Barcelona is a city in Spain. It is the capital and largest city of Catalonia, as well as the second most populous municipality of Spain.
With a population of 1.6 million within city limits, its urban area extends to numerous neighbouring municipalities within the Province of Barcelona and is home to around 4.7 million people, making it the sixth most populous urban area in the European Union after Paris, London, Madrid, the Ruhr area and Milan.
It is the largest metropolis on the western Mediterranean Sea, located on the coast between the mouths of the rivers Llobregat and Besòs, and bounded to the west by the Serra de Collserola mountain range, the tallest peak of which is 512 metres (1,680 feet) high.
Founded as a Roman city, in the Middle Ages Barcelona became the capital of the County of Barcelona. After merging with the Kingdom of Aragon, Barcelona continued to be an important city in the Crown of Aragon as an economic and administrative centre of this Crown and the capital of the Principality of Catalonia. Barcelona has a rich cultural heritage and is today an important cultural centre and a major tourist destination. Particularly renowned are the architectural works of Antoni Gaudí and Lluís Domènech i Montaner, which have been designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The headquarters of the Union for the Mediterranean is located in Barcelona. The city is known for hosting the 1992 Summer Olympics as well as world-class conferences and expositions and also many international sport tournaments.
Barcelona is one of the world’s leading tourist, economic, trade fair and cultural centres, and its influence in commerce, education, entertainment, media, fashion, science, and the arts all contribute to its status as one of the world’s major global cities. It is a major cultural and economic centre in southwestern Europe, 24th in the world (before Zürich, after Frankfurt) and a financial centre. In 2008 it was the fourth most economically powerful city by GDP in the European Union and 35th in the world with GDP amounting to €177 billion. In 2012 Barcelona had a GDP of $170 billion; and it was leading Spain in employment rate in that moment.
In 2009 the city was ranked Europe’s third and one of the world’s most successful as a city brand. In the same year the city was ranked Europe’s fourth best city for business and fastest improving European city, with growth improved by 17% per year, and the city has been experiencing strong and renewed growth for the past three years. Since 2011 Barcelona has been a leading smart city in Europe. Barcelona is a transport hub, with the Port of Barcelona being one of Europe’s principal seaports and busiest European passenger port, an international airport, Barcelona–El Prat Airport, which handles over 40 million passengers per year, an extensive motorway network, and a high-speed rail line with a link to France and the rest of Europe.’
The name Barcelona comes from the ancient Iberian Barkeno, attested in an ancient coin inscription found on the right side of the coin in Iberian script as Barkeno in Levantine Iberian script, in ancient Greek sources as Βαρκινών, Barkinṓn; and in Latin as Barcino, Barcilonum and Barcenona.
Some older sources suggest that the city may have been named after the Carthaginian general Hamilcar Barca, who was supposed to have founded the city in the 3rd century BC, but there is no evidence that Barcelona was ever a Carthaginian settlement, or that its name in antiquity, Barcino, had any connection with the Barcid family of Hamilcar. During the Middle Ages, the city was variously known as Barchinona, Barçalona, Barchelonaa, and Barchenona.
Internationally, Barcelona’s name is wrongly abbreviated to ‘Barça’. However, this name refers only to FC Barcelona, the football club. The common abbreviated form used by locals is Barna.
Another common abbreviation is ‘BCN’, which is also the IATA airport code of the Barcelona-El Prat Airport.
The city is also referred to as the Ciutat Comtal in Catalan, and Ciudad Condal in Spanish, owing to its past as the seat of the Count of Barcelona.
The origin of the earliest settlement at the site of present-day Barcelona is unclear. The ruins of an early settlement have been found, including different tombs and dwellings dating to earlier than 5000 BC. The founding of Barcelona is the subject of two different legends. The first attributes the founding of the city to the mythological Hercules. The second legend attributes the foundation of the city directly to the historical Carthaginian general, Hamilcar Barca, father of Hannibal, who supposedly named the city Barcino after his family in the 3rd century BC, but there is no historical or linguistic evidence that this is true.
In about 15 BC, the Romans redrew the town as a castrum (Roman military camp) centred on the “Mons Taber”, a little hill near the contemporary city hall (Plaça de Sant Jaume). Under the Romans, it was a colony with the surname of Faventia, or, in full, Colonia Faventia Julia Augusta Pia Barcino or Colonia Julia Augusta Faventia Paterna Barcino. Pomponius Mela mentions it among the small towns of the district, probably as it was eclipsed by its neighbour Tarraco (modern Tarragona), but it may be gathered from later writers that it gradually grew in wealth and consequence, favoured as it was with a beautiful situation and an excellent harbour. It enjoyed immunity from imperial burdens. The city minted its own coins; some from the era of Galba survive.
Important Roman vestiges are displayed in Plaça del Rei underground, as a part of the Barcelona City History Museum MUHBA; the typically Roman grid plan is still visible today in the layout of the historical centre, the Barri Gòtic (Gothic Quarter). Some remaining fragments of the Roman walls have been incorporated into the cathedral. The cathedral, also known as the Basilica La Seu, is said to have been founded in 343.
The city was conquered by the Visigoths in the early 5th century, becoming for a few years the capital of all Hispania. After being conquered by the Arabs in the early 8th century, it was conquered in 801 by Charlemagne’s son Louis, who made Barcelona the seat of the Carolingian “Hispanic March” (Marca Hispanica), a buffer zone ruled by the Count of Barcelona.
The Counts of Barcelona became increasingly independent and expanded their territory to include all of Catalonia, although on 6 July 985, Barcelona was sacked by the army of Almanzor. The sack was so traumatic that most of Barcelona’s population was either killed or enslaved. In 1137, Aragon and the County of Barcelona merged in dynastic union by the marriage of Ramon Berenguer IV and Petronilla of Aragon, their titles finally borne by only one person when their son Alfonso II of Aragon ascended to the throne in 1162. His territories were later to be known as the Crown of Aragon, which conquered many overseas possessions and ruled the western Mediterranean Sea with outlying territories in Naples and Sicily and as far as Athens in the 13th century. The forging of a dynastic link between the Crowns of Aragon and Castile marked the beginning of Barcelona’s decline. The Bank of Barcelona (Taula de canvi), probably the oldest public bank in Europe, was established by the city magistrates in 1401. It originated from necessities of the state, as did the Bank of Venice (1402) and the Bank of Genoa (1407).
Barcelona under the Spanish monarchy
The marriage of Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile in 1469 united the two royal lines. Madrid became the centre of political power whilst the colonisation of the Americas reduced the financial importance (at least in relative terms) of Mediterranean trade. Barcelona was a centre of Catalan separatism, including the Catalan Revolt (1640–52) against Philip IV of Spain. The great plague of 1650–1654 halved the city’s population.
The fortress at Montjuïc, most southerly point from which measurements were made when calculating the meridional definition of the metre
In the 18th century, a fortress was built at Montjuïc that overlooked the harbour. In 1794, this fortress was used by the French astronomer Pierre François André Méchain for observations relating to a survey stretching to Dunkirk that provided the official basis of the measurement of a metre. The definitive metre bar, manufactured from platinum, was presented to the French legislative assembly on 22 June 1799. Much of Barcelona was negatively affected by the Napoleonic wars, but the start of industrialisation saw the fortunes of the province improve. Urban planner Ildefons Cerdà designed the large Eixample district in the 1850s when the medieval city walls around Barcelona’s old town were torn down.
The Spanish civil war and the Franco period
During the Spanish Civil War, the city, and Catalonia in general, were resolutely Republican. Many enterprises and public services were “collectivized” by the CNT and UGT unions. As the power of the Republican government and the Generalitat diminished, much of the city was under the effective control of anarchist groups. The anarchists lost control of the city to their own allies, the Communists and official government troops, after the street fighting of the Barcelona May Days. The fall of the city on 26 January 1939, caused a mass exodus of civilians who fled to the French border. The resistance of Barcelona to Franco’s coup d’état was to have lasting effects after the defeat of the Republican government. The autonomous institutions of Catalonia were abolished, and the use of the Catalan language in public life was suppressed. Barcelona remained the second largest city in Spain, at the heart of a region which was relatively industrialised and prosperous, despite the devastation of the civil war. The result was a large-scale immigration from poorer regions of Spain (particularly Andalusia, Murcia and Galicia), which in turn led to rapid urbanisation.
Late twentieth century
In 1992, Barcelona hosted the Summer Olympics. The after-effects of this are credited with driving major changes in what had, up until then, been a largely industrial city. As part of the preparation for the games, industrial buildings along the sea-front were demolished and two miles of beach were created. New construction increased the road capacity of the city by 17%, the sewage handling capacity by 27% and the amount of new green areas and beaches by 78%. Between 1990 and 2004, the number of hotel rooms in the city doubled. Perhaps more importantly, the outside perception of the city was changed making, by 2012, Barcelona the 12th most popular city destination in the world and the 5th amongst European cities.
The death of Franco in 1975 brought on a period of democratisation throughout Spain. Pressure for change was particularly strong in Barcelona, which considered (with some justification) that it had been punished during nearly forty years of Francoism for its support of the Republican government. Massive, but peaceful, demonstrations on 11 September 1977 assembled over a million people in the streets of Barcelona to call for the restoration of Catalan autonomy. It was granted less than a month later.
The development of Barcelona was promoted by two events in 1986: Spanish accession to the European Community, and particularly Barcelona’s designation as host city of the 1992 Summer Olympics. The process of urban regeneration has been rapid, and accompanied by a greatly increased international reputation of the city as a tourist destination. The increased cost of housing has led to a slight decline (−16.6%) in the population over the last two decades of the 20th century as many families move out into the suburbs. This decline has been reversed since 2001, as a new wave of immigration (particularly from Latin America and from Morocco) has gathered pace.
On 17 August 2017, a van was driven into pedestrians on La Rambla in the city, killing 14 and injuring at least 100, one of whom later died. Other attacks took place elsewhere in Catalonia. The Prime Minister of Spain, Mariano Rajoy, called the attack in Barcelona a jihadist attack. Amaq News Agency attributed indirect responsibility for the attack to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Barcelona is located on the northeast coast of the Iberian Peninsula, facing the Mediterranean Sea, on a plain approximately 5 km (3 mi) wide limited by the mountain range of Collserola, the Llobregat river to the southwest and the Besòs river to the north. This plain covers an area of 170 km2 (66 sq mi), of which 101 km2 (39.0 sq mi) are occupied by the city itself. It is 120 kilometres (75 miles) south of the Pyrenees and the Catalan border with France.
Tibidabo, 512 m (1,680 ft) high, offers striking views over the city and is topped by the 288.4 m (946.2 ft) Torre de Collserola, a telecommunications tower that is visible from most of the city. Barcelona is peppered with small hills, most of them urbanised, that gave their name to the neighbourhoods built upon them, such as Carmel (267 metres or 876 feet), Putget (181 metres or 594 feet) and Rovira (261 metres or 856 feet). The escarpment of Montjuïc (173 metres or 568 feet), situated to the southeast, overlooks the harbour and is topped by Montjuïc castle, a fortress built in the 17–18th centuries to control the city as a replacement for the Ciutadella. Today, the fortress is a museum and Montjuïc is home to several sporting and cultural venues, as well as Barcelona’s biggest park and gardens.
The city borders on the municipalities of Santa Coloma de Gramenet and Sant Adrià de Besòs to the north; the Mediterranean Sea to the east; El Prat de Llobregat and L’Hospitalet de Llobregat to the south; and Sant Feliu de Llobregat, Sant Just Desvern, Esplugues de Llobregat, Sant Cugat del Vallès, and Montcada i Reixac to the west. The municipality includes two small sparsely-inhabited exclaves to the north-west.
Barcelona has a humid subtropical climate (Köppen Cfa) bordering a maritime Mediterranean climate (Csa), with mild, humid winters and warm to hot summers, while the rainiest seasons are autumn and spring.
Its average annual temperature is 21.2 °C (70.2 °F) during the day and 15.1 °C (59.2 °F) at night. The average annual temperature of the sea is about 20 °C (68 °F). In the coldest month, January, the temperature typically ranges from 12 to 18 °C (54 to 64 °F) during the day, 6 to 12 °C (43 to 54 °F) at night and the average sea temperature is 13 °C (55 °F). In the warmest month, August, the typical temperature ranges from 27 to 31 °C (81 to 88 °F) during the day, about 23 °C (73 °F) at night and the average sea temperature is 26 °C (79 °F). Generally, the summer or “holiday” season lasts about six months, from May to October. Two months – April and November – are transitional; sometimes the temperature exceeds 20 °C (68 °F), with an average temperature of 18–19 °C (64–66 °F) during the day and 11–13 °C (52–55 °F) at night. December, January and February are the coldest months, with average temperatures around 15 °C (59 °F) during the day and 9 °C (48 °F) at night. Large fluctuations in temperature are rare, particularly in the summer months. Because of the proximity to the warm sea, frosts are very rare in the city of Barcelona. In fact, only 1 day in the last 30 years was recorded with a temperature under the freezing mark, −1 °C (30 °F). Snow is infrequent.
Barcelona averages 78 rainy days per year (≥ 1 mm), and annual average relative humidity is 72%, ranging from 69% in July to 75% in October. Rainfall totals are highest in late summer and autumn (September–November) and lowest in early and mid-summer (June–August), with a secondary winter minimum (February–March). Sunshine duration is 2,524 hours per year, from 138 (average 4.5 hours of sunshine a day) in December to 310 (average 10 hours of sunshine a day) in July.
According to Barcelona’s City Council, Barcelona’s population as of 1 January 2016 was 1,608,746 people, on a land area of 101.4 km2 (39 sq mi). It is the main component of an administrative area of Greater Barcelona, with a population of 3,218,071 in an area of 636 square kilometres (246 square miles) (density 5,060 hab/km²). The population of the urban area was 4,223,000. It is the central nucleus of the Barcelona metropolitan area, which relies on a population of 5,083,000.
Spanish is the most spoken language in Barcelona (according to the linguistic census held by the Government of Catalonia in 2013) and it is understood almost universally. After Spanish, Catalan language is the second most spoken one in the city, and it is understood by 95% of the population, while 72.3% can speak it, 79% can read it, and 53% can write it, thanks to the language immersion educational system.
In 1900, Barcelona had a population of 533,000 people, which grew steadily but slowly until 1950, when it started absorbing a high number of people from other less-industrialized parts of Spain. Barcelona’s population peaked in 1979 with 1,906,998 people, and fell throughout the 1980s and 1990s as more people sought a higher quality of life in outlying cities in the Barcelona Metropolitan Area. After bottoming out in 2000 with 1,496,266 people, the city’s population began to rise again as younger people started to return, causing a great increase in housing prices.
Barcelona is one of the most densely populated cities in Europe. For the year 2008 the city council calculated the population to 1,621,090 living in the 102.2 km2 sized municipality, giving the city an average population density of 15,926 inhabitants per square kilometre with Eixample being the most populated district.
In the case of Barcelona though, the land distribution is extremely uneven. Half of the municipality or 50.2 km2, all of it located on the municipal edge is made up of the ten least densely populated neighbourhoods containing less than 10% of the city’s population, the uninhabited Zona Franca industrial area and Montjuïc forest park. Leaving the remaining 90% or slightly below 1.5 million inhabitants living on the remaining 52 square kilometres (20 square miles) at an average density close to 28,500 inhabitants per square kilometre.
Of the 73 neighbourhoods in the city, 45 had a population density above 20,000 inhabitants per square kilometre with a combined population of 1,313,424 inhabitants living on 38.6 km2 at an average density of 33,987 inhabitants per square km. The 30 most densely populated neighbourhoods accounted for 57.5% of the city population occupying only 22,7% of the municipality, or in other words, 936,406 people living at an average density of 40,322 inhabitants per square kilometre. The city’s highest density is found at and around the neighbourhood of la Sagrada Família where four of the city’s most densely populated neighbourhoods are located side by side, all with a population density above 50,000 inhabitants per square kilometre.
In 2016 about 59% of the inhabitants of the city were born in Catalonia and 18.5% coming from the rest of the country. In addition to that, 22.5% of the population was born outside of Spain, a proportion which has more than doubled since 2001 and more than quintupled cince 1996 when it was 8.6% respectively 3.9%.
The most important region of origin of migrants is Europe, with many coming from Italy (26,676) or France (13,506). Moreover, many migrants come from Latin American nations as Bolivia, Ecuador or Colombia. Since the 1990s, and similar to other migrants, many Latin Americans have settled in northern parts of the city.
There exists a relatively large Pakistani community in Barcelona with up to twenty thousand nationals. The community consists of significantly more men than women. Many of the Pakistanis are living in Ciutat Vella. First Pakistani migrants came in the 1970s, with increasing numbers in the 1990s.
Other significant migrant groups come from Asia as from China and the Philippines. There is a Japanese community clustered in Bonanova, Les Tres Torres, Pedralbes, and other northern neighbourhoods, and a Japanese international school serves that community.
Most of the inhabitants state they are Roman Catholic (208 churches). In a 2011 survey conducted by InfoCatólica, 49.5% of Barcelona residents of all ages identified themselves as Catholic. This was the first time that more than half of respondents did not identify themselves as Catholic. The numbers reflect a broader trend in Spain whereby the numbers of self-identified Catholics have declined.
The province has the largest Muslim community in Spain, 322,698 people in Barcelona province are of Muslim religion. A considerable number of Muslims live in Barcelona due to immigration (169 locations, mostly professed by Moroccans in Spain). In 2014, 322,698 out of 5.5 million people in the province of Barcelona identified themselves as Muslim, which makes 5.6% of total population.
The city also has the largest Jewish community in Spain, with an estimated 3,500 Jews living in the city. There are also a number of other groups, including Evangelical (71 locations, mostly professed by Roma), Jehovah’s Witnesses (21 Kingdom Halls), Buddhists (13 locations), and Eastern Orthodox.
Barcelona was the 20th-most-visited city in the world by international visitors and the fifth most visited city in Europe after London, Paris, Istanbul and Rome, with 5.5 million international visitors in 2011. By 2015, both Prague and Milan had more international visitors. With its Rambles, Barcelona is ranked the most popular city to visit in Spain.
Barcelona as internationally renowned a tourist destination, with numerous recreational areas, one of the best beaches in the world, mild and warm climate, historical monuments, including eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites, 519 hotels as of March 2016 including 35 five star hotels, and developed tourist infrastructure.
Due to its large influx of tourists each year, Barcelona, like many other tourism capitals, has to deal with pickpockets, with wallets and passports being commonly stolen items. For this reason, most travel guides recommend that visitors take precautions in order to ensure their possessions’ safety, especially inside the metro premises. Despite its moderate pickpocket rate, Barcelona is considered one of the safest cities in terms of health security and personal safety, mainly because of a sophisticated policing strategy that has dropped crime by 32% in just over three years and has led it to be considered the 15th safest city in the world by Business Insider.
As the capital of the autonomous community of Catalonia, Barcelona is the seat of the Catalan government, known as the Generalitat de Catalunya; of particular note are the executive branch, the parliament, and the High Court of Justice of Catalonia. The city is also the capital of the Province of Barcelona and the Barcelonès comarca (district).
Barcelona is governed by a city council formed by 41 city councillors, elected for a four-year term by universal suffrage. As one of the two biggest cities in Spain, Barcelona is subject to a special law articulated through the Carta Municipal (Municipal Law). A first version of this law was passed in 1960 and amended later, but the current version was approved in March 2006. According to this law, Barcelona’s city council is organised in two levels: a political one, with elected city councillors, and one executive, which administrates the programs and executes the decisions taken on the political level. This law also gives the local government a special relationship with the central government and it also gives the mayor wider prerogatives by the means of municipal executive commissions. It expands the powers of the city council in areas like telecommunications, city traffic, road safety and public safety. It also gives a special economic regime to the city’s treasury and it gives the council a veto in matters that will be decided by the central government, but that will need a favourable report from the council.
The Comissió de Govern (Government Commission) is the executive branch, formed by 24 councillors, led by the Mayor, with 5 lieutenant-mayors and 17 city councillors, each in charge of an area of government, and 5 non-elected councillors. The plenary, formed by the 41 city councillors, has advisory, planning, regulatory, and fiscal executive functions. The six Commissions del Consell Municipal (City council commissions) have executive and controlling functions in the field of their jurisdiction. They are composed by a number of councillors proportional to the number of councillors each political party has in the plenary. The city council has jurisdiction in the fields of city planning, transportation, municipal taxes, public highways security through the Guàrdia Urbana (the municipal police), city maintenance, gardens, parks and environment, facilities (like schools, nurseries, sports centres, libraries, and so on), culture, sports, youth and social welfare. Some of these competencies are not exclusive, but shared with the Generalitat de Catalunya or the central Spanish government. In some fields with shared responsibility (such as public health, education or social services), there is a shared Agency or Consortium between the city and the Generalitat to plan and manage services.
The executive branch is led by a Chief Municipal Executive Officer which answers to the Mayor. It is made up of departments which are legally part of the city council and by separate legal entities of two types: autonomous public departments and public enterprises.
The seat of the city council is on the Plaça de Sant Jaume, opposite the seat of Generalitat de Catalunya. Since the coming of the Spanish democracy, Barcelona had been governed by the PSC, first with an absolute majority and later in coalition with ERC and ICV. After the May 2007 election, the ERC did not renew the coalition agreement and the PSC governed in a minority coalition with ICV as the junior partner.
After 32 years, on 22 May 2011, CiU gained a plurality of seats at the municipal election, gaining 15 seats to the PSC’s 11. The PP hold 8 seats, ICV 5 and ERC 2.
Since 1987, the city has been divided into 10 administrative districts (districtes in Catalan, distritos in Spanish):
The districts are based mostly on historical divisions, and several are former towns annexed by the city of Barcelona in the 18th and 19th centuries that still maintain their own distinct character. Each district has its own council led by a city councillor. The composition of each district council depends on the number of votes each political party had in that district, so a district can be led by a councillor from a different party than the executive council.
Barcelona’s cultural roots go back 2000 years. Since the arrival of democracy, the Catalan language (very much repressed during the dictatorship of Franco) has been promoted, both by recovering works from the past and by stimulating the creation of new works. Barcelona is designated as a world-class city by the Globalization and World Cities Study Group and Network.
Entertainment and performing arts
Barcelona has many venues for live music and theatre, including the world-renowned Gran Teatre del Liceu opera house, the Teatre Nacional de Catalunya, the Teatre Lliure and the Palau de la Música Catalana concert hall. Barcelona also is home to the Barcelona and Catalonia National Symphonic Orchestra (Orquestra Simfònica de Barcelona i Nacional de Catalunya, usually known as OBC), the largest symphonic orchestra in Catalonia. In 1999, the OBC inaugurated its new venue in the brand-new Auditorium (l’Auditori). It performs around 75 concerts per season and its current director is Eiji Oue. It is home to the Barcelona Guitar Orchestra, directed by Sergi Vicente. The major thoroughfare of La Rambla is home to mime artists and street performers. Yearly, two major pop music festivals take place in the city, the Sónar Festival and the Primavera Sound Festival. The city also has a thriving alternative music scene, with groups such as The Pinker Tones receiving international attention.
Barcelona is served by Barcelona-El Prat Airport, about 17 km (11 mi) from the centre of Barcelona. It is the second-largest airport in Spain, and the largest on the Mediterranean coast, which handled more than 44.1 million passengers in 2016, showing an annual upward trend. It is a main hub for Vueling Airlines and Ryanair, and also a focus for Iberia and Air Europa. The airport mainly serves domestic and European destinations, although some airlines offer destinations in Latin America, Asia and the United States. The airport is connected to the city by highway, metro (Airport T1 and Airport T2 stations), commuter train (Barcelona Airport railway station) and scheduled bus service. A new terminal (T1) has been built, and entered service on 17 June 2009.
Some low-cost airlines, also use Girona-Costa Brava Airport, about 90 km (56 mi) to the north, Reus Airport, 77 km (48 mi) to the south, or Lleida-Alguaire Airport, about 150 km (93 mi) to the west, of the city. Sabadell Airport is a smaller airport in the nearby town of Sabadell, devoted to pilot training, aerotaxi and private flights.
The Port of Barcelona has a 2000-year-old history and a great contemporary commercial importance. It is Europe’s ninth largest container port, with a trade volume of 1.72 million TEU’s in 2013. The port is managed by the Port Authority of Barcelona. Its 10 km2 (4 sq mi) are divided into three zones: Port Vell (the old port), the commercial port and the logistics port (Barcelona Free Port). The port is undergoing an enlargement that will double its size thanks to diverting the mouth of the Llobregat river 2 kilometres (1 mile) to the south.
The Port Vell in winter
The Barcelona harbour is the leading European cruiser port and a most important Mediterranean turnaround base. In 2013, 3,6 million of pleasure cruises passengers used services of the Port of Barcelona.
The Port Vell area also houses the Maremagnum (a commercial mall), a multiplex cinema, the IMAX Port Vell and one of Europe’s largest aquariums – Aquarium Barcelona, containing 8,000 fish and 11 sharks contained in 22 basins filled with 4 million litres of sea water. The Maremagnum, being situated within the confines of the port, is the only commercial mall in the city that can open on Sundays and public holidays.
Barcelona is a major hub for RENFE, the Spanish state railway network. The city’s main Inter-city rail station is Barcelona Sants railway station, whilst Estació de França terminus serves a secondary role handling suburban, regional and medium distance services. Freight services operate to local industries and to the Port of Barcelona.
RENFE’s AVE high-speed rail system, which is designed for speeds of 310 km/h (193 mph), was extended from Madrid to Barcelona in 2008 in the form of the Madrid–Barcelona high-speed rail line. A shared RENFE-SNCF high-speed rail connecting Barcelona and France (Paris, Marseilles and Toulouse, through Perpignan–Barcelona high-speed rail line) was launched in 2013. Both these lines serve Barcelona Sants terminal station.
Besides RENFE’s services, other rail services in the Barcelona area are operated by the Ferrocarrils de la Generalitat de Catalunya (FGC), owned by the Catalan government. The FGC operates largely commuter rail services, but also carries freight to the Port of Barcelona, as well as a number of rack railways and funiculars and three of the lines of the Barcelona Metro (see local public transport below). Other suburban services are operated by Rodalies de Catalunya over RENFE tracks.
Roads and highways
Barcelona lies on three international routes, including European route E15 that follows the Mediterranean coast, European route E90 to Madrid and Lisbon, and European route E09 to Paris. It is also served by a comprehensive network of motorways and highways throughout the metropolitan area, including A-2, A-7/AP-7, C-16, C-17, C-31, C-32, C-33, C-60.
The city is circled by three half ring roads or bypasses, Ronda de Dalt (B-20) (on the mountain side), Ronda del Litoral (B-10) (along the coast) and Ronda del Mig (separated into two parts: Travessera de Dalt in the north and the Gran Via de Carles III), two partially covered fast highways with several exits that bypass the city.
The city’s main arteries include Diagonal Avenue, which crosses it diagonally, Meridiana Avenue which leads to Glòries and connects with Diagonal Avenue and Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes, which crosses the city from east to west, passing through its centre. The famous boulevard of La Rambla, whilst no longer an important vehicular route, remains an important pedestrian route.
The Estació del Nord (Northern Station), a former railway station which was renovated for the 1992 Olympic Games, now serves as the terminus for long-distance and regional bus services.
Local public transport
Barcelona is served by a comprehensive local public transport network that includes a metro, a bus network, two separate modern tram networks, a separate historic tram line, and several funiculars and aerial cable cars. Most of these networks and lines form a coordinated fare system, administered by the Autoritat del Transport Metropolità (ATM), although they are operated by a number of different bodies. This integrated public transport is divided into different zones (1 to 6) and depending on usage various Integrated Travel Cards are available.
The largely underground Barcelona Metro network comprises twelve lines, identified by an “L” followed by the line number as well as by individual colours. Eight of these lines are operated on dedicated track by the Transports Metropolitans de Barcelona (TMB), whilst four lines are operated by the Ferrocarrils de la Generalitat de Catalunya (FGC) and some of them share tracks with that company’s commuter lines.
Another company, TRAMMET, operates the city’s two modern tram networks, known as Trambaix and Trambesòs. The historic tram line, the Tramvia Blau, connects the metro (L7, operated by FGC) to the Funicular del Tibidabo (operated by TMB). The Funicular de Tibidabo climbs the Tibidabo hill, as does the Funicular de Vallvidrera (FGC). The Funicular de Montjuïc (TMB) climbs the Montjuïc hill. The city has two aerial cable cars: the Montjuïc Cable Car (to the Montjuïc castle) and the Port Vell Aerial Tramway that runs via Torre Jaume I and Torre Sant Sebastià over the port.
Buses in Barcelona are a major form of public transport, with extensive local, interurban and night bus networks. Most local services are operated by the TMB, although some other services are operated by a number of private companies, albeit still within the ATM fare structure. A separate private bus line, known as Aerobús, links the airport with the city centre, with its own fare structure.
Barcelona has a metered taxi fleet governed by the Institut Metropolità del Taxi (Metropolitan Taxi Institute), composed of more than 10,000 cars. Most of the licences are in the hands of self-employed drivers. With their black and yellow livery, Barcelona’s taxis are easily spotted, and can be caught from one of many taxi ranks, hailed on street, called by telephone or via app.
On 22 March 2007, Barcelona’s City Council started the Bicing service, a bicycle service understood as a public transport. Once the user has their user card, they can take a bicycle from any of the more than 400 stations spread around the city and use it anywhere the urban area of the city, and then leave it at another station. The service has been a success, with 50,000 subscribed users in three months.
The Barri Gòtic (Catalan for “Gothic Quarter”) is 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 modernista architecture (related to the movement known as Art Nouveau in the rest of Europe) developed between 1885 and 1950 and left an important legacy in Barcelona. Several of these buildings are World Heritage Sites. Especially remarkable is the work of architect Antoni Gaudí, which can be seen throughout the city. His best-known work is the immense but still unfinished church of the Sagrada Família, which has been under construction since 1882 and is still financed by private donations. As of 2015, completion is planned for 2026.
Barcelona was also home to Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona Pavilion. Designed in 1929 for the International Exposition for Germany, it was an iconic building that came to symbolise modern architecture as the embodiment of van der Rohe’s aphorisms “less is more” and “God is in the details.” The Barcelona pavilion was intended as a temporary structure and was torn down in 1930 less than a year after it was constructed. A modern re-creation by Spanish architects now stands in Barcelona, however, constructed in 1986.
Barcelona won the 1999 RIBA Royal Gold Medal for its architecture, the first (and as of 2015, only) time that the winner has been a city rather than an individual architect.
World Heritage Sites
Barcelona is the home of many points of interest declared World Heritage Sites by UNESCO:
Palau de la Música Catalana
Hospital de Sant Pau
Historic buildings and monuments
Minor basilica of Sagrada Família, the international symbol of Barcelona
Palau de la Música Catalana and Hospital de Sant Pau, designed by Lluís Domènech i Montaner, included in the UNESCO Heritage List in 1997.
Works by Antoni Gaudí, including Park Güell, Palau Güell, Casa Milà (La Pedrera), Casa Vicens, Sagrada Família (Nativity façade and crypt), Casa Batlló, Crypt in Colonia Güell. The first three works were inscribed as a World Heritage Site in 1984. The other four were added as extensions to the site in 2005.
The Cathedral of the Holy Cross and St. Eulalia (Gothic)
Gothic basilica of Santa Maria del Mar
Gothic basilica of Santa Maria del Pi
Romanesque church of Sant Pau del Camp
Palau Reial Major, medieval residence of the sovereign Counts of Barcelona, later Kings of Aragon
The Royal Shipyard (gothic)
Monastery of Pedralbes (gothic)
The Columbus Monument
The Arc de Triomf, a triumphal arch built for entrance to 1888 Barcelona Universal Exposition.
Expiatory church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus on the summit of Tibidabo.
Santa Maria del Mar church
Santa Maria del Pi church
The Roman and Medieval walls
Can Framis Museum
The Arc de Triomf
Castell dels Tres Dragons
Hotel Arts (left) and Torre Mapfre (each 154 m (505 ft) in height
The Torre de Collserola on the Tibidabo is the tallest structure in Barcelona (288.4m).
The view from Gaudí’s Park Güell
Port Vell Aerial Tramway
Montjuïc Cable Car
Statue of Christopher Columbus
W Barcelona (Hotel Vela)
Magic Fountain of Montjuïc
The Venetian Towers in Plaça d’Espanya
Plaça de Catalunya
La Rambla, a popular shopping street and promenade
Barcelona’s old Customs building at Port Vell
Barcelona has a great number of museums, which cover different areas and eras.
The National Museum of Art of Catalonia possesses a well-known collection of Romanesque art.
Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art focuses on post-1945 Catalan and Spanish art.
The Fundació Joan Miró, Picasso Museum, and Fundació Antoni Tàpies hold important collections of these world-renowned artists.
The Can Framis Museum, focused on post-1960 Catalan Art owned by Fundació Vila Casas.
Several museums cover the fields of history and archaeology, like the Barcelona City History Museum (MUHBA), the Museum of the History of Catalonia, the Archeology Museum of Catalonia, the Barcelona Maritime Museum, and the privately owned Egyptian Museum.
The Erotic museum of Barcelona is among the most peculiar ones, while CosmoCaixa is a science museum that received the European Museum of the Year Award in 2006.
The FC Barcelona Museum has been the most visited museum in the city of Barcelona, with 1,506,022 visitors in 2013.
Barcelona contains 60 municipal parks, 12 of which are historic, 5 of which are thematic (botanical), 45 of which are urban, and 6 of which are forest.
They range from vest-pocket parks to large recreation areas. The urban parks alone cover 10% of the city (549.7 ha or 1,358.3 acres). The total park surface grows about 10 ha (25 acres) per year, with a proportion of 18.1 square metres (195 sq ft) of park area per inhabitant.
Of Barcelona’s parks, Montjuïc is the largest, with 203 ha located on the mountain of the same name.
It is followed by Parc de la Ciutadella (which occupies the site of the old military citadel and which houses the Parliament building, the Barcelona Zoo, and several museums); 31 ha or 76.6 acres including the zoo).
The Guinardó Park (19 ha or 47.0 acres)
Park Güell (designed by Antoni Gaudí; 17.2 ha or 42.5 acres)
Oreneta Castle Park (also 17.2 ha or 42.5 acres)
Diagonal Mar Park (13.3 ha or 32.9 acres, inaugurated in 2002)
Nou Barris Central Park (13.2 ha or 32.6 acres)
Can Dragó Sports Park and Poblenou Park (both 11.9 ha or 29.4 acres)
The Labyrinth Park (9.10 ha or 22.5 acres), named after the garden maze it contains.
The Parc de Les Aigües (2 ha or 4.9 acres).
A part of the Collserolla Park is also within the city limits.
PortAventura, one of the largest amusement parks in Europe, with 3,000,000 visitors per year, is located one hour’s drive from Barcelona.
Also, within the city lies Tibidabo Amusement Park, a smaller amusement park in Plaza del Tibidabo, with the Muntanya Russa amusement ride.
Barcelona beach was listed as number one in a list of the top ten city beaches in the world according to National Geographic and Discovery Channel.
Barcelona contains seven beaches, totalling 4.5 kilometres (2.8 miles) of coastline.
Sant Sebastià, Barceloneta and Somorrostro beaches, both 1,100 m (3,610 ft) in length, are the largest, oldest and the most-frequented beaches in Barcelona.
The Olympic Harbour separates them from the other city beaches: Nova Icària, Bogatell, Mar Bella, Nova Mar Bella and Llevant. These beaches (ranging from 400 to 640 m (1,310 to 2,100 ft) were opened as a result of the city restructuring to host the 1992 Summer Olympics, when a great number of industrial buildings were demolished. At present, the beach sand is artificially replenished given that storms regularly remove large quantities of material. The 2004 Universal Forum of Cultures left the city a large concrete bathing zone on the eastmost part of the city’s coastline. Most recently, Llevant is the first beach to allow dogs access during summer season.