Barcelona is the second largest city in Spain and nicely located on the Mediterranean coast. It is a major economic centre with one of Europe’s principal Mediterranean ports. It was founded as a Roman city but now is a major tourist destination with a rich cultural heritage.
Over the course of its history, the city has spread from the slopes of Collserola down to the sea. With the opening of the city to the sea, a project was undertaken in the 1980s to redevelop the seafront. This has become one of Barcelona’s most popular attractions. Their now-famous beaches stretch more than four kilometres (and attract nearly seven million visitors every year). While you’re there, be sure to drop by the new marine wildlife park.
Don’t miss a trip to Tibidado, the highest point in the area – and high enough to see the entire topography of Barcelona. Here, they have recovered the city’s once-famous amusement park, the first in Spain and the second oldest in Europe. Everyone in the city remembers its fantastic grottoes, the dizzying experience of the Talaia, the hall of mirrors – all recently restored.
Spend some time in the Gothic Quarter in the centre of the old city of Barcelona. Many of the buildings date from Medieval times, some from as far back as the Roman settlement of Barcelona. Catalan modernisme architecture (often known as Art Nouveau in the rest of Europe), developed between 1885 and 1950, left an important legacy in the city. A great number of these buildings are World Heritage Sites. Especially remarkable is the work of architect Antoni Gaudí, which can be seen throughout the city. Barcelona won the 1999 RIBA Royal Gold Medal for its architecture – the first and only time that the winner has been a city and not an individual architect.
The nightlife is terrific. To jump-start the evening, drop into one of the city’s many champagne or cocktail bars. Then move on to a late dinner, choosing food from either around the world or the traditional Mediterranean cuisine of the city, including typical Catalan dishes. And, of course, tapas. You wouldn’t go to Spain and not have at least one meal made up of the small, individual taste treasures.
Go to an old, historical place, such as Los Toreros, which serves more than 50 different tapas. Or l’Amigó, opposite the Sant Antoni Market, famous for its clams. Or La Cova Fumada, which half a century ago created “la bomba”, a ball of potato stuffed with meat and hot peppers. Or El Vaso de Oro, which is known for pouring a better beer than any place else in the city. Or Jai-Ca, with its fried anchovy espines. The city, incidentally, is known as the city of open air restaurants, which is great for people-watching. For late-night entertainment, move on to a discotheque, club or dance hall or, for those who prefer to enjoy their music without having to move their bodies, head off to one of the city’s many live music clubs, offering almost daily shows in every style, from jazz and blues to African music, classical and flamenco.
The Magic Fountain
The city is alive with ornamental and public fountains, which add charm to the streets and squares. The most notable is The Magic Fountain. Carles Bugas was the engineer who conceived this new type of fountain where the artistic element consisted in the changing shapes of the water. The Magic Fountain was one of the last works constructed on the grounds of the Universal Exhibition of 1929. The project was completed with cascades and smaller fountains installed at various points. This continues, in fact, to be one of the city’s oldest traditions: a water, music and light spectacular which is seen every Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 9.30 p.m., 10.00 p.m., 10.30 p.m. and 11.00 p.m.