Barcelona is the capital of Catalonia. With over 1,770,000 inhabitants, it joins in its surrounding area a group of 36 towns referred to together as the Metropolitan Area and which combined are home to half of Catalonia's 7 million inhabitants.
With 2,000 years of history, the city is a living museum in terms of architecture, art and culture, but that does not stop it from looking to the future, as the site of leading international congresses, a design capital, an organiser of sporting events, etc.
Facing the sea and flanked by two mountains, it is not difficult to find landmarks to orient yourself after being in the city just a few days. Some of the iconic and essential sights include:
- Plaça Catalunya: quintessential city centre, below it and until arriving at the sea, you will find the district of Ciutat Vella (old city), which is made up of various neighbourhoods and is the location of a large number of museums and points of historical interest. It is also a shopping highlight with the streets Pelai and Portal de l’Àngel, as well as shopping centres and department stores. Moreover, it is the hub of the city’s transport network.
La Rambla: the most famous street in Barcelona, a promenade that descends from Plaça Catalunya to the Columbus Statue and the port. It is also the most visited by tourists and very busy at any time of day. It serves as a border between the neighbourhoods El Gòtic (the part of Ciutat Vella with the most monuments) and El Raval (the old outskirts of the city, nowadays the city’s most multicultural area). Strolling up and down La Rambla is a ritual pastime, and you mustn't miss emblematic places like the open-air market Mercat de la Boquería and the opera house Gran Teatre del Liceu.
Barceloneta: this old neighbourhood of fishermen and people whose work was related to the sea is today one of the city’s most popular and widely-visited neighbourhoods. Full of tapas bars, fish restaurants, narrow streets and small houses, it opens onto the first beach along Barcelona’s 4.2 km of coast. There is a lively atmosphere at any time of day and its neighbourhood fiestas, in September, are quite an event.
Montjuïc: between Plaça Espanya and the sea, in the southernmost part of the city, you will find the mountain of Montjuïc, which is the site of a large number of museums and cultural facilities: Poble Espanyol, Caixafòrum, Fundació Miró, Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, etc. It is another of the city’s not-to-be-missed viewpoints. At its foot, you will find a large exhibition and congress complex and the well-known Montjuïc fountain, famous for its light and music shows, especially in summer.
Tibidabo: the city’s other mountain, it offers excellent views of Barcelona. It is the highest point of the Sierra de Collserola, an ideal place for walking, playing sports, picnicking, etc. The Tibidabo Amusement Park is a beloved place of locals, as is the Tramvía Blau, an old tram that is now a tourist attraction which continues making the same journey from Av. Tibidabo to the top.
- Sagrada Família: the masterpiece of architect Antoni Gaudí, it is a Modernist religious temple still under construction in the midst of the Eixample neighbourhood. It is expected to be completed in 2030 and has become an undisputed symbol of Barcelona. It is the city’s most visited monument.
Parc de la Ciutadella: it is the green lung of the city centre. Built in the 19th century, its variety of hundred-year-old trees and different elements (the waterfall, the lake, the gazebo, etc.) make it a spot for gathering, relaxing, playing sports, organising events, etc. highly appreciated by locals and visitors. The entrance to the Barcelona Zoo is located in the park and can be accessed from the street Wellington.
Passeig de Gràcia: main avenue of the Eixample neighbourhood, it houses symbolic buildings like La Pedrera, la Casa Batlló and El Palau Robert. It also concentrates the city’s most elegant shops and connects to the centre of the neighbourhood of Gràcia, the most bohemian neighbourhood of Barcelona with a large number of theatres, cinemas, restaurants and plazas and a lively nightlife.
Park Güell: a city garden project commissioned by Eusebi Güell to Gaudí. It was never completely finished, but it resulted in a colourful public park full of the most characteristic elements of Modernism, integrating its architecture in a natural space. Its large central plaza is a luxurious viewpoint over Barcelona, and the park also houses the Casa-Museu Gaudí.
- Santa Maria del Mar: known as the cathedral of La Ribera and located on the Passeig del Born, it is an emblem of the neighbourhood. Built during the 14th century thanks to the help of parishioners, it is one of the most perfect examples of Gothic architecture and an exceptionally beautiful basilica.