From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Jump to: navigation, search
For other uses, see Barcelona (disambiguation).
Coat of arms of Barcelona Flag of Barcelona
Coat of arms of Barcelona Flag of Barcelona
Barcelona within Barcelonès
Barcelona within Barcelonès
Population (2003) 1,582,738
Area 100.4 km2
Population density (2001) 15,764/km2

Barcelona is the capital city of Catalonia and the second most populous city in Spain. It is located in the comarca of Barcelonès, along the Mediterranean coast (41°23′ N 2°11′ E) between the mouths of the rivers Llobregat and Besòs. It is 160 km (100 mi) south of the Pyrenees mountain range. The population of the city proper is 1,583,256 (est. 2003), while the population of the urban area is 4,042,000 (est. 2000). Population of the entire metropolitan area (urban area plus satellite towns) is 4,667,000 (est. 2003), although this only covers 3,235 km² (1250 mi²) around the city. There are approx 5.3 million people in 7600 km² (2900 mi²) surrounding the city. The mayor of Barcelona is Joan Clos.



Legend attributes the Carthaginian foundation of Barcino to Hamilcar Barca, father of Hannibal. About 15 BC, Romans redrew the town as a castrum (a Roman military camp) centred on the "Mons Taber", a little hill nearby the contemporary city hall (Plaça de Sant Jaume). The Roman Colonia Julia Augusta Faventia Paterna Barcino was outshone by the province's capital Tarragona but some important Roman remains are exposed under the Plaça del Rei, entrance by the city museum, Museu d'Història de la Ciutat and the typically Roman grid-planning is still visible today on the map of the historical centre, the Barri Gótic ("[Visi]Gothic Quarter"). Some remaining fragments of the Roman walls have been incorporated in the cathedral butted up against them [1]; the basilica La Seu is credited to have been founded in 343. The city was conquered by the Visigoths in the early 5th century, by the Moors in the early 8th century, reconquered from the emir in 801 by Charlemagne's son Louis who made Barcelona the seat of Carolingian "Spanish Marches" (Marca Hispanica), a buffer zone ruled by the Count of Barcelona. Barcelona was still a Christian frontier territory when it was sacked by Al-Mansur in 985.

Barcelona seen from the cableway over the harbour
Barcelona seen from the cableway over the harbour

The counts of Barcelona became increasingly independent and expanded their territory to include all of Catalonia, later formed the Crown of Aragon who conquered many overseas possessions, ruling the western Mediterranean Sea with outlying territories as far as to Athens in the 13th century. The forging of a dynastic link between the Crown of Aragon and Castile marked the beginning of Barcelona's decline.

The city is home to the University of Barcelona, founded in 1450.

The city was devastated after the Catalonian Republic of 1640 - 1652, and again during the War of the Spanish Succession in 1714. King Philip V of Spain demolished half of the merchants' quarter (La Ribera) to build a military citadel, as a way of both punishing and controlling the rebel city. Official use of Catalan language was forbidden, and the University withdrew.

Barcelona and the province of Catalonia were annexed by the French Empire of Napoleon after he invaded Spain and put his brother Joseph on the Spanish throne. It was returned to Spain after Napoleon's downfall.

During the 19th century, Barcelona grew with the industrial revolution and the introduction of many new industries. During a period of weaker control by the Madrid authorities, the medieval walls were torn down and the citadel of La Ribera was converted into an urban park: the modern Parc de la Ciutadella, site of the 1888 "Universal Exposition" (World's Fair). The exposition also left behind the Arc de Triomf and the Museu de Zoologia (a building originally used during the fair as a cafe-restaurant). The fields that had surrounded the artificially constricted city became the Eixample ("extension"), a bustling modern city surrounding the old.

The Plaça Reial next to Les Rambles
The Plaça Reial next to Les Rambles

The beginning of the 20th century marked Barcelona's resurgence, while Catalan nationalists clamoured for political autonomy and greater freedom of cultural expression.

Barcelona was a stronghold for the anarchist cause -anarchist opposition to the call-up of reservists led to the city's Tragic Week in 1909- siding with the Republic's democratically elected government during the Spanish Civil War (1936-39). It was overrun by Francisco Franco's forces in 1939, which ushered in a reign of cultural and political repression that lasted decades.

The protest movement of the 1970s and the demise of the dictatorship turned Barcelona into a centre of cultural vitality, enabling it to become the thriving city it is today. While it may still be the second city of Spain, it has a charm and air that is unique and prized. A decline in the inner city population and displacement towards the outskirts and beyond raises the threat of urban sprawl.

The city has been the focus of the revival of the Catalan language. Despite massive immigration of Castilian speakers from other parts of Spain in the second half of the 20th century, there has been notable success in the increased use of Catalan in everyday life.

Barcelona was the site of the 1992 Summer Olympics. The city's controversial 2004 Universal Forum of Cultures was held between May and September of the same year, lasting a marathon 141 days.

See also: List of Counts of Barcelona



To its north, the city borders the Besòs river and the municipalities of Santa Coloma de Gramenet and Sant Adrià de Besòs; to the south it borders the Zona Franca, L'Hospitalet de Llobregat and Esplugues de Llobregat; to the east is the Mediterranean; and to the west are Montcada i Reixach and Sant Cugat del Vallès.

Barcelona is divided into several districts. The following list favors Catalan-language names over Spanish-language names; as of 2004, they are the most commonly used and the only official ones:

  • Ciutat Vella (old city): the Raval (also known as the Barri Xinès), the Barri Gòtic, and the Barri de la Ribera.
  • The Eixample: Sant Antoni, Esquerra de l'Eixample ("the left side of the Eixample" with the sea at your back) Dreta de l'Eixample ("the right side of the Eixample"), Barri de la Sagrada Família
  • Sants - Montjuïc: Can Tunis, Montjuïc, Hostafrancs, Sants, Poble Sec
  • Les Corts
  • Sarrià - Sant Gervasi: Pedralbes, Sarrià, Sant Gervasi, Vallvidrera
  • Gràcia: Vallcarca, Barri de la Salut, Gràcia, El Camp d'en Grassot
  • Horta-Guinardó: Horta, Barri del Carmel, La Teixonera, El Guinardó
  • Nou Barris: Can Peguera, Porta, Canyelles, Ciutat Meridiana, Guineueta, Prosperitat, Vallbona, Verdum, Vilapicina, Roquetes, Trinitat Vella, Trinitat Nova, Torre Baró, Torre Llobeta and Turo de la Peira.
  • Sant Andreu: Barri del Congrés, Sant Andreu de Palomar
  • Sant Martí: Fort Pius, Sant Martí de Provençals, Poble Nou, La Verneda, el Clot

Tourist attractions

Barcelona offers a unique opportunity for the tourist on foot to walk from Roman remains to the medieval city, and then to the modern city with its open thoroughfares and grid-iron street pattern. The historic city center is fairly flat, while the modern city fans out towards the surrounding hills, bordered by steep streets that are vaguely reminiscent of those found in San Francisco.

Beginning of Les Rambles at the old harbour
Beginning of Les Rambles at the old harbour

A notable feature is Les Rambles, a boulevard that runs from the city center to the waterfront, thronged with crowds until late at night and lined by florists, bird sellers, street entertainers, cafeterias, and restaurants. Walking along Les Rambles one can see the world-famous opera house El Liceu, the food market of La Boqueria and the Plaça Reial (literally Royal square), with its arches and palm trees, amongst other interesting buildings. It is also worth keeping an eye out for pickpockets, for whom the boulevard is a favourite haunt.

Les Rambles ends at the old harbour, where a statue of Christopher Columbus points eastwards across the Mediterranean Sea to his birth place of Genoa.

Next to it is the Museu Marítim (naval museum), which chronicles the history of life on the Mediterranean, including a full-scale model of a galley. The buildings of the museum are the medieval Drassanes (shipyards), where the ships which sailed the Mediterranean were built. The old harbour offers all kinds of other amenities, including the second largest aquarium in the Mediterranean area.

To the north of downtown is the Parc de la Ciutadella, which includes both the Parlament de Catalunya (Catalan Parliament) and the Parc Zoològic de Barcelona (zoo). One of Barcelona's most famous residents, the late albino gorilla Copito de Nieve ("Snowflake"), lived and died recently at the zoo. The park also contains science museums.

The Sagrada Família church
The Sagrada Família church

Outstanding is the legacy of architect Antoni Gaudí, who lived and worked in Barcelona, and who left several famous works like the Palau Güell in the city's old center, the Parc Güell at the northern tip of Gràcia, and the immense but still unfinished church of the Sagrada Família, which has been under construction since 1882, financed by popular donations like the cathedrals in the Middle Ages (However, it is not a cathedral: the cathedral of Barcelona is the Cathedral of Santa Eulàlia, a Gothic building of the late Middle Ages). The Sagrada Família is billed for completion in 2020.

Another very notable modernist building in the older part of the city is the Palau de la Música Catalana, designed by Lluís Domènech i Montaner and built in 1908.

Art visits include the museum of the Joan Miró Foundation, where several paintings and sculptures of this artist are shown, together with guest exhibitions from other museums around the world. There is also a unique museum featuring the lesser known works of Pablo Picasso from his earlier period. The National Museum of Art of Catalonia (in the Palau Nacional left behind by the 1929 Ibero-American Exposition) possesses a well-known collection of Romanesque art, including wall-paintings of Romanesque churches and chapels around Catalonia that have been transferred to the museum. The Contemporary Art Museum is also worth a visit, not only because of its paintings and sculptures, but because of its architecture. The building was designed by the American architect Richard Meier. Visitors should note that the opening times of Barcelona's museums vary considerably and are often highly inconvenient; careful planning is recommended to avoid wasted trips.

In the modern districts of the city are several avenues on which most of the international merchants offering clothing, jewelry, leather goods and other items have their stores. The most elegant avenue is the Passeig de Gràcia, where two Gaudí buildings are situated, the Casa Milà (La Pedrera) and the Casa Batlló, along with buildings by other famous modernista architects: Casa Ametller by Josep Puig i Cadafalch and Casa Lleó Morera by Domènech i Montaner. Several of these buildings and indeed the Sagrada Familia church itself are threatened by Mayor Clos' plans to build a large railway tunnel for high-speed trains under the city's shaky 19th century foundations. In recent years, office developments along Passeig de Gràcia have been allowed to break up the architectural unity of the 19th and early 20th century buildings lining the avenue - a process which shows no signs of slackening. Property speculation is also blighting other areas of the city, including the 19th century Poble Nou district with its many interesting buildings dating from Catalonia's Industrial Revolution. Many of these have now been levelled to make room for the city's ill-starred "22@" project to build an area for ICT-based firms.

"Slash and burn" property speculation in Poble Nou
"Slash and burn" property speculation in Poble Nou

For spectacular views over the city and the coast line there are two hills. One, Montjuïc hill, is next to the harbour and perched above a large container terminal. On its top is an old fortress which used to guard the entrance to the port. Around the hill are the Olympic Stadium, the Sports Palace, the latter designed by Japanese architect Arata Isozaki, and the Botanical Gardens. Uptown is the hill of the Tibidabo, over 500 meters high, with an amusement park and a monumental church on its summit. The church mosaics provide a curious example of the religious art style much in vogue during the dictatorship.

Barcelona is the home city of two internationally-known football teams: FC Barcelona, also known as Barça, who play at the 100,000 capacity Camp Nou stadium, and RCD Espanyol, who play at the 56,000 capacity Olympic Stadium.

Near Barcelona, in Montmeló, the Circuit de Catalunya racetrack hosts the Formula One Spanish Grand Prix.

World Heritage Sites in Barcelona

UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Barcelona:


In addition to its port, of great historical and contemporary commercial importance, Barcelona is served by El Prat International Airport ('El Prat') in the town of El Prat de Llobregat.

Barcelona is a hub for RENFE, the Spanish state railway network, and its main suburban train station is Sants-Estació. The AVE high-speed rail system was recently extended from Madrid to Lleida in western Catalonia, and is expected to reach Barcelona by 2007. Renfe and the Ferrocarrils de la Generalitat de Catalunya (FGC) run Barcelona's widespread commuter train service. Barcelona's transit company, Transports Metropolitans de Barcelona (TMB), runs the Barcelona Metro system and city bus. See List of Barcelona metro stations. Barcelona has recently adopted another transport option with two new tram lines known as Trambaix and Trambesòs.


Plaça d'Espanya with fountains in front
Plaça d'Espanya with fountains in front

Barcelona, with its mild weather and dense medieval centre, is renowned for its parks and open spaces. Besides the beaches, the Rambles and Parc Güell are the most famous of these. See above for a description of the Rambles. See separate article on Parc Güell (1914), the large fantastical park designed by Antoni Gaudí for a housing estate and opened to the public in 1922.

The site of the Barcelona International Exhibition in 1929 and 1930, the Parque de Montjuïc was laid out by engineer Jean C. N. Forestier and architect Nicolas M. Rubio Tuduri. It is chiefly notable now for the cultural institutions that use the former palaces and exposition buildings. The German Pavilion, a landmark of modern architecture designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe for this Exhibition was exhaustively reconstructed on its original site in 1986. Montjuïc Stadium was renovated and expanded by Vittorio Gregotti for the 1992 Olympic Games.

In 1983 the Plaça dels Països Catalans in front of the Sants railway station was redesigned by Helio Piñon Pallares and Albert Vaiplana Vea in pink granite paving with an undulating metal pergola and various hard furnishings that have become popular with skateboarders. At the same time, the neighboring Vapor Neu factory, was converted into the Parque de la España Industrial for public recreation. This park, designed by Luis Peña Ganchegui and Fancesc Rius Camps and completed in 1985 integrated the industrial shapes of the site with a dominant water feature and displays of sculpture.

Since 1983 a formal program of park creation has been carried out by the Mancomunitat de Municipis de l'Àrea Metropolitana de Barcelona. The purpose of this program has been to reclaim space for the public which is threatened either by neglect or overdevelopment. Typically these new parks are carefully designed by architects, planners and landscape architects concerned not just with functional elements, but also with the unique characteristics of the site and its position in a layered understanding of the city. Though the budgets may be small, the level of ingenuity and care in design and implementation is often very high. Some examples (note that many are not in Barcelona per se but on its metro area):

  • Carrer Brasil, 1996, Olga Tarraso and Jordi Hernrich. A ramble built over parking spaces.
  • Parc del Torrent Ballesters (Viladecans), 1997, Arturo Frediani/SOB Associates. The design recaptures the pattern of agricultural use using beds of flowering plants. Trees and a pool strengthen the sensual escape from the surrounding city.
  • Parc de Canserra (Barberà del Vallès), 1996, Studio BCQ
  • Parc de Torrent Congost (Granollers), 1996, Enric Battle and Joan Roig. A narrow linear park defined by hedge walls and a grid of trees on the bank of the Congost River.
  • Upgrading of Parc de Torreblanca, the historical site of an urban farm.
  • Fontsana, Sant Joan Despi on the site of a former refuse dump.
  • Parc del Besós, La Mina housing estate
  • Parc de les Planes, located at the boundary of three districts.
  • Parc del Litoral, at the mouth of the River Besos
  • Parc de la Creueta del Coil, 1987, Oriol Bohigas, Josep Martorell, David Mackay, architects.
  • Parc Nou del Prat, on the Llobregat delta, adjoining Sant Cosme and the airport

This program of planned parks is often among the civic improvements for which the city actively seeks international events as spurs for redevelopment. For example, the upgrades to Montjuïc and the seaside industrial areas for the 1992 Olympic Games were accompanied by the building of recreational facilities in other parts of the city lacking development. One notable site is the Vall d'Hebron, a deep ravine in the foothills of the Collserola range north of the city. The urban design by Eduard Bru created a terraced sequence of belvedere-like platforms with views of the city.


Barcelona, like other big cities, has a large number of criminals who mainly prey on tourists. They usually work in groups whereby the victim is distracted by one party while being robbed by another party. Many pickpockets are known to the police and some have been arrested hundreds of times only to be released once the police have filled in a report. Stealing money or goods worth less than about $360 without the use or threat of violence is classified as hurto or petty theft under Spanish law and is treated as a minor misdemeanor no matter how many times it is repeated. The problem is compounded by the few policemen "walking the beat" in Barcelona, even though the city has one of the highest police to citizen ratios in Europe. Areas where one should be particularly careful are the Barri Gòtic, El Raval, and the Ramblas. Internet cafes are a popular target in general. It is not uncommon for thieves to cut bags and backpack straps. Mobile phone theft is also a popular petty theft crime when tourists leave their phones on tabletops.

External links

Wikimedia Commons has media related to:

Personal tools