Dynamic, trailblazing, open, spirited and always alive – these are words that best describe the capital city of Catalonia. Barcelona is one of its most outstanding jewels that shine on all fronts. With a population of over 1.6 million in the city alone and over 5 million in metropolitan Barcelona, it is Spain’s second largest city second only to Madrid. Majority of the populations are native Spaniards and speak both Spanish and Catalan, the two official languages in the city among the other Spain's array of languages
This ancient and majestic city on the Mediterranean coast has always played a significant role throughout the history of Spain and Europe – from its foundation as a Roman settlement during the 1st century B.C., an important county under the Carolingian empire, its glorious medieval era as a powerful center of the Western Mediterranean, its blossoming as a cultural center during the Renaixenca and its development as a metropolitan city in the 20th century.
Today, Barcelona is a major economic, cultural and scientific powerhouse in Europe and has achieved the status of being one of the world’s “major global cities.” With an excellent transportation network, a well-developed educational system, a progressive economy and a vibrant environment, no wonder it was declared by lifestyle magazine as “the 16th most livable city in the world.” The city was even selected to host the Summer Olympics in 1992 among other prestigious international sporting events and is the home of the world-renowned football team FC Barcelona.
Perhaps the best and proudest trait of Barcelona is its ability to showcase both its majestic past through the numerous Gothic architecture and monuments and its modern and forward-looking marvels as exemplified by surreal masterpieces by artists such as Picasso and Gaudi. It is nearly impossible to go around Barcelona and not gape at its outstanding attractions - from impressive medieval churches such as the Cathedral of Saint Eulalia, the Church of Santa Maria del Pi, Barcelona Cathedral and Sant Pau del Camp to historic palaces such as Palau de la Generalitat, UNESCO World Heritage Sites Palau de la Musica Catalana and Hospital de Sant Pau, and Palau Reial de Pedralbes which is the seat of the Union for the Mediterranean just to name a few.
For modernista and art-noveau-inspired architecture the most recognized ones are the works of Antoni Gaudi such as the Sagrada Familia (another UNESCO World Heritage Site), Casa Mila and Casa Batllo and works of other Modernisme architects such as the Hivernacle Greenhouse and Casa Comalat. Barcelona by Gaudi is a great opportunity to feel the real spirit of culture, art and style.
Visitors will also have a grand time visiting all the interesting museums in Barcelona: some noteworthy ones are the National Museum of Art of Catalonia, Cosmoxaica and the quirky Erotic Museum of Barcelona.
For those who need a special reason to visit Barcelona, its fully-packed calendar of events can provide you with numerous reasons to plan a trip.
Like most of the cities in Spain, it hosts a number of annual fiestas such as the Festes de la Merce held in September, Festes de Gracia and Festes de Sants in August, Sant Jordi (which is similar to Valentine’s Day) held in April and music festivals like Sonar in June and Monegros Desert Festival in July.