Introduction A city for the 21st century History Important dates and

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Introduction A city for the 21st century History Important dates and
Introduction
A city for the 21st century
History
Important dates and events
Living Culture
Contemporary Barcelona
Literature
Theatre
Music
Design
Cultural Festivals
City Beats
Modernism
La Rambla
The Markets
Terraces and Squares
Barcelona Festivals
Routes
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
8.
9.
10.
and Walking Tours
From the Anilla Olímpica to Plaça Espanya
The Heart of the Eixample
A Tour through the Squares of Gràcia to Avinguda Diagonal
A Stroll down La Rambla
Barceloneta and Vila Olímpica
La Ribera, El Born and the Raval
The Gothic Quarter and the Old Jewish District
Beyond the Eixample Dret
A Walk from Plaça Catalunya to the Plaça de la Mercè
Off the Route (but not to be missed)
Surrounding Areas
Sitges
Costa Brava
Montserrat
Practical Guide Book
How to get here, How to get around, Useful advice, Where to sleep,
Where to eat, Nightlife, Shopping, Activities for children
Textos: Merche Gallego
Fotos: Lluis Trillo
Traducción: Aisha Prigann
Barcelona a city for the 21ST Century
Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia, is not only
one of Spain's most prosperous cities; it is also
one of Europe's prime tourist destinations. The
city has a certain indescribable something: an
allure that attracts thousands of tourists every
year, a character that inspires pride in its citizens. Barcelona's climate, way of life and cultural heritage make it a wonderful place to visit
and live. The 1992 Olympic Games marked a
turning point in the city's history, both in terms
of urban development and international recognition. However, the secret of its success doesn't lie in the Olympic Games alone. After all,
that important event took place thirteen years
ago, and the city is still growing and developing on many different levels. Catalonia as a
whole and Barcelona in particular take pride in
having a unique identity. This is manifested in
many ways but most obviously in the Catalan
language, which differentiates the region and
its inhabitants from the rest of Spain.
Barcelona has always seen itself as a European
city. Long before Spain joined the E.U. and
other Spanish cities discovered their European
character, Barcelona already celebrated its connection to its continental neighbours.
Barcelona's European identity is largely due to
its proximity to France - a fact that allowed
European influences and cultural movements to
reach the Catalan capital much earlier than the
rest of Spain. And Barcelona never hesitated to
take advantage of this privilege and weave the
incoming influences into its cultural fabric.
The modernist movement and the worldrenowned work of architect Antoni Gaudí also
contributed to the city's international reputation. Architecture, however, isn't the only art to
flourish in Barcelona. The city has always had
a rich cultural, artistic and intellectual life,
which found expression in music, theatre and
literature. Furthermore, this wealth of creative
out-put is not a thing of the past. Barcelona is
still a place of innovation and new, artistic tendencies. Nowadays, Barcelona is home to cutting-edge design, hip fashion and avant-garde
architecture, which all help to keep the world
fixated on this Mediterranean city. Barcelona
no longer needs an advertising campaign; its
solid, hard-earned and well-deserved reputation brings thousands of visitors to the city
throughout the year.
A truly great city is defined by being something
special to many different kinds of people.
Children, young adults, older adults, locals,
tourists, visitors in the city on business or for
pleasure - Barcelona gives something to each
and every one of them, which is what makes it
such a popular destination. In addition to being
an attractive cultural centre, Barcelona's loca-
tion between the sea and the mountains makes
it an ideal place for a wide variety of activities.
Barcelona, like many other European cities, has
become a cosmopolitan and multicultural city
over the years. Immigrants from many, different countries have made Barcelona their new
home, settling primarily in the Raval and the
Gothic Quarter. They have given Barcelona a
plural character that it didn't have in the past.
Perhaps it was the last challenge Barcelona had
to face to prove its commitment as a tolerant,
welcoming and cosmopolitan city.
The best way in which to approach this city is
with an open mind and a lack of preconceived
notions. If you come here with the sole mission
of spending your days on the beach, you will
definitely find what you are looking for.
However, by limiting your options, you will
miss out on everything else this unique and
multifaceted city has to offer. Barcelona is one
city with many different faces: traditional and
historical, modern and avant-garde, trendy and
cutting-edge, multicultural and diverse, ancient
and yet completely new. If you meet this city
with curiosity, you will be rewarded. Take this
guide book along as your travel companion,
use it as a resource and reference, but above all
else, let this unforgettable city surprise you. In
the end, the best photo album you can take
home with you is a head full of vivid memories.
History
The Founding of Barcelona
Barcelona is an open, cosmopolitan and tolerant city, character traits owed to more than
4,000 years of history. Although officially
Barcelona was founded by the Romans, evidence exists of settlements in this area as early
as Neolithic times.
However, this period was not to last very long.
The Moorish army invaded the city, which
brought about two, decisive consequences for
the city. On the one hand, Barcelona was
almost completely destroyed and, on the other,
these events led to their independence from
Frankish rule. The then-governing count,
Borrell II, considered that Barcelona had been
betrayed and that the ties of vassalage had been
broken by the Franks' decision to not come to
the city's aid. Borrell II changed the political
face of Barcelona by naming himself Marquis
and Duke of Iberia in God's name.
This was the dawn of an era that, although
complicated, brought about a quick recovery
for the city. At the beginning of the 11th century, Barcelona invaded Córdoba, which ended
with an important victory for the former as well
as significant wealth and economic gain.
Towards the end of the 1st century B.C., the
Romans established a city called Barcino
around what was then the Táber Mountain.
Nowadays, the slight incline of this hill can still
be noticed when heading up to the Plaça Sant
Jaume, the square that now covers what was
once the Táber. What is interesting is that the
Romans also used this exact spot as their political and administrative centre - just like
Barcelona does now. The Plaça Sant Jaume is
where both the Barcelona City Hall and the seat
of the Generalitat de Catalunya are located.
This "compensation" allowed the city to develop at a rapid rate. In addition to this, the other
Catalan counties began to unite with
Barcelona as their capital, which yielded an
important expansion, both in terms of territory
and influence.
Barcelona remained the capital of the new, united government and began a period of active
expansion, helped largely by the open commerce across the Mediterranean and the
tariffs collected from the Moorish Taifa
Kingdoms. Barcelona's conquests between the
13th and 15th centuries vastly increased its
territories to include the kingdom of Valencia,
the Balearic Islands, Sicily and Sardinia.
This period saw the construction of two new
sections of the city wall. One section served to
protect the annexed towns that had previously
lain outside the old Roman wall, and the other
section enclosed the agricultural fields covering the area now known as the Raval. The city
experienced incredible, economic growth
throughout this period and became a sought
after destination within the Mediterranean
sphere. Many different kinds of merchants,
artisans and seafarers flocked to the city in
search of personal prosperity. They formed
guilds, the majority of which were concentrated around the city's political centre, the Plaça
Sant Jaume. Even today, as you walk through
the maze of little streets in this area, you can
see the old guilds reflected in the street names,
long-gone professions recalled in names such
as Flassaders (blanket-maker) or Sombrerers
(hatter).
This flourishing era came to an end in the 15th
century. The bubonic plague and civil wars
devastated the population, and the military
campaigns being fought abroad did little to
ameliorate the situation. Maritime commerce
was increasingly attacked and ransacked by
pirates, and the discovery of America in 1492
wasn't equally favourable to all Spanish territories. Aragón suffered rather severe setbacks
during this period as it was denied the right to
trade with the American colonies until 1778,
almost three centuries after the discovery of the
New World.
The Romans encircled their city with imposing
city walls, which were maintained and even
expanded for centuries thereafter. This severely
limited the growth of the city and many areas
that are now integrated neighbourhoods, Gràcia
for example, were then separate villages lying
outside the city limits.
The Middle Ages and the War of Succession
Between the 5th and 8th centuries, the
Visigoths lost control of the city, and Barcelona
came under Moorish rule. In the year 801,
Charlemagne's troops conquered the city. The
north of Catalonia and the old Visigoth Gaul
became Frankish territories, and in the year 878
Guifré El Pilós was named count of Barcelona,
Girona and Besalú.
During the early 12th century, at the height of
the middle ages, Barcelona experienced a flourishing era of prosperity that affected all
aspects of city life. The marriage between the
then-count of Barcelona, Ramon Berenguer IV,
and the daughter of the king of Aragón united
the two territories, bringing with it a vast increase in economic prosperity and political power.
Castile did not look favourably upon
Catalonia's independence and in 1640 began
what has come to be known as the Segadors
War. This war was an attempt by Castile to
suppress the city's surging nationalism.
Barcelona resisted for twelve years but couldn't
win the war; in 1652 the Castilian troops defeated the city. Barcelona managed to hold on to
its autonomy but had to witness the dismem-
berment of its territories. It was during this era
that the northern section of Catalonia came
under French rule. The Catalan national
anthem still recalls this war by bearing its
name. Unfortunately, it wasn't going to be the
only difficult blow Catalonia would suffer
during this time.
Between 1705 and 1714, Barcelona fought the
War of Succession, which ended with the
French and Castilian troops conquering the
city. The ensuing repression was severe. Not
only did Barcelona lose all autonomy, but
Castile also claimed much of its territory, such
as Sicily, Sardinia, Naples and Mallorca.
Barcelona became subject to Castilian law, the
only one recognised throughout the land, and
the speaking of Catalan was strictly forbidden,
not only in public but in private settings as
well.
Following this period wrought with conflict,
Barcelona began a gradual recovery. The city
remained militarised for a long time to come;
the occupying forces even constructed an enormous fortress to keep invaders at bay (today the
remnants of this fortress form part of the
Ciutadela Park). The areas now known as the
Raval and La Rambla had been rather insignificant until this point in time - the former had
been little more than agricultural land and the
latter an unimportant piece of road. During this
period they were developed, and the city was
seemingly getting back on its feet again.
However, despite the city's growth, the progress was only skin-deep; beneath it an incendiary mix of social tensions was gaining
momentum.
event hosted by the city: the 1888 World Fair.
This event marked a turning point in the city's
history. All of Europe turned its eyes on the
Catalan capital and saw for the first time that it
shared many of their concerns. Another important element that would affect the make-up of
the city was the arrival of Spanish immigration.
The 19th Century: The Arrival of New
Movements
If you find yourself near the Santa Maria del
Mar church in the Born neighbourhood, you
will probably notice an enormous, coppercoloured torch: this is the Fosar de les
Moreres. The flame burning at the very top
commemorates all the Catalans who lost their
life during the War of Succession. This isn't the
only historical curiosity in the Born. In
February 2002, the project to restructure the
old Born Market was set into motion. The
market was to be reinvented as a space to house
the Barcelona Provincial Library, but no one
was quite prepared for what they were to find
beneath the market. The ground had been guarding a fascinating secret for centuries - the
archaeological remains of the old, medieval
city circa 1714. The importance of this
archaeological gem cannot be overstated; it is
probably the largest archaeological park of its
kind to be found in the urban centre of any
European city. As you stroll along the Born
promenade, another peculiar artefact might
catch your eye: a chest and four, numbered cannon balls, all of which date back to the medieval era.
The first half of the 19th century was marked
by uprisings and revolts. In 1814, amidst
bombings, riots, convent fires and general conflict, the city's workers organised the first
general strike the city had ever known. The
tension that characterised this time as well as
the obvious clamouring for change brought
about a series of important reforms.
In 1848 Barcelona inaugurated its first railway
route, and the city's commitment to the industrial age earned it the nickname "little
Manchester". In 1854, the city walls finally
came down, an event that allowed a sudden,
unprecedented surge in urban development.
Furthermore, 1859 saw the approval of the
Ildefons Cerdà Plan, which gave birth to the
area now known as the Eixample and laid out
the by now classic, grid-like pattern, interspersed with open, public spaces and gardens. It
was to be a more humane form of urban architecture, bringing light and space to a city still
marked by its medieval past. The fortress overlooking the city also fell victim to change and
was torn down to make room for a very special
Starting towards the end of the 19th century
and the early 20th century, Barcelona began to
turn into the epicentre of a new cultural avantgarde. These movements made the new scientific, technical and artistic advances that had
been achieved the focus of their work and thinking. Whereas a new generation of industrialists and politicians, stemming from the bourgeoisie, concentrated on the urban advancements that would turn Barcelona into a modern
city, the intellectual circles started to move into
a new direction.
In 1897 a new restaurant, inspired by the Le
Chat Noir in Paris, opened its doors in
Barcelona. Its name was Els Quatre Gats, and
it stood out for being a very unusual place. It
fell somewhere between a traditional guesthouse, a tavern and the kind of refined, modernist
bar that was popular throughout the rest of
Europe at the time. Els Quatre Gats soon became a popular hang-out for artists such as
Ramon Casas, Santiago Rusiñol, Isaac
Albéniz and Antoni Gaudí. In 1899, a very
young Picasso displayed his very first exhibition on the walls of this restaurant. Needless to
say, the reigning atmosphere was bohemian,
artistic and thoroughly unique. Some of that
flavour still lingers in the air at Carrer Montsió
3, just around the corner from the Portal de
l'Angel, where you can enjoy a coffee or a meal
while soaking in all of the place's by now
legendary history.
The spirit of the Modernist movement colours
every artistic aspect of the city, especially noticeable in much of the architecture. A whole
generation of artists were captivated by this
movement and allowed their imagination free
reign, the only apparent taboo being the
straight line. Colourful ceramics, glasswork,
wrought-iron and an entire imaginary animal
kingdom made their way into the city's architecture. The unquestionable frontrunner of this
style was without a doubt Antoni Gaudí who is
immortalised by the timeless, universal creations he set into the city: the Sagrada Familia,
buildings like Casa Milà (also known as La
Pedrera) and Casa Batlló and the Park Güell.
Contemporary Barcelona
The 20th century also brought dark moments to
the city. In 1906 Barcelona lived through its
infamous Tragic Week, marked by numerous
altercations, general upheaval and the burning
of convents. The Mancomunitat de
Catalunya was set up in 1914, a product of the
rise in Catalan, nationalist tendencies that were
a direct response to the repressive, military
rule. However, a few years later, General
Primo de Rivera organised a coup which
brought him to power. He ruled the city as a
dictator with an iron fist. However, despite the
repressive conditions rampant in the city,
Barcelona managed to overcome many obstacles to organise, amidst all of this conflict, the
1929 International Fair.
The Republican era that began in 1931 reawakened the city's hope and spirit, but more difficult times were on the horizon. The Spanish
Civil War broke out in 1936, a war during
which Barcelona would live through some of
its darkest and most difficult moments.
Thousands of people fled into exile while
relentless bombardments devastated the city.
When the civil war came to an end in 1939 and
the Franco Dictatorship rose to power,
Barcelona lost many of its previous freedoms,
including the loss of its autonomy, which it had
managed to regain in the past. The city also
watched as the Catalan language was yet again
declared illegal.
transformation that would change the city forever. As part of the city's renovation process, the
coastline was won back from its industrial
grave and converted into sandy beaches and
internationally renowned architects built landmark structures. The effort culminated in one
of the best Games in Olympic history and presented the world with a whole new Barcelona:
modern, open and welcoming.
The post-war period unfolded in this environment until the 1960s. That decade witnessed
the beginnings of an economic and industrial
expansion, which brought another wave of
immigration from other Spanish regions to the
city. The rise in the population brought with it
an immense demand for more housing and
urban infrastructure - two areas in which the
city grew dramatically, often without defined
criteria, resulting in the birth of sleeper cities in
the outskirts.
The 2004 Forum of Cultures was the most
recent international event celebrated in
Barcelona. Despite lacking the popular response garnered by the Olympic Games, the Forum
did put Barcelona back into the world's spotlight and spurred the construction of new spaces, such as a new convention centre and an
auditorium. Although the final function of the
Forum grounds is still to be determined, one
thing is already certain. The development of the
Forum infrastructure resulted in recovering and
rehabilitating one of Barcelona's most forgotten
and neglected urban zones.
Democracy came to Spain in 1975 after the
death of the dictator Francisco Franco.
Barcelona reinstated the Generalitat as its autonomous government and was once again recognised as the capital of an autonomous
Catalonia. Along with its newly regained freedoms, Barcelona also continued to grow on an
industrial as well as cultural level.
In 1981 came another turning point for the city
- the International Olympics Committee
announced that Barcelona would host the 1992
Olympic Games. The selection as Olympic
host set off a profound architectural and urban
Nowadays, Barcelona is one of Europe's
main tourist destinations. The reasons for the
city's immense popularity are many. Barcelona
has managed to maintain its identity without
rejecting change; championing modern design
without losing sight of tradition and becoming
a cosmopolitan city without forgetting its roots
and ancient customs. You have chosen to visit a
truly special and unique city, a place that
embraces change and yet somehow always
manages to stay true to its character.
CONTEMPORARY BARCELONA - LIVING CULTURE
THEATRE: A NEW CONTEMPORARY
TWIST
Theatre has had a long-lasting and reputable
tradition in Barcelona. Several theatrical companies renowned throughout Spain and the rest
of the world have their roots in Barcelona.
Many of these groups share a common career
path: starting small, often as a hobby, and performing locally in Catalan on the many, alternative stages located throughout the city. The
majority of groups don't break out of this
mould, but those that do have contributed enormously to new theatrical movements which
have garnered an important following and a
solid reputation worldwide.
Barcelona has always managed to maintain its
traditions and simultaneously give birth to new
and important voices in the avant-garde. One of
these voices is definitely the internationally
renowned group La Fura dels Baus. They
have created an unusual theatrical style unlike
any other, which brings together live performance, theatrical techniques, visual art and
music. The result is a completely innovative
and new type of performance - it might not be
everyone's cup of tea, but its originality and
importance cannot be overstated.
stage their pieces. The group creates their own
stage by placing traditionally non-theatrical
spaces into a different context. They "invaded"
the Olympic Stadium with an enormous boat
during the 1992 Olympic Games' inaugural
celebration. In another performance they gathered 20,000 people in Plaça Catalunya for a
spectacular farewell to the 20th century,
accompanied by a character of their creation,
the Millennium Man.
La Fura were long considered rather shocking
(and still are by some audience members) for
dealing with taboo subjects such as sexuality,
deviant behaviour and mental illness. Whether
their work is to your liking or not, one thing is
unquestionably true: they have created their
own style and a completely new type of performance. They have always been daring, recently
experimenting with digital media as an element
in their shows and making forays into opera
and film. Their shows always open with much
hype and polemic, which generally assures a
hit at the box-office. More than a million people have attended their shows over the years,
which have received every kind of review from rave to condemnation. However, reviews
seem to have little bearing on La Fura dels
Baus' drawing power - tickets to their shows
usually sell out within a few days of going on
sale.
Somewhat less "aggressive" but equally noteworthy is the group Els Comediants. The
group was born more than three decades ago
during a time when intellectual content dominated official theatres. The members of Els
Comediants were inspired by other European
groups active at that time, but they wove a lot
of traditional, local elements into their work.
Their name refers to an ancient custom in
which travelling comedians went from village
to village performing their routine. However,
since they often performed in the same villages
over and over again, they had to invent myriad
tricks to tell the same story differently each and
every time.
The group has always worked towards creating
a complete work, meaning a theatrical performance that isn't just something to be seen and
heard, but something that can be experienced
by every sense. To this end, La Fura dels Baus
usually selects rather unconventional venues to
The group isn't too concerned with texts, direction and sets. Theirs is a truly live performance,
and any square, street or building - including
the underground station and historical monuments - can serve as their stage. Props are
equally unnecessary - any quotidian object, be
it a glass, a coffee cup or a chair, can offer up a
world of possibility. Creating theatrical pieces
about love, heartbreak, family drama and profound emotion is easy, but theatre based on the
simple facets of daily life, that is a challenge.
Their approach lies entirely in experimentation
and playing with different theatrical languages,
including clown, puppet theatre and commedia
del arte. Their goal is not to please everyone
but rather to find a different and amusing way
to tell stories that communicate with people of
all ages.
Dagoll Dagom, another important Catalan
group, works in a similar vein but with a perhaps more conventional approach. The group
was also founded in the 1970s and currently
consists of one of the most enduring and important
casts in Spain. They have experimented with a
variety of different shows, including stage productions of some of the most important Catalan
works of literature. Most recently they have
changed course and opted for a greater emphasis on musical theatre, a genre in which they
have excelled with productions like Mikado,
Glups!, Els Pirates and Mar i Cel. The latter
was first produced in 1988 and received a revival this year.
LITERATURE: A LONG AND ENDURING
STORY
October 18th, 2003 was the day Manuel
Vázquez Montalbán died of a heart at the airport in Bangkok and a sad day for all those who
love Catalan literature. However, it was also a
day that stirred other emotions, the feeling that
not every good writer has to be a prophet in
their country. Vázquez Montalbán was born in
Barcelona's Raval district in 1939, right after
the end of the Spanish Civil War. Both during
his lifetime and after his death, the writer was
recognised and celebrated for his literary achievements. He wrote about many things, and he
wrote a lot about Barcelona. Few authors can
come close to the vivid portraits with which he
immortalised the Barcelona of his youth. And
yet, his literature isn't just for his fellow
Barcelona citizens, his literature is grander than
that, more far-reaching, and can appeal to
anyone who loves a great story, no matter
where they are from.
Manuel Vázquez Montalbán was an out-spoken
leftist, a political conviction that cost him a
year and a half in a Lleida prison. He began
writing poems in prison as well as his first
book: Informe sobre la Información (A Report
on Information), a manual on proper conduct in
journalism. He wrote prolifically, sometimes
three or four books in one year, and about
many, different subjects: politics, gastronomy,
current events and the Barça team he so fervently supported.
However, his greatest fame came thanks to a
detective named Pepe Carvalho. He was the
protagonist of a series of novels which
Vázquez Montalbán never managed to complete (one book was still unfinished at the time of
his death). Carvalho roamed through the many
moods of Barcelona, sometimes dark and threatening, sometimes friendly and embracing,
and in doing so brought the city a degree of
international fame that no advertising campaign could have ever achieved. As a token of
gratitude, Barcelona created a Pepe Carvalho
Route. This homage to Vázquez Montalbán
takes you into the world of the intrepid detective and allows you to discover the many corners
of the city immortalised by the novels.
Another great Catalan, literary voice died in
2003: Terenci Moix. Moix was also born in the
Raval, specifically in the Granja Gavà, now a
café and restaurant on Carrer Joaquín Costa, in
1942. He became a celebrated icon to all provocateurs, mythomaniacs and members of the
emerging gay scene. Being gay in post-war
Spain wasn't accepted or even openly admitted
and going against this cultural bigotry took
more than a little courage. Terenci Moix never
made excuses for his lifestyle and always
defended his right to freedom. He was an eternal Peter Pan figure, charming, brazen and
unpredictable, who charmed his way into every
single literary circle, from the most refined to
the most populist. He was one of the most visible and outspoken members of the gauche divine, the intellectual movement that emerged in
Catalonia during the late 1960s and included
many artists, writers, architects and musicians.
The group defended their ideas in a time when
the central government still oppressed and censored much of the social sphere. But more than
freedom-fighter, intellectual and icon of the
gay movement, Terenci Moix was a writer. And
a great one.
Moix was a passionate traveller and had a special love affair with Egypt, a country that he
visited a total of 22 times and which inspired
some of his best novels. In his novel El Día que
murió Marilyn (The Day Marilyn Died), Moix
introduced pop, cinema, comic book, erotic and
sexual references into his writing, elements
heretofore unknown and unheard of in Catalan
literature. Moix fell into a long literary silence
between 1971 and 1983, provoked in part by
the dissolution of his decade-long relationship.
He finally broke the silence with his novel No
Digas que fue un Sueño (Don't tell me it was a
Dream). This novel was one of Moix's greatest
achievements, and one of the best-selling
books in Spain.
The book also seemed to bestow on him a seemingly endless literary glory. Every book the-
reafter, always published simultaneously in
Catalan and Castilian as well as several other
languages, landed him another best-seller.
Books such as El sexo de los ángeles, El
Amargo Don de la Belleza, El Sueño de
Alejandría, La Herida de la Esfinge, Terenci del
Nilo and El Arpista Ciego earned Moix a place
amongst the most popular of Catalan, literary
voices. Two elements were perennially present
in his work: the land of the pharaohs and the
world of cinema. These were his two, greatest
passions (he had a collection of more than
2,000 films). His third passion was smoking, a
habit that accompanied him throughout his life
and eventually caused his death. He was 61
years old when he died and despite the many
wonderful stories he had written, there were
many left untold.
If Vázquez Montalbán and Terenci Moix were
the two great voices of Catalan narrative literature, then Miquel Martí i Pol is their equal in
the world of poetry. He was born on March
19th, 1929, and his life changed completely
when he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis
in the 1970s. Rather than bringing an end to his
writing career, it seemed to endow him with
more strength, motivation and fervour. He created an astounding poetic language in Catalan
that spoke of love, desire and death, exemplified by works such as La Pell del Violí,
Quadern de Vacances, Llibre dels Sis Sentits
and Estimada Marta, one of his most popular
volumes. Catalan singer-songwriters like Lluís
Llach and Rafael Subirachs have put his words
to music, and his poems have been translated
into many different languages including
Portuguese, German, English, Italian, Flemish,
Slovenian, Bulgarian, Russian and Japanese.
During his last years, despite the difficulties
caused by his debilitating illness, he never
retreated from public life. He still attended
public events, regardless whether they were
organised by important institutions or neighbourhood organisations. Many city streets bear
his name, and a spontaneous, popular demand
pushed the Institute of Catalan Letters to nominate Miquel Martí i Pol as a candidate for the
Nobel Prize in 1999.
MUSIC: FROM THE RUMBA TO THE
CANÇÓ CATALANA
Ask any tourist or even many who live in
Barcelona where the rumba comes from, and
they will probably reply: "from Andalusia, of
course". Well, no. The rumba doesn't come
from the hot, southern lands of Andalusia. In
fact, the cheerful, flamenco sound that tells stories of the Roma way of life was born right here
in Barcelona, specifically on the Carrer de la
Cera in the Raval. Legend has it that the original creators of the Rumba were El Orelles, who
sang at neighbourhood parties, and El Toqui,
who "invented" a guitar-playing style that combined melody and percussion.
At least this is the most authentic and popular
version of the tale. The person who brought the
rumba to the stage and consequently earned it
its fame was Antonio González, El Pescaílla.
The brilliant Roma performer, who later
married Lola Flores, another mythical, flamenco star, took Frank Sinatra songs and gave them
a twist. He accompanied his impressive vocal
rendition with rhythmic clapping, and his dancing style was marked by a "rumbero" touch.
However, the rumba was immortalised by
Peret, who gave it the sound we recognise
today and earned it international recognition
and fame.
Catalan singer-songwriters also have a loyal
following in Barcelona, the most famous of
which are Joan Manuel Serrat and Lluís Llach.
Ask around - almost any local can sing a few
bars of Serrat's famous song "Mediterráneo"
which, despite being sung in Castilian, has
become somewhat of an unofficial anthem.
DESIGNERS: BREAKING THE MOULD
Barcelona is a small Mecca for design lovers
who flock here year after year. The city has a
long and exciting history in this field and has
experienced an important evolution over the
years, not just in fashion but also in graphic and
industrial design. It is difficult to select a few
names from the many talented, local designers,
but one name that definitely deserves a mention
is Javier Mariscal. Although Mariscal was
born in Valencia, he moved to Barcelona at a
young age and has built up his design studio at
the Palo Alto complex in Poble Nou.
Although this multifaceted artist, who works in
sculpture, graphic and industrial design and
illustration, had been working in the city for
years, his first, big moment came during the
1992 Olympic Games. Mariscal was put in
charge of designing the event's mascot, a
friendly, little dog named Cobi who changed
not only Mariscal's career but also the country's
approach to illustration.
The ground-breaking star of Barcelona's fashion world is without a doubt Custo Dalmau.
His brand Custo Barcelona produces worldfamous, printed t-shirts (given an additional
boost by having Julia Roberts as a fan), which
have become one of the most widely copied
fashion items in recent history. And when your
work becomes the subject of mimicry you
know it can only be due to two reasons: either
you are exceptionally gifted or the others lack
original imagination. Whatever the reason may
be, the fact is that Custo Barcelona remains one
of the most successful and immediately recognisable brands.
His dissenters claim that he has gained an
undeserved fame merely for printing some
amusing images on a bunch of t-shirts.
However, this is precisely the secret of his success. The millions of Custo fans adore the fact
that a simple t-shirt can give their outfit a
sporty look or an elegant twist. And this loyal
following has given Custo free reign over his
brand, charging exclusive designer prices for
his creations and selling them at the city's highend stores, including his own on Carrer Ferran,
close to Plaça Sant Jaume.
Another designer who is considered an icon of
cool at the moment is Jordi Labanda, His
illustrations, usually depicting ultra-chic men
and women, have been displayed on just about
every product on the market including folders,
notebooks, wedding invitations, bags, t-shirts,
water bottles, etc. As with Custo, opinions split
into two camps when it comes to Labanda.
Many people think he is an over-hyped illustrator. Others find his work to be pleasing and
inoffensive - the kind of imagery that attracts
most people and can be used to promote just
about anything.
As far as design stores are concerned, the city
is full of them. However, the top-of-the-line,
high temple of design is without question the
illustrious Vinçon. Furniture, accessories and
an infinite array of items are perfectly arranged
throughout the three floors that make up the
store, located on Passeig de Gràcia. An added
touch of class is provided by the fact that the
space was once home to modernist painter
Ramon Casas. Everything sold at Vinçon has
passed a rigorous selection process. So, if you
want to know what is in or out and make sure
that you are in the loop in terms of what is fashionable, take a good look at the Vinçon window displays. For those who consider design
the epitome of everything important in life,
anything not sold at Vinçon quite simply doesn't exist.
FESTIVALS: SOMETHING FOR EVERYBODY
The festivals celebrated in a city tell you a lot
about its way of life. Barcelona is a city that
loves to celebrate, a fact made obvious by the
almost infinite variety of cultural events organised throughout the year. The festival programming is diverse, including theatre, dance,
music, cinema and video, but one thing is certain - Barcelona gives everyone something to
celebrate.
Cutting-edge music and multimedia art are
celebrated at Sónar and the Contemporary
Music Festival. Other musical styles are not
neglected either - the city organises yearly festivals focused entirely on guitar music, flamenco, opera, jazz and world music. Other art
forms get their day in the spotlight during the
International Festival of Visual Theatre and
Puppetry or the local film festivals,
L'Alternativa 2000, the International
Independent Film Festival and MECAL, the
city's tribute to the short film.
Most of the festivals are privately organised
and funded but receive a varying amount of
public financing and support. However, the
city, via the Barcelona Institute for Culture,
also stages a number of events such as the
BAM (a music festival that coincides with the
Mercé holiday) and the Barcelona Grec
Summer Festival. The latter festival is probably
the most important, cultural event taking place
in the city during the summer and emphasizes
the creative efforts of both local and international productions. Every corner of the city participates in the festival to give audiences a
glimpse into the newest movements and most
innovative trends taking place in contemporary
theatre, dance and music.
Modernism in Barcelona
Modernism in Barcelona
Modernism wasn't just an artistic
movement; it was also a way of thinking, a social approach and a political
attitude. It spread into all facets of
city life and therefore exercised an
enormous influence on the second
half of the 19th century and the first
years of the 20th century. At that time,
Barcelona was already a city open to
new ideas and the cultural movements
taking place throughout Europe. In
carving its European identity,
Barcelona was also attempting to differentiate itself from the rest of Spain,
which had stripped the region of most
of its national and institutional rights
after the war in 1714.
Modernism wasn't just an artistic movement; it
was also a way of thinking, a social approach
and a political attitude. It spread into all facets
of city life and therefore exercised an enormous
influence on the second half of the 19th century
and the first years of the 20th century. At that
time, Barcelona was already a city open to new
ideas and the cultural movements taking place
throughout Europe. In carving its European
identity, Barcelona was also attempting to differentiate itself from the rest of Spain, which
had stripped the region of most of its national
and institutional rights after the war in 1714.
Modernism was a fruit of this time, a period
marked by intellectual, artistic and social upheaval, and the innovative and radically new
movement inspired a generation of groundbreaking artists. This new movement found
expression in all artistic areas, including sculpture, painting, literature, music, ornamentation
and design. However, it was in the field of
architecture that modernism reached its most
complete and highest form of expression.
Amongst the many followers and exponents of
this movement, there are three names that have
come to symbolise modernist Barcelona.
Antoni Gaudí
Antoni Gaudí was one of the driving forces
behind the modernist fervour that took hold of
the city's architectural world. Gaudí was born
in Reus (Tarragona) but created most of his
work in Barcelona, where he moved at age
twenty to pursue a career in architecture.
He made a name for himself with his unique
and seemingly unlimited imagination and his
peculiar and radical approach to architecture.
However, he also had his fair share of critics in
his time. One of his most acclaimed buildings,
the Casa Milà, was the subject of much criticism and mockery. Its massive stone facade
earned it the nickname La Pedrera (piedra
means stone in Spanish). Gaudí was often
ahead of his time, and the only element banned
from his work was the straight line. Instead, he
opted for curved lines, vibrant colours, mythical creatures and an unbridled imagination that
touched every corner of his work.
Despite his radical architectural style, Gaudí
could always rely on the ecclesiastical sector,
which provided him with significant commissions like the Sagrada Familia, and the city's
bourgeoisie, which always supported his
whimsical and fantastical architecture. The
Casa Batlló, the Casa Calvet and the Casa Milà
are examples of residences that Gaudí designed
for some of the city's wealthiest families. But
the greatest influence on Gaudí's work was the
industrialist Eusebi Güell, a personal friend and
patron of the artist. He commissioned Gaudí to
Did you know that…
The zero kilometre mark of the
Modernist Route is located on Passeig
de Gràcia. This route makes its way
through many different European
cities, identifying key buildings and
monuments belonging to this artistic
movement.
build the Palau Güell and the Park Güell. The
latter is a vast, open-air space that allows you to
appreciate Gaudí's incredible talent and visit
his home, which is now a museum.
As it is often the case with creative geniuses,
Gaudí's death was as unusual as his life. Gaudí
died on the morning of June 10th, 1926. He
was on his way to Sunday mass at the Sant
Felip Neri Church when he was hit and killed
by a tram.
Lluís Doménech i Montaner
Doménech i Montaner was one of the most prolific architects in his day, dedicated to the creation of a modern and different architectural
style. His buildings display Moorish influences
in addition to the sinuous lines that came to
characterise modernist architecture. One of the
best examples of this stylistic fusion is the restaurant he built in the Ciutadela Park in 1888.
The building, known as the Castle of the Three
Dragons, now houses the Zoology Museum.
Josep Puig i Cadafalch
Considered the last representative of modernism and the first exponent of noucentismo, the
artistic movement that followed the former,
Puig i Cadafalch was known for more than his
architectural innovation. He played an equally
important role in Catalan politics during that
time.
He received first prize in the architectural competition organised by the city in 1906 for the
Casa Lleó Morera, located on Passeig de
Gràcia's Manzana de la Discordia. This city
block is famous for the many modernist landmarks located along its length. However, his
crowning achievements are without a doubt the
Palau de la Música Catalana and the Hospital
de Sant Pau. The latter is considered one of the
city's most impressive modernist complexes,
and its detailed design and immense dimensions explain why it took the architect thirty
years to complete the project. During those
thirty years, Doménech i Montaner collaborated with sculptors like Eusebi Arnau and Pau
Gargallo and painters like Francesc Labarta to
achieve the hospital's intricate, ornate design.
A nota
This symbol indicates that you are on
the Modernist Route. You can safely
assume that there is a landmark building
worth visiting nearby.
His career can be divided into three different
phases. In the first phase, he was inspired by
Nordic styles, which is reflected in buildings
such as the Casa Amatller. This enormous residence, located on Passeig de Gràcia, recalls the
typical, 18th century houses that lined the
canals in Amsterdam. The second phase resulted in many of the residences the architect built
for members of the bourgeoisie. Finally, the
third phase reached its pinnacle with the 1929
International Exposition for which Puig i
Cadafalch served as the head architect.
The Casa de les Punxes, located in the
Eixample, is one of the city's most spectacular
buildings, built in a style that fuses Nordic
influences with motifs from medieval castles.
The house was built in 1905; shortly thereafter,
Puig i Cadafalch completed his work on the
Casaramona Factory. The factory was renovated with great care and accuracy and now houses the cultural centre CaixaForum. In its time,
the factory received awards and was celebrated
as one of the era's best, modernist structures,
largely due to its seamless combination of
monumental design and industrial function.
Els Quatre Gats
Pere Romeo inaugurated his restaurant Els Quatre Gats on June 12th, 1897. He had been
inspired by the Le Chat Noir in Paris, and the restaurant immediately stood out for being
highly unusual. Its peculiar character bore a resemblance to traditional guesthouses and
taverns as well as the elegant bars that had become wildly popular throughout Europe at
the time. The restaurant quickly turned into a watering hole for the local, bohemian scene.
Modernist circles and artists gathered here to exchange ideas and socialise. Ramon Casas,
Santiago Rusiñol, Isaac Albéniz and Antoni Gaudí were all frequent guests at Els Quatre
Gats. In addition to socialising, the groups also organised literary circles, gatherings and
conferences and, in 1899, a very young Picasso held his first-ever exhibition at the restaurant.
Els Quatre Gats is still here, serving both a spirited atmosphere as well as good Catalan
cuisine at its location on Carrer Montsió.
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1 Casa Batlló
2 Manzana de la Discordia
3Casa Lleó Morera
4 Parc Güell
5 Casa de les Punxes
6 La Pedrera
7 Farolas Paseo de Gracia
8 Casa Amatller
9 Parc Güell
10 Palau de la Música
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The Rambla, an unforgettable promenade
The Rambla, an unfogettable promenade
In every city there is a street that is
more than a mere thoroughfare, a street that has turned into a symbol. In
Barcelona that street is the Rambla, a
landmark depicted in countless photographs that many consider to be the
"world's prettiest street". No visit
to Barcelona is complete without at
least one stroll down the Rambla,
because this is the centre of city life.
This tree-lined promenade, bustling with tourists as well as locals, flanked by both old shops
and modern businesses, stage to open air art
and unique buildings, tells the story of day to
day life in a modern city. And, of course, there
is no shortage of pickpockets either, much like
on any other important, busy avenue in any
other large, urban city. Therefore, be alert as
you stroll along the promenade and enjoy its
many facets - facets that have changed significantly over the centuries.
In comparison to much of the city centre, the
Rambla is actually quite modern. It is difficult
to imagine that until the 18th century the
Rambla was little more than a torrent surrounded by convents, buildings and city walls. In
1704 houses sprung up and replaced the rocks,
trees were planted and the area was given a
proverbial "face-lift". Towards the end of the
18th century, the idea that this torrent could be
turned into a promenade was considered for the
first time.
This was when the stretch between Plaça
Catalunya and the Columbus monument was
first developed, drawing a straight line from the
city centre down to the sea. The promenade
became a popular spot with locals almost
immediately. In the 19th century many wealthy
families decided that the area had become sufficiently posh, and they began to build their
houses and palaces along the length of the promenade.
The Rambla's popularity grew over time, and
nowadays both locals and foreigners alike consider it to be the city's most famous street. The
buildings that line the promenade are equally
well-known, such as, for example, the Gran
Teatre del Liceu, one of the world's premiere
opera houses. The underground station at
Liceu, located on the Rambla itself, still bears
the old anagram for the Gran Metropolitano de
Barcelona (GMB), the city's previous underground transport authority. The first underground line was inaugurated in 1924, and its
route ran from Lesseps to Catalunya.
The Rambla is actually divided into five sections, Rambla de Canaletes, Rambla dels
Estudis, Rambla de les Flors, Rambla dels
Caputxins and Rambla de Santa Mónica, which
helps visitors get a better understanding of this
famed promenade. As part of the urban restructuring brought about by the 1992 Olympic
Games, the city redesigned the port area around
the Columbus monument. The Rambla was
extended, and the new, modern section, known
as the Rambla de Mar, arches over the sea and
leads to the Maremagnum shopping centre.
(See Route 4: A Stroll down the Rambla).
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1 Casa Bruno Quadros
2 Casa Bruno Quadros
3 Casa Bruno Quadros
4 Colón
5 Metro Liceu en Navidad
6 Mercat de la Boqueria
7 Font de Canaletes
8 www.takeoffguides.com
9 Rambla de les Flors
10 Huellas prostitutas
11 Rambla de Canaletes
The markets: a mediterranean tradition
The markets:
a mediterranean tradition
Over the course of thousands of years, markets
have been a centrepiece of the Mediterranean
way of life. In a region where commerce was
the predominant economic activity, life took
place outside, and its social centre was always
the marketplace. Barcelona was no exception
to this, and even nowadays, locals still embrace the tradition of shopping at the market. The
city is home to more than forty markets, some
of which are located inside buildings of great
cultural and architectural value. Each one of
these places is a piece of the city's collective
history.
Mercat de la Boqueria
This market must have something special about
it since it is amongst the most frequently photographed places in the city. Although it isn't
considered an official monument, it is treated
as such. A visit to this magnificent market is an
absolute must, both for its location right on the
Rambla (see Route 4) as well as for the vibrant
atmosphere inside.
The first thing to grab your attention when
stepping into the Boqueria is the mixture of
smells and colours that fill the entrance. The
stalls are bursting with arrangements of the
freshest vegetables and a vast variety of fruit,
both locally grown as well as imported from
exotic, faraway countries. Everything is
thought out down to the tiniest detail because at
this market the aesthetics of presentation count
as much as how much produce is sold.
The market is made up of more than 300 shops,
set up in stalls along eleven aisles. This is the
largest market in all of Spain, and it offers the
most extensive variety of goods. Therefore, if
you come here with something specific in
mind, you will definitely find it. And if you
have just come to browse and enjoy the atmosphere then you will probably end up splurging
on one little impulsive purchase or another. But
that isn't all. The Boqueria isn't just a blend of
different cultures brought together under one
roof. It is also one of the city's most interesting
pieces of architecture. Imagine shopping within
an enormous and yet infinitely delicate iron
structure, held up by Ionic columns and illuminated by light streaming in through giant panes
of glass in the ceiling. Locals love to show off
this charming market, where many of the vendors have grown into almost legendary characters. Ask any of the vendors to tell you about
Moños ... it is definitely an experience worth
having!
Mercat del Born
This is another one of Barcelona's great markets, located at the end of the Passeig del Born,
in one of the city's currently hippest and most
fashionable areas. This market, one of the best
examples of Barcelona's famed iron architecture, was built by Joseph Fontserè i Mestre in
1876. There is a rather peculiar and fascinating
story behind this market. After years of lying
unused and largely forgotten, the structure was
considered as the future home of the Regional
Library of Barcelona. Construction began in
2002, which was when the terrain revealed a
rather unexpected finding. Beneath the old
foundations, the crew discovered remnants of
the old medieval city circa 1714, the time
period following the siege Felipe V and his troops waged against Barcelona. This is one of the
most important archaeological discoveries in
all of Europe; no one has ever found such an
enormous archaeological park before.
Therefore, after a period of intense and inevitable debate, a decision was made to preserve the
ruins and move the library to a different, still
undecided location. The excavations have yielded an invaluable look at ancient stables, fishermen's houses and other dwellings as well as
the old marketplace.
Most visitors will not want to leave
Barcelona without a typical souvenir.
Making a decision isn't an easy task,
considering the ample selection at
hand. However, choose carefully
since more than one shop will try to
convince you that a Mexican hat or a
doll in a flamenco dress is a representative souvenir, and Barcelona has
much more to offer than that. In fact,
shopping is one of the city's strongest
points. Barcelona is home to a wide
variety of trendy shops as well as
designer stores selling the most exclusive brands. But before heading out
on a shopping spree, you shouldn't
forget about another very typical style
of shopping, a style that defines
Barcelona as a Mediterranean city and
can only be found at the traditional
markets.
Mercat del Ninot
Ninot means doll in Catalan, a rather peculiar
name for a market located in the heart of the
Eixample district (on Carrer Mallorca, 131).
The name is owed to the doll that crowns the
facade, which, so the legend goes, was forgotten there by a sailor who was shipwrecked
along the city's coast.
The market was originally an open-air venue.
In 1933, the market was renovated, a process in
which the original structure was preserved but
the interior was completely redesigned.
Mercat de Sant Antoni
Many people associate markets with the outskirts of a city, but in Barcelona that is not the
case. The Sant Antoni Market, for example,
takes up an entire city block in the Eixample
Esquerre (the left side of the district) between
the Comte d'Urgell, Comte Borell, Manso and
Tamarit streets.
Its beginnings resemble those of many other
markets: a simple jumble of moveable stalls
gathered on a square. This changed when the
area began its process of urban development,
and the neighbours requested an enclosed market area. The building that houses the market
was designed in the tradition of modernist, iron
architecture, a style marked by uncovered and
visible building materials.
The produce section of the market is open from
Monday through Saturday, but on four days of
the week the market also turns into a very busy
shopping area, filled with shops selling clothing and household goods. The market undergoes another transformation on Sunday mornings when it houses a market where people
buy, sell and exchange used books. It is definitely the most interesting of its kind in all of
Barcelona.
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1 Mercat de St. Antoni
2 Mercat del Ninot
3 Bala en el Paseo del Borne
4 Plaza St. Josep Oriol en domingo
5 La Boquería
6 Mercat del Born
7 Mural Joan Salvat Papasseit (Borne)
8 Casa Amatller
9 Graffiti (Borne)
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11 Mercat del Ninot
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Open air Barcelona: Squares and Terraces
Open air Barcelona:
Squares and Terraces
Barcelona is full of surprises and strolling through its many streets is the
best recipe for running into them. The
rhythms of a city aren't necessarily
contained within the walls of
museums or cultural centres. In fact,
the streets and squares within every
neighbourhood are far better places to
catch a glimpse of what real life is
like in the city. However, it would be
almost impossible to compile a list
that included all of these different
squares and places. Therefore, we will
focus on just a few that, due to their
historical significance or unique
atmosphere, somehow stand out from
the rest.
Of all the neighbourhoods in Barcelona, Gracià
definitely has the most squares, and each one
has a story to tell. The Plaça del Diamant is
famous because it gave its name to one of the
most internationally acclaimed novels in
Catalonia's literary history. Plaça del Sol is the
site of the neighbourhood's yearly festival as
well as the epicentre of the area's nightlife.
Plaça Rius i Taulet is home to the district's city
hall and a very symbolic clock tower. When the
weather turns warm and sunny, people flock to
the squares at all hours of the day ... including
late at night, much to the chagrin of the people
who live alongside the squares. However,
Gracià simply wouldn't be the same without
this popular atmosphere, a trait that has always
characterised this area.
The Gothic Quarter also contains many interesting little squares amidst its maze of narrow,
winding streets. For example, the Plaça Sant
Just, close to Dagueria street, is the last remnant of what was once an ancient cemetery and even today it still has a romantic if slightly
gloomy air about it. The Plaça del Pi, located
right next to the street and church bearing the
same name, is one of the area's busiest. Just
around the corner is the Plaça de Josep Oriol,
which often turns into a crafts fair at the weekends.
Somewhat further away but well worth the visit
is the Plaça de la Sagrada Familia, a unique
square in a class all of its own. It is usually full
of people no matter the time of day. When deciding on a time to visit the square, sunset is definitely the best choice. This is when the lights
on the square flicker to life and the cathedral's
mirror image is reflected in the lake below.
Certainly there are larger squares of perhaps
greater urban importance within the city (such
as Plaça Espanya, Plaça Catalunya, Plaça
Francesc Macià ...). All of these places have
played an important role in the city's history,
but due to their strategic locations, they have
somehow lost much of their charm. Nowadays,
they seem to recall the stress associated with
our busy, daily routines rather than conjuring
up any kind of romance.
The local custom of going out for a coffee,
snack or drink has brought with it the tradition
of the open air terrace. Many bars and restaurants have tables and seating set up outside,
which can even be enjoyed throughout the winter months thanks to Barcelona's mild climate.
Some of these cafés have already earned themselves an almost mythical reputation, such as
the Café Zurich. Located on Plaça Catalunya, it
is one of those places where everyone is gua-
ranteed to drop in at one time or another. One
of the absolute top-notch, luxury terraces is
located at the Hotel Casa Fuster (Passeig de
Gràcia, 132), the only five-star, deluxe hotel in
the city to also be classified as a monument.
From its highest point, visitors can admire the
city below as well as a truly spectacular panoramic view across Barcelona, from the city centre all the way to the sea. A visit wouldn't be
complete without a peek at the magnificent
hotel café, but if you decide to take a break and
order something, don't be surprised when you
are charged five-star, deluxe prices!
The upper sections of the city, especially along
the Avenida Tibidabo, also contain some of the
city's best kept secrets as well as some of the
most stunning views. Amongst all of the terraces that line the mountainside, the one at
Mirablau is the most famous. Although
Mirablau is a cocktail bar and dance club, it is
open during the afternoon and is an ideal spot
for some good conversation whilst contemplating the city from above.
Barcelona's character is marked by change,
which ensures that there is always a new place
to discover. Therefore, it is best to wander
through the city with open eyes and allow yourself to be surprised; in that way you will discover your very own Barcelona.
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1 Pl. España
2 Pl. del Diamant
3 Avda. Gaudí
4 Terraza Museo Textil
5 Antiguo anuncio en Pl. Rius i Taulet
6 Pl. Francesc Macià
7 Pl. Rovira
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9 Pl. Rius i Taulet
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Barcelona Festivals
Barcelona Festivals
Barcelona has a rich tradition when it
comes to festivals. Whether traditional, romantic, outrageous, religious or
for children - there is definitely something for everyone. Certain festivals
take place in other Spanish cities at
the same time (or even coincide with
festivities around the world, such as
the Carnival), whereas others are unique and special to Barcelona. When
the time comes to celebrate these latter events, the citizens of Barcelona
pull out all the stops.
Sant Medir
This is a festival particular to the Gracià neighbourhood, which takes place during the first
weekend in March. Legend has it that Saint
Medir was a simple, Christian peasant living in
the outskirts of Barcelona around 303 A.D. He
owed his fame to a highly unusual variety of
beans, which simply sprung up from the
ground in his garden immediately after being
planted. One day, as Medir was harvesting his
magical crop, he was taken prisoner and tortured by the Romans. He came to be seen as a
martyr, and the grounds where his house had
stood were turned into a hermitage in his name.
Nowadays, the legend is remembered with a
pilgrimage from the city to the hermitage, an
event which attracts people of all ages. The
high point of the day, however, comes in the
afternoon. A parade, complete with horses and
carriages, meanders down the Gran de Gracià
Street and showers spectators with endless streams of candy.
Sant Jordi
The most cherished holiday for the majority of
Barcelona citizens is probably April 23rd. The
legend of Sant Jordi tells the story of a brave
knight who saved a village's maidens from a
fearsome dragon that lived off their blood.
When the dragon died a rose bush is said to
have blossomed in its place. Sant Jordi plucked
the loveliest of the roses and gave it to the village's princess.
The legend has given birth to the Sant Jordi
holiday, during which custom dictates that men
give women a rose, and women give men a
book. The city comes alive, and streets like the
Passeig de Gracià and the Ramblas fill up with
stalls selling roses and books. It all adds up to a
truly spectacular and lively day that is unlike
any other.
Sant Joan
The night of June 23rd, the shortest of the year,
is ruled by the king of fire, who invites everyone to join the summer solstice celebration. The
holiday of Sant Joan is actually not until the
following day, but the night prior explodes in a
celebration that cannot be missed out on. Many
welcome Sant Joan with sleepless eyes, still
awake from a night of seemingly endless partying.
Traditionally, the night was characterised by
neighbourhood parties that spilled out onto the
streets and dinners accompanied by "coca" (a
type of pastry) and a glass of "cava"
(Catalonian sparkling wine). The festivities
have changed much over the years. In the past,
everyone participated in building bonfires on
the streets, but the risk of uncontrolled fires has
put an end to this tradition. Nowadays, bonfires
can only be built with a special permit.
However, firecrackers, an equally classic Sant
Joan artefact, have not suffered such a fate, and
they are still set off with as much glee as in the
past. Some consider this an annoyance, but
others see them as an absolutely essential
ingredient of the nocturnal Sant Joan festivities.
The younger generations (as well as some energetic members of older ones) usually gather at
one of the mega-parties that the city organises.
More often than not, these parties take place
along the city beaches since Sant Joan also
celebrates the arrival of summer.
Fiestas de Gracià
August is the month in which Barcelona, as
well as the rest of Catalonia, celebrates its
"fiestas mayores". These are essentially city or
neighbourhood festivals, days set aside during
which people cast off daily routines and head
out onto the streets to celebrate and enjoy
themselves.
The most famous "fiesta mayor" within
Barcelona is doubtlessly celebrated in the
Gracià neighbourhood. Gracià gives the party
an extra special touch, something more than the
typical concerts, orchestras, children's games,
traditional culinary treats, etc. For many centuries, Gracià has celebrated another, very unique
tradition. Almost all of the streets enter a contest to see which has the best decorations
during the week-long festivities. The neighbours of each street take all year to come up
with a theme and design details, usually even
creating them by hand. Finally, they all get
together and decorate their street with great
imaginative flair. The neighbourhood undergoes a fantastical transformation during this week
and takes on an appearance that truly celebrates
originality and creativity. Although the competitive edge is in high gear, participating is still
what counts the most.
Fiestas de la Mercè
September 24th is the day dedicated to the
Virgin of the Mercé, the city's patron saint since
1687 (before that it was Santa Eulàlia).
However, as this is the city's most important
holiday, it deserves more than one day of festivities. Therefore, the entire week is packed
with different events and concerts, and the city
is literally buzzing with excitement and life.
One of the most traditional things to do is to
watch the "castellers", who usually gather on
the Plaça Sant Jaume. The "castellers" are one
of Catalonia's most deeply-rooted traditions; it
consists of building human towers: a delicate,
acrobatic structure consisting of several people.
The smallest person in the group, known as the
"anxeneta", has to use the already positioned
bodies of the other members to climb to the
very top and crown the tower.
Another popular tradition is the "correfoc".
Groups of "devils", also known as "colles", run
through the streets shooting balls of fire and
gigantic sparklers into the air ... as well as
water to ensure that no serious injuries or
damages occur. In addition to these classic
events, other exhibitions and cultural festivals
such as BAM, which stages a number of different concerts, take place throughout the week.
Another successful, parallel event is the
Barcelona Arts Carrer, a festival that turns the
city into a stage and involves everyone passing
by in the performances taking place.
The closing day of the Mercè festival is celebrated with the by now famous "Pyromusical",
a spectacular display of fireworks coordinated
to the beat of a variety of musical styles.
Normally, the show takes place over the Magic
Fountains at the foot of Montjuic. Last year,
however, as part of the Forum of Cultures programme, the magnificent show enjoyed a special edition over the sea.
Parks and Gardens
Parks and Gardens
Barcelona has always placed high value on
balancing its urban areas with green spaces.
Although the city experienced growth spurts
during which it expanded quite significantly,
the growth always went hand in hand with the
preservation or creation of parks and gardens.
Every neighbourhood has areas set aside for
enjoying some peace and quiet amidst the
green. The parks and gardens come in many
shapes and sizes, some large and full of leisure
activities, others marked by history and some
that are secret hideaways, tucked into the centre of city blocks. In addition to all the parks
and gardens within the city, Barcelona is also
surrounded by vast expanses of natural terrain
that are the perfect getaway for escaping the
city's traffic and pollution. The options are so
varied that it would be almost impossible to list
all of the parks and gardens in this section; therefore, we have decided to focus on those that
stand out due to their historical significance,
their popularity amongst the local population or
the type of activities that can be found within
their perimeter.
Parc de la Ciutadella
This isn't merely the largest park in the city; it
is also the one most marked by history. In the
year 1888, the mayor at the time, Rius i Taulet,
decided to put the area to good use and created
a public park, which also served as the centre
for the World Fair that Barcelona was hosting
that same year. This era isn't just a long faded
memory; buildings dating back to that time still
stand within the park's perimeter. Some of the
buildings have been preserved and many now
serve other functions than they were originally
intended for. For example, the Governor's
Palace is now a secondary school and the old
arsenal now houses the Catalan Parliament.
Right next door is the Museum of Modern Art,
and visitors can also stop in at the old chapel.
However, the museum isn't the only place to
find art in the park; in fact, art pieces are scattered throughout the area. Outside the
Parliament, in what were once the old parade
grounds, lies a pretty, little lake surrounded by
gardens. At its centre stands one of the most
representative statues of Catalan modernism
entitled "El Desconsol" by Josep Llimona.
Another construction that has bestowed the
park with much fame is "La Cascada con el
Carro de l'Aurora" (The Waterfall with Aurora's
Carriage). The piece in question is an enormous
fountain by Josep Fontseré and an almost inevitable stop along any walk through this park.
The fountain as you see it now isn't exactly the
same as the original. After a renovation in
1992, a decision was made to add new sculptures by artists such as Alentorn and Venanci
Vallmitjana.
The park also offers a great wealth in leisure
activities such as walking, jogging, cycling or
simply spending a day outside and enjoying the
sun and a picnic. Anyone interested in botany
and plants will definitely enjoy the great
variety of species, most of which are clearly
identified with a small plaque. The diverse bird
species number more than a hundred and their
song and chatter add a lovely touch to the park's atmosphere. One of the most popular areas
in the park is definitely the lake. Children are
especially fond of the little row boats that can
be rented (2€ per half hour) and rowed across
the lake, past the many ducks and around the
"bald cypress tree" - a peculiar variety, native
to certain areas in the United States, that can
only grow inside the water.
A rather strange sculpture stands to the left of
the lake - the stone mammoth, one of the most
emblematic pieces in the park. It is a life-size
rendition of the prehistoric animal and has graced this spot for more than a century. Children
are definitely the ones most taken with the
mammoth, and the majority of them will jump
your walk through the park. This option allows
you to see a greater variety of plants, many of
which are marked with signs identifying their
species. Once you are familiar with the plants,
it isn't difficult to recognise them, allowing you
to learn and discover the Collserola vegetation
while enjoying your time outside.
at the chance to climb onto one of the tusks.
The park is also home to two other classic buildings, which were originally conceived as greenhouses. The former, known as the Umbracle,
still serves as a nursery for tropical plants, but
the latter, known as the Hivernacle, has been
turned into a pleasant café and restaurant,
which is open every day. This building is a
wonderful example of an architectural style
which used glass and iron as its primary materials and gained immense popularity in Europe
following the construction of the Eiffel Tower.
Approximately half of the park grounds are
taken up by the Barcelona Zoo. The entrance is
decorated with a sculpture depicting deer leaping into the air, a piece intended as homage to
Walt Disney. Inside the zoo, you can see one of
the most popular figures in the city - "La Dama
del Paraigües" (The Lady with the Umbrella), a
sculpture by the artist Joan Roig i Solé. For
many years, the zoo was most famous for being
home to Snowflake, the world's only albino
gorilla and the zoo's friendliest denizen.
Snowflake was one of a kind; since his death,
there are no other gorillas left in the world that
bear his unique characteristics. Many people
mourned his death and still miss his presence
when visiting the zoo.
Passeig Picasso, Passeig Pujades and Carrer
Wellington
Open from 10am until sunset.
Underground: Arc de Triomf (L1)
Parc del Castell de l'Oreneta
At the beginning of the 20th century, two
country estates, Can Bonavista and Castell de
l'Oreneta, were the most famous in the
Collserola foothills. The former belonged to the
Comte Milà family and the latter to the Tous
family. The park that resulted from joining
these two estates begins behind the Pedralbes
monastery and stretches across the hillside.
One of the park's most interesting facets is that
it has managed to maintain much of the area's
typical vegetation.
Visitors can choose from a number of potential
walking routes upon entering the park. The
basic itinerary consists of two, almost parallel
paths that lead towards Can Caralleu and circle
the ancient castle ruins. However, if you are
more adventurous and enjoy walking, there are
other ways to explore the terrain. You can
follow the clearly marked trails and extend
The path is dotted with many observation
points from which you can look down onto the
city as well as relaxing spots at which to take a
break, play a round of ping-pong or let the children clamber around the playgrounds. Another
attraction that is very popular with children is
the steam train, which offers an alternate way
of exploring the park. The miniature train, an
exact replica of its old-fashioned relatives, still
has a coal-burning engine. The train covers a 1
km long trajectory during which it crosses over
bridges and goes through tunnels. The train
only operates at the weekend, between 11am
and 2pm, when the weather conditions are
good.
Another activity especially designed for children is the Pony Club, where the little ones can
sign up for a short riding lesson. After their
initiation, they can head out for a 45 minute
ride through the park under the watchful eye of
an expert guide. The Pony Club has the same
hours as the steam train and is only open on
Saturday and Sunday mornings. The park also
has ample green areas set up for picnics, which
makes the Parc del Castell de l'Oreneta a perfect destination for a day outdoors with the
entire family.
that gives the park its name. The labyrinth is
made up of cypress trees, cut into long, rectangular walls about 3 metres tall. The green passages run in many directions, cutting angles
into the plants and covering approximately 750
metres. It is quite easy to get lost in the maze of
green, running into dead-ends, walking in circles, finding yourself exactly where you started
- but it is all in good fun and everyone who has
made their way in, has always found a way
back out.
The park has entrances on the Can Caralleu
road, the Biada passage and next to one of the
Ronda de Dalt off-ramps.
Tel. 934 132 424
Parc del Laberint d'Horta
The gardens at the Parc del Laberint are the
oldest in the city. They were designed in the
18th century when the aristocrat Joan Antoni
Devalls commissioned them for his 50 hectare
private estate. The gardens take up approximately 9 hectares and were designed in a neoclassic style.
The gardens were opened to the public in 1971.
They have been completely restored since then,
and their current appearance has garnered them
a designation as a garden museum. At their centre is a neoclassic house that serves as the headquarters for the Labyrinth's Training Centre.
The ancient defence tower next to the house is
known as the Torre Subirana.
The historical information is important, but
knowing a few, key details about the garden's
design might be even more useful during your
visit to the park. The garden's structure takes up
three levels. The most important facet of the
upper terrace is the lake, which collects all of
the water used to irrigate the gardens. The hillside is marked by a natural slope which takes
you down to the romantic garden, decorated
with cupolas held up by Tuscan columns.
The lowest level is where you find the labyrinth
Several, quiet resting places are nestled into the
three terraces, decorated with many, different
details such as sculptures, terracotta jars, pergolas and fountains. The entire estate is much
larger than the labyrinth gardens, and the
remaining hectares have been preserved in their
natural state. No construction has marred this
beautiful example of the Mediterranean forest,
full of pines and small brush, which adds to the
park's peaceful and romantic atmosphere.
Since the gardens are considered a museum,
you cannot ride bicycles or rollerblade nor can
you bring animals or play football. However,
these activities are permitted in the terrain
surrounding the gardens, and picnics can be
organised in the areas specifically set aside for
this purpose.
The park has entrances on German Desvalls
and Passeig dels Castanyers
Underground: Mundet (L3)
Parc de Montjuïc
This is probably the most well-known park in
the city, both for its location on the mountain of
the same name as well as all the leisure and cultural activities it offers. If you take a look at our
chapter on Routes, the one describing the
Anella Olímpica-Montjuic route will give you
plenty of detailed information about everything
that you can do in this park. To give you a brief
idea of the main points of interest, we will only
mention a few, key places: the Grec Theatre,
the Palau Sant Jordi, the Poble Espanyol and
the Olympic Stadium.
The Montjuïc Park also includes the Barcelona
Botanical Garden, where you can find species
from places as far away as Eastern Asia, China
and Japan but that feel at home in the
Mediterranean climate. Many of the plants
grow outside, whereas others are kept inside
the many greenhouses scattered throughout the
garden.
The mountain also has gardens that take you
back in time to the hanging gardens of
Babylon. These gardens grow over terraces and
hang across balconies that are connected by a
series of paths. Amidst the green, you come
across waterfalls, stairways, fountains and
sculptures until you reach the grand finale - the
Grec Teatre (Catalan for Greek Theatre). The
theatre, which mimics the amphitheatre popular in ancient Greece, was built in 1920 based
on a design by Ramon Raventós. Nowadays,
the theatre hosts many concerts and takes the
spotlight during its namesake festival, which
takes place in the summer.
Parc de Joan Miró or L'Escorxador
This is one of the city's most popular parks,
located amidst urban surroundings, very close
to Plaça Espanya. It takes up an area that used
to serve as the city's main slaughterhouse,
which is where it gets its second name (escorxador means slaughterhouse in Catalan).
Obviously, its current activities are far more
pleasant than its past might suggest, and the
park hosts many local events. The best way to
recognise the park is by the famous Miró statue, Dona i Ocell (Woman and Bird), that graces one of its corners. The statue is 22 metres
tall and can be seen from quite a distance,
which has given it a rather symbolic character
within the city. The park isn't just your typical,
green space. Some of the area is indeed green,
but another section, located near the local
library, is paved and therefore very popular
amongst young skaters and rollerbladers. The
park is an excellent example of how an old
facility was re-thought and restructured to provide the city with more outdoor areas.
The park can be accessed from the following
streets: Llançà, Tarragona, Diputació, Vilamarí
and Aragó
Underground: Plaça Espanya (L1, L3)
Parc de l'Espanya Industrial
Along with the Parc Joan Miró, this is one of
the largest, urban parks in the city. The park
takes its rather peculiar name from the fact that
the terrain was once home to a famous textile
factory named La España Industrial. The factory was built in the 19th century when the textile industry was the driving engine behind
much of the city's economy.
The park is tucked into an area next to the
Barcelona-Sants central train station. It is
immediately recognisable thanks to its enormous towers that double as the park's lighting.
The stands that serve as seating are another unique element in the park as is the lake, measuring 8,000 square metres in size, where you can
rent row boats.
Underground: Sants Estació (L3 and L5)
Plaça
Mossèn
Josep
Pedragosa
Avinguda
de Madrid
JARDINS
DE BACARDÍ
Plaça
del Sol
de Baix
JARDINS
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Plaça
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Pl. de
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Pl. de
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Carrer València
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Pl.
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Pl. de Joan
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Plaça
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Carrer Diputació
Plaça
Pl. de
del Poble
John
Romaní
Lennon
Plaça
del Raspall
Pl. de la Revolució
de Setembre del 1868
JARDINS
DE LA TORRE
DE LES AIGÜES
Carrer València
Carrer Mallorca
Còrsega
Plaça
de Gato Pérez
CASA MILÀ
“LA PEDRERA”
Carrer
Plaça
del Nord
Plaça
de Manuel
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Pl. del
Diamant Plaça
de la
Virreina
Travessera de
Gràcia
Pl. del Rei
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JARDINS
DEL PALAU
ROBERT
Pl. de
Trilla
Carrer Astúrie
s
JARDINS
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Plaça
Plaça
de Narcís Oller de Nicolás
Salmerón
Carrer Rosselló
Av
ing
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a
Carrer Consell de Cent
Carrer Aragó
Carrer València
Plaça
del Gall
Pl. de
Cardona
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Carrer París
Pl. de
Molina
Carrer Madrazo
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Pl. de les
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Pl. St. Josep
Plaça de Calassanç
de les
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Carrer Sant Antoni Maria Claret
HOSPITAL
DE LA
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Pl.
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JARDINS
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MONTSENY
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Carrer Mas Casanovas
Carrer Aragó Pl. dels
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JARDINS
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Plaça
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de la
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Plaça
de
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Pl. de
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de
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JARDINS
DE CATERINA
ALBERT
JARDINS
D’ANTONI
PUIGVERT
JARDINS
DE LA SEDETA
Carrer Sant Antoni Maria Claret
Pl. de
Joanic
Pl.
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i Trias
Carrer Mallorca
Indústria
JARDINS
DE JOANA
TOMÁS
Carrer Aragó
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L’Hospitalet-Av Carrilet
Cornellà-Riera
Sant Boi
Molí Nou-Ciutat Cooperativa
Sant Gervasi
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Catalunya
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Totes les estacions
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All stations
Telefèric
de Montjuïc
Castell
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Totes les estacions
Todas las estaciones
All stations
Parc de
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Mirador
L2
S5 S55
S1 S2
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Parc de la
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Arc de
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Av Mare de Déu de
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Pl Espanya
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S33 S4
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Parc de
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Parc de Montjuïc
Catalunya
Provença
Av Tibidabo
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La Bonanova
Les Tres Torres
Parc de
l’Espanya
Industrial
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Pl Ildefons Cerdà
Riera Blanca
L7
L6
Hospital de Bellvitge
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estacions
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Consorci Zona
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Autovia de Castelldefels
Centres d’atenció al client
Centros atención clientes
Customers service centres
Telefèric
Teleférico
Cable-car
St.
Josep
Av Carrilet
Bellvitge
Bellvitge
Estació Marítima
Estación Marítima
Seaboard station
Estació d’autobusos
Estación de autobuses
Bus station
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la Generalitat
de Catalunya
Rodalies Renfe
Renfe estació de ferrocarril
Renfe estación de ferrocarril
Renfe railway station
El Prat de
Llobregat
Hospital de Bellvitge
Codi Código Key
Aeroport
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de Llobregat 1 3
Entença Hospital Clínic
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Sants
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Estació de Sants
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S33 Can Ros
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R5 Manresa
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R6 Igualada
T2
Pg Reina Elisenda
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Les
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Iglésias El
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Av de Xile
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L5
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Propera inauguració
Próxima inauguración
Hospital
Next Inauguration
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Fontsanta
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Walden
Rambla de
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(Lleida-Tarragona)
T3 Consell Comarcal
Centre Miquel
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Sant Vicenç de Calders
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Route 01
From the Anilla Olímpica to Plaça Espaya
From the Anilla Olímpica to Plaça Espanya
Montjuic Mountain is much more than just a
mountain, more than just a great spot from
which to admire panoramic views onto the city
and the Mediterranean Sea. The mountain tells
many stories from the past. Several important
historical events took place here that changed
the fate of the city and influenced the course of
its development. Strolling around Montjuic is
like taking a journey through the area's history
and culture. However, it isn't just the past that is
relived up here; the future is equally present,
manifested in many structures that have their
eye set on what is yet to come.
A good place from which to start an exploration
of the mountain is the Anella Olímpica. This is
the area containing the vast majority of the installations built for the 1992 Olympic Games.
One of these structures is the Palau Sant Jordi,
which was inaugurated in 1990 at the beginning
of the Games and is still considered a landmark
of modern architecture. It retains much of the
innovation and freshness that characterised it a
decade ago and remains a model for the kind of
modern design that Barcelona is famous for.
The Palau Sant Jordi has grown to symbolise
not only the glory of the Olympic Games but
also Barcelona as a city. Originally conceived as
an athletic facility for gymnastic events, the
pavilion soon expanded to host other activities.
Artists from all around the world have graced
the pavilion's stage with their concerts and both
theatrical and dance performances have taken
advantage of the space's extraordinary dimensions. When Barcelona hosted the Swimming
World Championships, the entire pavilion was
turned into an enormous, indoor swimming
pool. On other occasions, this flexible, multi-
purpose space has been used for a variety of
other sporting events, such as a number of
motocross championships. The driving force
behind each event at the Palau is to take advantage of the space's incredible dimensions, which
include seating for up to 17,000 spectators in
the stands.
Many people claim that the Palau's exterior
reminds them of a flying saucer, and it is true
that there is something truly spectacular and out
of this world about architect Arata Isozaki's
work. When seen from above, you can notice
that the roof consists of an enormous, metal net
interspersed with many, glazed, ceramic tiles.
The resulting design is absolutely original and
surprising, created with computer graphics by
the Japanese designer Mamoru Kawaguchi.
The Olympic Stadium is located right next to
the Palau. Until the Olympic Games, the site
had housed a previous stadium, built for the
1929 International Fair, which served as a foundation for the new facility. It is unlikely that
anyone in Barcelona has forgotten the glorious
moment in which a fiery arrow lit the stadium's
torch during the Olympic Games' inaugural
celebration. Thanks to such memorable
moments in civic pride as well as its monumental nature, the stadium has become one of the
city's most beloved athletic facilities.
The Olympic Stadium bears little resemblance
to its 1929 counterpart, largely due to the
immense renovation and restructuring the facility underwent. The structure was given completely new infrastructure, high-tech equipment
and facilities as well as an increased seating
capacity that can now accommodate 56,000
spectators (with the addition of professional
stands that capacity can be augmented to reach
77,000). All the effort and hard work that went
into the new facility did not go unrewarded - the
UEFA has graced the stadium with a five-star
designation. This is just another reminder of
how much the Olympic Games contributed to
the modernisation of Barcelona as a city.
Further recollections to this end can be visited at
the stadium's Olympic Gallery, a permanent
exhibition dedicated to these sixteen days of
Olympic celebration. The exhibition includes
artefacts that formed part of the inaugural and
closing ceremonies as well as a variety of audiovisual material depicting some of the event's
highlights. The exhibition even goes a step further and broadens the scope beyond the 1992
Barcelona Games to include other material such
as information and documentation about
modern-era Olympic Games in general, from
the 1896 Games in Athens until today.
The Olympic Stadium followed the example set
by the Palau Sant Jordi and now hosts social
as well as athletic events. Amongst the latter
kind, one stands out in particular - the RCD
Espanyol football matches. This football club, a
First Division member of the Spanish League,
uses the stadium as its home base.
The calibre of artists and architects that collaborated on the stadium project elevates it beyond
being a mere athletic facility. Pere Doménech i
Roure rehabilitated the previous stadium's facade, Vicenç Navarro sculpted the front and the
statues above the entrance are the work of Pau
Gargallo.
The stadium's classic design offers an interesting contrast to the very contemporary look of
the Calatrava Tower. The tower was designed
by Valencian architect Santiago Calatrava, who
is considered one of the most talented and innovative architects working today. Calatrava has
worked on numerous projects of international
renown such as several installations for the
recent Olympic Games in Athens, the restructuring of the Oriente Station in Lisbon and the
City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia.
The tower served as the communication centre
during the Olympic Games and quickly turned
into one of the city's landmarks. Not only is it a
remarkable architectural achievement, but it
also forever changed the Montjuic Mountain's
skyline. Its spectacular design puts it on par
with the Palau de Sant Jordi and taken together
these two buildings are harbingers of what can
be expected of Barcelona in the future. The
tower isn't the only imprint Calatrava has left on
the Catalan capital - he is also responsible for
the very original bridge that crosses the Bac de
Roda Street in the Sant Martí district.
As you leave the Olympic area and head uphill,
you will eventually reach the Montjuic Castle.
Nowadays, the castle is mostly recognised for
its cultural character, containing a variety of
interesting museums, such as one dedicated to
arms and weaponry and another to the art of
comics and illustration. However, the castle's
history is far less benevolent than it might seem
at first glance. Catalans view the place with
mixed emotions. During the Franco
Dictatorship, the castle saw the execution of
many important personalities in the Catalan
resistance, such as Lluís Companys, who, as
president of the Generalitat de Catalunya at the
outset of the Spanish Civil War, was a figurehead of Catalan nationalism.
If the unusual museums inside the castle capture your curiosity, take some time and visit the
exhibitions. The castle gardens are also worth a
peek, not so much for the gardens themselves
but for the lovely views onto the harbour. After
finishing your visit to the castle, head down to
the Joan Miró Foundation. This museum is an
absolutely must-see stop on your Montjuic itinerary. It houses one of the most important
collections of the Catalan artist's work, including a number of his famous paintings and
sculptures as well as large-scale murals and
tapestries. The unusual building - a fittingly
imaginative structure - is also worth the visit.
The permanent collection is a survey of the
artist's development and an expression of his
whimsical, creative persona. In addition to the
permanent collection, the foundation also organises a variety of fascinating and innovative
temporary exhibitions. Several Miró sculptures
have also been placed in an outdoor space such
as, for example, the sculpture entitled Bon dia,
Barcelona (Good morning, Barcelona), one of
the artist's most eye-catching pieces.
Joan Miró was drawn to a diverse array of materials, forms and colours throughout his life. This
love of variety led him to experiment with
many, different artistic mediums: painting,
sculpture, graphics, ceramics, theatre and textiles. If you want to gain insight into the many
layers that made up this artist's genius, make
sure to visit all of the foundation's halls. Certain
halls are dedicated to a specific theme, such as
the Sala Tapiz, which houses sculptural pieces
and the Sala Joan Prats, which is entirely focused on Miró's work from the sixties and seventies. The Sala Pilar Juncosa, named after the
artist's wife, and the so-called Sala K are two
other important spaces in the building. The
terrace is an excellent observation deck from
which to look out over the city. Some of Miró's
most interesting sculptural pieces, such as La
Caricia de un Pájaro (A Bird's Caress), a piece
done in painted bronze, are also exhibited on the
terrace. The foundation houses a total of 11,000
Miró pieces: 240 paintings, 175 sculptures, 9
tapestries, 4 ceramic works, an almost complete
selection of his graphic work and 8,000 drawings.
The foundation's building, an architectural feat
by Miró's close friend, Josep Lluís Sert, is
almost as extraordinary as the art inside. If a
visit to the wonderful world of Miró, populated
with the female form, birds, the sky and stars,
has whetted your appetite, make sure to pay
close attention when you find yourself on the
Rambla. On the ground of this famous promenade, close to the Liceu Theatre and the
Boqueria Market, is a mosaic by Miró entitled
Pla de l'Os. Another open air Miró creation is to
be found in the l'Excorxador Park. The park is
home to one of the artist's most magnificent
sculptures, entitled Mujer y Pájaro (Woman and
Bird).
Joan Miró (Barcelona, 1893 - Mallorca, 1983)
was a multi-faceted artist, equally drawn to
many different art forms, including painting,
sculpture, engraving and ceramics. He was heavily influenced by the Cubist movement until
1919, which was the same year that he met
Picasso in Paris. Throughout this period, his
work mostly depicted landscapes, portraits and
nudes. It wasn't until later that he developed a
style that approximated the ideas espoused by
Surrealism. In doing so, he created his very own
dream-like and fantastical language that bore a
kinship to the artist Klee.
He first achieved international recognition in
1928 when the Museum of Modern Art in New
York acquired two of his paintings. His early
work in painting gave way to a time in which he
questioned the sense of this art form and began
to dedicate himself to sculptural work. This latter form achieved its pinnacle in the work completed during the Spanish Civil War. These pieces succinctly reflect the dichotomy that existed
between the horrors of war and Miró's nature as
a dreamer. At the end of this inner struggle the
dreamer prevailed, and Miró returned to his
classic, somewhat ingenuous vision of the
world, a world filled with birds, stars, female
figures and lots of colour. Towards the end of
his career, he worked in large format, creating
murals that still decorate the Barcelona airport
and Harvard University.
Emerging from the imaginative world of Miró,
you now find yourself very close to the Poble
Espanyol (Spanish Village). This is one of the
city's most peculiar areas. Strolling down the little streets inside the village walls, you notice
that they are replicas of typical places from
many different, Spanish regions. Artisans work
in small shops along the cobblestone streets,
creating handicrafts from a variety of materials
and using ancient, traditional methods. Another
interesting nook in this unusual village is the
Sculptural Garden, an open air collection of
contemporary pieces. Located inside the garden
is the Fran Daurel Foundation, home to an
impressive collection of avant-garde paintings,
sculptures and engravings. The foundation was
inaugurated in 2001 and includes the work of
artists such as Dalí, Guinovart, Perejaume,
Tàpies, Barceló, Millares and Picasso.
The Poble Espanyol is more than just an architectural curiosity. It is frequently used for concerts or other cultural events, usually in conjunction with other city festivals, such as the
Mercé or the Grec, one of the summer's cultural
highlights. The main attraction during the Grec
Festival, however, is the Grec Theatre.
Although its name and structure (akin to a
Greek amphitheatre) recall an ancient era, the
theatre's origins are actually of a much more
recent time. The architect Ramon Raventós
built the theatre in 1929 for the International
Fair that took place that year. The theatre was
built into an old quarry on one side of the mountain. The entrance is adorned with gardens and
a loggia typical of the era. The loggia also contains another treat for art lovers - a sculpture by
Josep Viladomat, entitled La Noia de la Trena.
During the summer festival that bears its name,
the theatre hosts an always interesting and
varied programme that includes theatrical,
musical, dance and concert performances. The
festival has gained in popularity over the years
and now has such a large following that other
venues have been added to support the growing
programme. Events often take place at venues
such as the Picornell pool, usually site of events
on the children's programme, the Theatre
Institute, the Mercat de les Flors, the Lliure
Theatre and even outdoor spaces such as the
Plaça del Rei.
Another fascinating place just around the corner
from the Grec Theatre is the Archaeological
Museum of Catalonia. The museum is a form
of time travel, taking visitors back to their most
ancient origins. The journey begins with prehistoric man and carries through our entire evolution up to the middle ages. The collection consists of important findings from a variety of
excavations undertaken in Catalonia and includes artefacts from ancient Catalan settlements
as well as other Iberian and Mediterranean cultures. The museum is located inside a building
originally constructed to house the Graphic Arts
Palace during the 1929 International Fair.
At this point, you are making your way down
towards Plaça Espanya. Set into the hillside
facing the square lies what is largely considered
the city's best art museum, the National Art
Museum of Catalonia also known by its popular acronym MNAC. Its building is equally
spectacular, being nothing less than the old
National Palace. The museum's forte is its
extensive collection of medieval art. The many,
long halls inside the museum are like a journey
through the entire art history of Catalonia. The
section on Romanesque art brings together an
impressive selection of pieces from the 11th,
12th and 13th centuries. This style of medieval
art was the first of its kind to gain any kind of
international movement throughout Europe.
The collection's highlight is a series of mural
paintings that, due to their size, exceptional
quality and truly unique character, are considered definitive of this style. Gothic art, on the
other hand, is characterised by a wealth of materials and the enormous variety of decorative and
figurative elements applied in an equally varied
number of techniques and typologies. These
include murals, paintings on tablets, gold- and
silversmithing, glazing, sculptural work with
stone, wood and marble. The majority of the
Gothic art stems from the period spanning the
13th and 15th centuries in Catalonia. The
museum also includes well-selected collections
of art from the Renaissance, the Baroque and
the 19th and 20th century with special emphasis
on the Modernist and Realist movements. And
if that weren't already more than sufficient, the
museum also invites you to wander through its
basement and visit its unusual collection of drawings and etchings, a coin collection reaching
as far back as the 6th century B.C. and an entire room dedicated to the art of photography,
including both historical as well as avant-garde
work. If you wander down the immense series
of steps that lead up to the MNAC, you reach
the CaixaForum, a cultural centre located on the
Avenida Marquès de Comillas. The centre is
dedicated to a completely different time frame
than the MNAC but is equally recommendable.
Located inside an old factory from the modernist era, built by the architect Josep Puig i
Cadafalch, the centre organises different exhibitions showcasing the work of contemporary
painters, sculptors and photographers. In addition to the exhibitions, the centre always offers
a series of lectures, conferences and children's
activities. The centre's 3,000 square metres are
divided up between three, separate halls, each
one focused on a different social or educational
activity, as well as a multi-media centre and two
multi-purpose spaces. Last but not least, the
centre also has an impressive auditorium, which
can seat 350 people, and is used for a variety of
different events, such as film screenings and
concerts.
The Mies van der Rohe Pavilion, another glorious reminder of the 1929 International Fair, is
just a few metres from the CaixaForum. The
building marked a turning point in contemporary architecture, and its interior is equally noteworthy. A true paradise for design lovers, who
can admire pieces like the Barcelona Chair, an
object that is still relevant after all these years.
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe designed the building as the German national pavilion for the
1929 International Fair. When the fair came to a
close, the organisers decided to dismantle the
pavilion. It wasn't until years later that renewed
interest brought the pavilion back out of retirement, and it was rebuilt at its exact, original
location.
Even in its heyday the pavilion was considered
a symbol of modernity, and it has since then
been studied by many generations of architects.
The structure is made out of glass, steel, travertine and a variety of marble, but the building's
originality doesn't reside solely in its materials.
The true achievements of this landmark buil-
ding are the geometry of its design, the sheer
precision of each piece and the unwavering clarity with which it was all put together. In one
area of the pavilion stands a reproduction of
Georg Kolbe's bronze sculpture Alba. The
sculpture, placed next to a small, decorative
pond, gives the space a dream-like, romantic
atmosphere enveloped in the otherwise thoroughly modern environment.
The walk comes to an end in Plaça Espanya,
after a leisurely stroll down the Avenida Maria
Cristina, past the immensely popular Magic
Fountain. This avenue is flanked by a number
of pavilions that host the majority of fairs and
congresses held in the city. The Venetian
Towers that rise up to mark the end of the avenue have become one of the most photographed
sites in Barcelona. The towers derive their name
from the fact that their architect, Ramon
Raventós, modelled them after a Venetian bell
tower. They originally marked the entrance to
the grounds of the 1929 International Fair and
measure 47 metres in height. The towers are the
perfect decorative element for the avenue leading up to the fountain and the MNAC, but they
aren't the only one - other imaginative, decorative elements are the fountains and illuminated
columns that line the avenue. At night this
stretch of road is absolutely stunning as the
columns, the steps and the fountain are all illuminated, and the MNAC is crowned with a
series of light beams. As you conclude your
walk and pass between the towers, you immediately notice the busy traffic circulating the
roundabout, and you know that you have left the
tranquillity of Montjuic Mountain behind and
are once again immersed in the rhythms of the
city.
Fundació Joan Miró
Parc de Montjuïc, s/n
Tel. +34 93 443 94 70
www.bcn.fjmiro.es
Timetable: October-June: open Tuesday-Saturday from 10am to 7pm; Thursday from 10am to 9:30pm and Sundays and holidays from
10am to 2:30pm. Closed Mondays, except holidays. Tickets: 7,20 € general admission. Temporary exhibitions + Espai 13: 3,60 €
Underground: Espanya (L1 and L3). Then take bus number 50 or 55.
Poble Espanyol
Avda Marquès de Comillas, 13
Tel. +34 93 508 63 00
Timetable: Open every day. Monday from 9am to 8pm. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 9am to 2am. Friday and Saturday from
9am to 4am. Sundays from 9am to 12am. Free admission to the grounds starting at 8pm.
Underground: Espanya (L1 and L3). Then take any of the buses heading up Montjuic Mountain.
www.poble-espanyol.com
Pavelló Mies van der Rohe
Avenida Marquès de Comillas, s/n
Timetable: 10am to 8pm, every day.
Tickets: 3,5 € general admission
Underground: España (L1 and L3)
www.miesbcn.com
Galeria Olímpica
Estadi Olímpic - Passeig Olímpic, s/n
Tel. +34 93 426 06 60
www.fundaciobarcelonaolimpica.es
Timetable: October through March from 10am to 1pm and 4pm to 6pm. Closed Saturdays, Sundays and holidays.
Tickets: Adults 2,70 €. Children and senior citizens : 1,50 €
Underground: Espanya (L1 and L3). Then take bus number 55.
Fundació Fran Daurel
Avda Marquès de Comillas, s/n
Poble Espanyol (Porta del Carme)
Tel. +34 93 423 41 72
www.fundaciofrandaurel.com
Timetable: Monday to Sunday from 10am to 7pm.
Underground: Espanya (L1 and L3)
CaixaForum
Avda Marquès de Comillas, 6-8
Tel. +34 93 476 86 00
www.caixaforum.com
Timetable: Tuesday to Sunday from 10am to 8pm.
Closed Mondays except holidays.
Free admission
Underground: Espanya (L1 and L3)
Museu d'Arqueologia de Catalunya (MAC)
Passeig de Santa Madrona, 39-41
Tel. +34 93 424 65 77
Timetable: Tuesday-Saturday from 9:30am to 7pm.
Sundays and holidays from 10am to 2:30pm. Closed Mondays.
Tickets: 2,40 €
www.mac.es
Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya (MNAC)
Palau Nacional
Parc de Montjuïc
Tel. +34 93 622 03 75
www.mnac.es
Timetable: Tuesday-Saturday from 10am to 7pm.
Sundays and holidays from 10am to 2:30pm. Closed Mondays.
Tickets: 4,80 € permanent collection and 4,20 € temporary exhibitions. Free admission every first Thursday of the month.
Underground: Espanya (L1 and L3)
Museu Militar de Montjuïc and Museo del Cómic y la Ilustración
Castell de Montjuïc
Tel. +34 93 329 86 13
Timetable: November until mid-March: 9:30am to 5:30pm. Closed Mondays. Mid-March until October the museums close at 8pm.
Tickets: Admission to the museum and castle: 2,50 €. Admission to the castle and the rooms along the arms patio costs 1€.
Underground: Espanya (L1 and L3)
1 Caixa Forum
2 Pabelló Mies van der Rohe
3 Poble Espanyol
4 Mercat de les Flors
5 Teatre Grec
6 Fundació Miró
7 Estadi Olímpic
8 Palau Sant Jordi
9 Torre Calatrava
10 Castell de Montjüic
Route 02
The heart of the Eixample
Passeig de Gràcia and Rambla Catalunya
The Eixample has long had the reputation of
being Barcelona's most elegant district. The
area's history is inextricably linked to the development of Barcelona and its transformation
into a modern city. Barcelona prior to the 19th
century would not be recognisable to most people who know it today. The main and most
immediately obvious difference was the city
wall that surrounded Barcelona, outside of
which all construction and development was
strictly forbidden. The space within the city
walls was sufficiently large to accommodate
the population for many centuries. However,
the beginnings of the industrial age brought
about a vast increase in the city's population as
well as the demand for more areas on which to
build factories. The demands of both the people
and the industrial barons grew incessantly, and
local officials had to accept the fact that the city's needs had outgrown the confined space
within the city walls.
In the mid-19th century the decision was
finally made to take down the city walls and
open Barcelona up to the future. This crucial
decision was met by another, almost equally
important question: who would be put in charge of developing the modern Barcelona, city of
the future? A competition commenced with the
goal of finding the most appropriate and qualified architect for the job. This brought about a
conflict between the Catalan government,
which supported a plan by the architect Rovira
i Trias, and the central government. The latter
issued a decree that put the engineer Ildefons
Cerdà in charge of the project. In terms of
design, the Cerdà plan was probably the better
choice, but the manner in which the central
government imposed their decision angered the
Catalan capital, which had always fought relentlessly for autonomy, and earned the plan a lot
of ill will in Barcelona.
As a result, the Cerdà Plan, which had originally been conceived for the entire city, was
limited to the section between Plaça Catalunya
and Diagonal that we know as the Eixample
today. The area was divided into two sections,
Esquerra and Dreta (left and right). The left and
right sections can be easily identified by standing on Passeig de Gràcia and looking up
towards the mountains with your back to the
sea.
Cerdà's urban plan consisted of an enormous
network of parallel and perpendicular streets,
uniform in design, which formed almost square-like city blocks. The blocks were not perfect
squares because their corners were cut off at
diagonal angles in order to improve visibility.
The construction criteria were equally strict,
demanding that no building exceed a maximum
height of three floors so as to create a feeling of
space and wide, brightly lit streets. Another
idea for bringing more light and green to the
city was the creation of peaceful gardens at the
centre of each city block.
Obviously, no plan is perfect and some of the
criteria were not met. The majority of violations related to the height of the buildings.
However, most of the streets in this area follow
the design accurately, thus creating an almost
perfect grid. When construction began on this
new neighbourhood, the upper classes saw it as
an escape from the crowded, disorderly streets
that were the norm in other city neighbourhoods such as Ciutat Vella.
The wealthy families of the reigning bourgeoisie commissioned the best architects to design
their houses, who were, at that time, creative
geniuses the likes of Antoni Gaudí, Josep Puig
i Cadafalch and Lluís Doménech i Montaner.
This was how Modernism came to shape the
identity of the new city centre and gave birth
to houses like Casa Batlló, Casa Milà and Casa
Amatller. These houses, once luxurious, opulent private residences throughout the 19th century, would eventually come to be considered
the modernist landmarks of contemporary
Barcelona.
A route through the Eixample district takes you
on a tour of all that is refined, elegant and
wealthy in the city. This is where you can find
classic, designer stores, prestigious hotels and
much of the city's financial centre. The Passeig
de Gràcia and Rambla Catalunya define the
area from north to south. They are intersected
by perpendicular streets such as Diputació,
Consell de Cent, València, Mallorca and
Provença. The streets Balmes, Aribau and
Muntaner on the left and Pau Clarís, Bruc and
Girona on the right run parallel to the two elegant avenues and thus form a quadrant that
brings together some of the city's most outstanding examples of modernist architecture. With
this brief historical introduction to the neighbourhood under your belt, you are now ready to
head out and explore.
PASSEIG DE GRÀCIA
This is by far the most elegant and sophisticated avenue in the city. Looking down the length
of the Passeig de Gràcia, with its high-end
designer stores and chic hotels, it is difficult to
imagine that it was once nothing more than a
dirt road connecting the walled in city with the
little village Gràcia on the hill. It wasn't until
the mid-19th century that the road started to
take on its modern appearance. Wealthy families commissioned houses along this avenue,
the city adorned it with modernist streetlamps
and benches and theatres and other leisure
venues opened their doors to cater to the pleasures of the rich. At one point the area even had
a racecourse! All of these activities and establishments earned the area the nickname
Elysian Fields for its classy and yet fun-loving
character. Anyone with any sort of standing in
the upper echelons of Barcelona society had to
frequent the Passeig de Gràcia social circles or
After crossing the wide avenue Gran Via de les
Corts Catalanes, you reach the oldest block in
the Eixample. This section of the area is delimited by the streets Diputació, Consell de Cent,
Roger de Llúria and Pau Clarís. The block itself
is bisected by a narrow, pleasant passage
known as the Passatge Permanyer, which is
almost hidden from public view. This little street is flanked by some very interesting buildings
that still preserve the interior gardens as they
were originally designed by Ildefons Cerdà.
The Manzana de la Discordia
Heading up the avenue towards Diagonal, you
come to one of the most interesting sections of
not only Passeig de Gràcia but of all Barcelona.
This is the so-called Manzana de la Discordia
(a fun little word play since manzana means
both apple and city block - therefore, roughly
translated, it can mean both apple and block of
discord). This block is located between Consell
de Cent and Aragó, and the name refers to the
rather disparate and visually stunning effect
produced by having three of the most exemplary, modernist buildings within a mere 100
metres of each other.
The first building you encounter is the Casa
tectural competition organised by the city that
year. However, the building wasn't always graced with such glorious moments, and it too suffered through the city's darker times.
The building fell into a state of decline and was
largely forgotten for many years, especially in
the mid-20th century. It was attacked several
times during the Spanish Civil War and during
the post-war period. The building had once
been adorned with extraordinary sculptures by
the Catalan artist Eusebi Arnau. These sculptures, which represented mythical nymphs, were
almost completely destroyed during this violent
period.
However, a curious anecdote explains why
some of the nymphs managed to escape this
fate. The building's doorman, who witnessed
the attack, rescued the sculptures that remained
intact. Some time later, Salvador Dalí developed an interest in the nymphs and bought them
for what would amount to 30 € today. If you
head out to the Dalí Museum in Figueres, located in the neighbouring province Girona, you
can still find one of the nymphs there.
Interest in the building resurfaced in 1992 and
a restoration process began to recuperate the
lost elements and guarantee the preservation of
this historic structure. The building has now
been returned much of its original glory, and
visitors can enjoy its perfectly restored appearance. The inside is also a wonderful example
be considered out of touch with all that was
new, exciting and chic in the city.
The new buildings sprouting up along the avenue all bore the surnames of their owners. This
is the reason why most of the city's modernist
landmarks have their own, specific name. For
example, the building at Passeig de Gràcia 2-4,
right at the beginning of the avenue, is the Casa
Pons i Pascual. This building, along with the
Casas Rocamora (located a little further up on
the avenue), were the first houses to gain any
sort of reputation in the Eixample. Their architectural style was still heavily influenced by
neo-gothic tendencies since the true explosion
of modernist fever had not yet arrived.
Lleó-Morera (Passeig de Gràcia, 35. Tel. 93
488 01 39), designed by the architect Lluís
Doménech i Montaner. This building is a bit of
an anomaly since its name doesn't reflect the
owner's surname as was customary at the time.
The name, lleó (lions) and morera (mulberry),
refer to the decorative elements Doménech i
Montaner used on the facade and which are inspired by ancient, medieval coats of arms.
The character of the building's entire ornamentation, both on the facade as well as inside, is an
expression of the reigning sensibilities of that
era and often recalls a Wagneresque atmosphere. You have to bear in mind that in 1902, when
construction on the house commenced, Richard
Wagner was the most popular and fashionable
composer amongst the Catalan bourgeoisie,
who were, in turn, the people enamoured with
the modernist, architectural style.
The Casa Lleó-Morera wasn't built from
scratch; rather it was the result of remodelling
a previous building, known as the Casa
Rocamora, which had been constructed in
1864. The building earned its architect,
Doménech i Montaner, first place in the archi-
of modernist style, but the building is privately
owned and therefore closed to the public.
However, the facade alone provides visitors
with plenty to admire, including details like
medieval arches, mythical fairies, busts and
sculptures depicting the female form.
A little further along (Passeig de Gràcia, 41)
you come across the Casa Amatller. Designed
by Josep Puig i Cadafalch, the building is also
famous for being the zero kilometre mark on
the European Route of Modernism. This route
was established in an effort to extend the
Barcelona Modernist Route to other European
cities that boast similar architectural styles in
order to provide the modernist artists with greater exposure.
The Casa Amatller is also a privately owned
property and thus its interior is closed to the
public. However, the building's front door is
always open, and the ground floor is often used
for temporary exhibitions. The peculiar chocolate shop located on the ground floor offers a
curious way of getting acquainted with the
building's history. After all, the original owner
was chocolate entrepreneur Antoni Amatller,
who bought the building in 1898 and commis-
construction many people found it to be, quite
simply, a "horrible building". Nowadays, it is
considered one of Gaudí's greatest achievements and one of the most brilliant examples of
modernism worldwide. Despite the passing of
time, the building still manages to somehow
exude the same daring and innovative spirit
that it was famous for at the beginning.
with a very special and singular atmosphere.
True to modernist tradition, the influence of
ancient myths can be seen in the tower, the
chimney and the iconography throughout the
Gaudí was commissioned to build the house by
the Batlló family, one of the most important
members of the local textile industry. The
architect allowed his imagination free reign and
experimented with colours, materials and shapes. These elements were so innovative that
they came to symbolise Barcelona. The house
might be seen as a work of art today but to
Gaudí it was just another job. He took every
cent he earned on the Casa Batlló and invested
it into his greatest and personally most engrossing project: the Sagrada Familia.
sioned Josep Puig i Cadafalch to remodel it.
The building's design combines a variety of
styles, including Romanesque, Gothic and
Baroque influences, and was constructed using
the classic materials of the time. The iron is
wrought into whimsical shapes, glasswork
decorates many of the undulating corners and
most of the walls are covered with mosaics.
The bottom floor is home to one of Catalonia's
most prestigious jewellery houses. The company has preserved the original windows,
which are decorated in a floral pattern characteristic of the modernist period.
Josep Puig i Cadafalch designed a number of
important buildings in Barcelona, including the
Casa de les Punxes also known as the Casa
Terrades. This building was built at the beginning of the 20th century, and the six, pointed
towers endow it with a certain, medieval look.
Due to the political climate that marked Spain
in the early 20th century and Puig i Cadafalch's
leftist leanings, the architect had to go into
exile in Paris in 1936. That was the year the
Spanish Civil War broke out and when it came
to a close in 1939, the ruling government of
Dictator Francisco Franco prevented him from
practising his profession in Spain.
The last building on this block is the Casa
Batlló (Passeig de Gràcia, 43). When asked in
1905 what he hoped to achieve with this building, Antoni Gaudí replied "a vision of paradise". In a way, he managed to achieve his goal,
if paradise can take on the form of a truly unique and stunning building. Aside from being
quite simply an object of beauty, the Casa
Batlló is also a jewel of Catalan modernism.
However, the building didn't always garner
such glorious reviews - in fact, at the time of its
The building displays all the materials considered characteristic of the modernist style. Gaudí
covered the entire facade and the roof with
colourful ceramic tile, arranged into his classic
mosaics. The balconies and most of the decorative elements inside were fashioned out of
wrought-iron. And the windows were designed
to create a perfect play between light and
colour that endow the spaces inside the house
house. The silhouettes have been interpreted as
paying homage to Sant Jordi (Saint George),
patron saint of Catalonia, in his fight against
the dragon. It is important to remember that the
school of modernism was heavily influenced
and fascinated by medieval ideas. In medieval
legends the dragon isn't a fearsome monster;
rather, the creature is seen as representing passion, strength and wisdom.
Gaudí also saved enough imaginative spirit to
create an equally original interior design. It is
almost impossible to find a single, straight line
or corner in the entire house. This fact produced a rather interesting anecdote in its time. As
the story goes, Mrs. Batlló expressed some
concern during the construction process because the design didn't seem to provide enough
space for her daughter's grand piano. Gaudí
didn't pay much heed to her concern until he
finished the house and realised that she had
been right all along. The piano didn't fit. Gaudí,
ever resourceful, told Mrs. Batlló that her
daughter should forget about the piano and instead take up the violin.
Up towards the Avenida Diagonal
A little further up the avenue, on the opposite
side of the street from the Casa Batlló, you
encounter another must-see landmark. In this
case, the landmark in question is neither a
museum nor a monument. It is a store called
Vinçon, located at Passeig de Gràcia, 96. This
store represents the kind of modern design that
has made Barcelona famous, and you can find
just about anything here, including office and
household items, rare and valuable furniture
and industrial design pieces. The apartment
located above the store is an additional attraction; this was where Ramon Casas, one of
Spain's most important modernist painters,
once lived. The studio has been maintained
almost untouched since Casas worked here,
and the pretty interior patio allows visitors a
glimpse into what daily life is like in the
Eixample today.
Another of the city's landmark, modernist buildings, the Casa Milà, is located just a short distance ahead. Many consider this house to be
one of Gaudí's crowning achievements. The
building is officially known by the original
owners' surname, but locals didn't hesitate to
christen it with a more colloquial pet name: La
Pedrera. The nickname is derived from the
building's impressive stone facade (piedra is
Spanish for stone) which, despite being difficult to imagine today, was the subject of mockery and criticism in its day. Not even the building's first owner, Mrs. Milà, was all that content with the design, and when Gaudí died she
changed the entire interior decor, opting for a
far more classical look a la Louis XVI.
Despite resistance and criticism, Gaudí never
wavered in his decision to use La Pedrera as his
first experiment with the concept of "free surf
ce area". This revolutionary concept did away
with the master wall and instead used pillars
and partition walls as support structures. As a
result, the tenant could change the arrangement
of the rooms at free will and as often as desired.
This was the premise for one of the most radically innovative and abstract works of architectural sculpture, which is all the more impressive for not once using a straight line.
Visitors can freely explore the entire interior as
well as head up to the roof and wander amongst
the peculiar chimneys. The Pedrera was the
point of departure for three of the artist's most
important, emblematic projects (the Casa
Batlló, the Sagrada Familia and the Park
Güell), which makes it an excellent place for
gaining insight into Gaudí's unique artistic
vision. During the summer, the terrace is also
open in the evenings and offers a programme of
jazz and flamenco concerts. The building's
interior is open all year, and the rooms belonging to the Cultural Centre Caixa Catalunya
often host temporary exhibitions. A visit to the
centre includes access to the attic, which contains an exhibition of illustrations about the
architect's work.
The route continues until Avenida Diagonal,
where you come to the Palau Robert, one of
the few remaining, urban palaces. It is now the
Information Centre of Catalonia. The Tourism
Office provides information on routes, transport and points of interest throughout the four,
Catalan provinces. Every six months, the palace organises a topical exhibition as well as
workshops and multimedia presentations about
different cultural subjects.
THE RAMBLA CATALUNYA
The Rambla Catalunya has never enjoyed the
same level of fame as the Passeig de Gràcia,
but it follows almost the same trajectory and
exhibits a similar elegance. Before the
Eixample was developed, the stretch now covered by the Rambla Catalunya was little more
than a small stream. When the Passeig de
Gràcia ran out of space, the wealthy families
began building their mansions along the neighbouring avenue. The construction criteria,
however, were more lax along the Rambla
Catalunya, which resulted in taller and more
dissimilar buildings. The lack of a defining
architectural style caused the avenue to lose
much of its potential charm and beauty.
Nonetheless, it is still a very pleasant place for
a stroll as well as offering a wide selection of
bars, street cafés, clothing stores (often selling
exclusive designer brands) and other lovely,
noble buildings. This is also the route that connects the Rambla with Avenida Diagonal,
starting at Plaça Catalunya. In fact, they are
almost like two sides of the same coin but with
almost exactly opposite personalities. The two
promenades offer an excellent look at two very
different worlds within the same city.
An interesting building can be found at number
33. This is the Casa Rodolf Juncadella, designed by Enric Sagnier, one of the architects
popular amongst the Barcelona aristocracy in
the 19th century. The architect was also a
tenant of this area; his studio was located at
Rambla Catalunya number 104. The small passage between the streets Provença and
Mallorca, the Passatge Mercader, still features
a few English-style houses along its length as
well as the fascinating Museum of Medicine.
The museum takes a look at this science and its
disciplines from the 18th century onwards and
displays material and furniture from that era as
well as a 19th century laboratory.
Further ahead, at the intersection with Carrer
Rosselló, is the Santa Maria de Montsió
Church. The church also has an interesting
anecdote to tell. Originally, it was located in the
old city centre. However, the aristocrats felt
that they needed a place of worship closer to
home so they moved the church to its new location piece by piece.
THE SURROUNDING STREETS
The streets that intersect Passeig de Gràcia and
Rambla Catalunya also contain their share of
elegant surprises. Carrer València number 284,
for example, is where you can find the
Egyptian Museum of Barcelona, right in front
of the Hotel Majestic. This museum is home to
one of the most important private collections
worldwide, which acquires several new pieces
every year. The owner gladly shares his histori-
cal treasure with the public, and the museum
even organises nocturnal tours complete with
theatrical performances to bring you closer to
the time of the pharaohs. This specialised tour
requires a prior reservation (Tel. 93 488 01 88).
law profession. However, if you don't call
attention to the fact that you are a tourist, you
can easily slip inside and take a look at the central patio and, if you are a lucky, peek into the
library.
Carrer Mallorca also contains some important
buildings. It is rather common in Barcelona
that urban palaces not used as museums have
been taken over by official institutions. This is
the case of the Palau Ramon Muntaner, located at number 278 and designed by Lluís
Doménech i Montaner. Nowadays, it houses
the Catalan government's delegation. The interior decor still preserves much of the classic, by
now invaluable furniture as well as sculptures
by artists such as Eusebi Arnau. Arnau collaborated quite frequently with the architect
Doménech i Montaner. One of their most
famous joint efforts is the modernist complex
at the Sant Pau Hospital.
The Casa Thomas, another building by
Domènech i Montaner, is located at Carrer
Mallorca, 293. In addition to the building's
architectural value, one of the most important
stores specialising in avant-garde design, B.D.
Ediciones de Diseño, is located on the bottom
floor. The store is the only place, for example,
to market and sell designs by Salvador Dalí.
Another example of an urban palace is the
Palau Casades, located at Carrer Mallorca,
283. The building is now used by the Colegio
de Abogados, the local Bar Association, and
generally access is reserved for people in the
Carrer Aragó is another important avenue and
site of the Antoni Tàpies Foundation. The foundation was inaugurated in 1990 and is located
inside a building once used by the old publishing house Montaner i Simó, designed, yet
again, by Doménech i Montaner. The foundation is the perfect place to explore the Catalan
artist's work as well as take advantage of the
temporary exhibitions, symposiums, conferences, film screenings and other cultural events
organised here on a regular basis. The building
is impossible to miss - its striking appearance is
La Pedrera - Centre Cultural Caixa Catalunya
Provença, 261-265
Tel. 902 400 973
www.caixacatalunya.es
Timetable: Monday-Sunday, 10am-8pm
Tickets: Espai Gaudí and Piso de la Pedrera 7 €. Temporary Exhibitions - free admission.
Underground: Diagonal (L3 and L5)
Museu Egipci de Barcelona (Egyptian Museum of Barcelona)
Valencia, 284
Tel. +34 93 488 01 88
www.fundclos.com
Timetable: Monday-Saturday, 10am-8pm. Sundays, 10am-2pm.
Tickets: General admission 5,50 €
Underground: Passeig de Gràcia (L2, L3 and L4)
Palau Robert
Passeig de Gràcia, 107
Tel. +34 93 238 80 91
www.gencat.net/probert
Timetable: Monday-Saturday, 10am-7pm. Sundays and holidays, 10am-2:30pm.
Underground: Diagonal (L3 and L5)
Fundació Antoni Tàpies
Aragó, 255
Tel. +34 93 487 03 15
www.fundaciotapies.org
Timetable: Tuesday-Sunday, 10am-8pm. Closed on Mondays.
Underground: Passeig de Gràcia (L2, L3 and L4)
owed in large part to the original sculptural
piece Nube y Silla (Cloud and Chair) located
high on the building's facade.
1 Casa Pons i Pascual
2 Museu Egipci
3 Casa Lleó Morera
4 Casa Amatller
5 Casa Batlló
6 Casa Milà (Pedrera)
7 Vinçon
8 Palau Robert (Oficina Turisme
de Catalunya)
Route 03
A tours of the streets and squares og Gràcia
A tours of the streets and squares of Gràcia
The Gràcia neighbourhood has always been a
little world onto its own, marked by centuries
of charm and a very independent spirit. In fact,
during the 19th century Gràcia wasn't part of
Barcelona at all; rather, it was a small village
nestled into the hills outside the city walls. It
wasn't until the walls were torn down that
Gràcia became a Barcelona neighbourhood,
embraced by the expanding growth of the city.
The neighbourhood is clearly demarcated by
streets such as Avenida Diagonal, Vía Augusta,
Príncip d'Astúries, Travessera de Dalt,
Sardenya, Pi i Maragall, Córcega and Bailén.
However, despite being so clearly defined, the
neighbourhood is actually larger than you
might think. It can be divided into two sections, each one very different in appearance and
atmosphere. One area resembles the Eixample,
following the famous grid-like pattern designed
by Ildefons Cerdà. The other is what remains of
the traditional, old village that Gràcia once
was. It is this latter section that we will explore
on our walk through the neighbourhood.
Gràcia has a very special and unique character
that lies somewhere between a bohemian artsy
enclave and the latest, cutting-edge trends.
This is largely the result of local efforts, which
have turned Gràcia into a popular spot for both
nocturnal and daytime leisure activities. The
month of August, for example, sees people
from throughout the city flock to Gràcia to partake in the cheerful madness of the Fiestas de
Gràcia, a week-long street celebration complete with outdoor stages, live acts, creatively
adorned streets and a lot of good eating and
drinking. Gràcia also maintains the political
and social spirit that has coloured the area for
centuries and is often the site of demonstrations, marches and gatherings. The neighbourhood's thoroughly individual character permeates the atmosphere and a leisurely stroll
through its many little streets and squares gives
you an invaluable look into this charming, unique place.
The two underground stations that flank the
neighbourhood are Fontana (L3) on Gran de
Gràcia Street and Joanic (L4) on Plaza Joanic.
We will set out from the latter square, which
isn't of any particular historical or architectural
interest but offers a very practical way of launching an exploration of the neighbourhood.
One interesting detail to note is that the square
is dedicated to the Catalan writer and politician
Francesc Pi i Maragall, who served as president
under the first Spanish Republic. The square
itself is constantly undergoing urban improvements, including a now completed underground parking garage topped by a small park
with swings for children and ping pong tables
for older playful spirits.
Heading up Torrent de les Flors, you reach the
Plaza Rovira i Trias, an excellent place from
which to explore the many little streets that
lead deep into the neighbourhood. At first glance it looks like just about any ordinary square,
but it does hold one detail of special interest.
The square is surrounded by a number of stone
benches, one of which might catch your eye.
Seated on the bench, as if resting, is the lifesize, iron sculpture of a man. This "eternal citizen" is no other than the square's namesake, the
Catalan architect Antoni Rovira i Trias, who
loved strolling through these streets during his
lifetime.
If you head up Carrer Torrijos, you will see the
Plaza de la Virreina up ahead. After crossing
Carrer l'Or, you find yourself in front of the
square's famous landmark, a church dating
back to 1878. This simple yet lovely parish
church takes up the upper end of the square.
You can wander inside and take a look at the
altar, the church's most distinguishing element.
There are two little streets on either side of the
church; the one to the left leads past a curious
element embedded into the side of the building
- a small plaque dedicated to the memory of
Joaquín Blume. The gymnast, who died in a
fateful accident at the height of his career, was
originally from this neighbourhood.
Since the square is located in the centre of the
neighbourhood, it is usually full of people and
buzzing with a lively and vibrant atmosphere.
If you are here on a Sunday morning, you will
more than likely find yourself at an arts and
crafts fair, comprised of many, individual stalls
selling many interesting, second hand goods
and, as is to be expected, many local, handmade crafts.
Thanks to its central location and lively atmosphere, Plaça de la Virreina is definitely one of
the neighbourhood's most important squares. It
was renovated in 1999, a process that included
the planting of many different species of trees,
an element that has done much to improve the
appearance of the square. Another element to
benefit from the renovation was the fountain,
which still bears the village's old coat of arms.
Another traditional fountain graces the Plaça
del Nord, which can be reached by heading
north on Carrer Alzina or Carrer Ventallat. This
square was developed in 1851, when Gràcia
was still an independent village. The fountain
hasn't changed in almost 100 years; if you look
closely you can still see the ancient village's
coat of arms, a lyre encircled by two laurel
branches, much like on the fountain in Plaça
Virreina.
The square is also home to a cultural organisation, Els Lluïsos de Gràcia, which has operated
in the neighbourhood for a long time. Take a
step back and look up at the organisation's building, and you will notice that it has a peculiar
sun dial embedded into the facade.
As you wander towards Carrer Gran de Gràcia,
you come to the Plaça del Diamant. The square shares its name with a marvellous novel by
Catalan author Mercè Rodoreda, which has
been adapted to film, stage and television.
Therefore, the Plaça del Diamant is much more
than simply a square; the name has embedded
itself into the collective imagination of the city.
The novel tells the story of La Colometa, the
irresistibly likeable protagonist, and is set in
post-war Barcelona. La Colometa was immortalised in a sculptural piece by the artist Xavier
Medina-Campeny, which now adorns the square.
Cajal and head over to Plaça del Sol. This classic square is lined with a variety of restaurants
and bars and is a popular gathering spot on
summer evenings. Another interesting detail is
the statue named Astrolabi, a piece by Joaquim
Camps, which adorns one side of the square.
After crossing Travessera de Gràcia, the street
immediately below the square, you can take
any of the little cross-streets down to the Plaça
Rius i Taulet, the neighbourhood's administrative centre.
ations abound in the area. One of the most interesting is Modart, on Carrer Astúries, where
even the display windows are works of art.
Verdi also has an excellent variety of shops as
well as restaurants, cafes and a cinema famous
for offering some of the most interesting, alternative programming in Barcelona. Strolling
down Verdi, after crossing the streets Perla and
Vallfogona, brings you to the Plaça de la
Revolució de Setembre de 1868.
Walking around the square, you are likely to
notice some letters engraved into the ground.
In the centre of the square stands one of
Gràcia's famous landmarks: the clock tower,
also known as the Gràcia bell tower. The tower
was built by the architect Antoni Rovira i Trias
and is crowned by a clock with four faces,
designed so that it could be seen from every
corner of the old village. If you stand in front of
the city hall and face the tower, you will notice
an entrance. This entrance grants you access to
the spiral staircase, which winds all the way up
to the clock's mechanism. Albert Billeter, a
Swiss-born clockmaker, not only constructed
this mechanism but was also responsible for
introducing Spain to the electrical clock in
general.
The square also recalls one of the most cheer-
A quaint little network of streets spreads out
from here and continues along Carrer Astúries
to the left and down Carrer Verdi to the right.
Retail business along these little streets has witnessed a renaissance in recent years. Young
designers have found a special niche here, and
stores selling an original selection of their creSince the individual letters are set rather far
apart, you might dismiss them as mere decoration. They do, however, fit together to spell a
word - starting in the right corner and reading
from north to south they form the word "revolució" (revolution in Catalan). This might seem
a tad peculiar until you discover that Gràcia is
famous for having a political and revolutionary
spirit. However, an air of protest doesn't really
linger in the square anymore; instead, it is a
pretty place with lots of cafes and restaurants
with outdoor terraces and a small playground
for children.
After enjoying a break on Plaça de la
Revolució, take a right on Carrer Ramon i
ful events to take place in the neighbourhood. A
plaque pays tribute to a special human tower
that the "Castellers" (one of the great and still
vibrantly alive Catalan traditions) built right
next to the clock tower.
The next stop on our walk takes you into an
entirely different world. If you take Carrer
Torrent de l'Olla to Carrer Siracusa and then
turn left, you will find yourself next to two little squares set only a few metres apart. The
Plaça del Poble Romaní and the Plaça del
Raspall are home to the neighbourhood's
Roma (otherwise referred to as Gypsy) population, who have found in these squares a place in
which to celebrate their unique culture. Many
mistakenly believe that the rumba, a flamencostyle dance, is an Andalusian invention. In fact,
it was born right here, in Catalonia, and one of
its first and truest masters was Gato-Pérez. A
small plaque mounted on a wall in the square
remembers this musical master and his contributions.
The walk comes to an end with a moment of
tranquillity in one of the area's modern squares
named after singer John Lennon. This quiet,
serene spot is just around the corner from the
market along Travessera de Gràcia and was
inaugurated in 1993 in order to connect the
streets Puigmartí, Quevedo and Milà i
Fontanals.
However, there is one street that has to be
included in the walk, a street without which any
visit to Gràcia would be incomplete. This is
Gran de Gràcia, the neighbourhood's main street. As is to be expected of a main street, it is a
busy, lively mix of elegant houses and the buzz
of activity filling its many shops, restaurants
and cafés. If you head straight down this street,
you will reach the Avenida Diagonal, which
cuts across and divides Gran de Gràcia and the
Passeig de Gràcia. However, don't lose your
exploring spirit now, because there are still two
treats awaiting you before you leave the area.
Gran de Gràcia widens before reaching
Diagonal, and this open, spacious stretch is
lined with trees and has a pretty, green "island"
along its centre known as Jardinets de Gràcia.
Besides lovely green lawns and shade-giving
trees, the gardens are also distinguished by two
statues at either end. The area looks so quiet
and peaceful that it is hard to believe that it is
most famous for its dissenting spirit.
Throughout history it has been a gathering spot
for many politically motivated protests and
meetings. And even today, its lush peaceful
atmosphere often gives way to groups who use
the space to express their ideas and grievances.
At the upper end of the gardens, right at the
corner with Gran de Gràcia, lies the Hotel
Casa Fuster, the only hotel in Spain to be
designated a five-star, deluxe Grand Hotel and
historical monument. The building is a spectacularly beautiful creation by modernist architect Lluís Doménech i Montaner and houses
one of the most elegant and unique cafés in the
city. If you cannot resist the plush surroundings
and head in for something to drink be prepared
to pay five-star prices! A coffee with milk, for
example, costs 6 €.
When you reach the intersection of Avenida
Diagonal with Gran de Gràcia you might notice another, somewhat peculiar place. This point
of intersection is known as the Cinc d'Oros
(roughly translated as the five of gold). The
name is derived from the fact that the square's
design bears a remarkable resemblance to the
five of gold card in the Spanish-style card deck.
The centre of the square is dominated by a
giant obelisk (popularly known as the pencil
due to its slender shape), surrounded by four,
enormous streetlamps at each corner.
The square has undergone an uncountable
number of renovations and restructuring and
currently serves as an important intersection.
An endless stream of cars, buses, pedestrians
and bicycles circulate around the obelisk as
they head into all directions of the city. The
square itself isn't really worth a special visit in
and of itself, but you will definitely come
across it during your exploration of the city.
Therefore, it might be interesting to know the
aforementioned details about its peculiar architectural design.
Once you are on Avenida Diagonal, facing the
sea, you can turn right and head up to Plaça
Francesc Macià, another crucial intersection.
Taking a left turn, on the other hand, leads you
further into the Eixample, where you can continue your exploration of the city with several
other interesting routes, such as the one along
the Passeig de Sant Joan. Not far from here,
you can visit another monument that you
should definitely include on your itinerary: the
Casa de les Punxes (Avda Diagonal, 416).
Also known as Casa Terrades it is one of the
most fascinating buildings designed by the
architect Josep Puig i Cadafalch. Although the
architect belonged to the modernist school, the
building in question is an unusual and rather
peculiar blend between medieval and Nordic
styles. The building gained its current nickname from the towers that rise up above the roof
and end in sharp points (punxes in Catalan).
Unfortunately you cannot visit the inside since
the building is a private property, but the chance to admire the facade up close is well worth
the visit.
1 Casa Punxes
2 Casa Fuster
3 Cinc D’Oros
4 Plaça de Gato Pérez
5 Plaça del Raspall
6 Plaça del Poble Romaní
7 Plaça Rius i Taulet
8 Plaça del Sol
9 Plaça de John Lennon
10 Plaça de la Revolució
11 Plaça del Diamant
12 Plaça de la Virreina
13 Plaça Joanic
14 Plaça Rovira
Route 04
A stroll down the Rambla
A stroll down the Rambla
The best place to begin your walk down the
Rambla is Plaça Catalunya, the very centre of
the city. The first section of the promenade,
known as the Rambla de Canaletes, begins
here. This stretch gets its name from the fountain located at the top right of the avenue. The
fountain has become so popular over the years
that it is considered one of the city's symbolic
landmarks. Many visitors who are familiar with
the fountain's reputation might be a little disappointed when they first see the real thing.
However, despite its perhaps modest appearance, the fountain's fame is justified by its interesting history. The fountain was originally a
water trough and already stood here when
Barcelona was still surrounded by the ancient
city wall. When the trough was turned into the
fountain we know today, a legend arose that
whoever drank from it would be destined to
always return to the city. The fountain has
grown into a popular meeting place over the
years, both for tourists and locals alike.
Another group that has made the fountain part
of their tradition are the Barça football club
fans. After their team wins a match, the fans
gather at the fountain to give credence to their
motto, which states that "the Barça is more than
just a club".
As you stroll along the Rambla, you will notice
several, perfectly placed iron chairs. They are a
wonderful place to sit down and take a quick
break during your walk but make sure to keep
an eye on your belongings. The Rambla is rife
with pickpockets who will more than gladly
take advantage of your rest to abscond with
some of your valuables. However, this can
easily be prevented by simply being aware of
your surroundings as you take in all that this
famous promenade has to offer.
As you head down this stretch of the Rambla,
you will notice a variety of peculiar establishments, mostly dedicated to the omnipresent
souvenirs, as well as some stores specialising
in antique musical instruments. The first street
to your right is Carrer Tallers, where you can
find one of the city's classic cocktail bars, the
Coctelería Boadas. This was the first place in
Barcelona to serve mixed drinks and cocktails,
and the bar has maintained much of its traditional character and charm. The bar is also famous
for being a popular watering hole for show
business personalities, a fact that has done
much to add to its fame. The many, little streets
branching off the Rambla lead to other shopping areas (remember that the Gothic Quarter is
to the left of the Rambla and the Raval is to the
right), but those are covered in other walks and
right now we want to keep heading straight.
The next stretch of the promenade is known as
the Rambla dels Estudis (roughly translated to
mean the Rambla of Studies). The name has little bearing on the promenade's character nowadays, but in the 15th century it was the site of
the city's first university. The university was
torn down in the 19th century but the name
remains. This section also has a popular nickname, Rambla dels Ocells (ocell is the Catalan
word for bird), derived from the many stalls
selling all kinds of birds and fowl along this
section.
One of the first points of interest that you will
come across is the Poliorama Theatre. The the-
atre itself is modern and was recently renovated
by the architectural team Bohigas, Martorell
and Mackay who also designed the Olympic
Village. However, the theatre takes up the bottom floor of a much older building, the
Academy of the Sciences and Arts, built in
1883. After crossing Carrer Pintor Fortuny, you
will see the Betlem (Bethlehem) Church to
your right, on the corner with Carrer Carme.
The church is a first-class example of
Catalonia's Gothic architectural style, characterised by one, spacious nave in the interior.
Unfortunately a fire in 1936 destroyed much of
the church's original beauty, but you should
still take a moment to step inside. The church
often hosts temporary exhibitions, which
means that more often than not a pleasant surprise could be awaiting you inside.
A few metres further down, you will find a
rather different kind of cultural institution - the
unusual Museu de l'Eròtica (Museum of
Eroticism). The museum is the first of its kind,
a centre entirely dedicated to the cultural
expression and perception of eroticism, depicted through the use of different artistic and cultural forms. The museum focuses on a diverse
array of disciplines such as anthropology,
archaeology, literature, art, history and antiques. The exhibition also includes more than
800 pieces that provide a look at how different
cultures approach the subject of eroticism. For
example, the Indonesian cult of the phallus,
how the Kamasutra has influenced Hindu art
and the chastity belts popular during the
Victorian era. The museum also organises exhibitions of erotic art by internationally renowned, contemporary artists.
As you continue your stroll down the Rambla,
you now reach what many consider the promenade's most special stretch - the Rambla de les
Flors also known as the Rambla de Sant Josep.
This section has a permanently romantic air
about it. During the 19th century it was the only
place selling flowers in all of Barcelona, and
even today it is one of the places selling more
flowers per square metre worldwide. A popular
anecdote adds much to the area's romantic
reputation. During the 19th century, the flower
stalls often turned into improvised, spontaneous gathering spots for the city's intellectuals.
Here they would exchange ideas amidst the
many, colourful floral arrangements. According
to one local legend, the impressionist painter
Ramon Casas met the woman who would later
be his wife at one of these gatherings.
chapter entitled Markets). This is the city's
most famous market and truly a world onto its
own. You should definitely make a detour into
the market and admire its beautiful iron and
glass architecture as well as soak in its unique,
one-of-a-kind atmosphere.
The Rambla de les Flors comes to an end at
one of the area's most unique buildings: the
Casa Bruno Quadros. The building is also
known as the House of Umbrellas. The building's owner became a millionaire selling this particular accessory and several umbrellas decorate the facade. The building is whimsical, some-
might want to take a little detour down Nou de
la Rambla. This little street is home to the Palau
Güell, which is one of the first buildings Antoni
Gaudí designed for his friend and patron
Eusebi Güell. The building was completed in
1889 and is easily recognisable by its spectacular facade of white stone, adorned with the prerequisite modernist details. The facade, however, isn't the only stellar feature. Step inside and
take a moment to admire the immense marble
staircase that leads all the way up to the top
floor and is crowned by an elegant cupola.
Now you only have a little ways left to go. The
One of the Rambla's other claims to fame is the
vast variety of street performers lining the promenade. Whether with musical, dance or clown
performances or as human statues, these artists
do much to add a modern splash of colour to
the atmosphere. The human statues represent
what eccentric and very original. The corner
looking out onto the Rambla is adorned with a
Chinese dragon that keeps a menacing watch
over the entire promenade.
an imaginative, ever-changing cast of characters, including Che Guevara, Humphrey
Bogart, Cleopatra as well as more generic types
like floral arrangements, cowboys, angels,
devils and surrealist paintings, and they can
remain immobile for hours. If you want to see
them move, you will have to provide them with
a financial contribution towards their art.
The Palau de la Virreina is located on your
right, just a few metres further down the
Rambla. This palace was built by Manual Amat
i Junyent, Viceroy of Peru, as a gift to his wife,
who the building is named after. The identity of
the actual architect remains a mystery, but one
thing is certain - the palace possesses a refined,
grand elegance. Nowadays, it is used for gatherings, exhibitions and conferences. A few steps
further down, the telltale scents wafting
towards you and the busy crowds heading to
and fro announce the presence of another landmark: the Boqueria Market (please see our
The beginning of the Rambla dels Caputxins
is unmistakable; it is marked by an authentic,
open-air art piece. Keep your eyes on the
ground, and you will notice the enormous
mosaic, a piece by Joan Miró, covering most of
the Rambla's midsection. When you reach this
point take a look to your right. The building
that stands here is a temple for all opera lovers
- the Gran Teatre del Liceu. The building was
completely and accurately reconstructed after
being severely damaged by a fire in 1994. For
many years, this was an exclusive gathering
spot for the bourgeoisie's most refined members. Nowadays, holding a season pass to the
Liceu is still a rather distinguished affair;
however, times have changed and the opera is
no longer the elitist art it was in the 19th century. Many different kinds of people flock to
the Liceu to enjoy an opera or one of the many
other types of performances organised at the
theatre. The café immediately in front of the
Liceu is appropriately named the Café de
l'Opera and used to be a popular gathering spot
for intellectuals. Today it still attracts the postopera crowd as well as many tourists attracted
by the café's illustrious past.
As you head further down the Rambla, you
Rambla segue ways into its last stretch, the
Rambla de Santa Mónica. The right side features another of the city's premium theatres, the
Teatre Principal. The building was originally
built in the 16th century as a charitable institution. However, yet again a fire destroyed much
of the building's original structure, and it was
rebuilt and renovated several times. Currently,
its facade is adorned with the busts of several
famous actors and actresses from the past.
On the left side of the Rambla is yet another of
the city's curiosities: the Museu de la Cera
(Wax Museum). The museum has 350 famous,
immobile tenants. Some of the individuals
immortalised in wax are real-life celebrities;
the others are classic, fictional characters.
Children will definitely enjoy visiting some of
their story-book favourites like Pinocchio,
Cinderella, Batman and Sleeping Beauty.
Adults are not excluded from the fun either and
can marvel at the accurate reproduction of historical figures, Hollywood stars and legendary
characters from classic, horror films. The
museum offers a variety of different activities,
the most fun being the personalised, nocturnal
tours. These tours are especially designed for
groups who wish to surprise one of their members, such as birthday, hen and stag parties. The
tour is led by an actor, who is well-equipped
with all sorts of information about the person
who is to be surprised. The guide then gradually weaves this information into the content
of the tour, relating the subject with as many of
the museum's personalities as possible.
The museum is just around the corner from one
of Barcelona's most unique and charming cafés
- El Bosc de les Fades (the Fairy Forest). The
café's interior resembles an enchanted forest,
complete with magical castles and gnome huts
hidden between trees and small springs of
water. The café is made up of several, separate
spaces, each one recreating a different environment. One resembles an old saloon from the
frontier days of the Wild West. Another space,
known as the Room of Wonders, invites guests
to sit back and allow their imagination to take
flight. This is the perfect café for taking a break
and escaping into a completely unique and fantastical world.
After passing a street called Arc del Teatre, vestibule to the city's red-light district, you come
to the Santa Mónica Art Centre, located next to
a church of the same name. The centre hosts a
variety of exhibitions and events and little
about the building recalls its past as a convent.
The end of the Rambla still holds a surprise in
store - a reward for the enthusiastic explorer.
The Drassanes building originates from the
Middle Age and is the largest of its kind to still
exist intact. It is also the most important example in Barcelona of a civil building designed in
the Gothic style. The building underwent a precise and careful renovation and is now open to
the public. The Maritime Museum is also located in one section of this building. The end of
the Rambla is marked by a famous monument,
a tribute to the explorer Christopher Columbus.
The monument commemorates Columbus' presentation of his first American voyage to the
Catholic Monarchs, an event that took place in
Barcelona. The tall, iron column with a statue
of Columbus on top has become one of
Barcelona's symbolic landmarks. Something
fewer people know is that there is an elevator
inside the column that takes visitors up to the
top. It is definitely a ride worth taking since the
top offers a lovely panoramic view of the city.
The Columbus monument faces the sea and the
port where the Golondrinas still dock, just as
they have for centuries. They are typical fishing
boats that are now mainly used as a tourist
attraction. They offer tours along the city's
coastline all the way to the new Forum
grounds. The same tours are also offered by
modern catamarans, but they can't hold a candle to the charm of the traditional Golondrinas.
If you aren't up for a boat ride, you can instead
opt for a visit to the piece of land that
Barcelona took back from the sea in 1992. To
access this area, cross over the Rambla de
Mar, a wooden footbridge held up by an iron
support structure that adds a modern twist to
the classic idea of the promenade. The Rambla
de Mar ends at the Moll d'Espanya, site of the
Maremagnum shopping centre, the IMAX theatre and the Barcelona aquarium.
Museu Marítim (Maritime Museum)
Avda de les Drassanes, s/n
Tel. +34 93 342 99 20
Timetable: Monday-Sunday, 10am-7pm.
Tickets: 5,40 €. Free admission every first Saturday afternoon of the month.
Underground: Drassanes (L3)
www.diba.es/mmaritim
Museu de Cera (Wax Museum)
Passatge de la Banca, 7
Tel. +34 93 317 26 49
Timetable: 10am-1:30pm and 4pm-7:30pm. Saturdays, Sundays and holidays: 11am-2pm and 4:30pm-8:30pm.
Tickets: 6,65 €, general admission.
Underground: Drassanes (L3), Liceu (L3)
www.museocerabcn.com
Museu de l'Eròtica (Museum of Eroticism)
La Rambla, 96, bis
Tel. +34 93 318 98 65
Timetable: Monday-Sunday: 11am-10pm.
Tickets: 7,50 € general admission
Underground: Catalunya (L1 and L3), Liceu (L3)
www.erotica-museum.com
1 Monument a Francesc Macià
2 Font de Canaletes
3 Teatre Poliorama
4 Carrer Portaferrisa
5 Palau de la Virreina
6 Mercat de la Boqueria
7 Casa dels Paraigues
8 Plaça Reial
9 Liceu
10 Museu Marítim de Barcelona
11 Monument a Colom
Route 05
The seafront neighbourhoods
Barceloneta and the Olympic Village (Vila Olímpica)
No one questions the fact that Barcelona is a
Mediterranean city. For many years, however,
the local population seemed to forget its coastline, letting what is now considered one of the
city's most attractive features fall into a state of
disrepair. The four kilometre-long beaches,
divided into sections named Sant Sebastià, La
Barceloneta, Nova Icària, Bogatell, Mar Bella
and Nova Mar Bella, are the result of a rather
recent effort. The sandy beaches with their
beach bars (chiringuitos) and wide promenade
now attract 7 million visitors every year, quite
a record for an area that was once little more
than an industrial wasteland.
The beaches were rehabilitated and cleaned up
as part of the city's preparations for the 1992
Olympic Games, which gave Barcelona's coastline a much needed face-lift. This effort turned
what was once a half-forgotten, industrial
terrain dotted with decaying factories into a
long stretch of attractive beaches, equipped
with all necessary services. The area's rehabilitation was particularly beneficial to two neighbourhoods: La Barceloneta, once an old fishing
village, and Vila Olímpica (the Olympic
Village) which, as its name indicates, was constructed with the express purpose of serving as
an accommodation facility during the Olympic
Games.
LA BARCELONETA
La Barceloneta was largely uninhabited until
the mid-18th century. Its immediate proximity
to the sea attracted the first inhabitants, mostly
fishermen, who lived in precarious conditions.
The first houses were built in 1754. The construction process brought with it a significant
increase in population. Fishermen and people
working a variety of harbour jobs flocked to the
new settlement.
Nowadays, the neighbourhood still maintains
its unique character. La Barceloneta feels like a
different world, a village removed from the city
that surrounds it. However, the atmosphere
bears little resemblance to the fishing village of
years ago. It has become one of the city's liveliest areas, especially in the summer when the
beaches fill with people and the chiringuitos
(beach bars) and bars located on the sand open
for the season. These are the best hang-outs in
the summer, chilled-out places with music and
a fun-loving atmosphere where you can dine
and have drinks until late into the night.
However, the neighbourhood hasn't lost its
roots entirely - it has managed to blend this
modern facet with the age-old smell of salt and
the memories of its seafaring past. Many treasure the fact that a neighbourhood like this can
still survive and preserve its identity within a
city as modern as Barcelona. And it does seem
strange sometimes, the contrast between the
narrow, humid streets, blackened by years of
salt residue deposits, and the first-class, highend restaurants that line them and the luxurious
yachts docked in the marina.
The best point from which to start your exploration of this neighbourhood is the Barceloneta
(L4) underground station. If you prefer to skip
the walking tour, you can also opt for a ride in
the Golondrinas, the traditional fishing boats
that leave from the port in front of the
Columbus monument. However, the boat tour
will only provide you with an impression of the
area's coastline, and the most integral aspect of
the neighbourhood's charm lies in its maze of
tiny, narrow streets.
The walking tour begins at the Palau de Mar
building. If you want to know a little more
about the Catalan region, stop in at the
Catalonia History Museum, located inside
the Palau de Mar (Plaça Pau de la Vila, 3. Tel.
932 254 700). The museum houses a permanent
exhibition about Catalonia's history, starting
from prehistoric times and spanning the industrial period, the Franco era and the years leading up to Catalonia's democracy. If your time
travel has exhausted you, take a break in the
café, which has a lovely terrace overlooking the
neighbourhood and the marina. After a few
relaxing moments, you can continue your
exploration of the area by heading down the
Passeig Joan de Borbó.
One of the area's oldest structures is the Clock
Tower, located on the Moll dels Pescadors,
near the museum. Built in 1772, the tower served as the port's lighthouse until the mid-19th
century. When the port was restructured to
modernise its installations, the lighthouse was
no longer needed. However, due to its age and
historical relevance, the city preserved the
tower and turned it into a clock. The best time
to explore this particular area is in the late
afternoon or early evening. The fishing boats
return to the port around five o'clock, and La
Barceloneta, much like other fishing villages
along the coast, still practices the traditional
fish auction. This age-old event takes place
inside a building known as La Llotja. Gaining
access to the building and the auction might
prove challenging, but you shouldn't let yourself get discouraged. After all, nothing is lost
by trying!
The traditional section of the neighbourhood
now unfolds to your left in a quadrant of many,
tiny streets. As you wander through them, you
are still greeted by freshly washed laundry hanging outside windows, traditional shops, wine
cellars (bodegas), bars and some of the city's
best seafood restaurants. In fact, one of
Barcelona's most renowned restaurants, Can
Solé (Sant Carles, 4), is located here, serving
exquisite seafood for more than a hundred
slums. The slums were dismantled in the
1960s, but memories of that time still linger
throughout the neighbourhood.
them the opportunity to not only observe the
marine eco-system but also touch and investigate it.
The atmosphere changes radically once you
reach the beach. La Barceloneta is now a cosmopolitan neighbourhood, a fact manifested
most clearly during the summer months. La
Barceloneta is graced with one of the liveliest
and most popular beaches. While some people
bathe and work on their tans, others wander the
sand selling jewellery, cold drinks, snacks,
sarongs or offering services such as massages
and temporary tattoos. Then there are those
who like to turn up the volume and dance to
enticing Cuban beats or intrepid kite-flying
enthusiasts who don't seem to mind the masses
of people around them. Of course this means
that the beach is crowded, but the resulting
atmosphere is so cheerful and vibrant that you
will not want to miss out on the fun.
THE VILA OLÍMPICA (THE OLYMPIC
VILLAGE)
La Barceloneta faces the Port Vell, the section
of land that the city took back from the sea, and
which is also accessible using the footbridge at
the end of the Rambla. This modern stretch of
land surrounded by sea offers visitors a lot of
leisure options including a shopping centre,
restaurants, bars, nightclubs and two of the city's most fascinating venues: the IMAX cinema
and the Aquarium.
years.
La Barceloneta is also an excellent place for
traditional "tapas". One of the absolute classics
is la bomba, a potato dumpling filled with meat
and served with a spicy sauce or the traditional
all i oli (a dip made out of olive oil and garlic).
This is a treat worthy of its name and requires
a strong palate. This tapa is best accompanied
with a cold beer, either a caña (draft beer) or a
glass straight from the barrel, which is always
served ice cold.
Due to its long history, the neighbourhood is
also home to several interesting churches. One
church that definitely deserves a mention is the
Sant Miquel del Port Church, built in the
Baroque style and located on the Plaça de la
Barceloneta. Flamenco lovers should not miss
out on a visit to the fountain located close to
Carrer Sant Carles. The fountain was built as a
tribute to the flamenco dancer Carmen Amaya,
who was born in La Barceloneta when the
neighbourhood had a large Roma (also known
as Gypsy) population living in marginalised
The IMAX theatre (Moll d'Espanya, s/n. Tel.
932 251 111) is the city's most modern, cuttingedge cinema showing films in IMAX,
Omnimax and 3D. Visitors can experience a 3D
voyage into the human body or groove to the
beats of Carlinhos Brown played over the best
sound system imaginable. The Aquarium (Moll
d'Espanya, s/n. Tel. 932 217 474) is the largest
in Europe and allows visitors the chance to discover the widest variety of Mediterranean
marine life. The space consists of twenty enormous tanks and a long, transparent tunnel,
which allows visitors to walk amongst the
sharks. The most recently inaugurated section,
Explora, offers a series of interactive activities
aimed primarily at children. Explora gives
This is one of the most recently developed
neighbourhoods in the city, built expressly for
the 1992 Olympic Games. The village was
originally conceived as an accommodation
facility for the many athletes who came to participate in the Games. After the event had come
to its conclusion, the apartments were put up
for sale, and the area is now a residential community. The housing complex was designed by
the architectural team Martorell, Bohigas,
Mackay and Puigdomènech, who used the
opportunity to create a completely new kind of
neighbourhood.
In addition to housing complexes, the area also
includes two buildings that have become significant highlights along the city skyline as well
as modern Barcelona landmarks. The first is the
Hotel Arts, designed by the architects Bruce
Gram and Frank O. Gehry. The slim, silver and
blue skyscraper has 456 luxurious rooms overlooking the sea. The second building, located
immediately across from the hotel, is the
Mapfre Tower. Designed by Iñigo Ortiz and
Enrique de León, the building is used as office
space by a variety of companies and has a
shopping centre on the bottom floor. The two
skyscrapers both measure 153,5 metres, which
makes them the tallest buildings in Spain.
The square between the towers, Plaça dels
Voluntaris, is famous for its gigantic fountain.
If you head down from the square towards the
sea, you come across one of the area's most
characteristic sculptures - the Pez de Oro (Fish
of Gold). The sculpture, a piece by one of the
Hotel Arts' creators, architect Frank O. Gehry,
consists of many metal plates that change
colour depending on how the sunlight falls
upon them.
The neighbourhood is characterised by an even
balance between buildings and green zones. A
short walk takes you to the Atlanta Gardens,
most famous for the tall chimney that still
stands amidst the green and serves as a reminder of the area´s industrial past. The chimney
once belonged to the factory Can Folch and is
one of the oldest in Barcelona. For something
more contemporary, visit the fountain on
Carrer Salvador Espriu. This is a collaborative
piece by the sculptor Juan Bordas, a native of
the Canary Islands, and Oscar Tusquets. The
latter is one of the most internationally renowned Catalan architects who, in the past, has
collaborated with iconic artists the likes of
Salvador Dalí.
The parks along the Vila Olímpica are flanked
by the Ronda del Litoral, an important thoroughfare. The traffic is usually quite intense,
but crossing over the wide street is no cause for
distress. One of the most picturesque options is
the bridge in the Parc dels Ponts. The park has
a pretty lake, which is a very pleasant spot for
a short rest. After recuperating your exploring
spirit, you can end your walk at the Plaça de los
Campions (Champions Square). The square's
ground contains the 257 medals won during the
Olympic Games in 1992, and many athletes
mimicked the famous Hollywood tradition and
left their handprints in the concrete.
One area not to be forgotten is the Port
Olímpic or Olympic Port, without which the
Vila Olímpica would be incomplete. Many
yachts and smaller vessels dock at the marina
throughout the year, but the area has a lot more
to offer than pretty sailboats. The promenade
along the marina is dotted with bars, restaurants and nightclubs. The area is constantly
alive and busy with people milling about.
During the week it is a popular spot for business lunches. At the weekend, cycling enthusiasts take advantage of the quiet mornings to
ride along the promenade. A little later on, the
promenade turns into an arts and crafts market
where you can find a wide variety of handicrafts, trinkets and traditional products. At
night, the area is still buzzing with activity people having dinner or drinks at one of the
many bars and restaurants. Late-night revellers
come in for the late-shift and frequent one of
the many dance clubs. This has become such a
popular nocturnal playground at the weekend
that people who are not up for high-voltage
partying prefer other, quieter and less crowded
areas. Luckily, Barcelona can cater to just
about every preference when it comes to
having a fun night out.
INFORMACIÓN ÚTIL
Museu d'Història de Catalunya
Pl de Pau Vila, 3 - Palau de Mar
Tel. +34 93 225 47 00
www.mhcat.net
Horario: de martes a sábado de 10 a 19h. Miércoles hasta las 20h. Domingos y festivos de 10 a 14:30h. Cerrado los lunes no festivos.
Precio: 3 €. Entrada gratuita el primer domingo de cada mes
Metro: Barceloneta (L4)
1 Monument a Colom
2 Golondrinas
3 Aquarium
4 IMAX
5 Museu d’Història de Catalunya
6 Torre del Rellotge
Route 06
La Ribera, the Born and the Raval
All that is fashionable and chic
Sometimes all that is old and traditional can
woo all that is fashionable and chic. In
Barcelona, these kinds of May-December
unions aren't all that uncommon, at least as far
as neighbourhoods are concerned. La Ribera,
the Born and the Raval exemplify this trend.
These three neighbourhoods are quite different
from one another, and yet they share one thing
in common - they have turned into a Mecca for
people who worship everything that is modern,
hip and fashionable. Take some time to browse
the boutiques, lounge over coffee or dine at one
of the eclectic restaurants - this is where the hip
people come to play. The time of day makes no
difference, there is always something happening here.
During the daytime, you can browse the shops
for the latest fashion, designer furniture, oneof-a-kind jewellery, original art pieces or antiques. Nightfall ushers in the cocktail hour, and
the minimalist restaurants and hip bars open
their doors. These places don't enforce a door
policy because there is no cover charge, but
you will probably feel more comfortable knowing a few tips about the scene. One thing is
certain - originality and individuality are the
order of the day. Wardrobe preferences include
expensive, designer brands but not your garden
variety - the more international, unusual and
unknown the brand, the better. The crowd
spans various generations (anywhere between
25 and 50) and is made up of bohemians, tourists, locals, and wannabe intellectuals. Of
course, everything here is a bit of a game, and
the most important playing cards are image and
attitude.
Barcelona lacked an area like this for years:
modern, cultural, extravagant, a little exaggerated but fun, multicultural and decidedly trendy.
Now that the city has three such areas, they
draw in the coolest crowds and boast a selection of the most happening, "in" places - and
everyone wants to join the fun. However,
trendy nightlife and designer shopping isn't all
that can be found in these ancient areas. The
neighbourhoods are also rich in history; they
are places where every stone has a story to tell
and landmark buildings can be found at almost
every corner.
The first order of business is to get out a map
and locate the neighbourhoods. La Ribera,
which in reality includes the Born, lies to the
left of Vìa Laietana and extends down to the
sea and eastward to the Ciutadela Park. The
Raval, on the other hand, lies to the right of the
Rambla when facing the sea. You can take any
of the streets leading off the Rambla to the right
(Tallers, Carme, Hospital) to start your exploration of the Raval.
LA RIBERA AND THE BORN
La Ribera grew up around the ancient Santa
Maria de les Arenes Church (the predecessor to
the current Santa Maria del Mar Church) hundreds of years ago. Originally, the neighbour-
hood was a commercial area, home to many
merchants and artisans who were drawn to the
city by the economic expansion Catalonia enjoyed under the rule of Jaume I. The neighbourhood experienced both prosperous and difficult
times over the centuries, reflecting the changing fortunes of the city.
Nowadays, the Gothic Quarter and La Ribera
are separated by Vìa Laietana. You can start
your walk at the top of this street, near Plaça
Urquinaona. The first landmark along this route
is the Palau de la Música Catalana (Sant
Francesc de Paula, 2), located on a tiny street to
the left of Vía Laietana. This is a spectacularly
ornate example of modernist architecture with
a facade that is as equally impressive as the
concert hall's acoustic. The building is a creation by Lluís Doménech i Montaner, one of
Barcelona's most prolific architects, and is
famous for its elaborate facade and cupola,
both entirely covered with colourful mosaics.
Another decorative element is a series of busts
depicting famous, classical composers like
Bach, Beethoven and Wagner. The interior is
graced with an eye-catching, glass staircase,
and the concert hall's decor is full of allusions
to the beauty of nature. Doménech i Montaner
wasn't thrilled by the industrialist fervour that
had taken hold of the city during that time, and
the decorative elements were a way of escaping
into a different world, one populated with floral motifs, rosettes, feminine figures and ornate
columns.
After visiting the concert hall, you can take any
of the little streets running parallel to Vía
Laietana down through the neighbourhood.
You will pass interesting local spots like the
Mercat de la Santa Caterina, a newly restored
market with an unusually colourful roof, until
you come to the famous street Carrer
Barcelona. The rooms are all organised chronologically, which allows visitors to follow,
step by step, Picasso's growth and development
as an artist. The first room is dedicated to
Málaga, Picasso's hometown, and displays his
first, childhood, pencil drawings. The room
dedicated to Picasso's time in La Coruña shows
In 1901, Picasso headed to Paris to experience
the European avant-garde that he had heard so
much about during his time in Barcelona. The
museum also has a few pieces from this period
which foreshadow the style Picasso would
bring to maximum expression in his Blue and
Pink Periods.
After a leisurely visit to the Picasso Museum,
you can continue your walk by heading down
Montcada away from Carrer Princesa. This will
take you straight to the Passeig del Born.
Watching all the fashionable people stroll down
this promenade, it is difficult to imagine that
this was once the site of medieval tournaments.
The promenade is decorated with several stone
benches and some ancient curiosities: an iron
chest and four, numbered cannon balls. These
pieces blend in with their surroundings as if
they had been casually forgotten all those centuries ago.
Montcada. This is the heart of the medieval city
where rich merchants built their palaces between the 14th and 16th centuries. An interesting
example is the Palau del Marquès de Llió.
Despite a number of renovations, the palace
still preserves much of its original charm. It
now houses the Museu Textil i
d'Indumentària (Textile and Clothing
Museum), which has a lovely café-restaurant
that often organises jazz concerts and other live
performances. The small store at the museum's
entrance sells the designer items that have
come to characterise the Born: pins, toys,
designer clothes, accessories, jewellery, office
items and much more.
his early oil paintings, which already exhibit
the unusual use of colour that would later characterise his work.
Picasso lived in Barcelona between 1895 and
1897, still spending his summers in his hometown Málaga. The room dedicated to this era
includes paintings such as La Primera
Comunión (First Communion) and Ciencia y
Caridad (Science and Charity) for which he
won an honourable mention at the National
Fine Arts Exhibition in Madrid. Picasso spent
the following two years in Madrid, studying
fine art. When he returned to Barcelona in
1899, he became intensely involved with the
One end of the promenade is marked by the
magnificent Santa Maria del Mar Church.
Many people consider this church to be the
most beautiful Gothic church on the Iberian
Peninsula. It is, without a doubt, the most
important church from the Gothic period in
Catalonia and belongs to the most interesting of
its kind in Europe. Texts from as early as the
year 918 describe the church, although its
dimensions and appearance were different and
more modest then. The population boom experienced by the area in the 13th century demanded an appropriate increase in the church's size
to accommodate the many newcomers. The
magnificent dimensions are also reflected inside with high ceilings and impressive columns.
The museum immediately in front of the palace is probably the most frequently visited
museum in the city. The Picasso Museum
(Montcada 15-19) contains more than 3,500
pieces, which the artist personally donated to
the city in 1970. The collection is an excellent
survey of Picasso's work as a young artist and a
testimony to the special love affair that always
existed between Picasso and the city of
city's growing avant-garde movement. These
were his famous, bohemian years in the city, a
time in which he became closely associated
with the city's modernist movement and exhibited his work for the first time at the popular
café and gathering spot Els Quatre Gats. The
café-restaurant still exists, tucked away on a little street named Montsió in the Mercé neighbourhood.
The cool interior, illuminated solely with candlelight, turn this into a refuge from the world
outside, disconnected from the whirl of activity
filling the Born and the city at large. Many also
believe that Santa Eulalia, the city's first patron
saint, lies buried beneath the church's foundation, which adds much to the place's spiritual
value. Occasionally, the church organises organ
and classical music concerts, which fit seam-
the surface. The market had been guarding a
secret for centuries - the remains of the ancient,
medieval city. When taken together, the ruins
amount to what is probably the largest architectural park ever found in the urban centre of any
European city. The ruins still tell stories about
daily life in the Middle Age and include fishermen dwellings, stables, a blacksmith and several shops. This astounding and entirely unexpected discovery has obviously brought the
library project to a halt. The grounds will
remain closed until a decision has been made
on the area's future.
lessly into the peaceful and timeless atmosphere.
The square off to one side of the church, known
as Fossar de les Moreres, is also of great historical significance to the Catalan people. The
square was once the old, parish cemetery where
the neighbourhood buried the soldiers who died
in the battle against the troops led by Felipe V
in 1714. The neighbourhood, which like the
rest of the city was heavily opposed to the
monarch, lived through some of its darkest and
most difficult times in this era. When Felipe V
defeated and took control of the city, he destroyed most of the neighbourhood and its surrounding areas. In its place he constructed an enormous fortress in order to punish those that had
rebelled against his rule.
At the opposite end of the promenade is the
Born Market. Built in 1876, the market is an
excellent example of the iron architecture that
was very popular during that time. In addition
to its architectural interest, the market is also
the subject of a curious story. The market was
commercially active for a long time but eventually business decreased and it fell into a state
of decline. The city debated its fate for a long
time, until it was decided that the market would
be the new site for the Barcelona Provincial
Library. When construction began on the project, a surprise was suddenly revealed below
Behind the market, after crossing Carrer
Pujades, is one of Barcelona's largest and most
popular parks: the Ciutadela Park. This spacious, green area is attractive for a number of
reasons; it is home to interesting historical buildings, botanical species, a lake with row boats
and a fountain with a waterfall designed by a
young Gaudí. People come here to practice
sports, play ping-pong, have picnics, stroll
amidst the trees as well as participate in the
many events that take place here throughout the
year. However, the park's origins have little
bearing on the lush place of leisure the park is
today. Only the name offers a reminder of its
past. It was once a citadel built by Felipe V
after destroying the La Ribera neighbourhood.
The king wanted the largest military fortress in
Europe from which to keep a watchful eye on
the city below. Adding insult to injury, Felipe V
built his fortress using money collected from
the citizens and then kept his cannons trained
on the city, ever ready to quench any uprising
or revolt. The fortress wasn't torn down until
the mid-19th century when the Catalan government decided to donate the lands to the city.
The park was constructed as part of the city's
preparations for the 1888 World Fair. Only a
few buildings from its infamous past were preserved, such as the old arsenal which is now the
seat of the Catalan Parliament.
Art lovers and science buffs can also visit some
of the museums located inside the park, such as
the Modern Art Museum, which owns an
impressive collection of paintings by artists
like Rusiñol, Casas, Mir, Nonell and Gargallo;
the Zoology Museum, located in the old Three
Dragon Castle, a building designed by
Doménech i Montaner and the Geology
Museum. If the Zoology Museum has your
curiosity peaked, you can stroll down to the
zoo, located at the bottom end of the park. The
zoo is home to more than 8,480 animals, the
most famous of which was Copito de Nieve
(Snowflake), the world's only albino gorilla.
Copito died recently, and his presence is still
sorely missed by both the staff and the many
visitors who come to the zoo to remember this
incredible animal.
If you exit the park through the gate at the top
end, you can look up the entire length of the
Passeig de Lluís Companys. This wide promenade ends in a monumental arch, the Arc de
Triomf, which served as the entrance to the
1888 World Fair. The arch was built by the
architect Josep Vilaseca y Casanovas and adorned with sculptures by the Catalan artists
Llimona, Reynés and Tassó.
THE RAVAL
The Raval is one the city's most unusual neighbourhoods, both for its colourful history and
the astounding transformation it experienced in
recent years. The Raval is a series of narrow
streets and tiny squares bordered by the
Rambla and Avinguda Paral.lel along the sides,
the Ronda de Sant Antoni at the top and the
port at the bottom. The neighbourhood still
straddles two worlds - the often times rough,
decadent corners that echo its past and the
modern, cosmopolitan areas that herald its
future. And yet, it is exactly this mixture that
gives the neighbourhood its authentic character
and consistently surprising charm, and it is this
diversity that best tells the story of the Raval.
In the year 1800, the Raval was nothing more
than orchards, vegetable gardens and fields.
The agricultural tranquillity came to an end
with the industrial revolution of the 19th cen-
tury. Textile factories set up shop in the area
and attracted an unprecedented and enormous
wave of immigration. The area didn't have time
to catch up with the sudden population explosion, which resulted in poorly and rapidly constructed housing and a dangerous lack of sanitary conditions. Consequently, the neighbourhood fell victim to frequent and devastating
epidemics. The Raval no longer bore any
resemblance to its bucolic origins. Instead it
had become a run-down, crime-ridden ghetto
that people feared to cross - a reputation that
earned it the nickname "Chinatown" (Barrio
Chino) for its similarity to the then infamous
Chinatown in San Francisco.
The neighbourhood was devastated by drugs,
prostitution and poverty, and the Raval's tragic
state seemed destined to continue forever.
Then, in the late 1980s, the Raval's fate suddenly took a turn in a different direction.
Barcelona was to be an Olympic city, and the
long-forgotten Raval emerged from oblivion. It
received a massive make-over: new housing,
better social services and a deep-reaching effort
to eradicate the area's drug-dealing strongholds. Of course a few problem pockets remained, but most of the Raval began turning its
long, unfortunate history around.
The first area to show signs of a radical transformation was the northernmost section, closest to Plaça Universitat. An old charitable institution, the Casa de la Caritat, was redesigned
as the Centre de Cultura Contemporània de
Catalunya (Centre for Contemporary Culture
or CCCB). The centre, located on Montalegre
5, is one of the city's most active and cuttingedge cultural centres, organising a wide variety
of exhibitions, concerts, conferences, lectures
and all kinds of urban activities and programmes.
Right around the corner, facing the Plaça dels
Àngels, is the Museum of Contemporary Art
of Barcelona or MACBA. The modern building, defined by clean, minimalist lines, was
designed by North-American architect Richard
Meier. The programme inside the museum is as
exciting and innovative as its exterior and consists of temporary exhibitions and parallel-running activities such as conferences, lectures,
presentations and discussions related to the
avant-garde movements of the last century. The
MACBA's youthful and modern character has
turned the Plaça dels Àngels into a popular
gathering spot for the city's younger generations (including many skaters who make good
use of the square's design). Art galleries have
eagerly paid exorbitant rents to open their
doors within this creatively-charged and upand-coming area. As is to be expected, the
environment also lured many designer shops,
trendy restaurants and chic bars into the area.
The Raval is still true to two of its traditional
traits: it is still the city's most densely populated area, and it still has largest percentage of
the city's immigrant population. Whereas
immigrants once arrived from other regions in
Spain, they now come from all over the world,
especially Pakistan, the Philippines and
Morocco. However, the perception of this has
changed over the years - what was once seen as
a problem of coexistence is now considered a
multicultural challenge. The cultural diversity
has added much to the new Raval's identity and
has amplified its commercial possibilities. You
can now find restaurants serving every imaginable cuisine and shops specialising in imported goods. And the blending of cultures has
given rise to a very innovative and new trend in
the restaurant business - places that have invented their very own, eclectic take on international cooking. The fusion of all these elements
has taken the Raval out of its past and turned
the former red-light district and poverty-ridden
ghetto into perhaps the most unconventionally
chic area in Barcelona.
Museu Tèxtil i d'Indumentària (Textile and Clothing Museum)
Montcada, 12-14
Tel. +34 93 319 76 03
www.museutextil.bcn.es
Timetable: Tuesday-Saturday, 10am-6pm. Sundays and Holidays, 10am-3pm. Closed on Mondays.
Tickets: 3,50 €. Free admission to the permanent collection on the first Sunday of every month. Underground: Jaume I (L4)
Museu Picasso
Montcada, 15-23
Tel. +34 93 319 63 10
www.museupicasso.bcn.es
Timetable: Tuesday-Saturday and holidays, 10am-8pm. Sundays from 10am-3pm. Closed on Mondays.
Tickets: Permanent Exhibition: 5 €. Temporary Exhibitions: 5 €. Both exhibitions: 8 €. Free admission every first Sunday of the month.
Underground: Jaume I (L4)
Centre de Cultura Contemporània (CCCB)
Montalegre, 5
Tel. +34 93 306 41 00
www.cccb.org
Timetable: Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, 11am-2pm and 4pm-8pm. Wednesday and Saturdays, 11am-8pm. Sundays and holidays, 11am7pm. Closed on Mondays except holidays.
Tickets: 5,50 €
Underground: Universitat (L1 and L2)
Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA)
Plaça dels Àngels, 1
Tel. +34 93 412 08 10
www.macba.es
Timetable: Monday-Friday, 11am-7:30pm. Saturdays, 10am-8pm. Sundays and holidays, 10am-3pm. Closed on Tuesdays.
Tickets: General admission: 7 €. Wednesdays (except holidays): 3 €.
Underground: Universitat (L1 and L2)
Museu de Geologia y Museu de Zoologia (Geology and Zoology Museum)
Parc de la Ciutadella, s/n
Tel. +34 93 319 68 95
www.bcn.es/museuciencies
Timetable: Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday-Sunday, 10am-2pm. Thursdays, 10am-6:30pm. Closed on Mondays.
Tickets: Permanent exhibition: 3 € (includes admission to both museums)
Underground: Arc de Triomf (L1) and Barceloneta (L4)
1 Palau de la Música Catalana
2 Museu Picasso
3 Museu Textil i d'Indumentària
4 Arc de Triomf
5 Mercat del Born
6 Parc de la Ciutadella
7 Fossar de les Moreres
8 CCCB
MACBA
Route 07
The Gothic quarter and the old Jewish district
The Gothic quarter and the old Jewish district
The Gothic Quarter is Barcelona's oldest area,
built upon the remains of the ancient Roman
city known as Colonia Iulia Augusta Paterna
Faventia. The Roman city, founded in the 1st
century B.C., had its centre on the Mount
Tàber, a hill that is now covered by the area
around Plaça Sant Jaume and Plaça dels
Traginers in the heart of the Gothic Quarter.
The area's importance cannot be overstated this is a place where the city's past and present
collide, where history meets innovation. In
short, it is the heart of the city and an exploration of this historical district is absolutely
essential for anyone visiting Barcelona.
Every narrow street and square seems to guard
a secret, wrapped in centuries of history. You
can feel the traces left by time hanging in the
air, whispering their stories through the ancient
walls. A good place to start exploring these stories is the Plaça Nova, located very close to the
cathedral. Since its original construction in
1358, the square has undergone many renovations, the latest taking place as recently as the
late 20th century. The square is rich in contrasts: ancient times facing modernity. The latter is best expressed in the building housing the
Colegio de Arquitectos, located at one end of
the square. The building was designed by the
architect Xavier Busquets, and one of the most
eye-catching details is the large-scale engraving by Norwegian artist Carl Nesjar, based on
a design by Picasso.
The modern design of Busquets' building is
contrasted by the ancient Roman wall, which
once measured more than 1,000 metres in
length. The remnants of the wall now form part
of the Palacio Episcopal, which has a gallery
with an interesting Romanesque collection.
Next to the palace is the Portal del Bisbe, which
was once the old Porta Praetoria - one of the
entrances to the ancient Roman city. During the
Roman era, the city had three, monumental
portals, but only one remains today. This particular portal was the entrance used by pedestrians. There is another structure left over from
this ancient time - the defence tower that once
protected the portal.
A peculiar series of letters stand in front of the
portal, sculpted out of bronze and aluminium.
The letters spell the word "Barcino" and serve
as another reminder of how closely past and
present coincide in this area. The visual poem
is a piece by Joan Brossa, a Catalan poet and
playwright who long spearheaded avant-garde
art in the city. If your curiosity is peaked by this
odd poem, then you might enjoy a closer look
at the artist's work. The Espai Brossa (Allada
Vermell, 8), located in La Ribera, is a centre
entirely dedicated to Brossa's work and the
world of alternative theatre.
The Avenida Catedral connects the Plaça Nova
and the cathedral and consists of a wide, open,
public space leading up to the cathedral's ample
stairway. The avenue, which more closely
resembles a square, attracts a variety of different people - human statues, musicians, tango
dancers, tourists and locals. The area is one of
the best places from which to photograph the
cathedral complex since it opens up onto a
panoramic view that includes all of the buildings. The pedestrian avenue is often the site of
religious celebrations and national festivities,
such as groups dancing the sardana, a traditional Catalan dance, and a variety of concerts.
The Pia Almoina, one of the most interesting
buildings, is attached to the Roman wall and off
to one side of the cathedral. The building is the
seat of the Museum of the Barcelona Diocese,
a museum which includes one of the best
collections of religious art in Spain. The collec-
tion includes pieces from as early as the Middle
Ages through to modern day, belonging to a
variety of genres such as painting, sculpture,
gold and silver articles, clothing, ceramics and
numismatics. Two of the most emblematic pieces are an altarpiece featuring Saint John the
Baptist by Bernat Martorell and a silver mons-
series of steps were built to provide another and
more impressive manner of entering the cathedral.
trance from the Santa Maria del Pi Church.
venture inside. One of the most frequently visited areas is the cloister, a peaceful and quiet
place. You might be a little surprised to find
thirteen geese living in this secluded spot. They
are the cloister's permanent tenants and the fact
that they number exactly thirteen is no coincidence. The number thirteen represents the age
at which Saint Eulalia, the city's first patron
saint, died a martyr.
As you head up the narrow steps next to the
museum that lead up to the cathedral, you reach
the Pla de la Seu, the square immediately outside the cathedral's entrance. This square dates
back to the year 1421 and was built next to the
Roman city wall. A short time later, the immens e
The Cathedral of Barcelona is an excellent
example of Gothic architecture and has more
than a few surprises in store for visitors who
Another section that you should definitely visit
is the Cathedral Museum, which has a vast
collection of religious art and historical information relating to the guilds and monarchs that
ruled the city throughout the centuries. The
museum is located in the old chapterhouse, in a
wing of the cloister, where the cathedral chapter held meetings in the past. The most valuable
artefacts and art pieces, which are no longer
used for worship, are displayed in this Gothic
hall. One piece that really stands out from the
others is The Pieta by Bartolomé Bermejo,
which dates back to the year 1490.
The section towards the rear of the cathedral is
called the Casa de l'Ardiaca. If you are seeking a place to take a refreshing break then
look no further - inside the house is a cool
patio, which is a popular place amongst locals
for reading, resting or simply spending time in
a quiet and peaceful space. During the Corpus
era, the patio was also the site of a rather stran-
ge "celebration" - the l'Oucomballa. This is a
very peculiar custom with origins so far in the
past that no one really knows how it started.
The custom consists of placing an egg onto the
fountain's water spout. The movement of the
water makes the egg move as if it were dancing, which gives this custom its name (l'oucomballa can be roughly translated as "dancing
egg"). The goal is to keep the egg in motion
without having it fall off the spout. The building also houses the City History Museum's
archive, which has an interesting element on its
facade. If you don't know about it, you would
probably dismiss the letter box as something
insignificant. However, this isn't an ordinary
letter box - this unusual piece stems from the
modernist era and was designed by the famous
architect Lluís Doménech i Montaner. By now
you will have probably noticed that every corner in this history soaked district has a story to
tell and a secret to reveal.
This isn't the only fascinating museum located
in the cathedral's vicinity - another is the
Frederic Marès Museum, named after the
sculptor that founded it. This museum is a real
treat for art lovers and consists of the impressive collection Marès amassed during his lifetime and eventually donated to the city. The
museum has two sections. One section is dedicated to the art of sculpture and spans a vast
time frame from the pre-Roman period to the
early 20th century. The second section, called
the Collector's Cabinet, displays objects from
quotidian life in the 19th century. The section
also includes Marés' sculptural work and his
private collection of paintings and furniture.
The museum's lovely patio is a popular meeting
place throughout the spring and summer when
you can sit outside on the terrace.
One of the little streets heading towards Plaça
Sant Jaume to the right of the cathedral leads to
a tiny square called Plaça de Sant Felip Neri.
Its size might make it seem rather insignificant,
but the square guards a very dramatic and tragic past. The church that faces the square still
shows the traces of shrapnel on its facade,
reminders of the violence that reigned here
during the Spanish Civil War. Although the
square was largely destroyed, the church remained standing. One of the church's most loyal
parishioners was Antoni Gaudí. In fact, he was
leaving this square when he was hit by the tram
that killed him. On a more cheerful note, the
square is also site of a rather odd museum - the
Museu del Calçat or the Shoe Museum, dedicated entirely to the history of footwear. The
collection includes several historically significant shoes, such as the by now classic, gigantic
variety worn by the clown Charlie Rivel.
The square between the cathedral and the
Roman wall, bordering Vía Laietana, is named
after Ramon Berenguer. This space is
amongst the most interesting in the old city
because it contains facades belonging to some
of the area's most fascinating buildings. In
addition to a section of the wall and its towers,
the square also faces the lateral facades of the
Palau Reial and the Santa Águeda Chapel. The
equestrian statue in the square, a piece by Josep
Llimona, honours Ramon Berenguer III the
Great, who is also the square's namesake. And
a final little note for anyone interested in industrial design: many of the city's first-class architects and designers have their offices in the
buildings surrounding the square.
From here you can easily reach the Plaça Sant
Jaume, the city's true administrative centre.
One side of the square is dominated by the
Palau de la Generalitat, the seat of Catalonia's
autonomous government, and immediately
across from it is the City Hall. Normally, the
square is little more than a thoroughfare, but
certain occasions put it into the spotlight. After
the conclusion of an election, for example, the
winner greets the population from the presidential balcony. During the Mercè festival, the
square becomes the site of many outdoor
events, such as concerts and the famous performances by the "Castellers". This custom involves building towers through the acrobatic placement of people on top of one another. If you
are here during the Mercè, make sure to experience this absolutely authentic Catalan tradition.
Heading down the Baixada de Santa Clara
takes you to the Plaça del Rei, site of an architectural complex that exemplifies the area's
medieval character. In the past, the square served as the palace's stockyard, but now it contains buildings such as the Palau Reial Major
and more recent pieces such as a sculpture by
Eduardo Chillida. When you visit this square,
make sure to check out the Saló del Tinell, the
hall where Christopher Columbus presented his
first American voyage to the Catholic
Monarchs. Nowadays, the hall is still used for
special events, largely due to its impressive size
and refined elegance.
The tower that connects the Palau Reial and the
Palau del Lloctinent is known as the Mirador
del Rei Martí (King Martí's Observation
Tower). As legend has it, King Martí, the last
sovereign ruler of the House of Barcelona, used
this tower to keep watch over the city and spot
any potential threats coming in from the sea.
Upon leaving the square in the direction of
Carrer Veguer, you come across the Casa
Padellàs, a building from the 16th century that
was moved here, stone by stone, when Vía
Laietana was built. The building houses the
City History Museum, which gives visitors
the chance to travel back in time and become
more acquainted with Barcelona's past, including an underground "journey" to the ancient
Roman city of Barcino.
BARCELONA'S JEWISH DISTRICT
The Catholic and Jewish cultures in Barcelona
and throughout the rest of Spain lived together
peacefully for centuries. It wasn't until 1492,
when the Catholic Monarchs Isabel and
Fernando came to power, that the situation
changed. The Catholic Monarchs forced Jews
to either convert to Catholicism or face exile
and death.
Despite the severe oppression, many Jewish
families and communities continued to practice
their religion in secret. However, the persecution left lasting scars and much of the city's
Jewish cultural and artistic heritage was either
lost or destroyed. Nowadays, when you wander
through the streets of the Call neighbourhood,
which was once the old Jewish district, you can
still see many traces of this legacy.
The most interesting remnants can be found in
a very small area, delimited by the streets Arc
de Sant Ramon, Call, Bisbe and San Sever.
This area is in the Gothic Quarter, close to the
cathedral and the Plaça Sant Jaume. Since the
narrow streets are quite small and oftentimes
short, the area can be explored very easily.
The Main Synagogue of Barcelona can be
found on Carrer Marlet 5, tucked away in a
narrow street. Finding the synagogue is like
coming across a secret, and inside visitors can
gain a better understanding of the Jewish community's cultural environment. The synagogue's exterior is modest and can easily be missed if you aren't paying close attention. It fits
seamlessly into the narrow streets of the Call.
The synagogue is the oldest in Spain and one of
the oldest in Europe, and currently visitors can
wander through its subterranean level, which
houses yet another fascinating historical find.
Besides displaying original artefacts from that
era, the space beneath the synagogue has revealed ancient stones, brought over from
Carthage by the Romans.
Despite the temple's importance, it was rediscovered rather recently, almost by accident.
Centuries ago the Call neighbourhood was
attacked relentlessly and the Jewish community
slowly crumbled due to the persecution and
oppression it suffered until eventually little of
its cultural heritage remained. The synagogue
was no exception to this fate, and it faded away,
first becoming a dry cleaner and then a warehouse for electrical parts.
Years passed without anyone knowing the true
origins of the space. It wasn't until the late 20th
century that the Call Association of Barcelona
undertook a study which revealed that the longforgotten warehouse had once been an important place of Jewish worship. Efforts to rehabilitate the synagogue commenced and interest in
the area's Jewish heritage grew. Part of the
rehabilitation included an excavation which
yielded another surprising find. The synagogue's floor had been guarding yet another secret
- the remains of an ancient Roman wall from
the time when Caracalla was emperor in the
12th century. The wall is now covered with
glass, and visitors can walk above it and examine this incredible piece of history in detail.
The synagogue's main facade faces southeast
towards Jerusalem. A menorah, fashioned out
of wrought-iron, has been placed between two
windows. Next to it are the scrolls containing
the pages of Judaism's holy book, the Torah.
Another tradition practised during the heyday
of the Jewish community was the mikves or
ritual bath. This is still reflected in some of the
street names, such as Banys Nous (new baths in
Catalan), a narrow, little street not far from the
synagogue. Much has changed along this street
since it was a central part of Jewish life, but a
few traces from that time still remain. The furniture store S'Oliver, at Banys Nous 10, has
preserved sections of these ancient baths.
Needless to say, ignoring the changes brought
on by time and seeing the baths as they once
were does require a good dose of imagination,
but it is interesting nonetheless to visit the places that once were so important to the city's
Jewish population.
One of the busiest streets in the Call, Carrer
Ferran, holds another piece of this cultural past.
The Sant Jaume Church was built on top of
the foundations of another ancient synagogue.
By the same token, many of the area's Hebrew
inscriptions have disappeared or faded with
time - therefore, it is important to wander
slowly and with a keen eye so as to not miss
any of the few, remaining details. Crossing the
Plaça Sant Jaume, shortly before reaching the
Plaça del Rei, you will come across the Palau
del Lloctinent. This was not an important building to Jewish life in the area. In fact, it was
built long after that time. It is interesting for
another, less benign reason. The building was
constructed using many of the headstones from
the Jewish cemetery on Montjuic.
You can finish your walk with a quiet moment
of reflection and a good cup of coffee at one of
the cafés on Carrer Sant Domènec del Call,
many of which still preserve some vestiges of
the area's Jewish past. Caelum and
Antropologic (formerly known as Phillipvs) are
two such places, interesting for their historical
value as well as being wonderful little hideaways at which to enjoy a good read and a great
cup of coffee.
Museu de la Catedral (Cathedral Museum)
Pla de la Seu, s/n
Tel. +34 93 310 2580
Timetable: Monday - Sunday, 10am-1pm and 5pm-7pm
Tickets: 1 €. Free admission every first Sunday of the month from 10am-3pm.
Underground: Jaume I (L4)
Museu Diocesà de Barcelona (Museum of the Barcelona Diocese)
Avenida de la Catedral, 4
Tel. +34 93 315 2213
Timetable: Tuesday-Saturday, 10am-2pm and 5pm-8pm. Sundays 11am-2pm. Closed on Mondays.
Tickets: 2 €
Underground: Jaume I (L4)
Frederic Marès Museum
Pl. Sant Iu, 5-6
Tel. +34 93 310 5800
Timetable: Tuesday-Saturday, 10am-7pm. Sundays and holidays, 10am-3pm. Closed on Mondays.
Tickets: 3 €
Underground: Jaume I (L4)
Museu del Calçat (Shoe Museum)
Plaça Sant Felip Neri, 5
Tel. +34 93 301 4533
Timetable: Tuesday-Sunday, 11am-2pm. Closed on Mondays.
Tickets: 2 €
Underground: Jaume I (L4) and Liceu (L3)
Conjunto monumental de la Plaça del Rei (Plaça del Rei Monument Complex)
Plaça del Rei, s/n
Tel. +34 93 315 1111
Timetable: Tuesday-Saturday, 10am-2pm and 4pm-8pm. Sundays and holidays, 10am-3pm. Closed on Mondays.
Tickets: 4 € general admission. 5 € temporary exhibitions. Free admission every first Saturday of the month in the afternoon.
www.museuhistoria.bcn.es
1 Columnes Romanes
2 Palau Episcopal
3 Poema Barcino
4 Casa de l’Ardiaca
5 Plaça de Sant Felip Neri
6 Plaça de Sant Jaume
(Ajuntament de Barcelona Generalitat de Catalunya)
7 Saló del Tinell
8 Sinagoga Mayor de Barcelona
9 Esglesia de Sant Jaume
10 Barri del Call Jueu
Route 08
Beyond the Eixample Dret:
Two modernist landmarks
Once you have crossed the limits of the
Eixample Dret (right side of the Eixample),
you are now in a neighbourhood known primarily for being the site of the Sagrada Familia. In
fact, before the church was built, the area,
known as Poblet, consisted of fields that were
not even considered part of the city.
Nowadays, the area surrounding the Sagrada
Familia is a busy neighbourhood with a lot of
commercial and residential activity. Amongst
all the lively streets, there is one that stands out
for being a little different. This is the Avinguda
Gaudí. This street is actually more of a pedestrian promenade that cuts diagonally across the
neighbourhood and is a popular place amongst
locals. A variety of shops, restaurants and bars
line the promenade and people enjoy strolling
down its tree-lined length or spending hours at
the outdoor cafés.
banner "a cathedral for the poor". Construction
began in 1883 based on a neo-gothic design by
the architect Francesc de Paula del Villar.
However, de Paula and the city government in
power did not see eye to eye, and the working
process was wrought with conflict. De Paula
finally gave up and resigned from the project.
This was when Antoni Gaudí first entered the
picture - in 1891 he took over the project and
substituted the original plan with a far more
ambitious one.
The driving force behind the construction of
the Sagrada Familia, Josep María Bocabella,
wanted to build a cathedral that celebrated the
history and traditional values of the Catholic
faith. Gaudí was a deeply religious man and
therefore fit the role as the project's creative
the glory of God and that its true owner was not
in any hurry". Gaudí wanted this to be the perfect cathedral, the highest possible expression
and celebration of his faith. He became completely engrossed in the project, so much so
that for twelve years, from 1914 until his death
in 1926, he lived inside the cathedral in a small
room prepared especially for him.
The Sagrada Familia is primarily a symbolic
work. Gaudí invested every last drop of his
imagination into the piece and was tremendously inspired by medieval cathedrals. The
cathedral was designed to have three, monumental facades, each one representing a
moment from the life of Jesus Christ (birth,
passion and death, resurrection and glory). The
three facades were to end in four, enormous
However, the avenue is also famous for another, important detail - it connects two of the
city's most important, modernist landmarks.
The avenue begins at the Sagrada Familia and
runs diagonally across the neighbourhood to
end at the Hospital de Sant Pau. Therefore,
this route is actually more of a short walk - a
perfect option for an afternoon stroll. After all,
a visit to Barcelona isn't complete until you
have seen these two architectural masterpieces.
THE SAGRADA FAMÍLIA
The Sagrada Familia is Antoni Gaudí's final
masterpiece, an imposing, awe-inspiring
cathedral unlike any other. The architect dedicated twelve years of his life and funnelled his
entire creative energy and imagination into the
construction of the Sagrada Familia. In the end,
he never came to complete the project - he was
still working on it when he was killed in a tram
accident in 1926.
The church was originally conceived under the
mastermind perfectly. However, there was one
problem that plagued the construction process
(much as it still does today). The financing of
the project was based entirely on charitable
donations from the public, which meant that
when the money ran out, work on the project
came to a grinding halt.
Gaudí wasn't flustered by the delays. He was
known to say that the "church was dedicated to
towers measuring more than 100 metres in
height which, taken together, represent the
twelve apostles. The tower of the cupola crowning the apse below was meant to symbolise
the Virgin Mary. This was a work of monumental ambition, which Gaudí never came to finish.
Despite working tirelessly, Gaudí only completed the crypt and most of the facade depicting
the birth of Christ.
Light and music were two other elements of
great concern for Gaudí. He wanted to build the
cathedral so that natural light would reach
every, single corner. This aspect turned into an
obsession, and Gaudí measured the incidence
of the sun's rays down to the minutest detail. In
1903, he began work on the construction of the
four bell towers. According to his design, the
bell towers would sound whenever the organ,
which was to be located inside one of the
towers, was played so that the entire city could
hear the sacred sounds. However, neither Gaudí
nor the people of Barcelona have ever heard the
bells of the Sagrada Familia chime.
After Gaudí's death, the Sagrada Familia was
an orphaned project, abandoned and incomplete. A number of architects have tried their hand
at finishing the monumental task over the
years. The current coordinator is Jordi Bonet,
and the direction the cathedral's construction
has taken under his leadership has provoked a
variety of different reactions amongst the city's population. Some stalwart supporters of
Gaudí's vision feel that the cathedral's appearance is becoming too alienated from the architect's original design. Others, however, feel that
it is entirely normal and appropriate for the
plan to change and reflect different styles and
approaches because the project has already
been worked on by different generations of
architects.
One thing, however, hasn't changed about the
Sagrada Familia. The project is still supported
solely by means of private donations. If the
financing holds up and construction continues
at the current pace it is estimated that the
cathedral could be completed by 2007. This
would be a most appropriate year in which to
finish the project since it would coincide with
the 125th anniversary of the Sagrada Familia's
first stone being set. Once the final details are
finished, the cathedral could finally become a
place of worship instead of being simply a tourist attraction.
You can complement your visit to the cathedral
with a look at the Sagrada Familia Museum.
The museum exhibits many of the original
construction plans and an extensive collection
of graphic material relating to the cathedral's
design. As a finishing touch, you can climb one
of the towers and enjoy a spectacular view onto
the cathedral below and the city around it.
HOSPITAL DE SANT PAU
The Hospital de Sant Pau and the Palau de la
Música Catalana are the two defining achievements by one of Barcelona's most prolific,
modernist architects, Lluís Doménech i
Montaner. The hospital is not only up and running, it is also one of the largest and most
important in the city - further proof that art and
functionality can exist side by side.
Plans for the hospital began in 1900 thanks to a
charitable donation by the banker Pau Gil. He
provided financial backing to the tune of four
million pesetas (approximately 24,000 € today)
in order to build a state-of-the-art medical facility that would cover all of Barcelona's medical
needs. A competition was organised to find the
most appropriate and qualified architect for the
job, which promised to be no small task. The
hospital was originally supposed to have 48
pavilions of which only 27 were constructed in
the end.
Lluís Doménech i Montaner was chosen as the
architect, and he couldn't have imagined how
much of his life he would eventually dedicate
to this impressive complex. The construction
process commenced in 1901 and wouldn't
come to completion until 1930. Doménech i
Montaner collaborated with many other artists
and artisans during this long period, including
the sculptors Eusebi Arnau and Pau Gargallo,
the painter Francesc Labarta and the metalworker Josep Perpinyà, who was famous for
his incredible iron craftsmanship. All of these
combined talents contributed to the astonishing
and ornate appearance of the hospital.
the city's most original and noteworthy modernist complexes. One of the most impressive
pavilions is occupied by the hospital administration, which is accessible via an enormous,
sweeping stairway. The same route also takes
you to the Library-Museum, and the grounds
also include a beautiful church. Describing all
the intricate details that decorate the facade is
an impossible task. Instead, take your time,
wander through the complex and absorb every
detail of the wonderful ornamentation. It is
much more vibrant and impressive up close
than any description on paper could ever be. It
is a rarity - this combination of science and art.
Few cities can claim to have a hospital that
combines top-class medical services with the
kind of immeasurable, artistic value that characterises the Hospital de Sant Pau.
The hospital is currently undergoing an expansion onto a lot located behind the original structure. The hospital had been experiencing problems because the old structures no longer provided enough space. However, restructuring
the building would have presented a considerable risk to the building's architectural beauty.
Therefore, a better solution was found in
expanding the complex onto the neighbouring
lot - thus circumventing any need to modify the
original buildings. The hospital's main lobby
has an information desk that can provide you
with information about the Modernist Route.
The hospital consists of different pavilions
separated by gardens and is considered one of
Sagrada Família - Museu del Temple
Expiatori
Mallorca, 401
Tel. +34 93 207 30 31
www.sagradafamilia.org
Timetable: October-March, 9am-6pm.
Tickets: 8 €
Underground: Sagrada Familia (L2)
Route 09
Off the route but not to be missed
Off the route but not to be missed
The places described below are not included in
any of the routes established by our guide book
but that doesn't take away from their importance. They are all relevant to the city and no trip
to Barcelona would be complete without a visit
to these landmarks of historical, cultural or
natural significance.
PARK GÜELL
Park Güell, the by now world famous Gaudí
construction, didn't really start out with any
particular artistic intention. Eusebi Güell, one
of Antoni Gaudí's patrons, commissioned the
architect to create a garden city - a complex
that was to include houses set into an urban
parkland.
The architect invested his entire creative genius
into the project. An old estate called Can
Muntaner de Dalt, also known by its nickname
Muntanya Pelada, was chosen as the site for the
garden city, largely due to its fantastic view.
Construction began, and Gaudí returned yet
again to one of his central artistic concerns - the
integration of architecture with the natural
surroundings. Much like he would later do with
his most famous piece, the Sagrada Familia,
Gaudí took his cue from nature. The park's
design included viaducts, retaining walls, serpentine columns and colourful ceramic mosaics
throughout - details that yielded an organic
structure in tune with the natural forms and
shapes around it.
You arrive at the main entrance, on Carrer Olot,
and are greeted by a fantastical wall, covered
with mosaics. As you pass through the enormous, iron gates, you are faced with an impressive stairway leading up into the park. The imaginative stairway is decorated with waterfalls
and sculptural animals - the most famous of
which is the small, multi-coloured dragon,
covered entirely with an intricate mosaic,
which has become one of the most frequently
photographed pieces in the park.
When you reach the top of the stairway, you
step into a cool, covered hall. But the so-called
Hall of a Hundred Columns isn't an ordinary
hall - in fact, it is quite extraordinary. The space
is a forest made up of 84 Doric columns that
wind their way up from the ground to the ceiling. They hold up the terrace above - an enormous balcony forged out of sinuous lines,
decorated with one continuous, meandering,
mosaic bench. If you are a tad tired after the
walk up to the park, then this is the best spot for
a break - you can relax on the bench and admire the absolutely stunning view onto the city.
The park is home to more points of interest,
including the Casa Museu Gaudí (Gaudí
Museum), which houses an interesting collection of the architect's personal belongings.
Another organisation that has chosen the park
as their headquarters is the Centro de
Interpretación del Park Güell. You might wonder about the English spelling of the word
"Park" - this is because the park was originally
modelled on the idea of an English-style, residential garden city. If you are curious about the
park's history and development, stop in at the
old superintendent's house, where you can see
the original distribution of the levels, get to
know the origins of the project and discover all
the possible paths that criss-cross the park.
Centro de Interpretación del Park Güell
Olot, s/n
Tel. +34 93 285 68 99
www.museuhistoria.bcn.es
Timetable: Monday - Friday, 11am-3pm (the
park itself stays open longer)
Tickets: 2 €. Free admission every first Sunday
of the month
Underground: Lesseps (L3), Alfons X (L4)
COLLSEROLA NATURE RESERVE
One of the great things about Barcelona is that
you don't have to go very far to be surrounded
by nature. Just a short, 10 minute train ride
away, is the Collserola Park, an expanse of
almost 1,800 hectares of protected, metropolitan space of which quite a few areas have been
designated nature reserves due to their unusual
flora and fauna. The park covers a rather irregularly shaped mountain, whose highest peak
is Tibidabo with an altitude of 512 metres.
Whether you enjoy outdoor activities and
sports or love being in nature or simply want to
see the most stunning views across Barcelona,
don't miss out on a visit to this beautiful spot of
green.
The best way of getting to the park is by taking
the Ferrocarriles de la Generalitat de
Catalunya. These trains leave from the Plaça
Catalunya station, and the park can be accessed
from a number of stations, such as Peu del
Funicular, Baixador de Vallvidrera and Les
Planes. However, if you are the athletic or outdoorsy type, you can also choose to forgo
public transport and opt for a bicycle instead.
You can cycle all the way up to one of the many
entrances and then explore the established trails
within the park.
Your first stop should be the Information
Centre, where you can pick up a map indicating
all of the possible trails and routes available
inside the park. The routes are built around different points of interest, some for environmental reasons and others which are culturally
oriented. In terms of the former, some of the
most interesting, natural spaces in the park
include the Font Groga and Rierada reserves
and the Can Borrell reservoir. There are also
several natural springs throughout the park,
many of which were decorated during the
modernist period.
Vilana hill, take the FGC train until Peu del
Funicular. Change over to the funicular that
connects the station with Vallvidrera Superior
and then board bus number 211, which runs
every half an hour.
The park has become a very popular place for
outdoor sports such as hiking, cycling and
horse-back riding. Despite offering such a
variety of different leisure activities, the park
has managed to conserve its natural landscape,
made up mostly of different varieties of oak.
Collserola Tower Observation Deck
Ctra de Vallvidrera al Tibidabo, s/n
Tel. 934 069 354
The forested area is also home to many animals
including reptiles, mammals, fish, a wide
variety of birds and a few wild boar that have
surprised more than one park visitor.
In addition to its rich, natural environment, the
park also has a few, important architectural
landmarks within its perimeter. One of the most
noteworthy is the Collserola Tower, designed
by the architect Norman Foster. Measuring 288
metres in height (not including the 70 metres
that separate the tower from the ground), the
tower is the tallest building in the city. The
tower is another part of the Olympic legacy and
was built in order to improve Catalonia's telecommunication's system - and in doing so gave
the city a whole new skyline.
The tower has thirteen floors of which the tenth
one is open to the public and serves as an observation deck. A panoramic elevator with enormous windows covers the distance from the
ground in two and a half minutes. Once you
reach the tenth floor, you can admire a view
onto the city from a height of 560 metres and
on a clear day you can see as far as Montserrat,
the Cadí mountain range and the peaks of the
Pyrenees.
To get to the tower, which is located on the
Collserola Park Information Centre
Ctra de l'Església, 32
Tel. 932 803 552
TIBIDABO MOUNTAIN AND THE COSMOCAIXA MUSEUM
The Tibidabo Mountain is the highest point in
the Collserola Park and one of the city's
symbols for a number of reasons. The mountain
owes much fame to the homologous church
located at the very top. Another landmark is the
amusement park, built in 1899, which makes it
the oldest of its kind in Spain and the second
oldest in Europe. Thanks to its historical longevity, the park has managed to maintain several
of its classic and popular attractions in addition
to acquiring many of the latest innovations.
One of the most unusual and original attractions is a plane, an exact replica of the one that
did the first ever flight between Madrid and
Barcelona in 1928, which gives you a bird's eye
view of the city without ever leaving the park.
The park also includes a curious museum, the
Museo de Autómatas del Tibidabo. Located
inside an old theatre built in 1909, the museum
is dedicated entirely to the art of mechanical
toys. The collection includes a wide variety of
old dolls that worked by inserting a coin and
once were a mainstay at European fairgrounds.
The museum is home to one of the most complete collections in this specialised field and is
well known for the excellent preservation and
diversity of its mechanical toys.
Tibidabo Amusement Park
Plaça del Tibidabo, 3-4
Tel. 932 117 942
www.tibidabo.es
The area also holds a treat for history buffs and
poetry lovers. The Museu-Casa Verdaguer is
located in the small Vallvidrera enclave, inside
a typically Catalan, 19th century country estate, which was where the poet Jacint Verdaguer
spent the last days of his life. Verdaguer was
one of the leading voices of the so-called
Catalan Renaissance, and a visit to the museum
allows you not only a glimpse into the work of
this poet but also into the way of life during
that time. The museum is divided into two sections: one displays furniture and artefacts from
that period in time, the other focuses on
Verdaguer's life and literary achievements.
Museu Casa Verdaguer
Vil.la Joana (Vallvidrera)
Tel. +34 93 294 78 05
www.museuhistoria.bcn.es
Timetable: Saturdays, Sundays and holidays,
10am-2pm
Free admission.
FGC stop: Baixador de Vallvidrera
A new and fascinating addition to the Tibidabo
hillside is the CosmoCaixa or Science
Museum, an entire museum dedicated to stimulating and expanding the visitor's scientific
knowledge. The museum takes up an area mea-
suring an impressive 33,000 square metres,
which is divided into different spaces. The permanent exhibition's organisation is based on
four types of matter - inert, alive, intelligent
and civilised matter- and tells the story of its
historical evolution, from the beginnings of the
universe all the way to modern day.
turned it into one of the most fascinating urban
areas and an absolutely essential stop for anyone visiting Barcelona.
One of the buildings to combine both innovative architecture and cultural interest is the
National Theatre of Catalonia or TNC, a pro-
Two of the museum's most emblematic spaces
are the Geological Wall and the Rain Forest.
The first environment allows visitors to investigate the geological make-up of the earth, whe-
and although not everyone is thrilled with this
new, futuristic obelisk, it possesses the kind of
innovative spirit that doesn't leave anyone feeling indifferent.
The structure consists of two superimposed
cylinders covered by a layer of glass, which
reflects the light. This play between light, shadow and reflection creates a beautiful chromatic effect that changes depending on the time of
day. Furthermore, the facade is dotted with
thousands of small windows arranged in an
asymmetrical schematic, thusly creating a
mosaic of signs, legible only from the outside.
A further detail still awaiting completion is the
artificial lake that will one day surround the
tower.
Teatre Nacional de Catalunya (National
Theatre of Catalonia)
Plaça de les Arts, 1
Tel. 933 065 700
www.tnc.es
reas the second is a replica of an authentic,
Amazonian rain forest - the first of its kind to
be recreated in a museum.
The CosmoCaixa also schedules a variety of
events in addition to its permanent and temporary exhibitions, such as lectures, courses, conferences, sessions in the Planetarium and a
series of workshops designed to get children
acquainted with and excited about science.
CosmoCaixa - Science Museum
Teodor Roviralta, 55
Tel. +34 93 212 60 50
www.fundacio.lacaixa.es
Timetable: Tuesday-Sunday, 10am-8pm.
Closed Mondays, except holidays. Also closed
on December 25th and January 1st.
Buses: 17, 22, 58, 60, 73, 85. The museum can
also be reached with the Ferrocarrils de la
Generalitat de Catalunya (FGC trains) and the
Tramvia Blau (a special tram operating in the
area).
THE NEWLY RENOVATED PLAÇA DE
LES GLÒRIES
A few years ago, the Plaça de les Glòries and its
surrounding areas were in dire need of a makeover. The construction of a shopping centre
brought some vitality back to the area, but it
wasn't nearly enough. It would take a greater
effort, both in terms of architectural change and
cultural programming, to bring the area back to
life. And its rebirth is owed largely to the construction of some of the most outstanding and
important buildings the city has seen in the last
few years. Nowadays, the square is known for
more than simply traffic jams (it is one of the
main roundabouts serving incoming and exiting traffic as well as the intersection of thoroughfares such as Diagonal, Gran Vía and
Meridiana). The square's metamorphosis has
ject designed by the architect Ricard Bofill.
The theatre is a complex comprised of two
large buildings. The first one recalls the ancient
Greek Parthenon and contains two spaces - one
that can hold up to 900 people and another
smaller one with a maximum capacity of 300.
The two halls taken together measure 20,000
square metres and are held up by 26 columns.
The second building measures 5,000 square
metres and has a design that combines both traditional and modern elements. The first building tends to be used for large-scale shows,
whereas the smaller one stages a wide variety
of performances.
The Auditori, another big draw for the neighbourhood, consists of a modern building, measuring more than 40,000 square metres in size
and designed by the architect Rafael Moneo.
Inaugurated in 1999, the building contrasts its
external modernity with a Symphonic Hall seating 2,200 people. A multi-purpose hall can be
arranged to hold 400 people, and plans are
underway for the creation of a Chamber Hall
with a seating capacity of 700. The most intriguing, architectural detail in the building is
located in the central atrium and consists of a
cubic lantern made out of glass, modelled on an
impluvium, a typical structure used in ancient
Rome.
Looking towards the future, plans are being
discussed to move the Catalonian Academy of
Music and the Music Museum to the Auditori,
thus creating an entire area that will serve as
the centre of the city's music world.
Last but not least, the square is also the site of
the Agbar Tower, one of the most talked about
buildings in recent times. The tower is
Barcelona's most modern skyscraper and one of
the most architecturally relevant buildings built
in the last few years. Designed by French architect Jean Nouvel, the tower takes its name from
the company headquartered within, Aguas de
Barcelona, known by the acronym Agbar. The
building's form, considered a phallic symbol by
many, has caused quite a stir in Barcelona. It
has generated a host of reactions and opinions
L'Auditori
Lepant, 150
www.auditori.org
POBLE NOU AND THE PALO ALTO
COMPLEX
The Poble Nou neighbourhood, located slightly
outside the city and just a few metres from the
sea, was once the industrial heart of Barcelona.
Nowadays, one of the most heated debates in
terms of city planning concerns this area, a
debate marked between the preservation of its
history and the possibilities for the future. In
1950 more than 5,000 factories earned the area
its nickname as the Catalan Manchester. Little
remains of that industrial heyday - a few chimneys, decaying remnants of factories and the
names of long-gone enterprises. The industries
of old have been replaced by design studios,
new office towers and apartment buildings.
Whereas these changes and the influx of new
business is essential for the future development
of the area, no one wants to lose the unique spirit that characterises one of the city's most
authentic, down-to-earth neighbourhoods.
One of the places where past and present meet,
that perfectly blends history with all that is
modern and cutting-edge, is the Palo Alto complex. Once upon a time the complex was taken
up by a series of textile factories; nowadays,
the textiles have given way to hip, designer studios, such as that of top designer Javier
Mariscal, and groups organising a variety of
temporary exhibitions. Palo Alto, located on
Carrer Pellaires 38, is a place that exudes culture and modernity without sacrificing any of the
historical details that endow it with a unique
charm.
Perhaps inspired by the likes of Palo Alto, a
strong interest has surfaced in preserving the
architectural elements from the past. A new
interest in the industrial heritage has flourished,
placing demands for the preservation of its traces on par with those directed at perhaps more
traditional, cultural landmarks. The chimneys
of the Poble Nou, with their slim, red brick silhouette, have become almost iconic and are
celebrated as part of Barcelona's heritage. They
rise up along almost every street in the area,
and some stand out from amongst the rest. One
especially fine specimen once belonged to the
Can Saladrigas factory - the factory is long
gone, but the chimney remains and if you look
closely, you will notice a peculiar sun dial set
into its base.
The Poble Nou is also unique in its way of keeping a village spirit alive while simultaneously
forming part of a large city. This becomes
immediately obvious when strolling down the
Rambla de Poble Nou, the neighbourhood's
main street. One of the most defining buildings
along this street is the Casino de l'Aliança. This
venue, built by Amadeu Llopart in 1929, was
one of the classic, central, gathering spots in
the area. Even today, locals still come together
in the cosy theatre located inside the building.
An interesting anecdote about the place shows
how deeply ingrained and long-lasting an era's
prejudices can be - women were forbidden
from entering the Casino until 1974.
PEDRALBES MONASTERY MUSEUM
This museum actually forms part of the
Barcelona City History Museum, which includes four, separate entities that focus on
moments from the city's fascinating, historical
past. Other museums that belong to this group
are the History Museum on Plaça del Rei, the
Casa Verdaguer Museum (dedicated to life and
work of poet Jacint Verdaguer) and the Centre
de Interpretación del Park Güell in Park Güell.
The monastery was opened to the public in
1983 and is one of the best examples of Catalan
Gothic architecture. The complex includes a
church and a monastery built around a spacious, three-story cloister. The main points of
interest are the chapterhouse, the abbey, the
cells and the refectory. The monastery also
owns an impressive collection of art, liturgical
objects and furniture that has been carefully
cared for and maintained by the monastic community since the 14th century.
Museu Monestir de Pedralbes (Pedralbes
Monastery Museum)
Baixada del Monestir, 9
Tel. +34 93 203 92 82
www.museuhistoria.bcn.es
Timetable: Tuesday-Sunday and holidays,
10am-2pm. Closed Mondays.
Tickets: 4 €. Free admission every first Sunday
of the month
Bus: 75.
FGC train: Reina Elisenda
CAMP NOU AND THE F.C. BARCELONA
MUSEUM
The Camp Nou is much more than a stadium
for many, especially the fans of the Barça team.
This Barcelona symbol was inaugurated on
September 24th (the day of Barcelona's patron
saint, the Virgin of the Mercé) in 1957. Despite
the passing years, the Camp Nou is still a proud
point of reference amongst Spanish stadiums.
The stadium received its name from the fact
that prior to its existence the team already trained and played matches in an earlier stadium,
appropriately named the Vell Camp (the old
camp in Catalan). When the team signed
Ladislao Kubala, the board decided that if it
was going to have star players, it would have to
have an equally stellar playing field.
This was the beginning of one of the most
ambitious stadium projects ever conceived;
even today the Camp Nou is the largest stadium
in Europe with a seating capacity for up to
98,000 spectators. Its spectacular dimensions
have made the Camp Nou more than just the
site of Barça team victories and defeats. The
stadium is often used for a variety of events,
such as the mega-concerts by music superstars
like Michael Jackson and Bruce Springsteen.
The FC Barcelona facilities also include the
Barça Museum, dedicated entirely to the history of the club. In response to the myriad fans
(estimated at around 100,000 throughout the
world), Joan Gamper, the FC Barcelona founder, proposed creating a museum about the club's history back in the 1920s. However, the project wasn't completed until 1984, the museum's
inaugural year. In creating the museum, the
Barça became the world's first club to document and recall its past in one, permanent exhibition - an exhibition that isn't limited to football but also includes the club's other sports:
handball, basketball and hockey. The museum
is divided into different areas. One area documents the Barça's history through photographs,
audio-visual material, athletic material and all
of the trophies ever won by the club. The most
important trophy, and the one most fans wish
the Barça would win again, is definitely the
European Cup, which the team won, coincidentally, in 1992, the same year the city celebrated
the Olympic Games. Another section of the
museum displays pieces by such celebrated
artists as Dalí, Miró, Tàpies and Subirachs.
Visitors can also examine one of the most
extensive, private collections on the subject of
football as well as find out any desired information about the club at the specialised document centre. Since the museum is located right
next to the stadium, you have two options for
completing your visit. You can either choose to
only visit the museum or you can combine the
museum with a guided tour of the stadium. The
tour begins with a stop at the visiting team's
locker room. Then, you pass through a tunnel
and head outside to the playing field and the
benches used by the players during the match.
You can also head up to the seats reserved for
the press, which have a spectacular view onto
the field. If you want a moment in the club president's shoes (currently Jordi Laporta), head
over to seat number 10, one of the best seats in
the entire stadium, located in a section called
La Llotja. This is the exact spot from which the
president celebrates the team's victories and
agonises over their defeats.
Museu del Futbol Club Barcelona (FC
Barcelona Museum)
Arístides Maillol, accesos número 7 ó 9
Tel. +34 93 496 36 08
www.fcbarcelona.es
Timetable: Monday-Saturday, 10am-6:30pm.
Sundays and holidays, 10am-2pm.
Tickets: 5,30 € general admission. Guided stadium tour + museum: 9,50 €
Underground: Collblanc (L5)
Route 10
A walkCatalunya
from Plaça Catalunya through the
A walk from Plaça
Mercè neighbourhood
through the Mercè neighbourhood
Standing in the middle of Plaça Catalunya
places you at the true centre of Barcelona. The
square is the border between the new Barcelona
to the north and the old city to the south and
serves as the point of departure for important
streets like the Passeig de Gràcia, the Rambla
Catalunya and the Rambla. This is also one of
the central stations for most underground lines,
buses, trains, taxis and the airport bus - basically, this is the square where the entire city
comes together, the square that connects all of
the different sections and the place that serves
as the best point of orientation for anyone new
to the city.
Everyone living in the city has crossed this
square an uncountable number of times.
However, it isn't really appreciated as a public
space by the majority of locals. It is considered
more of a necessity, and locals tend to come
here for practical purposes such as business,
shopping or as part of their commute. The
square is decorated with 28 sculptures of which
one is particularly eye-catching. This sculpture
consists of an enormous book set on top of a
base resembling an inverted staircase and
honours Francesc Macià, one of the presidents
of the Generalitat of Catalunya (the region's
autonomous government). The square is also
adorned with fountains and several trees, which
offer visitors a cool and refreshing refuge in the
summer. The square is surrounded by office
buildings, banks and shopping centres. The
atmosphere is always alive and full of people:
tourists arriving in the city, people passing
through, children feeding the pigeons. This
sense of bustling energy is complemented by
street musicians, usually African or Peruvian,
performing spontaneous concerts. The music
often draws a crowd and adds a cheerful, relaxed touch to a square that could otherwise seem
a tad business-like and anonymous.
Before leaving Plaça Catalunya, you should
definitely stop in at one of the city's legendary
café terraces: Café Zurich. Finding a table outside is often quite a challenge, especially in the
summer, but it is worth the wait. Once seated,
you can enjoy a cup of coffee and simply watch
the city pass by in front of you. Observing the
coming and going of people is the best possible
way of getting a feel for the city's rhythm and
the diversity that characterises its population.
After getting a taste of what the city is all
about, it is time to delve into a more in depth
exploration. A good place to start is the Portal
de l'Àngel. According to legend, the street
received its heavenly name because this was
where an angel appeared to Saint Vicent Ferrer.
Nowadays, the only thing resembling a miracle
is reaching the end of the street without having
several shopping bags hanging from your arm!
This is the heart of Barcelona's shopping district, a long, pedestrian zone lined with stores
selling every imaginable piece of clothing and
accessory. However, don't let all the bright
colours and attractive display windows distract
you from some very interesting, historical
details that can also be found here.
A little street named Montsió branches off to
the left of the avenue. Heading down this
narrow street, you come to the mythical caférestaurant Els Quatre Gats. This is where a
famous circle of artists, including Picasso,
Gaudí, Rusiñol and Casas, met on a regular
basis throughout the early days of the modernist movement. You can still feel much of the
bohemian, intellectual spirit lingering in the air,
and along with an illustrious history, the restaurant also serves excellent Catalan cuisine.
You can make a detour down Carrer Santa
Anna on your right to the Plaça Vila de
Madrid. The square now covers an area once
occupied by a convent of the Carmelite order
that was burned in 1936, at the outset of the
Spanish Civil War. The centre of the square
consists of a grassy area with trees and a deck
from which you can look into the earth below.
An ancient Roman cemetery was found a few
metres beneath the surface. The earth was cleared away from the pit and an observation deck
was built above it so that visitors can look at
the ancient graves from above. Along one side
of the square is the Ateneu Barcelonés, a cultural centre with an excellent café and restaurant.
Once you return from your detour and are back
on Portal de l'Àngel, keep an eye out for one of
the area's most peculiar elements. The fountain
located on the corner of Portal de l'Àngel and
Portaferrissa (another shopping street) might
look like a fountain, but it was something quite
different in the past. This was one of the city's
ancient water troughs, and if you imagine yourself back in the days of horses and carriages,
you will realise that these were once as important as petrol stations are today. Heading down
Portaferrissa you come across more shops,
catering to every imaginable clientele, from
children and teenagers all the way to fashionable senior citizens. Scattered amongst the stores are a few, old palaces that have long since
lost their original purpose. One of these is the
Palau Palmerola, located at number 7, which
now houses the El Bulli workshop. This is
where Ferran Adrià, the internationally famous
culinary genius, experiments with ingredients
and textures to come up with new creations to
serve at his restaurant, El Bulli, in Roses
(Girona).
If you want to escape the shopping madness
that usually reigns on Portaferrissa, turn down
the little street Petritxol, which leads you to
one of the neighbourhood's most charming and
"sweetest" spots. This chocolate shop is the
perfect place to stop for a traditional merienda
(afternoon snack) with an assortment of sweets,
buns, Swiss hot chocolate and a seemingly infinite variety of pastry. The street is also famous
for its many art galleries, antique stores and
bookshops selling extremely rare and hard to
find editions.
This bohemian atmosphere carries through to
the Plaça del Pi, located at the end of Carrer
Petritxol. This is one of Barcelona's smallest
and most charming squares, named after the
hundred-year-old pine tree standing at its centre. The church along one side of the square
bears the same name and dates back to the 15th
century. A square similar in design and atmosphere opens up just around the corner. This
square, named Sant Josep Oriol, is a popular
site for street musicians and performers, fortune-tellers and painters. These two little squares
are therefore an enormous draw for tourists,
which make them equally attractive to pickpockets. Just be a little careful with your belongings, and you won't have any unfortunate surprises mar your enjoyment of the wonderful
café terraces and the vibrantly, artistic environment that characterise these lovely squares.
Much like the Raval and the Born, this area is
also full of designer and craftwork shops
selling unique and delightful items. The streets
Ferran and Avinyó are the best places to browse for gifts and indulge in some shopping.
Check out La Manual Alpargatera (Avinyó, 5)
for shoes, Dom (Avinyó, 7) for designer pieces
and Loft Avignon (Avinyó, 22) for some truly
original, avant-garde fashion.
By now you are already on your way towards
the Rambla. But before reaching the famous
promenade, you will cross one of the most
beloved squares in the city - the Plaça Reial.
The square has an elegant design, surrounded
on all sides by Napoleonic arches. However,
years of commercialisation have taken away
much of its charm, and the square is now
mostly frequented by tourists and the homeless.
After nightfall, the square turns into one of the
liveliest and busiest spots in the city. Glaciar is
a popular place to meet for the evening's first
drink. It might be crowded, but it is well worth
the visit. After Glaciar you can continue your
night on the town at a variety of classic bars
located in the area. Other interesting establishments around the square are Sidecar, Tarantos
and Jamboree, venues known for pop-rock
music, flamenco and jazz respectively.
Sunday mornings the square takes on a completely different appearance. Stalls line the spacious, open area, and the city's stamp and coin
collectors gather to sell, buy and exchange their
wares. If you share their enthusiasm, you
should definitely head down to the market.
Although many of the items might be of little
value, you can always find a good deal if you
take the time to look closely. Another interesting detail in the Plaça Reial is a sculptural
piece entitled The Three Graces. The piece consists of two streetlamps, with six arms each,
and its artistic value is far greater than you
would imagine at first glance. These streetlamps are one of Gaudí's first pieces. He designed them for the city at a time when he could
only dream of the immense, future fame that
awaited him.
If you make a U-turn and head back into the
neighbourhood away from the Rambla, you
reach the Plaça de la Mercè, the patron saint of
Barcelona. If you want to see what a Barcelona
wedding is like, then you have come to the
right place. At one end of the square is the courthouse, where civil marriages are performed.
And at the other end of the square is the Mercè
Basilica, where couples get married in traditional Catholic ceremonies.
The Mercè Church bears the name of
Barcelona's patron saint, the Mercè Virgin, and
was built in the second half of the 18th century
by Josep Mas i d'Ordal. Beneath the current
church lie the foundations of a much older
church that once formed part of a convent. The
most important day for this church is
September 24th, the city's biggest holiday and
the celebration of Barcelona's patron saint.
However, there are also other significant
moments that put this church in the spotlight.
One such occasion, for example, is when the
Barça team comes to the church to express gratitude for one of their triumphs. And since the
players come accompanied by other club members, team members, fans and family, this event
definitely brings a lot of people to the church.
Surrounding Areas
Surrounding Areas
Catalonia as a whole and Barcelona in particular are characterised by a classic Mediterranean
landscape, marked by both coastal and mountainous areas. In addition to all the cultural
attractions Barcelona offers as a city, the
surrounding areas are perfect destinations for a
variety of excursions that allow insight into
Catalonia's natural environment and cultural
traditions. We will take a look at three absolutely essential destinations that are equally fascinating in both summer and winter. Some of
these excursions are day trips to places such as
Montserrat or Sitges. The Costa Brava, on the
other hand, should be given more time as this
charming and popular destination is rather vast
and includes many point of interest.
MONTSERRAT
The chances of finding a Catalan who has
never stepped foot onto Montserrat would be
more than strange and unusual. The unmistakable mountain with its mysterious, serrated ridge
is considered a unique geological formation
and is one of Catalonia's most interesting natural sites. In addition to its natural beauty,
Montserrat is also a landmark for another reason - the Montserrat Abbey is home to the
Virgin of the same name, also known as La
Moreneta for her ebony skin colour. She is the
patron saint of Catalonia and a symbol that inspires immense devotion. Hundreds of Catalans,
both believers and non-believers, are drawn to
this holy relic on a regular basis. The weekends
are an especially popular time for locals to visit
the abbey and pay tribute to their patron saint.
During the era of the Franco dictatorship,
Montserrat also became a symbol for those
defending Catalonia's freedom. The monks
resolutely defied the anti-Catalan laws established by Franco's government and continued to
celebrate weddings, baptisms and mass in their
forbidden native tongue. The mountain also
served as a refuge for many intellectuals who
fought for the rights that the citizens had lost
under the dictatorship.
Montserrat is also a place of grand and impressive natural beauty. If you are a lover of outdoor sports, particularly hiking and rock climbing, then this is a definite must on your holiday itinerary. The mountain has more than a
thousand peaks comprised of different
monoliths as well as a thoroughly unusual
landscape made up of rises and inclines, canyons and valleys which are connected by a
series of well-marked trails. Amongst the many
routes you can take, the most interesting is the
trail leading up to the Sant Jeroni peak, the
mountain's highest point. Here you can admire
some truly spectacular, panoramic views onto
the surrounding areas below.
Montserrat was declared a nature reserve in
1989. The mountain is easily reached from
Barcelona by car, train or bus. However, one of
the most rewarding, albeit physically demanding, ways of getting to Montserrat is a traditional night hike during which people, driven by
athletic dedication or religious devotion, walk
the 60 kilometres separating the mountain from
Barcelona.
Montserrat Tourism Office
Pl. de la Creu, s/n
Tel: 93 877 77 77 (ext. 7586)
SITGES
Sitges is one of the most charming seaside
towns along the Barcelona coast. Nestled into
the slope of the Garraf mountain range, this
pretty, little enclave has become a very popular
tourist destination. Due to its proximity to
Barcelona and excellent transport connections,
Sitges is an easy day trip, but if you want to get
a true feeling for what the town and its population is like, opt to stay a few days longer.
The summer might be the best time to enjoy the
famous Sitges beaches, but the rest of the year
is equally full of events and attractions.
February brings with it one of the most famous
Carnival celebrations in all of Spain, complete
with costume parties and street parades. In late
September film buffs flock to Sitges for the
annual Festival Internacional de Cine
Fantástico (International Festival of Fantasy
Film), an event that gains in international reputation every year. Sitges is also a popular spot
at the weekend, famous throughout Catalonia
for its nightlife, especially amongst the gay
scene. The town also has three museums that
house an interesting modernist collection.
Sitges is a small town with the cultural and leisure options of a cosmopolitan community,
situated along one of the loveliest stretches of
Catalan coastline.
The Cau Ferrat Museum, located behind the
church, has an interesting permanent collection
that includes pieces by Santiago Rusiñol,
Ramon Casas and Pablo Picasso. Furthermore,
the museum also has a section dedicated to
medieval ceramics and traditional Catalan
wrought-iron. A truly special treat are the two
pieces by the great artist El Greco. The
MariCel Museum is just around the corner
and houses several excellent pieces of
Romanesque and Gothic sculpture as well as a
hall painted by Joseph Maria Sert and a few
paintings by Sorolla. The Maricel is actually
comprised of several beautifully designed buildings, joined by a patio decorated entirely with
Mexican-style glazed tiles. The third museum,
the Romantic Museum, is located inside a
spectacular 18th century mansion. Here you
can visit a perfectly preserved and highly
valuable art collection as well as the mansion's
old bodega (wine cellar).
Sitges faces four kilometres of gorgeous beaches, bordered by one of the most pleasant
boardwalks to be found along the Catalan coastline. When organising your trip, try to keep the
lunch hour free so that you can stop in at one of
the restaurants along the boardwalk which are
known for their delicious rice dishes.
one of the most famous seaside towns along the
coast. July brings a series of famous maritime
parades to the town, something that has already
turned into one of the biggest tourist draws in
the summer.
COSTA BRAVA
The Costa Brava stretches from the southern
edge of the Girona province all the way to the
French border. This beautiful coastal section is
one of the main tourist attractions in Catalonia.
In the summer the area's population triples in
number, not only due to visiting tourists but
also because the Costa Brava is a popular summer home for many Catalans. In addition to the
crowded, leisure spots along the coast, the
Costa Brava still maintains isolated, untouched
beaches, medieval towns and spectacular
masias (country estates). Describing the entire
Costa Brava and its many villages, beaches and
vast cultural heritage in detail would demand a
complete guide book in itself. Therefore, we
have decided to mention just a few of its main
towns according to where they are located as
you head northward along the coast.
After passing Palafrugell, a village located
inland, you reach Calella de Palafrugell,
Llafranc and Tamariu. These are three villages that once formed the heart of the area's fishing industry, which still maintain much of
their quaint charm despite the growing infrastructure demanded by the increase of tourism in
the area. All three villages are extremely popular summer destinations and usually attract a
large number of people who come here to
spend the season. Many consider Begur to be
something quite extraordinary, a place that
offers a contrast to many of the touristy towns
that line the coast. The castle overlooking the
town is still largely intact and hidden coves
such as Sa Tuna and Aiguablava are some of
the few untouched and pristine beaches left on
the Costa Brava.
Blanes is the closest town to Barcelona. Here
you can find one of the longest beaches in the
Girona province and the Mar i Murtra botanical
garden. The latter is one of the most important
in Europe and is home to more than 7,000 plant
species. Lloret de Mar is the Costa Brava's
epicentre in terms of tourism. Although the
town has some historical sites, such as a Roman
tower, remnants of a castle and pretty chapels,
it derives its greatest fame from the popularity
of its nightlife with young party-goers. It is a
place where the festivities last long into the
night and most revellers don't go to bed until
dawn. Tossa de Mar is one of the most unique
spots along the Costa Brava. In terms of historical interest, it has an ancient city wall and a
museum, called the Vila Vella, which houses a
very interesting art collection. The village's
other claim to fame is that it was home to
actress Ava Gardner while shooting one of her
films and backdrop for her torrid romance with
bullfighter Mario Cabré. The romance came to
an end when Ava's then-husband, Frank
Sinatra, travelled all the way to Tossa to break
up the affair and take the diva back home.
Heading further up north you encounter the
village Sant Feliu de Guíxols, site of a very
interesting monastery; Platja d'Aro, one of the
most popular beaches in the area and Palamós,
The village of Pals is another must-see stop on
your coastal itinerary. It is considered a historical monument and many original structures
remain. The rest of the architecture has been
perfectly restored, and the village takes on a
special beauty at dusk when the streets are illuminated with torches, recalling the ambiance of
long gone eras. Heading inland, you find other
interesting spots such as La Bisbal
d'Empordà, famous for its ceramics production, and Ullastret, a town where you can visit
a well-preserved ancient, Iberian settlement.
Making a u-turn back towards the coast, you
get to L'Estartit, famous for its beaches, which
form part of the nature reserve Illes Medes, a
paradise for all underwater adventurers. Upon
entering the Alt Empordà region, you should
definitely stop at the ancient Empúries territory, site of a Greco-roman settlement, which
has been perfectly preserved at its seafront
location. Although the majority of the original
pieces found at the site are now displayed at the
Barcelona Archaeological Museum, you can
still visit the remnants of the ancient city wall,
a well, the agora and the forum at the actual
location.
As you reach the Roses bay, you find yourself
in one of the most interesting nature reserves in
Catalonia, as interesting as the Delta de l'Ebre
Reserve near Tarragona. The Parc Natural dels
Aiguamolls de l'Empordà is a fascinating series
of wetlands that are home to several different
species of migrating birds. The nearby area of
Empuriabrava is an enticing spot for anyone
interested in outdoor activities. You can try
your hand at sailing on the artificial canals or
check out the marina. And if you have nerves of
steel, you can opt for a skydiving adventure at
the local aerodrome.
The region's capital is Figueres, the city where
Salvador Dalí was born and died. You should
not miss out on a visit to the fantastic theatremuseum dedicated entirely to the work of the
ingenious master of surrealism. The town of
Peralada, further to the north, is famous for its
magnificent castle, which now houses a casino
and organises wonderful music festivals during
the summer season. Roses is another popular
tourist destination along the coast and site of
the remnants of a 16th century fortress and
excavations dating back to the ancient Greek
city of Rhode. Cala Montjoi, one of the beaches
belonging to the town of Roses, is home to El
Bulli, culinary stronghold of world-renowned
chef Ferran Adrià. However, don't even consider stopping in for a meal without having made
a reservation. El Bulli is only open in the evenings from May to October and eager guests
often have to wait for more than a year to dine
at one of the coveted tables!
Cadaqués, a quaint town with whitewashed
buildings that draws a large share of visitors
each year, is only a few kilometres away.
Although it has been rather overrun with tourists and thus has lost much of its original
charm, it is almost impossible to resist visiting
this little fishing village turned enclave for writers and artists. In the centre of the nearby Port
Lligat, you can visit the house that was home
to Salvador Dalí and his wife Gala for much of
their life. Starting out at the little village of
Port de la Selva, it is only a few kilometres to
the Sant Pere de Rodes monastery, a fascinating
medieval complex that dates back to the 10th
century. You will be surprised at the incredibly
well-maintained condition of this historical
building. The church inside the abbey is considered one of most outstanding examples of
Romanesque art in all of Spain. As you approach the French border, you encounter the towns
Llançà, Colera and Portbou, three seaside
towns that mark the end of the Catalan coastline.
PRACTICAL
GUIDE
BOOK
PRACTICAL
GUIDE
BOOK
GETTING TO BARCELONA
Besides being the capital of Catalonia,
Barcelona is also one of the most important
cities in Spain. Therefore, it is extremely wellconnected to a wide variety of both national
and international destinations. You can get here
via many different modes of transport, be it by
sea, land or air.
By Air
Barcelona's international airport, El Prat, lies
approximately 12 kilometres southeast of the
city. The airport is currently being expanded to
better meet the area's travelling needs. It is a
busy hub with daily flights to many important
cities in Spain as well as throughout Europe
and other continental areas. The airport is divided into three terminals: A, B and C. Normally,
Terminal A serves international flights,
Terminal B serves national flights and Terminal
C serves the hourly shuttle that connects
Madrid and Barcelona. However, the expansion currently underway may cause changes to
the terminals' organisation. This sounds a
whole lot worse than it actually is, because at
this airport getting a little lost is no cause for
alarm. Unlike the sprawling structures in cities
such as London or Frankfurt, El Prat is easily
navigated on foot, and the terminals are all walking distance from one another.
Before leaving the airport, you should head
over to the tourist information desk, located in
the centre of the arrivals hall. The friendly staff
will be more than happy to provide you with a
map of the city. This little detour is well worth
it since the map will give you a better idea of
where you are upon your arrival in the city.
Plans are underway to build an underground
that will one day connect almost every area in
the city with the airport. However, this plan is
still years from completion, so at this point in
time you have three options of getting into the
city: taxi, bus or train. The most comfortable
option is definitely the taxi, which generally
costs approximately 20 Euros for a ride to the
areas surrounding Plaça Catalunya.
© TakeoffGuides 2005
A far cheaper option is the Aerobús (airport
bus), which leaves the airport every 15 minutes
and drops you off at Plaça Catalunya, right in
front of the large Corte Inglés department store.
A bus ride costs approximately 3 Euros (including luggage) and takes about half an hour to
reach its final destination. The buses run until
midnight.
If you wish to avoid all chances of getting stuck
in traffic, then perhaps the train is the best
option. The fare is a little more than one Euro,
and the train stops at a number of stations
throughout the city.
By Train
Barcelona has three main train stations: Sants,
Estaçio de França and Plaça Catalunya. Sants is
the busiest of the three, and the main arrival
and departure point for international trains. The
Spanish railway company is called RENFE,
and their website, www.renfe.es, provides daily
train timetables and other useful information.
Barcelona has two types of railway systems:
Cercanías, which operates trains that connect
Barcelona and its surrounding areas, and longdistance trains. The first type of train doesn't
require a reservation. Tickets can be purchased
at the machines or booths located inside each
station and timetables are posted in public
view. These trains connect Barcelona and the
towns and villages surrounding the city and are
a popular form of transport for people who
commute to work. During the summer months,
the Cercanías trains are the most common way
of getting to the beach towns along the
Barcelona coast, such as Masnou, Montgat,
Alella, Vilassar and Mataró.
By Bus
The city's main bus station is Estaçio del Nord,
located close to the Arc de Triomf and the
underground station of the same name. Most of
the bus lines that connect Barcelona with other
destinations in Spain arrive and depart from
this station. For information about these bus
lines please call +34 93 265 65 09. Buses
coming from and heading to international destinations generally stop at the Sants bus terminal, right next to the train station (+34 93 490
40 00). Tickets can be purchased at the station
and should be acquired well ahead of time to
make sure seats are still available. Usually, bus
tickets cannot be reserved; they have to be paid
as soon as they are issued.
(Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza and Formentera) as
well as several Italian destinations, such as
Genova.
Several cruise lines, organised through travel
agencies, also set sail from the Barcelona port.
GETTING AROUND
Underground
This is obviously the fastest way of getting
around the city but also the least rewarding in
terms of exploring Barcelona while in transit.
The underground network covers almost the
entire city, and every important tourist attraction usually has a very convenient underground
station nearby.
Barcelona has five underground lines: L1
(Hospital de Bellvitge-Fondo, red line), L2
(Paral.lel-Pep Ventura, purple line), L3 (Zona
Universitaria-Canyelles, green line), L4
(Trinitat Nova-La Pau, yellow line), L5
(Cornellà
Centre-Horta,
blue
line).
Construction on two further lines is currently
underway, and they should be completed in the
near future.
As is the case in most European cities, you can
change lines as often as you like thanks to
transfers. You have to validate your ticket every
time you wish to ride the underground by inserting your ticket into the machines at the turnstiles. A one-way ticket costs 1.15 Euros, but
you can choose to purchase a T-10, which is a
ten-ride pass that can be used by multiple passengers. This pass costs 6.30 Euros.
Bus
The selection of buses is ample, a ride costs the
same as on the underground and the T-10 is also
valid for this mode of transport. You can pick
up a map showing all the bus lines at any
underground station (the bus stops, however,
are out on the street), but some of the most interesting for visitors are the following: bus number 6 has stops along the Avenida Diagonal all
the way to Poblenou and the beaches, bus number 24 covers all of Passeig de Gràcia and pas-
By Boat
The Trasmediterránea company (+34 902 45 46
45), located inside the maritime station, oversees and operates the majority of boat travel entering and departing from the Barcelona port.
Generally, the most important routes operate
between the city and the Balearic Islands
1
ses buildings such as the Casa Batlló, Casa
Milà and the Palau Robert, bus number 14
starts out at the Vila Olímpica and ends in
Bonanova, one of the city's most elegant neighbourhoods, bus number 40 ends its trajectory in
Port Vell and bus number 41 runs down the
entire length of Avenida Diagonal, from Plaça
Francesc Macià at one end to the Forum
grounds at the other.
Taxi
Barcelona taxis are yellow and black, and a
small, green light on the roof indicates whether
they are free or not. Generally speaking, taxi
drivers try to take the shortest route possible to
complete a trip. Of course you can run into
situations, as happens in all major metropolitan
areas, were a taxi driver takes advantage of the
fact that you are "new" in the city and tries to
overcharge you - however, this is actually quite
unusual in Barcelona.
Taxis do apply additional charges for trips to
the airport, handling luggage and waiting for
passengers. Taxi fares don't start out at zero; a
ride always starts out from a set, base amount
of 1.60 Euros (1.80 Euros if the ride takes place
at night). The only times that it might be
slightly difficult to find a taxi is during a holiday or in very busy nightlife areas. To find a
ride, all you have to do is find a strategic corner and flag down any taxi coming your way.
Ferrocarrils de la Generalitat (FGC)
These trains are similar to the underground and
regular trains (in fact, many of their stations
coincide), but their routes reach other, at times
somewhat more distant, destinations. Their
main hub is the Catalunya station (right behind
Café Zurich at the top of the Rambla), which
also serves lines 1 and 3 of the underground.
The price of the ticket depends on the length of
the trajectory. Trajectories within the city limits
such as, for example, any destination between
Plaça Catalunya and Tibidabo, have the same
fare as the underground and the bus, and you
can use your T-10 for the trip.
Barcelona Sightseeing Bus (Bus Turístic)
The Bus Turístic is a special bus, designed specifically to meet the needs and interests of people visiting the city. It is a convertible, doubledecker bus with three, pre-established routes
that take visitors to some of the most interesting tourist attractions in the city. The red route
takes you to Plaça Catalunya, Passeig de
Gràcia, the Sagrada Familia, Parc Güell, the
Pedralbes Monastery, the FC Barcelona
Football Museum, MACBA and the CCCB.
The blue route also starts on Passeig de Gràcia
but heads up to the Anilla Olímpica on
Montjuic Mountain and then back down to the
Old Port, the Olympic Port, Ciutadela Park and
the Gothic Quarter. The latest addition is the
Forum route, which covers the recently developed areas of the city and is specifically designed for the summer as it passes through the
Olympic Port, Bogatell beach, the Forum
grounds, Diagonal Mar Park and Poblenou.
With the purchase of one ticket (17 Euros for
adults and 10 Euros for children between the
© TakeoffGuides 2005
ages of 4 and 12) you can change routes as
often as you like and take as many buses as you
wish. Tickets can be purchased at any tourist
information office (Tel. +34 932 853 832) or
when boarding the bus.
Tram
The tram has a long-lasting, historical tradition
in Barcelona, much like it does in many other
European cities (Barcelona has some infamous
and tragic stories relating to this mode of transport - Gaudí died after being hit by a tram).
During the second half of the 20th century,
local authorities decided that the tram was an
antiquated and uncomfortable form of transport
and removed the tracks.
However, times have changed and with them
the perception of the tram. Studies have shown
that it is a safe, fast and efficient form of transport, which offers greater mobility to people
with a physical handicap since trams can be
boarded at street level. Barcelona reconsidered
the tram only recently when it offered a possibility to connect the city with a number of areas
in the outskirts such as Esplugues, Cornellà,
Sant Joan Despí and Sant Just Desvern.
Although these areas don't lie very far outside
the city, the public transport options connecting
them had always been poor and insufficient.
The Forum 2004 event gave the plan a final
push, and the new tram lines were inaugurated
that same year. Public opinion is split on the
matter. Although many people agree that the
tram has improved both the city's image as well
as its public transportation system, others consider it a flawed idea that does little more than
interfere with traffic and cause accidents due to
improper traffic signals and street signs.
Whatever the case may be, the tram does offer
an alternative form of transport, especially if
you are exploring the Forum area or the upper
section of Avenida Diagonal.
Bicycle
The bicycle is an original, different, fun and
ecologically conscious method of exploring the
city. Barcelona might not be the biker's paradise that Amsterdam is, but the city is well equipped with several bike paths around the city centre as well as many other areas.
Bicycles can be rented at places like Ciclobus
(+34 93 853 832), Biciclot (+34 93 307 74 75)
and several other similar establishments.
By Car
As is the case in all large cities, taking the car
out for a spin around the tourist attractions is
not a good idea. The streets might strike you as
wide and well indicated, particularly in areas
like the Eixample, but traffic jams are the norm,
especially when people commute to and from
work (around 8 am and 7 pm). Then there are
neighbourhoods like Gràcia, which are nearly
impossible to navigate by car (the small and
narrow streets are a challenge for anyone unfamiliar with them). And then there is the subject
of parking ... Its better to not even try finding a
parking spot in the city centre. Snagging a
place in a parking garage during certain hours
of the day is an almost equally daunting task.
However, when it comes to making trips
around the city's surroundings the car is a definite plus. The city is encircled by two motorway belts called Rondas (the Ronda Litoral
runs along the coast and the Ronda del Dalt
cuts through the city's interior). The Rondas
offer drivers and easy and quick way in and out
of the city. The speed limit is set at 60 km/h, but
the nature of the road seems to encourage people to drive faster. However, speeding violations are heavily fined and the road is dotted
with radar monitoring systems; therefore, for
both your safety and the health of your pocketbook, we recommend that you adhere to the
indicated speed limit.
If you want to head out of the city, you should
know a few, basic things about the motorways.
The main coastal motorway is the A7 (also
known as the E15, its European designation).
The A16 heads south towards Tarragona, and
the A19 heads north towards Girona. The entire motorway system in Catalonia is made up of
toll roads (known as "peaje"). They tend to be
rather expensive so it is a good idea to get some
information on your destination and how to get
there before heading out. A cheaper alternative
is to take the national highways; they can be
more uncomfortable and less well maintained,
but they are free.
OTHER PECULIAR FORMS OF
TRANSPORT
Tramvia blau (Blue Tram)
This little tram line circulates between Plaça
Kennedy, on the Avenida Tibidabo, and the
Plaça del Doctor Andreu, next to the Tibidabo
funicular. It is the most unique way of getting
2
of transport; what it offers is simply the most
amazing way to see the city from up above. The
trip starts out from the BCNSkytours heliport,
located near Moll de Europa, and lasts 10
minutes. The price tag is a tad steep, 70 Euros
per person, but it is definitely a one of a kind
experience.
to the amusement park situated on top of the
mountain. It only runs when the park is open
and at the weekend. A bus covers the route on
other days but it goes without saying that it
possesses a lot less charm.
A one-way ticket costs 2 € and a round-trip ticket 2.90 €.
Montjuic Funicular
The funicular connects Parallel with the
Montjuic cable car station in less than 2 minutes. The funicular leaves from the Parallel
underground station (L2 and L3) and is
amongst the most peculiar forms of transport you almost feel like you are floating in thin air.
The T-10 pass for the underground and bus
system is also valid for the funicular.
Transbordador aéreo (cable car)
This odd little ride starts at the Montjuic
Mountain (specifically at the Costa i Llobera
gardens), stops halfway through the trajectory
at the Jaume I Tower located next to the World
Trade Centre and ends its journey at the Sant
Sebastià Tower. The ride inside this cable car
allows passengers to admire some of the best
panoramic views onto the city.
A one-way, adult ticket costs 7.50 €. Round-trip
ticket is 9 €.
Golondrinas
These typical, traditional boats can take you
from the Columbus Monument at the port to
the l'Escullera area.
The trip takes about 35 minutes and is mainly
designed for tourists or locals who are looking
for a different way to spend their day. Most
locals have been on one of the Golondrinas at
least once in their lifetime. Nowadays, catamarans also cover the same route and although
they are covered and more comfortable, they
cannot hold a candle to the Golondrinas' charm.
Helicopters
It is now possible to fly across Barcelona in a
helicopter. Obviously this isn't a common form
© TakeoffGuides 2005
The flight begins over Port Vell (Old Port) and
the Olympic Port and then heads over to the
Forum grounds. The helicopter swoops around
and flies further into the city, passing the Agbar
Tower and Plaça Glòries and heading up to the
Sagrada Familia. Other spots that will surely
delight you are the Eixample with its classic
grid-like structure, Park Güell and the Camp
Nou. Finally, the helicopter comes around and
finishes the flight over the Anella Olímpica and
its landmarks: Palau de Sant Jordi, the Olympic
Stadium and the Calatrava Tower.
USEFUL ADVICE
Required Documentation
The type of identity document you need to
enter Barcelona and Spain depends on which
country you are coming from. Spain is one of
the fifteen countries that signed the Schengen
Agreement, which means that a visa isn't required to enter the country. The other countries
included under the Schengen Agreement are
the countries of the European Union (except
the United Kingdom, Ireland, Slovakia,
Estonia, Hungary, Latonia, Lithuania, Malta,
Poland, the Czech Republic and Cyprus) and
Norway and Iceland.
Citizens of the European Union only need an
official, national identity document to enter the
country. Citizens of the United Kingdom,
Canada, Ireland, Japan, New Zealand,
Switzerland, Australia, Israel and the USA may
spend up to 90 days within the Schengen region
as tourists without a visa. Travellers from all
other countries planning to visit Spain should
consult their local Spanish consulate or
embassy to find out what documentation they
will need for their trip.
Currency
The official, Spanish currency is the euro.
Money can he changed at banks, savings banks
and currency exchange bureaus. Banks are
open Monday through Friday from 8:39am to
2pm and Saturday from 8:30am to 1pm. Banks
are closed on Saturdays during the summer.
The savings banks are also open on Thursday
afternoons except during the summer.
Currency exchange bureaus are located throughout the main, tourist areas of the city as well
as at the most important bus and train stations
like Sants Station and Barcelona Nord Station.
Climate
Barcelona has a Mediterranean climate, marked by a lot of sunshine. Temperatures tend to
be mild throughout the year. Winters are not
excessively cold. Although the summers are
hot, the barometer rarely registers extreme temperatures.
The region experiences occasional rainfall,
usually during the spring and autumn months.
However, it isn't unusual for isolated rainstorms to take place during other seasons as
well. Barcelona is a famous beach destination
in the summer. Although Lleida and Girona are
more famous for their winter skiing, Barcelona
also has several attractive ski resorts.
Working Hours
The working day in most offices, banks, companies and other official institutions usually
begins between 8am and 9am. Lunch is usually
around 2pm, and many places close at midday.
They open again around 4pm and close between 6pm and 7pm. Catalans have the reputation
for being hard workers and money conscious.
Some meaner spirits prefer to call their money
conscious attitude stinginess but this isn't true.
Barcelona citizens spend and consume as much
if not more than their other Spanish counterparts.
Shops and other commercial venues have much
longer, working hours. Stores open around
10am and close for lunch around 2pm. They
open for the afternoon around 4pm and don't
close until 8:30pm. The shops in the city centre
usually stay open during lunch, and shopping
centres stay open until 10pm. Timetables are
also adjusted during sales and special shopping
seasons (such as Christmas). During these
periods, shops are often open Monday through
Sunday including holidays.
Language
When you come to Barcelona or anywhere else
in Catalonia, you will notice that street signs,
street names and other information are posted
in Catalan. You will hear the language spoken
on the street, in restaurants and more than once
people will probably address you in Catalan.
Not just newspapers, magazines and books are
available in Catalan, but also plays, musicals
and films are performed and screened in this
language. Therefore, you might be interested in
knowing a little more about this language, its
history and why it is spoken in this part of the
country.
Catalan is a romance language derived from
Latin and the original and proper language of
Catalonia. During the 8th and 10th centuries,
Catalan, along with other languages such as
French and Castilian that share the same ori-
3
gins, was already a clearly defined language
that distinguished itself from Latin.
Barcelona was a strong influence in the language's
preservation
and
formalisation.
Generations of Barcelona counts ruled the
region for long periods of time and cultivated
the language's development. Many judicial,
economic, religious and historical texts written
in the language over the centuries have been
preserved.
When Catalonia was defeated in the 1714 War
of Succession, the Catalan language suffered
through long periods of prohibition and repression. It wasn't until after the Franco
Dictatorship that the language once again enjoyed freedom of expression, aided by the statutes of autonomy granted not only to Catalonia
but also the Balearic Islands and the Valencian
Community.
Nowadays Catalan, along with Castilian, is the
official language of Catalonia. The language is
also spoken in the Valencian Community
(although there it is known as "Valenciano"), in
the Balearic Islands, the French province of the
eastern Pyrenees (a region that once formed
part of Catalonia) and even in some places in
Sardinia (Italy).
The Barcelona Card
Like many other European cities, Barcelona
also offers a special card that provides visitors
with significant discounts. Cards can be acquired for a period of 1 to 5 days (the price varies
accordingly: 17€ for a one-day card and 30€ for
a five-day card). The card provides you with
free use of public transport within the city as
well as discounts and free entry to some of the
city's museums. Please call the following number for more information about this service:
+34 932 853 832.
Due to their excellent proximity to the city's
financial centres, Passeig de Gràcia, Plaça
Catalunya, the upper section of Avenida
Diagonal and Plaça Urquinaona are the best
choices for anyone on a business trip. The last
year has also witnessed the opening of many
new hotels, usually belonging to large, international chains and designed to accommodate
congresses and conventions, in the area
surrounding the Forum grounds. These hotels
might not be centrally located, but they are well
connected via public transport and have facilities that are equipped to meet all the needs of a
company event.
The aforementioned hotels are perfectly appropriate for business trips, but Barcelona offers a
far wider array of accommodations. For example, couples might opt for more intimate, charming hotels or small apartments that allow for
more privacy. The latter option is also well suited to the needs of friends travelling in a group
or families. Apartments have more space and
provide the option of cooking at home - something that also saves you a lot of money if you
are planning a lengthy stay in the city. You can
find a complete and detailed listing of apartments and hotels, classified by area and category, at www.bcninternet.com.
Another important thing to consider when booking an accommodation is how it ranks in
Barcelona's classification system. Specific
names and categories apply to the different
types of establishments; the following descriptions range from the most basic to the most
upscale type of accommodation. Albergues
WHERE TO STAY IN BARCELONA
Barcelona embraces diversity. It is the kind of
city where you can find a great place to stay
whether you are travelling deluxe-style or on a
shoe-string. Accommodations come in all shapes and sizes, fitting just about any budget, preference and situation.
In general, the area of a city says much about
the type of accommodation located within its
perimeter. Upscale hotels tend to be located in
the Eixample as well as in the Born and the
Raval now that the latter two have transformed
into two of the classiest neighbourhoods in the
city. However, these same neighbourhoods
have traditionally housed the city's guesthouses
and hostels, some of which come with all
necessary mod-cons and others which only
offer the bare minimum.
The reason for your trip will also largely determine the type of accommodation that is most
suited to your needs. If you are in Barcelona on
business, there are several areas designed precisely to satisfy of needs of a business traveller.
© TakeoffGuides 2005
(youth hostels) are a good option for young travellers, people on a tight budget or people who
don't mind sharing a room with strangers. The
majority of these establishments are located in
the Gothic Quarter and only offer very basic
conveniences (a bed, a roof over your head and
a shared bath). Their greatest advantage is their
low prices, but you have to be willing to sacrifice privacy in exchange for paying very little.
A pensión (guesthouse) is a place that rents out
rooms equipped with the most basic necessities. Rooms are usually furnished with double
or single beds, some rooms have their own bath
whereas other guesthouses require guests to
share bathroom facilities. In general, these establishments only provide accommodation or
accommodation and breakfast. It's difficult to
make a general assessment about this type of
establishment. Some show a glaring lack of
facilities and conveniences whereas others
offer good, clean, simple lodging for very low
prices.
Hostels in Barcelona don't really fit the description applied to this type of accommodation
in other European cities. Here a hostel is far
closer to a hotel and is also categorised according to stars. Usually, the quality of rooms in a
two-star hostel will pleasantly surprise most
visitors. In Barcelona, the term hostel is used to
describe a cosy and intimate setting, and prices
can be on par with those of a hotel because,
more often that not, the mod cons are almost
identical in both.
Of course, there is still a clear distinction between hostels and hotels - and the latter are
equally well represented in Barcelona. In fact,
the list of great hotels is so long that it would be
impossible to include all of them here.
Therefore, the short list that follows is designed
to reflect hotels that currently stand out from
the rest, be it because of historical importance,
noteworthy design, reasonable prices or a cutting-edge reputation.
Two of the city's trendiest hotels at the moment
are the Hotel Omm and the Hotel Casa Camper.
The Hotel Omm is at the forefront of hip
hotels and has 5 stars to boot. Located in the
city centre, the hotel has 58 rooms, one suite
and incredible views onto La Pedrera. The
facade is an immediate reminder that you are
not in the presence of a conventional hotel. The
entire hotel has a hip designer look and feel,
something marked by details such as the aluminium wall that separates the room from the bath
and has a TV, safe, CD-player and mini-bar
built into it.
The hotel restaurant, Moo, does an interesting,
very modern take on Catalan cuisine. Moo's
secret ingredient is the Roca brothers, a name
that has gained an illustrious reputation in
Catalonia's gastronomic circles. Some find the
cuisine a tad too innovative, perhaps, whereas
others consider it one of the best and most original restaurants they have ever dined at. One
thing is certain: at Moo the show and the service almost steal the limelight away from the
food. Opinions on the food may vary, but no
one will disagree with the fact that this is the
hippest restaurant in town right now. It is the
place to be if you want to mingle with the 'in'
crowd, and it isn't unusual to spot a minor celebrity or two who come here to make an appearance. If you want a glimpse of all that is
currently cutting-edge and absolutely cool in
this city, make sure to drop in at Moo for a
meal.
The Hotel Omm also has a very exclusive night
club with one of the strictest admission policies
in Barcelona. Who gets in and who doesn't is
heavily scrutinised, but once inside you get to
see live acts performing from 11pm until dawn.
The pool has a bar alongside it and is a luxu-
4
rious spot to relax and enjoy a lovely view onto
Passeig de Gràcia, especially beautiful at night
when it is illuminated by its famous, modernist
streetlamps. It goes without saying that the
hotel has a private parking garage for guests so
that all the luxury cars have an accommodation
as safe and comfortable as their owners.
If the topic is hip hotels, then the Hotel Casa
Camper cannot go without mention. The brand
originally specialised in shoes aimed, specifically, at a young and thirty-something clientele
that places a high premium on originality. Now
Camper has inaugurated its very own hotel, a
four-star establishment located inside a 19th
century building in the Raval. The hotel has 25
rooms and was created in collaboration with
Fernando Amat. Amat is the brains behind the
Vinçon store - a Mecca for anyone who worships the art of design.
The Casa Camper is different, original, practical and simple without being plain. It is the perfect place for anyone who values natural
surroundings and social commitment. Camper
lacks pretence and places great importance on
rehabilitating old buildings rather than building
new ones. Its minimalist design somehow
manages to be modern without falling into any
of the trendy traps in terms of decor.
However, many people prefer moderation to
lavish luxury. Often, the best deals lie somewhere between deluxe hotels and low-end
guesthouses. If this is more your style, then
check into the Gat Raval, immersed in the city's historical centre, right next door to the
MACBA museum on Joaquín Costa Street.
This hotel belongs to a class known as "charter
hotels" - a no frills accommodation with all
mod-cons and a designer touch. The 24 rooms
are all pristine, functional and very cool - as
demanded by its location in the Raval and the
type of clientele the neighbourhood attracts.
The most you will ever pay is 67 € a night,
which is the price of a double room with bath
during the high season. And you get more for
your money than just a room - the price also
includes internet service, free tea and coffee,
TV in your room and a lovely view onto the
MACBA. The Gat Raval offers guests affordable luxury, well below the 300 € a night charged at the previously mentioned hotels. It goes
without saying that the ambiance in each of
these hotels is radically different, each one has
carved out a niche for itself that sets it apart
from other accommodations. However, it is
precisely this diversity that makes Barcelona a
truly great city - it has something for everyone.
WHERE TO EAT IN BARCELONA
Still staying in luxury mode but shifting gears,
we get to the only 5-star, deluxe Grand Hotel in
all of Spain - the Casa Fuster. Located at the
end of Passeig de Gràcia, just where it merges
with the Gran de Gràcia street, the hotel takes
up a building designed by the architect Lluís
Doménech i Montaner, who was also responsible for several other important, local, architectural wonders, such as the Palau de la Música
Catalana.
The hotel restaurant, Galaxó, has received
accolades for the outstanding quality of its cuisine. And then there is the café; one of the loveliest and historically most valuable in all of
Barcelona. Once upon a time it was the Salón
Vienés, a famous gathering spot in the early
20th century. The roof-top terrace has a swimming pool and a view onto the Passeig de
Grácia that stands in a league of its own. On a
clear day you can even see the glittering blue of
the Mediterranean beyond the buildings. And at
night the show up here is absolutely priceless.
© TakeoffGuides 2005
Barcelona is well known for having a strong,
multicultural character, something that is
reflected in the city's many restaurants. This
vast culinary diversity gives you a wonderful
and delicious insight into the city's identity. A
few decades ago, the art of dining didn't have
quite the same cultural significance in
Barcelona, or in the rest of Spain, as it does
today. This is one area in which Barcelona has
experienced a 180 degree shift and nowadays
heading out for a meal is one of the best ways
of getting acquainted with the rhythms and customs of city life.
Barcelona is a gourmet's paradise. Although the
city has followed the pattern of most large
cities and included fast food and takeaway
meals on the menu, it still maintains and celebrates the local custom of leisurely sit-down
meals. A new generation of chefs has contributed much to keeping this tradition alive as well
as raising Catalan cuisine to new heights, both
in terms of innovation and popularity. One only
needs to mention the likes of Ferran Adrià culinary maestro at the El Bulli restaurant
(headquartered in Roses, Girona but with a
workshop in Barcelona) - who is considered to
be one of the best chefs worldwide.
When deciding on where to eat, two important
factors need to be considered - the type of restaurant and price range. Most meals in
Barcelona fall into the 20 € range, but the majority of neighbourhoods also have an abundant
selection of both more expensive and cheaper
restaurants. Another good option to keep in
mind is the lunch menu - offered by most restaurants from Monday through Friday - with
prices ranging from 6 € to 15 €. This type of
meal usually includes a starter, main dish and
dessert, as well as a drink, bread and coffee.
However, this varies depending on the restaurant so make sure to ask your waiter or read the
menu's fine print before ordering.
Generally, lunch is served between 1pm and
3pm and dinner between 9pm and 11pm. It is
customary to drink wine with meals. Catalonia,
much like the rest of Spain, is famous for its
wines, a local speciality that visitors should not
miss out on. Prices vary according to the wine's point of origin and year. For example, most
lunchtime menus already include the wine in
the meal's set price whereas upscale restaurants
offer a choice of wines that are often more
expensive than the meal itself. Very exclusive
restaurants have 90 € to 100 € wines on their
lists, a lovely treat for a very special occasion.
Many visitors come to Barcelona looking to
dive into their first "tapa" experience only to be
sorely disappointed. This is a traditional and
popular custom in much of Spain but not in
Catalonia. However, several restaurants specialising in "tapas", many of which bear Basque
names, have sprung up around the city and contributed to the rebirth of this culinary delight.
Tapas also fall into two categories - the typical
Spanish tapa (usually involving cheese, ham
and omelette) and those served at hip, designer
restaurants. The latter usually serve tiny, culinary creations rather than mere tapas. The city
has also become a haven for international cuisine. In addition to stalwarts such as Italian,
Greek, Japanese and French fare, immigration
has given rise to several new Chinese, Indian,
5
Pakistani, Egyptian etc. restaurants that open
up a whole new world of flavours.
Meals tend to be long, drawn-out affairs, especially in the evenings. Dessert is traditionally
followed by coffee - typically a shot of espresso or a "cortado" (coffee with a little dash of
milk). Others prefer to close the dining experience with an herbal tea. Unlike many other
European cities, Barcelona is smoker friendly
and most restaurants, with the exception of a
few vegetarian places or places with signs indicating the contrary, permit smoking. As far as
tipping is concerned, it is greatly appreciated
since the final price doesn't include a gratuity.
The amount of the tip is entirely up to you and
how you feel about the quality of the food and
the service received.
Having answered these simple questions, the
next decision centres on what you're looking
for in a meal: a mere hunger quencher or a truly
delicious dining experience. This, of course,
depends on individual preference and budget,
but regardless of the situation, it is always good
to leave the house with a few useful tips in
hand.
Gothic quarter and surrounding areas
If you are looking for a place to have lunch or
dinner but aren't sure of exactly what kind of
restaurant you fancy then the Gothic Quarter is
probably your best destination. This is the heart
of the city, which has an endless selection of
restaurants to choose from including vegetarian
fare, fast food joints, some of the city's oldest
and most classic establishments and many
trendy, eclectic new spots. If you want to try
some truly, authentic, Catalan food then stop in
at Can Culleretes (Quintana, 5), one of the city's oldest and most venerable places for local
cuisine. Here you can sample dishes such as
classic cannelloni Barcelona-style, the unmistakable and not-to-be-missed "Escudilla
Catalana" as well as lighter fare such as ovenbaked gilthead bream or wild boar "civet". Can
Culleretes, inaugurated in 1786, boasts a decor
made up of early 20th century art and is a definite top choice for both intimate dinners as well
as group gatherings.
If you are in the mood for something slightly
more international, check out El Gallo Kiriko
on Avinyó, 9. It was probably the very first
© TakeoffGuides 2005
Pakistani restaurant to open in Barcelona and
still ranks amongst the best. Finding it is easy simply follow the irresistible smell of curry that
wafts out of the restaurant and fills the street.
The restaurant eschews the regional flavour
that characterises many restaurants of its kind
and instead opts to serve specialities from
every corner of the country such as nan
(Pakistani flatbread straight from the oven),
tandoori chicken, samosas and other typical,
filled pastries. The restaurant is also one of the
few places to enjoy a refreshing Cobra Beer, an
Indian classic that is hard to come by. The restaurant's reasonable prices suit every kind of
budget and range from approximately 6 € to 10
€.
Other international restaurants in the area
include Govinda (Plaça Vila de Madrid, 4-5),
one of the most celebrated Indian restaurants in
Barcelona (clients should note that they don't
serve any alcohol); the Jinnah Continental
(Ample, 46), serving both Indian and Pakistani
specialities; the Oolong (Gignàs, 25), an interesting fusion between Asian and American
cuisine; Shunka (Sagristans, 5), a very good
Japanese restaurant, which serves more than
the ubiquitous sushi and prepares excellent sashimi (finely sliced raw fish), udon (a typical
noodle dish) and miso soup with dried tuna and
seaweed.
If you happen to wander across the Plaça Reial
and see a lengthy cue outside a restaurant, you
can safely assume that you have found Les
Quinze Nits. This is one of the city's absolute
classics, a place where you can enjoy perfectly
prepared dishes (with names as delicious as
they are long) without spending your life
savings. The only downside is the fact that they
don't take reservations so make sure you come
armed with plenty of patience. If your patience
ends up running out, you can always pop into
the neighbouring Sidecar Restaurant instead.
The restaurant serves food until about 1am then the tables disappear and Sidecar transforms into a popular cocktail bar. The basement
doubles as a dance club, which doesn't, however, disturb the relaxed atmosphere upstairs.
The menu includes dishes from many different
regions in the world, including interpretations
of Asian, American and African delicacies. And
if you have room for dessert, you should definitely indulge in the house speciality, the aptly
named "Volcán de Chocolate" (chocolate volcano).
If you are seeking something modern and hip,
check out the Living (Capellans, 9), a restaurant that could just as easily be in New York
and serves food at any hour of the day, Juicy
Jones (Cardenal Casañas, 7), a vegan restaurant
with a great variety of international dishes and
a very funky atmosphere or Pla (Bellafila, 11),
an exponent of very creative and international
cooking that is also an ideal spot for a romantic
meal. Less adventurous souls can always rely
on a classic pizzeria of which there are many in
Barcelona. La Verónica (Avinyó, 30) is still one
of the city's most innovative pizzerias, despite
having been in business for many years. And if
you are in a hurry and just want to pop in somewhere for a quick bite, there is no better place
than the The Bagel Shop. Here you can find
more than 45 different kinds of bagels served in
myriad styles, both sweet and savoury.
Barceloneta and Vila Olímpica
It comes as no surprise that the city's best seafood restaurants are located next to the sea. La
Barceloneta is the premiere destination if you
are looking for classic rice, fish and seafood
dishes. The traditional local bars might not be
impressive to the eye but when it comes down
to dining you cannot find a better, more authentic place. Seafood and fish tends to be pricey so
expect to spend at least 25 € at most restaurants.
Can Ros, located on Almirall Aixada 7, is
almost 100 years old. The same owners also
run La Mar Salada, on Passeig Joan de Borbó
58, which serves the same style cuisine but is
far more modern in terms of decor and ambiance. Cal Pinxo, on the Plaça Pau Vila 1, next to
the Palau de Mar, started out as a beach bar,
humble beginnings that are difficult to fathom
considering the restaurant's prestigious reputation today. Another very typical restaurant is
Set Portes (Passeig Isabel II 14). Founded in
1836, the Set Portes still preserves most of its
original furniture. It is one of the few restaurants not chasing the latest trends, opting instead for a classic elegance marked by tradition.
Paella is the restaurant's house speciality.
If the menu's wide array of choices confuses
you, here are a few, good tips on what to order:
fried squid, lobster, gilthead bream, monkfish
and any of the many rice dishes. The rice dishes can be prepared in several, different ways for example, with cod, rabbit and sausages,
vegetables or black rice, which owes its peculiar colour to the ink of the squid that is its main
ingredient.
The Olympic Port is also home to many seafood restaurants. These restaurants tend to be
much more modern, and they compensate what
they lack in terms of historical charm with
prime, seafront locations. One of the most wellknown restaurants in the port is Agua, located
on Passeig Marítim de la Barceloneta, 30. The
designer decor and pleasant atmosphere have
made this a popular spot for all kinds of reu-
6
nions such as romantic, group or business dinners and lunches.
Friends, at Passeig del Born 27 (the enormous
mural on the wall is a piece by Jordi Labanda).
If your inclinations are bohemian and intellectual, then El Foro, at Princesa 53, and its interesting blend of Italo-Argentinian cuisine
might make a good choice. And if Cuban food
tickles your fancy, make your way through the
maze of little streets to Habana Vieja, located at
Banys Vells 2. Finally, for a foray into a
modern reinterpretation of Catalan cuisine with
an exotic twist, book a table at L'Oucomballa,
located at number 20 on the same street.
Eixample
This area is home to a great variety of restaurants but more often than not price exceeds
quality in these parts. Amongst the prestigious
and first-class restaurants you can potentially
encounter a few where the quality doesn't measure up to the prices. You can also find just
about any kind of fast food here, from the typical chains such as Burger King, McDonalds
and KFC to more home-grown versions such as
Pans & Company and Bocatta (sandwiches),
Pastafiore (pizzas) or FresCo and Lactuca (allyou-can-eat vegetarian and salad bars).
If all you are looking for is a quick bite on the
go, then the aforementioned restaurants will
suffice. However, if you would like to enjoy a
good, sit-down meal, be it for business or pleasure, then the following options will definitely
tickle your palate. Il Comendattore (Comte
d'Urgell, 247) stands out amongst the city's
Italian restaurants, both for the food as well as
the decor, which emulates a classic Italian look.
Another international option is Dionisos
(Comte d'Urgell, 90), one of the most famous
Greek restaurants in Barcelona.
There is no shortage of traditional restaurants
either such as, for example, the Mesón Cinco
Jotas at Rambla de Catalunya, 91. As the name
implies, the speciality here is "jamón serrano"
(cured ham), and the owners claim that theirs
surpasses all others in terms of quality. This is
difficult to prove without having tasted the
competition, but one thing is certain - their
Catalan-style bruchettas (toasted bread) with
tomato and ham are absolutely delicious. Their
prices are somewhat more expensive compared
to other establishments of its kind, but the
exceptional quality more than makes up for it.
The Eixample is also a night-life favourite
amongst the local gay population and offers a
wide selection of bars, clubs and restaurants.
The Miranda ranks amongst the most original
in this genre, a restaurant with live performances that later on transforms into a cocktail bar.
Located on Casanova 30, the Miranda's decor
is straight out of a Pedro Almodóvar film, and
dinner is accompanied by spectacular drag
queen shows.
The Born and the Raval
As these are the city's hippest neighbourhoods,
it makes perfect sense that they are also home
to the trendiest and most chic restaurants.
However, a designer look and trendy feel aren't
the only things these neighbourhoods have to
offer. There are still classics to be found, such
as historically relevant restaurants like Los
Toreros (Xuclà, 3-5), decorated with old photographs depicting the art of bullfighting, or the
Fonda Espanya (Sant Pau, 9-11), the dining
room at the hotel of the same name, designed
by the architect Lluís Doménech i Montaner.
If you want ambiance rather than history, make
your way over to El Trillo (Àngels, 3), located
© TakeoffGuides 2005
right around the corner from MACBA. This is
a lively spot, perfect for groups, at which you
can sample a variety of salads and appetisers
along with some excellent wine at very reasonable prices. If you are looking for a designer
touch, it can be found at Lupino (Carme, 33), a
favourite amongst thirty-something intellectuals who don't mind paying a little more for a
meal if it means a quiet, relaxing and sophisticated atmosphere. Salsitas is another classic
spot - and one of the first to put the idea of
having a space serve both as restaurant and
club into practice.
Another almost obligatory stop is the Casa
Leopoldo, located on Sant Rafael, 24. The dishes alone are worth the visit - generous portions of first-class fish and seafood. But this
restaurant offers more than simply great food most locals consider it one of the city's landmarks. The restaurant was immortalised by
Manuel Vázquez Montalbán in his detective
novels, where it often served as a hang-out for
the main character, Pepe Carvalho.
The Born is probably the neighbourhood to
have witnessed the greatest degree of change in
terms of leisure and entertainment. Nowadays,
no one can claim to be hip unless they can mention at least three restaurants and three stores
located in the Born. The selection is so vast that
this might seem like an easy task. However, it
is easy to get overwhelmed by the quantity of
options. Therefore, it helps to head out with a
few recommendations.
If you want a quick bite and a chance to see a
lot of pretty faces, pop into Sándwich &
Gràcia
Egyptian, Cuban, Pakistani and Moroccan are
some of the predominant flavours here.
Options include both carefully prepared meals
and quick sandwiches at the bar. Restaurants
range in style from refined establishments to
taverns ideal for groups and parties. Gràcia is
the kind of neighbourhood that every great city
needs - a place where you can find a restaurant
for just about any occasion.
The area's main streets are Torrijos and Verdi,
both perennially lively and vibrant. Starting
out from one of the two, it is easy to find whatever restaurant you are looking for. The Café
Salambó on Carrer Torrijos is one of the area's
classic spots. Located next to the Verdi cinema,
the restaurant serves an elaborate, first-class
cuisine. Chido One, located at number 30 on
the same street, is one of the best and most
popular Mexican restaurants. La Torreta de
Gràcia, at Verdi 179, is located in a house with
a garden, a rare treat in the area, and serves a
selection of grilled meats and vegetables
accompanied with "pan amb tomaquet" - the
traditional Catalan white bread covered with
tomato and olive oil. Verdi offers another wide
array of options: La Fronda, at Verdi 15, is very
popular with young people. Mesopotamia, at
number 65, is probably the best place in
Barcelona for Iraqi cuisine. And D.O., at number 36, is a perfect little nook at which to sample creative tapas and good wine at prices that
fit everybody's budget.
Verdi might have the most restaurants per square metre in all of Barcelona, but the options in
Gràcia don't end there. Stop in at Botafumeiro
(Gran de Gràcia 81), one of the city's best seafood restaurants, which also has private dining
rooms that are perfect for business lunches and
special events. And special should definitely
define the occasion since prices here always
add up to about 60 € per person.
If you are keen on trying food from other
Spanish regions and want to make sure to get
the highest quality, the different Regional
Houses are definitely the best option. The
Andalusian house on Vìa Laietana doubtlessly
serves the best fried fish; La Rioja's house on
Pintor Fortuny prepares excellent, northernstyle casseroles; rice dishes are best tried at the
Valencia house on Carrer Córcega and for a
good, hearty meal head over to the Galician
centre, right on the Rambla, which specialises
in seafood and stuffed pastries.
7
BARCELONA AT NIGHT
Barcelona is well-known for having a very
varied and vibrant nightlife. There is something
to satisfy every preference amidst the seemingly endless options. Traditionally, people
used to head out for a night on the town
Thursday through Saturday. However, times
are changing and many of the bars and clubs
are now open every night of the week - and
usually catering to an enthusiastic clientele.
The city has made an active effort to provide
public transport to late night revellers, both as a
public service and to reduce the dangers of
drunk driving. All public transport runs until
midnight, Sunday through Thursday, and until
2am on Fridays and Saturdays. The first, regular schedule trains and buses start at 5am,
Monday through Friday, and at 6am on
Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. Night buses
fill the empty hours and cover many of the
major routes throughout the city. Therefore,
getting home doesn't depend on transport
options but rather on how long you can stay
awake and keep up with the party.
Before plunging into the night, take a minute to
decide what kind of ambiance you are in the
mood for. Barcelona's nightlife is extremely
diverse, and many areas place particular
emphasis on one kind of nocturnal fun. The
Eixample, for example, is home to a great
many bars and dance clubs frequented by the
local gay and lesbian community (please see
the chapter dedicated to this subject). The scene
is very open-minded and tolerant; therefore, if
you are looking for a fun, outrageous time, free
of prejudice and judgement, keep a night open
for the Eixample regardless of your sexual
orientation.
Maremagnum in the Port Vell might be a shopping centre by day, but at night it transforms
into something a little spicier. The countless
cocktail bars contain more than a few hotbeds
of salsa music, where the dancers move with
such expertise that they might be mistaken for
professionals. If this strikes you as somewhat
intimidating or you prefer to move to a different beat, head further down the seafront to the
Olympic Port. After a meal at one of the restaurants looking out onto the rows of docked
yachts, pop into any of the bars lining the marina.
Here you can enjoy a few drinks and dance
until dawn to just about any kind of music, be
it Spanish pop, house, techno, disco or salsa.
The only thing that matters here is getting out
onto the dance floor.
Gràcia is definitely one of the most unique
areas - and one of the most diverse when it
comes to the topic of nightlife. Some people
prefer to pass their nights traditionally, sitting
in one of the many squares, on a terrace, enjoying good drinks and conversation. Others look
for a livelier, louder way to spend the night and
head to one of the nightclubs, such as El Sol,
located, appropriately enough, on Plaça del
Sol. Much of this nocturnal fun seems more
like a curse to people living in the area, and
Gràcia has seen many neighbourhood protests
against the levels of night time noise. However,
if people out and about show the residents
some respect there is no reason why one person's nocturnal fun should interfere with another's comfort and well-being. Therefore, coming
to an agreement between both parties shouldn't
be too difficult to achieve.
The Born and the Raval are home to a variety
of venues, most of them of a rather hip and cutting-edge variety. The Gothic Quarter is still
one of the most popular destinations for tourists
and locals alike. In addition to your run-of-themill bars, you can dance the night away at places like El Salsitas, on Nou de la Rambla, or
listen to jazz at Jamboree, on Plaça Reial. One
note of caution: the area's popularity amongst
tourists has made it equally popular with pickpockets and bag-snatchers. Therefore, it is a
good idea to tuck your wallet in a safe place
and keep an eye on your belongings to avoid
any nasty surprises. Other than that, the area
serves up the most authentic nightlife in
Barcelona, and the opportunity to really dive
into the multicultural character that has come to
define the city.
Barcelona's "posh" stalwart is still the area
surrounding the Tibidabo Mountain, where
places such as Mirablau, a classic discotheque
with an outdoor terrace, and Danzatoria, an
absolute must for those with a predilection for
all that is chic, reign the night. Another fancy
stretch lies between the streets Marià Cubí and
Diagonal. The bars and clubs along here tend to
attract a thirty-something crowd - usually
groups of friends or couples who choose their
hang-outs according to the designer brands
worn by the clientele or people who simply
want to flirt with the beautiful people, of which
there are plenty to be found here.
If you aren't the kind to seek out the hippest,
most fashionable spots and prefer those that
have proven themselves over time, make sure
to check out the Razzmatazz (Almogàvers,
122) or Bikini (Déu i Mata, 105). Razzmatazz,
located close to the Poble Nou, is one of the city's leading concert venues. The bar next door,
Ceferino, might already be past its prime, but it
is still a point of reference for Spanish music in
the city. What is more interesting about the
Ceferino, however, is the fact that it was the
first ever bar to open in the area when it was
nothing more than half-forgotten factories.
Others followed suit, and the area soon gained
momentum. Nowadays, the Poble Nou is extremely popular amongst twenty-somethings. The
Bikini isn't particularly noteworthy in terms of
ambiance, but it has years of tradition under its
belt. Many of the most important and relevant
concerts are held here during the week and
from Thursday through Sunday it is also a
cocktail bar and dance club. The Nitsa Club
and Apolo, on Carrer Nou de la Rambla,
occupy a historic space that recalls the dance
halls of long-gone days but groove to the
sounds of house, trance and techno. And if you
want to be seen at one of the trendiest discotheques, make your way uptown to Otto Zutz and
check in on what the hottest DJs on the international scene are spinning on their decks.
A musical genre that is gaining ground in
Barcelona is jazz. Several clubs now offer live
jazz as part of their regular programming and
are open every night of the week. Jamboree is
definitely the leading jazz venue in the city, and
Monday nights have been dedicated to a jam
session for years. It is rather unusual to find
such an exciting, live music programme on a
Monday night - especially for the very inviting
price of 3 €.
Going out at night, of course, doesn't necessarily have to involve music. Movie buffs and
theatre lovers are also well taken care of and
can choose from a diverse range of programming that usually changes almost every week.
In terms of theatre, you can select from many
different performances, presented in Catalan,
Castilian (Spanish) and even English, and
covering genres as varied as musicals, zarzuelas, comedies, classical theatre and much,
much more. The best thing to do is pick up a
theatre listing, which can be found in most of
the city's major newspapers, and choose whate-
A while back the Poble Espanyol at the foot of
the Montjuic Mountain also won several
popularity contests and now attracts a loyal
following. Dance clubs the likes of Torres de
Avila and La Terrazza / Discotheque (depending on the season) have become temples of
electronic music, specifically house, trance and
techno - sounds that might seem bizarre to
some but are the holy grail of dance music to
their fans.
© TakeoffGuides 2005
8
ver production strikes your fancy. Cinema in
Barcelona falls into a similar category. Foreign
films tend to reach Barcelona screens a little
later than in their home country, but many of
the big blockbusters open around the same time
as elsewhere around Europe and the United
States. You can also take advantage of being in
Spain and delving into the world of local cinema. Spanish cinema has gained quite a growing
reputation in recent years thanks to the work of
iconic director Pedro Almodóvar and the recent
Academy-Award winner Alejandro Amenábar,
director of the acclaimed film "Mar Adentro".
If Spanish isn't your forte, don't worry. The city
has plenty of cinemas that screen films in original version with subtitles in Spanish; check listings at cinemas like the Verdi, located in the
middle of the Gràcia neighbourhood, or the
Icària Multiplex in the Olympic Port.
The "Gaixample"
The Barcelona nightlife options are so varied
that no one will be heading home disappointed.
The city has plenty of mainstream venues,
alternative spots, bars aimed to please the very
young, dancehalls for those who already have
decades of nocturnal fun under their belt and a
gay district that has become an important and
frequently emulated point of reference throughout Spain.
The Eixample has always been home to many
historic gay clubs but recent years have witnessed an explosion in the number of establishments- so much so, in fact, that the area is
now referred to as "Gaixample". There is even
a hotel, the recently-inaugurated Axel, which
caters specifically to a gay clientele.
The number of options is so great that choosing
a good spot for a night out in the "Gaixample"
can turn into quite a challenge. Therefore, here
is a list of five classic venues that shouldn't be
missed.
Arena Vip. The Arena Disco group operates
six venues throughout the city of which the
Arena Vip is the most emblematic. The club
takes up a large space, divided into two rooms,
one spinning house and techno, the other hosting the beats of Rafaela Carrá and Camilo
Sesto. This spot is guaranteed to deliver a great,
fun night out - not only for the gay clientele but
for a straight crowd too. Arena Vip is quite
simply the most fun and outrageous night club
to be found in Barcelona.
Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes, 593
Underground: Universitat (L1 and L2), Passeig
de Gràcia (L1 and L3)
Prices: 7-8 € with a free drink. Free passes to
Arena Vip can be found at bars in the surroun-
© TakeoffGuides 2005
Underground: Universitat (L1 and L2)
Medusa. This is a very calm and quiet spot,
ideal for an afternoon coffee or refreshment,
from Monday through Thursday. The weekend
gives the place a whole new vibe, everyone lets
loose, the music takes hold and all prejudice is
shaken off. The furnishings include sofas and
beds, but the venue puts a high premium on discretion. This is gratefully embraced by a number of famous or somewhat famous personalities who come to the Medusa to enjoy a good
night out.
Casanova, 75
Undergound: Urgell (L1)
ding area.
SHOPPING IN BARCELONA
Dietrich. Marlene Dietrich, one of the great,
mythical gay icons, is this venue's namesake.
Complete with resident drag queens, the place
is lathered in photographs of the screen goddess and marked by an ambiance that recalls an
old-fashioned dancehall. This is a wonderful
place for cocktails, which promises to serve up
one of the greatest nights out to be found in the
gay scene. The venue also hosts special nights,
such as "Hot Wednesdays", which give anyone
who can't wait for Friday the perfect excuse to
head out at night.
Consell de Cent, 255
Underground: Universitat (L1 and L2)
When it comes to shopping, Barcelona offers
an almost infinite variety of options. Designer
boutiques, traditional stores and souvenir shops
all abound, creating a blend of different styles
and attracting a diverse array of customers.
Prices vary according to where you shop and
what you wish to purchase. As is always the
case, its best to take your time and compare prices. Barcelona has a lot of wonderful shops
with excellent prices and interesting wares.
There is also no shortage of designer and brand
name stores, but it would be wrong to assume
that prices are cheaper here compared to other
large cities.
Átame. A popular hang-out, great for enjoying
a cocktail and house beats in the evenings or a
coffee and some of the Spanish pop-hits in the
afternoons. The dance floor isn't really the main
attraction since the space is quite small - but
that doesn't stop anyone from having a good
time. People who love to dance can do so to
their heart's desire, and people of a more sedentary persuasion can observe the entire club
scene from the bar. The weekends usually draw
the biggest crowds, but Tuesdays are also a
good night to pop in since you can get two
cocktails for the price of one from 6pm until
10pm.
Consell de Cent, 257
Underground: Universitat (L1 and L2)
When locals want to do a little shopping at the
city's most famous stores, they usually head to
the city centre. However, the city's growth has
also expanded the shopping sector so that you
can now buy just about anything in most city
neighbourhoods. Nevertheless, the greatest
selection of shops is still to be found in the
main commercial district, where you can also
find a number of streets named after the type of
product sold there. Let's take a look at some of
the most important areas... Plaça Catalunya is
the perfect place from which to start a shopping
spree. The Corte Inglés, one of Spain's classic
department stores, sells clothes, music, perfumes and even has a supermarket on the bottom
floor. FNAC, also located on the square, is the
largest vendor of music, books and concert tickets in Barcelona. The mega-store is located
inside the Triangle, a collection of stores inside
a triangular building with entrances on Carrer
Pelai and Plaça Catalunya. There is another
FNAC located on the bottom floor of the L'Illa
Diagonal, a very popular shopping centre.
Another big attraction at the Triangle is
Sephora, an immense, two-story shop that sells
every imaginable perfume as well as a great
variety of other cosmetic products.
Aire BCN. Sala Diana. This is a favourite
amongst lesbians, a place that grooves to the
sounds of the 70s, 80s and 90s. Thanks to its
enormous popularity, the Sala Diana is now
considered one of the best gay clubs in Europe.
The decor and lay-out make it one of the city's
best dance clubs overall. However, whereas
this might be a cult favourite for some, others
might feel a tad uncomfortable here.
València, 236
9
Heading towards the Gothic Quarter, you will
run into the Portal de l'Àngel and Portaferrissa.
These are two of the city's busiest shopping
streets, lined with all kinds of shops, the majority of which specialise in clothing and accessories. The narrow, winding streets leading to
the cathedral are home to a more alternative
variety of stores, such as silversmiths, vintage
clothing shops, art galleries and antique shops.
The Gothic Quarter and the Born have seen an
enormous boom in their shopping sector over
the course of the last few years. This period
marked the closure of many old, traditional stores, which were quickly replaced by designer
shops that saw these classic, historical surroundings as an excellent contrast to their modern
styles. The area that was once known purely for
its history has transformed into one of the hippest and classiest neighbourhoods, home to
brands such as Custo Barcelona, La Comercial,
Giménez Zuazo, Carhartt, Pura Vida, Outside,
etc. Bear in mind that these shops are quite pricey, but they are worth a peek even if you don't
intend to shop. A stroll through their aisles is a
great way of getting acquainted with the latest
fashion trends emerging in Barcelona. The
Rambla has largely ceded to the invasion of all
things tourism and is, with the exception of a
few, individual stores, dominated by souvenir
shops. Here you can pick up Mexican hats, flamenco dolls and bulls complete with tiny flags,
all souvenirs that have long perplexed Catalans
since they have absolutely nothing to do with
their culture. However, the fact that they have
been around for a very long time seems to indicate that they are a lucrative business.
The Raval is the obligatory shopping district
for anyone remotely hip. Designer shops have
cropped up amidst the traditional, neighbourhood stores and diverse, international restaurants. These shops tend to sell brands that are
only known to a niche clientele or people who
are on the absolute cutting-edge of fashion. The
classic, big-name fashion houses such as
Carolina Herrera, Salvador Ferragamo, Loewe,
Cartier, Chanel, etc. still prefer the luxurious
elegance of the Passeig de Gràcia, Rambla
Catalunya and Diagonal (specifically the section stretching from Passeig de Gràcia to the
Plaça Francesc Macià). Fashion connoisseurs
can also indulge in famous Spanish designers
such as Antonio Miró, Adolfo Domínguez,
Muxart and Purificación García, who all have
stores in this area. On the other hand there are
shops like Zara, which have built up entire fashion "empires" and have shops in each of the
main shopping districts. Zara's prices are far
more reasonable than those of its designer
counterparts, which makes it an outstanding
option for both men and women who want to
wear the latest fashion trends without spending
their life savings. If you happen to be in
Barcelona during the months of January and
July, you are just in time to take advantage of
the sales season. Every store in the city lowers
its prices, and everyone develops their own,
particular strategy for making the most of the
good deals. Some throw themselves into the
fray right at the start so that they can make sure
to get what they are looking for. At the other
© TakeoffGuides 2005
dedicated to the art of illusion. It has a complete exhibition of everything sold at the store of
the same name, located on Carrer Princesa 11.
The collection includes descriptions and
various items used for this magical trade.
However, seeing these objects isn't enough,
which is why the museum complements the
exhibition with guided visits, courses, live
demonstrations and semi-theatrical performances. These activities demand your complete
attention - it might be magic, but you can
always learn a new, little trick.
Sport lovers shouldn't miss out on a visit to the
Museu de l'Esport (Buenos Aire, 56-58, corner
with Diagonal, near Plaça Francesc Macià).
The centre started out as a museum about
Catalonia's athletic history and ended up
collecting items, including shoes, rackets, and
medals, belonging to some of the most renowned athletes of the 20th century.
end of the spectrum are the people who prefer
to play the odds and wait until the very last
minute in order to pay the lowest prices. And
this difference is not too shabby - oftentimes
the final discount is 40% less than the initial
price reduction.
If you prefer functional shopping over leisurely
browsing, then you can always stop in at one of
the city's shopping centres. They definitely lack
the charm of the shopping streets but make up
for it by being extremely practical. The shopping centres, much like large shops throughout
the city, accept credit cards. Barcelona is home
to several shopping centres, including
Barcelona Gloríes, next to the new Agbar
Tower, Maremagnum in Port Vell, Diagonal
Mar next to the new Forum area, Bulevard
Rosa, with entrances on Passeig de Gràcia and
Rambla Catalunya, Pedralbes Centre on
Avenida Diagonal past Plaça Francesc Macià,
L'Illa Diagonal close to the Maria Cristina
underground station and La Maquinista, the city's largest shopping centre, located in the Sant
Andreu neighbourhood. Whatever it is that you
are looking to purchase, you are more than
likely to find it at one of these centres.
However, if you choose to venture into the centres at the weekend or during sales, come prepared with lots of patience and expect to be
rubbing shoulders with strangers throughout
much of the day!
In terms of outdoor activities, children are in
for a world of fun. Barcelona has a lot of green
areas, and some have special treats in store for
their youngest visitors. The Laberint Park in the
Horta neighbourhood is one of the city's most
unusual parks. In addition to being a quiet, relaxing area, the park has a labyrinth at its centre,
shaped out of cypress hedges more than three
metres tall. The endless, green corridors twist
and turn and it is easy to become disoriented.
However, it is all in good fun and everyone
who has made their way in, has always found
their way back out. Grown ups have to pay 1,90
€ admission every day of the week except
Wednesdays and Sundays, but children always
get in for free!
Another wonderful park for children is the
Castell de l'Oreneta Park. This park is located
on the Collserola Mountain and be accessed via
the Can Caralleu road, the Biada Passage and
the Ronda de Dalt off-ramp. The surprise awaiting children here is a ride in an authentic,
miniature steam train. The tiny engine still uses
coal combustion and covers a one and a half
kilometre long trajectory through tunnels and
across bridges. The train only runs on weekends and can be combined with a visit to the
Pony Club. The club is another fun, weekend
thing to do and allows children to get to know
and even ride the friendly, little ponies.
ACTIVITIES FOR CHILDREN
Travelling with children is a world onto its own
and finding fun things for them to do is an
important order of business. Barcelona is rich
with fun activities for younger visitors (many
are described in the Routes section where you
can also find telephone numbers, addresses and
timetables), which might surprise and delight
their parents as well.
One of the most unusual museums is the Museo
del Rey de la Magia (The Museum of the King
of Magic). Located on Carrer Oli 6, in the Born
area near the Picasso Museum, this museum is
10

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