Since hosting the 1992 Summer Olympics, Barcelona has further expanded its beachfront area and modern infrastructure and now welcomes over 3.6 million visitors per year. Visitors on a day trip to Barcelona will find many things to do: sample Catalan cuisine, view historical artworks, marveling at the whimsical architectural designs of Antoni Gaudi, sun on the shores of the Mediterranean or simply stroll Las Ramblas.
Las Ramblas and Boqueria Market
Las Ramblas is a boulevard that wanders along the western edge of the city's Gothic quarter from the waterfront to the Plaza Catalunya. This wide street is divided by a broad median that plays host to a wide variety of merchant stalls, street performers and political protests day and night. The busy street is lined with shops and restaurants and is a main center of Barcelona city life. The Boqueria Market is just off Las Ramblas a few steps north of the Liceu metro stop. The market features dozens of stalls selling traditional Catalonian fare, fresh fruit, dried goods, fish and other local food items. The market has existed here in some form since 1200 and a visit here is a great way to sample the food and culture of Barcelona.
The Barri Gotic, or Gothic neighborhood, is the oldest remaining part of the city. It lies at the center of Barcelona with its southern tip touching the waterfront. It is a departure from the wide avenues of modern Barcelona with twisting medieval streets that are filled with small shops. Cobbled walkways will take you to the Gothic Cathedral of Santa Creu i Santa Eulalia, which dates to 1298, and to the old Jewish Quarter or Call Jueu. The nearby former palace of the Kings of the Catalan-Aragon period is open to visitors. The ruins of the ancient Roman Temple of Augustus are located along the intersection of the two main Roman streets, which were the original center of the city and remain so today.
Antoni Gaudi was a Catalan architect and artist who combined the Moorish and Spanish elements of Spain's culture with a strong-willed defiance to the Castilian-centered culture. He created a distinctive Spanish-Modernist architectural style called Renaixensa, the Catalan word for Renaissance. Gaudi's surreal creations can be found throughout Barcelona from Park Guell in the northern portion of the city to the Sagrada Familia Cathedral located just off the Avenue Diagonal. Several homes and apartment buildings commissioned by wealthy locals and developers dot the cityscape and display Gaudi's architectural style. For a self-guided tour of Gaudi's monuments, download the MP3 audio guide supplied by the city's tourism board.
Beaches & Port Olympic
Barcelona has nearly three miles of sandy beaches backed by concrete walkways and city streets to enjoy. During the summer months the beaches are a great daytime destination for locals and visitors alike. Port Olympic is the trendiest portion of the waterfront with its upscale hotels, a large casino and an assortment of seaside restaurants, clubs and bars. The area makes a relaxing getaway during the day and takes on a lively vibe after nightfall. A marina fronts the large concrete seawall and the iconic bronze fish sculpture by architect Frank Gehry stands high above it all.
Wildlife in Barcelona
Barcelona is home to a world-class aquarium and a zoo set within the manicured landscape of the Parc de la Ciutadella. The Aquarium of Barcelona is located on the waterfront near the Gothic Quarter. It features over 450 species of Mediterranean and tropical creatures and many of its exhibits attempt to cement Barcelona's close relationship with the sea in the minds of visitors. The modern Barcelona Zoo began as a wealthy Spaniard's personal collection during the 1890s, but its purpose today is to create awareness of the earth's wildlife and natural ecosystems and to promote sustainable practices.
- Barcelona Turisme: Gothic Quarter
- Barcelona Tourisme: Cathedral
- Time Out Barcelona: 20 Great Things to Do in Barcelona
- Lifestyle Barcelona: Something Different in Barcelona
- The Times Online; Barcelona Admires Olympics that Altered Landscape; Owen Slot; 2008
- The Guardian; Barcelona's Secret Bars; Graham Keeley; 2008
- La Boqueria Market: Contact Us
- La Boqueria Market: History
- BCN Shop: Gaudi's Barcelona
- Barcelona Tourisme: Beaches
- The Aquarium of Barcelona: How to Get There
- Barcelona Zoo: Where We Are
- Andalucia: Residential Tourism Statistics
- Sagrada Familia: History
- Biography: Antoni Gaudi Biography
- The Guardian; Heaven on Earth; Jonathan Jones; 2007
- Barcelona Zoo: Mission and Objectives
- Frommers: Barcelona: Neighborhoods in Brief
- Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images