Barcelona is one of Europe’s most vibrant cities. Located on Spain’s northeastern coast, it is also the capital of the autonomous region of Catalonia. Visitors will notice both Spanish and Catalan spoken and on signs throughout the city. Barcelona has a number of unique features and attractions that visitors should not miss.
Barcelona was the home of the architect Antoni Gaudi, and his mark is all over the city. His most famous work is the Sagrada Familia, a still-unfinished church, but his work can be seen throughout Barcelona including the Parc Guell. Throughout the city, there are also a number of beautiful buildings in the Art Nouveau style, and many of these are along the Ruta del Modernisme. The Modernisme Centre sells a guidebook that details the main sites along the route. It takes about two hours total to walk.
Catalan cuisine differs somewhat from cuisine in other parts of Spain. Traditional Barcelona paellas are made with seafood, and there is also a type of squid ink paella in which the rice is black due to the ink. Fideuà is the name for a type of noodle that is also used in a local paella variation. A ubiquitous staple of Catalan food is pa amb tomàquet, bread grilled and rubbed with tomato and garlic.
There are a number of excellent restaurants throughout Barcelona, but no visit to the city is complete without a trip to La Boqueria, an enormous market in the Cuitat Vella district. Food can be purchased to be cooked elsewhere, but there are also several open-air counters for ordering meals. Bar Pinotxo is an excellent choice.
It’s important to keep an eye on opening and closing hours for restaurant as many close for several hours in the afternoon and early evening and are open quite late at night. It’s not unusual in Barcelona to dine at 10 p.m. or later.
Soccer, generally known as football in the rest of the world, is also very important in Barcelona, and the local football team, FC Barcelona, is widely considered to be one of the best. Lionel Messi, one of the best players in the world, is on the team as well as a number of other international superstars. Despite the club’s international standing, many of its players are Spanish and even Catalan, and the team itself is an important part of Catalan identity. A trip to Camp Nou, the team’s home, is easily arranged. Tickets for all but the biggest matches are generally available online. There is also a museum at the grounds.
- Barcelona is also a good base for several interesting day trips.
- Montserrat, about 30 miles from Barcelona, is a breathtaking mountaintop monastery, and several trains and buses per day run between Montserrat and Barcelona.
- Figueres is a small town outside of Barcelona most notable for its Salvador Dali museum.
- Sitges, southwest of Barcelona, is a lovely resort area along the coast. Sitges is known for being particularly gay-friendly and hosts an international film festival each year.
- North of Barcelona, Girona is a large city that’s worth a visit for its well-preserved Old Town.