Good weather, a great atmosphere, history and culture, great food and lots of activities and attractions, Barcelona has it all to offer to those who visit it. Visiting all the different neighborhoods and trying to figure out how the city has grown over the centuries is something that fascinates me everywhere I go, and Barcelona is no exception. From the medieval parte of the town to its modernists streets visiting this city its such an amazing experience that makes you want to stay.
On this post, I'll try to present you some of the must go places and my favorite spots in the city. Visiting more specific posts, that you can reach trough the links, will bring you further information (and photos) that you may find useful while planning a visit to Barcelona.
Barcelona was once a Roman city (Barcino, founded around 133 B.C.), surrounded by stone walls. Century after century, trough the Middle Ages this village grow in size and importance. The Barri Gòtic (Gothic Quarter) is a well preserved set of medieval buildings, squares, narrow streets and windy alleys, where you should take your time wandering about (actually, only a few street can be used by cars). You can find roman arches and columns, the cathedral and many churches, beautiful and famous museums, concert halls, like the Palau de la Musica Catalana, along with small boutiques and great places to eat.
Besides Barri Gòtic, the Old Town of Barcelona also includes El Borne district, and if you want to get out of the more beaten track wile still keeping close to the charm of the narrow streets and old buildings, this more artistic and fashionable neighborhood is the place to go.
Here you can find less conventional stores, nice cafe terraces and some of the most interesting attractions of the city. The Picasso Museum, the Basilica de Santa Maria del Mar, El Borne Centre Cultural i de Memòria and the Ciutadella Park (also home to Barcelona Zoo) are some of the places that you can't miss in the visit.
In the heart of the district is the tree-lined Passeig del Born, once the site of medieval jousting competitions. Today with its numerous restaurants and bars is a place to go eat and drink, both day or night.
Either its name comes from the Roman temple of Mons Jovis (Moutain of Jupiter) or from the medieval Jewish cemetery in the south side of the mountain, Montjuïc is an obligatory visit while in Barcelona.
The Palau Nacional, other palaces and infrastructures in Montjuïc, including the wide mountain parc, and the famous Mies van der Rohe Pavillion, were built for the World Exposition of 1929, but the full development of the hill come with the Olympic Games of 1992, with the construction of the stadium and of several sport facilities.
Just above the commercial port one can find the 17th Century fortress, the Castell de Montjuïc, which today houses the military historical museum. In the days of Franco, the fortress on the Montjuïc was a prison for political prisoners. Today it can be visited and enjoy some great views of the city.
When, in the eighteenth century, a part of the residents of La Ribera quarter lost their homes in order to built the Parc de la Ciutadella, Barcelona grew towards the sea and La Barceloneta was built to accommodate its new inhabitants, mostly fisherman and sailors.
The landscape of the neighborhood changed dramatically with the 1992 Olympics, with the recuperation of the urban infrastructures, the creation of beautiful beaches lined with white sand and palm trees and rigorous standards of coastal water quality. Promenades, Shoppings, Hotels, a Marina (Port Vell) and an Aquarium, sportive infrastructures, trendy restaurantes and contemporary art exhibits are among the attractions waiting for Barceloneta visitors.
In mid nineteenth century, with the beginning of industrialisation, Barcelona began to grow out off the city walls, extending the living and working space for the fast-growing population. The Eixample district, with its large straight streets and its modernist architecture, testimonies a time of progress and prosperity that characterized the city trough the last decades of the 1800's and the beginning of the twentieth century.
The Passeig de Gracia, that connects the medieval city (starting at Plaça Catalunya) to the Gràcia district, is lined with admirable buildings, chic boutiques and great restaurants. There you can find two of the most famous monuments of Barcelona's architect Antoní Gaudì - Casa Milà (also known as La Pedrera) and Casa Batlló. Casa Batlló is part of the Block of Discord, located in Passeig de Gràcia between calle Aragó and calle Consell de Cent. This block features the most famous collection of modernist buildings sharing the same facade in Barcelona. Further east, the Sagrada Família cathedral , also projected by Gaudì, is a place where is mandatory to go with plenty of time.
Las Ramblas is one of the main streets of Barcelona and, often, one of the first landmarks that most visitors identify with the city. This central boulevard, which cuts through the heart of the city centre, is a vibrant and agreeable promenade of approximately 1,3 kilometers, connecting Plaza Catalunya to Port Vell harbor. To the west it borders with El Raval area and east of Las Ramblas you can find the Barri Gòtic.
There you can find La Boqueria Market, the first of Barcelona's local markets, opened on 1840 and where you can find a selection of fruits, fresh meat, fish and see food (you can also eat it on the place), and a lot of other products. The color and the diversity of products makes it a place to visit.
Situated in the higher part of the city, Gràcia is the bohemian quarter of the city. Its cosmopolitan caracter and strong political stance brings a special appeal. In this colorful neighborhood you can find one of the top attractions of Barcelona - Parc Güell - and some of the best view points o the city.