Spanish Wealth and the Home of Gaudí

Barcelona is a wonderful city in Spain where you can be on the beach and in the mountains in one day. This city is often referred to as an open-air museum. With a rich historical past, it is also home to nine sights listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. And the Catalan cuisine, for sure you can enjoy delicious food. Below are the most beautiful sights of Barcelona listed. This article also includes tips for the best tours and activities to do.

The city has a long history, much longer than most people know. With many good and bad times. Which results in a great diversity of people, outside influences and especially modern art. And that is exactly what makes the city so popular today. A wealth that was partly created by tourism to the Costa del Sol in the 1960s. Nowadays, Barcelona is the richest city in the country.

The Ideal City Trip

The city is an ideal city trip, perfect for a day or four or five. In addition to the many cultural highlights, the capital of Catalonia has a Mediterranean climate, good food (which is slightly different from the rest of Spain) and even has city beaches. It is a city that also attracts many young people, so it is always vibrant.

Accommodations in Barcelona

I have been to Barcelona five times, sleeping in various hotels. They varied from boutique to luxury, but always in the nicest neighbourhoods. Around the city centre area, you find the neighbourhoods of La Barceloneta, Eixample and Gracia. Which are great to find good accommodations as well. Aside from a hotel, you can also rent an apartment. This is often cheaper for a longer period of time. Book in time, because this city is very popular all year round. And the less time there is between your booking and trip, the more expensive it often is.

La Sagrada Família

La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.

This church by Antoni Gaudí is the epitome of Barcelona. The whimsical towers and the unprecedented number of decorations of La Sagrada Família show a unique style. A style that suits an architect who is both crazy and genius. The symbolism radiates from the building, especially towards the Christian faith. Each tower is named after an apostle, while the central dome refers to the cross.

Construction of the piers had already begun when Gaudí took over in November 1883. He succeeded Francisco de Paula del Villar, who left after a fight with his client. Gaudí dies in 1925. He was run over by a tram. The artist is buried in the church. But the work on the construction continues because Gaudí had described almost everything in detail. One day his masterpiece will be finished.

Palau Güell

This mansion was designed by Antoni Gaudí. The wealthy industrialist Eusebio de Güell had it built between 1885 and 1890. Remarkable is the interweaving of structure and decoration, which later became a trademark of Gaudí. Many Moorish influences can be seen in the house.

Park Güell

Park Güell in Barcelona.

The wealthy industrialist Eusebio de Güell also plays a role in the construction of Park Guëll. In 1900 he commissioned Antoni Gaudí to create a park in the northwest of Barcelona. Gaudí fuses nature and architecture in the park. For example, with stairs and paths integrated into the landscape. And pergolas that grow out of the building. Everything is in harmony with the plants and trees. And a lot of mosaics, mostly of glass or ceramic. And in all sorts of colours. Including the famous sofa and the double staircase with Salamander.

Casa Museu Gaudí

This museum is located in Park Güell. The modernist architect used to live in this house himself. Gaudí has often been inimitable. What is good to see in this museum? Inside you can see a lot of furniture created by his hand, while some decorations can be seen in his garden.

Casa Vicens

Casa Vicens in Barcelona.

This immense house clearly shows how Gaudí intertwined various architectural styles. Traditional Spanish architecture on the bottom two floors gives way to Arabic influences, while African forms can also be seen. Gaudí designed the house for Manuel Vicens i Montaner, a manufacturer of tiles. It is therefore remarkable that the architect had tiles laid in a checkered pattern in many places.

He used flowers for his design: African Marigolds, which are in full bloom here. Casa Vicens is seen by art connoisseurs as Antoni Gaudí's first important building. The property is located at number 24 Carrer de les Carolines, in the Gràcia district.

Casa Milà

Casa Milá is also called La Pedrera. Antoni Gaudí built this apartment complex between 1906 and 1910. Despite the multiple floors, the building appears to be one whole. The walls are undulating, just like in Park Güell. In fact, there is not a single straight line or angle to be seen. But the roof has jagged chimneys.

Part of the building can be visited, including an apartment on the fourth floor, the attic and the roof terrace. There is also a small museum, with a lot of information about Gaudí. It is located on Passeig de Gràcia.

Casa Batlló

Casa Batlló in Barcelona.

Once again, wavy lines predominate in this work by Antoni Gaudí. He renovated this building between 1905 and 1907 for the textile magnate Josep Batlló i Casanovas. Remarkable is the facade, which is covered with mosaic. Sea creatures squirm inside and the balconies resemble the teeth of terrifying sea creatures.

Gaudí once explained that the story of Saint George the dragon slayer from the Cappadocia region of Turkey formed the basis. This house is also located on Passeig de Gràcia.

Colonia Güell

This is a working-class village (a kind of 'colony') set up by Eusebio de Güell. Gaudí only designed the church, while other architects designed many houses. Gaudí's church seems to be a preliminary design for La Sagrada Família, although he started this much later. But the superstructure is missing, making it really just a crypt.

Many houses and other buildings have since been restored. Colonia Güell is not near Park Güell, but just south of Barcelona.

Palau de la Música Catalana

This concert hall was designed by Lluís Domènech i Montaner. Like Gaudí, he was one of the founders of what is now known as Catalan Modernism. He too uses excessive decorations, including mosaics. He started construction in 1905.

The dome is remarkable. It appears to be hanging upside down and is stained glass, yet it provides natural light to the building. Which is not common in concert halls. There are also various statues of, for example, Beethoven, Bach and Wagner.

Hospital de Sant Pau

Hospital de Sant Pau in Barcelona.

This hospital was also designed by Lluís Domènech i Montaner. Here too, many ornaments and decorations can be seen. Both in the main building and the more than thirty pavilions. But the most special thing is that each pavilion has its own appearance. Construction began in 1902 and was not completed until 1930. Entirely in line with Gaudí's trend, the project was regularly halted due to a lack of funds.

The Hospital de Sant Pau is the largest complex of Catalan modernism. For more than ten years there have been discussions to turn these buildings into one large museum.

Museu Picasso

The Spanish painter Pablo Picasso is world-famous. In 1855, when Picasso was fourteen years old, he entered the Academy of Fine Arts in Barcelona. In his youth, he made numerous works, which are much less known to the public. In the city he slowly developed modernist drawing, but also abstract, classical, surrealistic, and so on. The events in his life changed his way of working again and again. In the meantime, he traveled through Europe.

More than 30 of his works are on display in the museum, including the famous Las Meniñas after Velazquez. The addition 'after Velazquez' refers to an existing painting by painter Diego Velazquez from 1656. You can also learn a lot about the man behind his work, he also made sculptures and ceramic art.


The lovely Tibidabo in Barcelona.

Tibidabo is a 512 meter high mountain located on the outskirts of Barcelona. From the top you have a good view of Barcelona and its green surroundings. On top is the church Iglesia del Sagrat Cor. Both the decoration and the name of this church resemble the Sacré Coeur in Paris.

Parc del Laberint d’Horta

This park dates from the end of the 18th century. It is named after the maze in the park, which was already causing a stir among lovers at the time. There is also a medieval defense tower.

Catedral de Santa Eulàlia (of La Seu)

Catedral de Santa Eulàlia in Barcelona.

This stately Gothic cathedral adorns the Plaza de la Seu. Particularly noteworthy are the relics of Saint Eulalia of Mérida, a Catholic saint who died in 304 as a martyr. Her religious remains lie in a marble sarcophagus, in the crypt below the high altar.

The famous Christ of Lepanto, an impressive wooden Christ figure that is said to have been taken as spoils from the naval battle of Lepanto in 1571, is on display in this church.

Palau de la Generalitat

This former provincial house is now the seat of the government of Catalonia. According to official figures, 115 Catalan presidents have resided here. It was built in the 14th and 15th centuries and later provided with a new facade. The famous Gothic façade was designed by Marc Safont.

This facade from 1425 depicts scenes from the story of Saint George and the dragon. In the centuries that followed, the palace was expanded considerably. With the impressive Golden Room, the Pati dels Tarongers and the exuberant Salón de Sant Jordi. The building is located on the Plaça de Sant Jaume.

Santa María del Mar

Santa María del Mar in Barcelona.

This building from the 14th century is often seen as the best example of Catalan Gothic. The supporting columns are about 13 meters apart. Which is unique in the Middle Ages. Scientists have therefore investigated the stability. They believe that if the columns had been a little further apart, the church would have collapsed long ago.

The cathedral is built of stones from Montjuïc mountain. In total, the church has been built for 55 years. The name, meaning Mary of the Sea, is derived from the many sailors who lived in the La Ribera district at the time. At the entrance are two statues of Saint Peter and Saint Paul. The interior was destroyed by a major fire about 200 years ago. The cathedral is located on the Plaza Santa Maria.

Museu Fundació Joan Miró

The Spanish painter Joan Miró has always stood in the shadow of Picasso and Dalí. The surrealist studied art in Barcelona, before gaining experience and inspiration in Europe.

In this museum, you can find numerous objects of his, including tapestries, sculptures and of course drawings and paintings.

Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya

The museum is the Catalan Art Museum, with an extensive collection of Romanesque and Gothic religious art, also from the region. You can see works of art from the Baroque and Renaissance periods, as well as modern art.

Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA)

The special glass building of the famous American Richard Meier opened its doors in 1995. It houses the Museum of Modern Art, often referred to as MACBA.

The museum has art from 1940 on display. In particular, contemporary works of art by Spanish and Catalan artists. As you can also see works by foreign artists, you get a good picture of the time.

La Rambla

La Rambla (or Las Ramblas) is the main street of Barcelona. This world-famous boulevard runs from Columbus Monument on the water to the centre of Barcelona. It is 2 kilometres long and in some cases 45 meters wide. And is surrounded by plane trees. Ideal for strolling, shopping, having a chat or eating.

Take your time and go towards nightfall, when the businessmen give way to couples in love. Ramblas means river bed in Arabic. This used to be a dry river bed, which led the water from the mountains to the sea during heavy rains.

Mercat de la Boqueria

Visiting the famous market in Barcelona.

The Mercat de la Boqueria on La Rambla is the largest fresh market in Europe. You will be amazed at all those colorful stalls with vegetables, fruit, meat and fish. And because this is the land of tapas, you can buy all kinds of ready-made snacks. Ideal for a picnic. On the beach, in a park or just somewhere on a bench.

Font Màgica

This magical fountain is idyllically situated at the foot of Montjuïc. Every evening in the summer there is a water show, where the fountains light up in all kinds of colours. Sometimes there are also dance shows. The Catalan Carles Büigas designed the fountains (and the show) for the World Exhibition in 1929. They were completely restored for the Olympic Games. The fountains are located on Avinguda de Maria Cristina.


Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya at Montjuic, Barcelona

The Montjuïc is a hill in the southwest of the city. It was formerly used as a fortress to guard the city and the port. Today it is a gathering place for locals and tourists to do three things here. For example, first visit the Museo Joan Miró or the Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya (about Catalan history). Or experience the city park, the theatre or the concert hall. To then watch the sun go down over the city from the hill. Finally, you can have a drink and a bite to eat in numerous restaurants. You can go up (and down) on foot or with a cable car.

See the Sardana Dance

The Sardana is a Catalan folk dance. No one knows how long it has been around, but this group dance is still popular. Especially because it is a kind of resistance symbol in the struggle for (more) autonomy. Every Saturday evening around 6 pm and every Sunday morning around noon (usually right after Sunday morning mass) the square in front of the Catedral de Santa Eulàlia fills up.

The Beaches of Barcelona

Barceloneta, the beach of Barcelona.

The climate is often nice in Barcelona. And if you want to let the city be the city for a while, you can go to one of six city beaches. For a siesta, to play volleyball, to have a bite to eat or to lounge in the many bars. These artificial sandpits are a remnant of the Olympic Games, when the entire coastal strip was tackled.

Barceloneta is the best known, but you can also bake at Nova Icària, Bogatell, Mar Bella, Sant Sebastià and Nova Mar Bella. There are even two nudist beaches. The Barcelona beaches are remarkably clean. They have been awarded the blue flag by the EU more than once. This is a recognition of the quality of the water and the services offered.

Shopping in Barcelona

Barcelona is actually one big shopping street. There are an incredible number of shops in the city and not only in the centre. The most famous shopping areas are La Rambla, El Born and the Gothic Quarter, but Eixample and Gràcia are also popular. The Gothic Quarter is known for chic Spanish and Italian designer clothes.

But also, for example, leather jackets, and shops with artful pottery and kitschy souvenirs. El Born is especially loved by clothing lovers, where you will find many expensive, cheap, well-known and lesser-known brands. Logically, the city also has a number of indoor shopping centers, such as Glòries on Plaza de les Glorias, Diagonal Mar and the chic L'Illa.

Flamenco in Barcelona

Although Flamenco is originally a dance from the south of Spain, this dance is also very popular in Barcelona. You can get acquainted with this rousing dance in all kinds of ways. You can take a trial lesson or receive lessons from a professional for a whole week.

Of course you can also attend a show. There are plenty of them, both authentic and special shows for tourists. In large halls or small bars. The choice is yours, but make sure you see this spectacle. And keep an eye out for the audience that often participates enthusiastically.

Barcelona Aquarium

It sounds a bit strange, but in the Barcelona Aquarium, you can swim with sharks. You swim in a gigantic tank between these terrifying-looking fish. It is also fascinating for people who like to know what the Mediterranean Sea looks like underwater. There are also various water tanks with countless types of tropically coloured fish, seahorses, starfish, and so on.

Ciutat Vella

Ciutat Vella is the old Barcelona from the Middle Ages. It has of course changed a lot, but you can still see countless old buildings. It is ideal for a day of strolling, shopping, good food and drinks and eating tapas. The old town is located between La Rambla and the Parc de la Ciutadella, but the most beautiful part is the historic city centre.

This area is located between the Ronda University and the Ronda de Sant Pere to the north, the Avinguda parallel and the Ronda de Sant Antoni to the west, the Parc de la Ciutadella to the east and Passeig de Colom to the south. A good starting point is Plaça Catalunya.

Catalan Cooking Class

Of course, you can taste everything and discover the special local cuisine. But it is also possible to go out with a local guide, do your shopping and discover the snacks and dishes through him. Where you soon learn that it is not at all as easy as is often thought. In addition to this special course, a lot of information can be found online about the 'best' restaurants in Barcelona. Of course, tastes differ.

Watch FC Barcelona at Camp Nou

The football stadium, Camp Nou, of FC Barcelona, or rather, 'Barça' is one of the largest in the world. If you get there early enough you have a chance to buy tickets on their website for a home game. And before you know it you are among the 'socios'. If there is no home game during your visit, you can always take a tour of the stadium. The row of cups won in the impressive museum makes everyone silent.

Plaça Reial

Plaça Reial is a classic city square. An oasis of calm in the busy city. The square has many terraces, a fountain, and palm trees and is surrounded by arcades (arches resting on pillars). Note the strange-looking lampposts you see around you. These were designed by a young Antoni Gaudí in 1878.

The square has no cars and other noisy traffic, but many locals come to have a chat. Or take a walk. It's an ideal place to sit down and just look around.

A small cafe in Barcelona.

The History of Barcelona

Not everyone is aware that Barcelona is a remarkably old city. But no one knows exactly how old Barcelona is. Scholars are still discussing it. This is because history is not fixed and all information leaves a lot of room for your own interpretation.

Among all theories there is one that assumes that this city was founded about 500 years before Rome, so about 1200 years BC. While Rome is still seen as the cradle of European civilization. The Greek god Hercules would have built the city at that time, but there is no evidence for this. At most some vague references. Although traces have been found of people who have already been here 1,500 years before Christ. But little else is known about them.

For the time being, scholars see the 'Layetanos' as the founders of the city. This was one of the many Iberian peoples who lived here. But when exactly is unclear, although it is usually assumed to be around 600 to 700 BC. The Carthaginians, an illustrious people from North Africa, take over the city in the 3rd century BC.

General Hamilcar Barkas named the city after himself: Barcino, although it is sometimes also called Barkenon. Barkas is the father of the famous Hannibal Barkas who lived in the 3rd century BC. with elephants over the Pyrenees and the Alps goes to Italy to fight against the Romans.

The Romans take over the city in 218 BC. The name changes to Julia Augusta Paterna Faventia Barcino, but Barcino remains the most popular name popularly. The city is not really important at that time, it is not much more than a military fortress.

The Visigoths

In the centuries that followed, the Visigoths first took over the city. This Germanic people has long been the thorn in the side of the Romans. They make the city an important center for trade and administration. In the 7th century the Moors, again a people from North Africa, invade the city. After which the Franks take over power, and over almost all of Europe.

After a long time of unrest, Barcelona becomes part of the Kingdom of Aragon. This was at the end of the 9th century. The county is slowly strengthening its power around the Mediterranean. Barcelona's favorable location on the coast ensures unprecedented growth. That lasts for centuries.

Until October 19, 1469. The marriage of Fernando of Aragon to Isabella of Castile is seen as a turning point in the history of Barcelona. He was the king of the Spanish Empire at that time. Slowly unrest in the area grows, eventually leading to the "Catalan Revolt" from 1640 to 1651. And then the War of the Spanish Succession that lasts from 1706 to 1714. It costs the Catalan Empire its independence and Barcelona its important role.

Shopping in Barcelona. ©Corno van den Berg

Francisco Franco, the Dictator

The 19th century is often referred to as the rebirth of Barcelona. Once again, the location on the coast is decisive, which means that trade flourishes. In 1936, the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War means major problems for the city. Bombing destroys many buildings and Catalan is banned as a language by the fascist dictator Francisco Franco.

Remarkably, the city continues to grow. Franco sees Barcelona and its surroundings as a production society, which attracts many workers from the surrounding areas. The downside is the so-called 'barraquismo', many inhabitants live in shabby barracks where diseases thrive.

Remarkably enough, the sea again plays an important role in the development of Barcelona in the 1960s. This time it is the tourists who seek out the weather, the beach and the sea. The Costa Del Sol is glorious, which means that Barcelona is also taking a piece of the cake.

But only when Franco dies in 1975 does the city grow again under the yoke of the strict rules. And the Catalan language and culture are making a comeback. The 1992 Olympics put the city firmly on the map. Although Pablo Picasso, Antoni Gaudí and Lluís Domènech i Montaner had long since done so among the art connoisseurs.

Best Time to Visit Barcelona

Barcelona has a Mediterranean climate, which guarantees long summers and mild winters. As early as March you can expect days with temperatures above 20 degrees. Which is also possible at the end of November. And you can always go to the beach.

The hottest months are July and August, in which the mercury regularly rises well above 30 degrees. To escape this, most locals often go on holiday. And that is why, for example, various shops and restaurants may be closed.

Winters are often mild and pleasant. The temperature is then usually between 5 and 15 degrees. With remarkably little rain, but often a watery sun.

The best time is spring (March, April and May) and autumn (October and November).