With Barcelona Walking Tours ( Center of Europe Tour ), you can find the city’s history as you wander the Gothic Quarter, among the finest preserved medieval districts on the planet. Or you could find the ending of the 19th and start of the 20th century following the footsteps of Picasso’s Bohemian feeling. You respect the masterworks of the architects of Modernisme or a tour of the old city center at which you can take pleasure in the flavors and history of outstanding gastronomy and can also take a tour of the Eixample.
Barcelona’s picture is connected with that of architect Antoni Gaudi. The discovery of his work is among several visitors to the city’s principal aims. La Pedrera (Passeig de Gracia, 92) is, possibly, the most appropriate starting point for the tour of Gaudi’s Barcelona. This residential building (now property of a cultural foundation and used for displays), lies on a corner of the Eixample and has three facades which, in fact, form one single frontage, defined by characteristic curved lines which evoke an unlikely tide of flagstone, peppered by the twisted metal railings of the balconies.
Following an incredibly expensive refurbishment, ended in the mid-nineties. La Pedrera provides a glorious aspect, and not only from the exterior, as the frescoes that decorate the gets to the stairwell have been returned to their initial, brilliant colors. A lot of the flats again show the Modernist woodwork and painting that was interesting and reliefs delineated in the plaster ceilings and have recovered their initial appearance. On the highest level, the building allows one of its biggest surprises, the breathtaking spectacle of the roofing. The forest of chimney stacks, the creative sculptures that camouflage the reaches to the modulating surface and water tanks, the stairs as well as the original ornamentation, consist of a unique architectural ensemble, possible just to an innovative head.
The old lofts ( another remarkable place whose construction resembles that of the abdomen of a massive sea monster ), have been fitted out for exhibits of scale models, pictures as well as videos to give an insight into the inner logic of Gaudi’s work, his strategies, dreams, historic circumstance, and points of reference. His genius didn’t only live in his finishing touches that are unbelievable, but also, and mainly, in his even airy and revolutionary suggestions in the fields of construction and building. From La, Pedrera stands another well-known Gaudi edifice, the Casa Batllo (Passeig de Gracia). His work on this particular house – beginning from a building of little interest — consisted in the entire transformation of the outside, the reconstruction of the first floor as well as the inclusion of two new floors. Curvaceous lines dominate the facade, coated with many colors and precious stones and adorned with organic components. The roof ( which resembles the skin of a dragon ), crowned by a bulbous cross and many chimneys, accentuates die medieval setting of the ensemble.
The Pedrera, as well as the Casa Badio, are the works of an imagination that is unbounded. They’ve, nevertheless, owing to their scenario between other buildings, restrictions in size not related to other works by Gaudi, the most eloquent case of measurements that were challenging being the Temple de la Sagrada Familia ( Marina, 252 / Placa Sagrada Familia ).
Gaudi, a guy of spiritual certainties and mystical leaning, worked in the Sagrada Familia – where work continues now amid the protests of architects as well as religious fervor – with no less independence and greater determination than he’d revealed in his other endeavors. Actually, Gaudi spent the last years of his life near the temple where one of the outbuildings was converted to be used as his living quarters.
The Sagrada Familia – as Barcelona’s cathedral that is second – is a construction of unusual measurements. Imagined in the shape of a Latin cross with three facades, five naves, an apse as well as a transept, the temple is well-known for its thin towers, which ceramic pinnacles soar almost one hundred meters over the building and crown. These spires combine lines, modern, nearly aeronautical, and complex ornamentation to create an extremely dramatic effect which, oddly, isn’t the most exaggerated of Gaudi’s goals for this particular work. A monumental cupola, almost one hundred and seventy meters high, amounts among the elements of this dome and the church to be finished will become the most prominent characteristic of the colossal architectural creation.
Gaudi was thirty-one years old when he accepted the commission to construct the Sagrada Familia and spent the remainder of his life bound to this work substantially as it does now, which advanced discontinuously, completely dependant on the access to funds. Here Gaudi enabled his imagination to fly much further than is generally compulsory in buildings of a spiritual nature and gave free rein to his ingenuity.
Imagination is, besides, Gaudi’s greatest development in Barcelona, a dominant determinant in the Park Guell, as well as the main work. This garden city, with an area of about three hectares, joins the labors of artwork, architecture, and urban planning. It lies past the limits of the Eixample and the buildings but the wealth of surprises to be found within the park’s precinct more than justify a visit. The entry ( on Carrer Olot ), incorporated in the stone wall is flanked by two houses and allowed for porters or the defenders of the estate and visitors. From this entry, there’s a magnificent view of the monumental stairway which gives entry to the park appropriate, adorned through an excellent ceramic dragon. Behind the stairway lies the design chamber – a forest of columns – and, overhead, the great Placa del Park Guell, from where spectacular views of Barcelona could be found.
Round the outside of the square, the famous serpentine seat, adorned with bits of bottles, plates, and broken tiles which make up a seemingly never-ending, dynamic collage of dazzling color. Having found these central focus points, the visitor will find many more during the course of a walk through the remainder of the park, especially in the porched galleries as well as the homes of both the Guell family and Gaudi himself, all of which accentuate the prevailing dreamlike, charming ambiance.
Those visitors wishing to complete the Gaudi circuit in Barcelona should also go to the Casa Vicens, the Finca Guell pavilions, the Palau Guell, the convent of the Teresians, the Casa Calvet, the Bellesguard tower, the gateway and railings of the Miralles estate, and the schools of the Sagrada Familia (next door to the temple). Although a brief journey out of Barcelona is needed, it would have been a shame not to see the extremely expressive and amazing crypt of the Colonia Guell in Santa Coloma de Cervello, finished by Gaudi in 1915.
Barcelona Tourist Advice
Turisme de Barcelona makes it simple for you! This supplies a network of tourist information points that are strategically placed, situated through the city. Our specialized staff will allow you to find Barcelona and counsel you on the tasks which best fit your interests and preferences.
You’ll find an answer to your questions about sightseeing in the city. You can reserve a hotel room; reserve a trip or city tour; purchase the tourism products that Turisme de Barcelona offers you to make simple the visit to the city; or purchase the very best mementos with the Made-in-Barcelona hallmark…. Look for your closest information point: you’re certain to locate one.
The city of leisure
Abounds in bars, discotheques, and nightclubs, many of which have appeared during the last twenty years, increasing the city’s already ample repertoire. Many of the most recent additions are prime examples of the high standard of the contemporary Catalan designers who have obviously inherited much of the creativity and imagination made manifest by their forefathers in the great transformation of the city at the end of the nineteenth century. The renowned Catalan cuisine, whose wide spectrum embraces both the humble pa amb tomaquet ( bread with tomato and olive oil ), and the most sophisticated creations, may be sampled at many of the hundreds of restaurants scattered over the city. International cuisine of a high standard is also widely available, along with more informal tapas bars.
There are two places of interest to animal lovers in Barcelona: the zoo, situated in the Parc de la Ciutadella ( also site of the splendid Modernist Museu de Zoologia ), is home to the world-famous Floquet de Neu (Snowflake), the only example of the albino gorilla in captivity. The second is the Aquarium, one of the attractions of the Maremagnum commercial center in the port. Species of fish from all over the world are housed here, and of special interest, a group of sharks may be observed at leisure, and in safety, through the walls of a transparent tunnel that crosses the floor of the great tank where they live. Barcelona is also a city with a splendid musical agenda, thanks to its opera season in the Gran Teatre del Liceu, its various annual seasons of classical music at the Palau de la Musica and the Auditori, and many other concerts featuring music for the younger set. Someone hundred cinema screens, including the Imax at Maremagnum, can be visited in the city as can twenty or so theatres headed by the Teatre Nacional de Catalunya and the Lliure, which regularly feature classical, independent, street, and children’s theatre. And of course (given that our civilization increasingly dedicates its leisure time to such things), Barcelona offers a choice of shopping areas. One of the most important of these is the Paseo de Gracia ( El Corte Ingles, Zara, Boulevard Rosa, Vincon, etc. ) and Diagonal ( L’Illa, with many chain stores like FNAC, Decathlon, etc. ).
Those of you who prefer to devote your leisure time to strolling will also find a great choice in Barcelona thanks to the new parks that have opened in the city in recent years. Mention must also be made of Pueblo Espanol, built on Montjuic for the International Exhibition of 1929. This unique institution includes scale models of popular architecture from every region in Spain, bringing together all its building types in one single village.
Barcelona is also one of the best settings for getting to know the huge range of popular Catalan traditions. The one that most accurately reflects local character – working together, tenacity, and daring – is probably the castells or human towers. Other traditions have more of a festive character, among these the gigantic or giants, present in many places, from villages to cities, and the correfoc, a celebration of gunpowder and fire that goes back to pagan mythology.
This latter celebration, closely linked to solstices and summer celebrations, turns the streets of Barcelona into a sea of fire where lights, flames, and sparks fly to bathe the night in the most brilliant colors. As a metaphor, it alludes to the briefness and finite nature of human existence, and can also be seen as an element in defining the local character – pragmatic, always ready to negotiate, and taking everything with a pinch of salt.
The Catalans in general are known to be hard-working people, and the inhabitants of Barcelona are no exception to this rule. But they also like to enjoy themselves and, to this end, have created a great number of places in which to do so. In fact, the city is presided by two amusement parks: one on the side of the Montjuic hill, and the Parc del Tibidabo, in the Collserola hills, from where the view of the city stretches out at one’s feet as far as the sea. The Tibidabo, with its watchtower, miniature airplane, ghost train, robot museum, and other fairground attractions, is an intrinsic part of the childhood of every Barcelona’s.
As they grow up, they turn their interests to other fields, many of them choosing to channel their enthusiasm towards the Futbol Club Barcelona – “el Barca” in colloquial terms. More than just a football team, this is an enormous institution that traditionally represents both sport and the political assertion of Catalunya’s identity as a nation within the Spanish state. Nearly 120,000 people attend every match played in the Camp Nou, the club’s magnificent ground, and spend the rest of the week debating the result! The club’s museum, where all the team’s trophies are proudly exhibited, receives more than half a million visitors each year.