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Barcelona is Spain's second largest city, with a population of nearly two million people, and the capital and largest city of Catalonia. The city, located directly on the northeastern Mediterranean coast of Spain, has a rich history dating back at least 2,000 years when it gained prominence as a Roman town under its old name, Barcino.
In 1992, Barcelona gained international recognition by hosting the Olympic games which brought a massive uptick to the tourism industry in the city. This had the effect of changing the city in ways that are still felt today with neighborhoods renovated (and in some cases leveled) and the intense focus of modern design permeating all aspects of life in Barcelona from public buildings to something as simple as a park bench or an event poster. For visitors, this has translated in to the very modern, yet incredibly old city you see now in the 21st century where the new elements work to both preserve and celebrate the ancient.
This beautiful city is full of what European cities are known for (outdoor markets, restaurants, shops, museums, and churches) and is fantastic for walking with an extensive and reliable Metro system for more far-flung destinations. The core center of town, focused around the Ciutat Vella provides days of enjoyment for those looking to experience the life of Barcelona while the beaches the city was built upon provide sun and relaxation during the long periods of agreeably warm weather.
Parc Diagonal Mar
When to visitAugust is probably the busiest time in Barcelona; at the same time about 10% of shops and restaurants can be found closed from mid-August to early September, when the owners go on vacations. You'll find cheap accommodation and a much quieter city as a vast majority of Spaniards go on vacation in August. Business is low, people from Barcelona tend to be on vacation, hotels that remain open but don't have their business customers tend to lower prices and make offers. However there will still be plenty of tourists. Barcelona has decent enough beaches but the locals will really appreciate it if visitors do not consider it a beach resort and don't wear beachwear when visiting churches, restaurants, etc.
Barcelona is great off-season and is a lovely city even in winter months of January and February as long as the possibility of rain is low. Given the high humidity, 19-23°C is considered comfortable weather, which is normally the temperature between April and June and between late September-November. This is the best time to visit the city. Anything warmer than this can feel too hot.
With childrenToddler happiness is considered a public responsibility in Spain: in any public place people around you put every effort into making your toddler happy: whenever he or she looks bored or is crying, everyone does their best to entertain or to calm them.
Visitor informationA tourist office is at Plaça de Catalunya, 17.
By planeLow cost carriers include : 'Norwegian [☛], Air Berlin [☛], Monarch Airlines [☛], Jet2.com [☛] , Vueling [☛] (a discount subsidiary of Iberia), Wizz Air, easyJet [☛], Ryanair [☛] , Blue Air [☛], Transavia [☛], Germanwings [☛],TUI Fly [☛] among many others.
Barcelona International AirportBarcelona International Airport [☛] , also known as El Prat, is a major transport hub and fields flights from all over Europe and beyond.
Terminals: There are now two terminals, T1 and T2, the latter with A, B, and C subdivisions. T1 and T2 are linked by a bus shuttle (every 5 to 7 minutes, travel time 12 minutes).
at the gate T1, the new terminal, opened in June 2009 and hosts Spanair, Iberia, Air Europa and a variety of major international airlines, including Singapore Airlines, Qatar, Delta Air Lines, US Airways, American Airlines, Avianca, TAP, Lufthansa, Austrian, Air France, KLM, British Airways, etc.
Sectors A, B and C of T2 are all within fairly easy walking distance of each other. T2 B is used by a large number of smaller carriers and low cost airlines.
T2 C is smallest and hosts EasyJet.
T2 A is now only for some charter flights.
Please be aware that you can check in for your flight only at the respective terminal T1 or T2, and since they are 7 kilometres apart and there is little information available at the train station and bus stops, it's good to know which terminal you need before arriving at the airport. AENA provides information about the allocation of airlines to terminals [☛].
Transfer to/from the airport: The airport is only about 12-14 km away from the city centre. Airport transfers can be arranged for groups, taxis are available but expensive (€30-40 to the city centre). Taxis and Minibuses can be pre-booked online [☛]. Luxury car can book online on EuropeShuttle [☛]. A cheaper and often faster option is the half-hourly RENFE R2 Nord suburban train line calling at Sants (travel time is 18 minutes), Passeig de Gràcia (24 minutes), El Clot-Aragó (30 min.) and more stations beyond Barcelona city limits. Please be advised that this airport train has changed, and no longer terminates at Estació de França (it now goes through the center of Barcelona and into the suburbs, so it is important to know at which station you should get off). The train terminates next to T2 by section B, with a connecting green colored bus service to T1 (plan for an extra 15 minutes of travel). The airport train station has got facilities for disabled people: escalators, lifts, etc. A single ticket for the train is about €3.15€, but you can also buy a T10 travelcard (€8.25 for ten trips, including 3 bus, metro, train or tramway transfers made within 75 minutes) instead. You can buy a T10 from the ticket vending machine at the airport station and at the tobacco shop in front of Terminal 2B. Remark: you cannot buy T10 travelcard at Terminal 1!
Also bus 46 runs every 20 minutes from both terminals (downstairs at T1) to Plaça Espanya (35-45 minutes).
Alternatively, the Aerobús A1 line takes you to Terminal 1 or the A2 line takes you to Terminal 2. It travels all along Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes to Plaça Catalunya (beside El Corte Inglés). Buses depart every 6-12 minutes, the published journey time is 35 minutes (although can take considerably longer during rush hour) and costs €5.30 one-way or €9.15 for return ticket, you can pay buy credit card or cash. Buses are heavily air-conditioned in Summer: have something extra to wear during the journey. Aerobuses stop running at midnight, but you can catch a Nitbús night bus service instead (line N17, between 22.00 and 05.00 every 20 minutes. The ride from Plaça Catalunya to Airport El Prat takes about 40-50 minutes).
Duty-free shops. Open from 6/6:30AM to 9:30PM (few to 10PM). Shops are numerous and some are hard to find elsewhere in the city. After security check, most shops are before the passport control; there are only one or two afterwards.
Tax-free shopping refund. Office closes at 10PM without compromises. After that time checks can be processed only by mail: complete your tax-free forms with your passport data and addresses, hvae them stamped by the customs office (a window next to arrivals gate door; they don't ask to see your purchases); put them into the envelope you were given in the shop--and wait for several months.
Cafes, pre-security check. Limited options, sub-standard fare. Food at Ars is awful and not cheap. Pans & Company have almost no hot meals. For more options in Terminal 1 go to 3rd floor: better food and restaurants, but more expensive.
Cafes, post-security check. Numerous options, all close at around some time between 10PM and 11PM.
Parking: Costs €1.35/hour, €9.45/day, €6.75/day from the 6th day.
Luggage lockers: Baggage storage is €4.60 per day for a large locker that easily fits 2-3 large suitcases. It is located at the ground floor of Terminal 1. Remark: No luggage lockers or storage room in Terminal 2!
Departure gates: For T2, poorly conditioned at ground level (at least gate #57, sector 2A, after 11PM). T1 is hyper-modern and comfortable.
WiFi: Available throughout the airport, operated by KubiWireless [☛]: 15 minutes for free if you click in the blue option. Or €7.5 for 45min, €9 for 1 hour, €15 for 24 hours.
Nearby airportsSome low-cost carriers, notably Ryanair, use the airports in Girona , nearly 100km to the north, or Reus , around the same distance to the south, instead. Since Ryanair recently started operating at Barcelona El Prat (airport code BCN), you might be in the case mentioned above, but check using the three-letter airport codes where your flight actually goes. Girona's airport code is GRO and Reus's airport code is REU.
For Girona Airport [☛] : The Barcelona Bus service runs a shuttle bus from Estació del Nord (which is walking distance to the Arc de Triomf metro stop) in Barcelona to Girona Airport and this ties in with various flight times. A one-way ticket costs €12 and a return ticket costs €21. The journey takes approximately one hour and ten minutes. Timetables are available online [☛].
For Reus Airport, the easiest way is to get there is to take the bus run by Hispano Igualadina from the Barcelona Sants bus station to the airport. Bus departures are synchronized with Ryanair plane departures/arrivals. One way ticket costs €13 and a return ticket costs €24. The journey takes from 1:30 to 1:45 hours, depending on the traffic on the motorway. Timetables are available online [☛]. A slightly cheaper, yet longer option is to take a train from Barcelona Sants station to Reus and then the local bus no. 50 to the airport. The train costs €7.25 and then the bus costs €2.1. This takes roughly about two and a half hours. Train timetables can be checked at Renfe's website [☛] and the bus timetable is availabe at the website of Reus public transport. [☛]
By railSeveral trains per day (including overnight hotel trains) from other parts of Europe (via France) are regular & reliable.
Main train stations:
• Barcelona-Sants (to the south west of the center).
• Barcelona-Passeig de Gràcia (near Carrer d'Aragó on Passeig de Gràcia, in the center of the city).
• Barcelona-Estació de França, Avinguda Marquès de l´Argentera (on the edge of the old town next to the seafront district of Barceloneta).
From Estació de Sants and Passeig de Grácia there are several connections per day to Cerbère (France), connecting there on trains towards Marseille and Nice. There are also 1-2 direct "Talgo" trains a day from Sants to Perpignan, Beziers, Narbonne and Montpellier in France.
Overnight Trenhotel trains operated by Elipsos [☛] runs daily from Paris-Austerlitz while depatures from Milan and Zurich are every second day. All trenhotels trains terminates at the Estació de França station. Prices starts at €74 for second class.
There is also a less-well-known rail line over the Pyrenees to Toulouse. There are four trains per day to La Tor de Querol (Latour-de-Carol), where it is possible to transfer to a French Train bound for Toulouse. The journey takes 7-8 hours (including transfer) and costs roughly 30 Euros one way.
High-Speed RailAlthough the long-awaited AVE line to Southern France is not completely built, it is scheduled to be completed by 2012. However, the high-speed line to Figueres from Perpignan is running and brand-new (Opened 21 December, 2010), with two TGV trains per day from Paris to Figueres-Vilafant. While the last 140km from Figueres to Barcelona are being built, Renfe is running two super-express "Enlace Internacional" (International Link) trains to Figueres-Vilafant per day, which link up to TGVs running to Paris via Perpignan, Montpellier, and Nimes. The trains to Figueres take 1h40m and arrive 20 minutes before the TGV departs. The total trip to Paris takes a bit less than 8 hours from Barcelona-Sants to Paris.
The long-delayed AVE high-speed train line to Madrid finally opened in February 2008. Travel time is 3 hours with intermediate stops (11 trains a day) or 2 hours 30 minutes non-stop (6 trains a day during morning and evening peak hours).
By seaThe city's port is one of the busiest on the Mediterranean. It supports both ferries and cruise ships. Large cruise ships dock 1-2 kilometers to the southwest. Many offer bus-shuttles to points near the south end of La Rambla.
You can arrive to Barcelona by boat from the Balearic Islands, from Genoa and from Rome. From Rome (Civitavecchia) it is actually cheaper than the bus. The ferry docks almost directly on the Ramblas.
By busContact Barcelona Nord for all bus connections, national (e.g. 18 buses per day from Madrid) and international.
Barcelona Nord ,☎ 902 303 222. [☛] .
By carThere are several main roads leading to Barcelona from France and Spain and traffic is usually relatively light outside of peak hours. It is possible to find free parking spaces a few metro stops from the center of the city.
Blue parking spaces are paid between 9AM and 2PM and between 4PM and 8PM Monday to Saturday. At some crossroads the pay time starts at 8AM. Anyone can use a blue space but they aren't that easy to find. You pay at the meter and put the ticket on the dashboard. Green parking spaces are for residents only. White parking spaces are free at all times but there aren't any in the city centre.
The city car parks have some special offers for tourists.[☛]
: See also: Catalan phrasebook, Spanish phrasebook
Barcelona's official languages are Catalan and Spanish. However, most signs are indicated only in Catalan because it is established by law as the official language. Yet, Spanish is also widely used in public transport and other facilities (in fact, more people speak Spanish than Catalan in Barcelona), though announcements in the Metro are made only in Catalan. As in most other cities, any attempt by visitors to use the native languages is always appreciated. Most locals are bilingual in Catalan and Spanish, and instinctively address foreigners in Spanish. Catalan is a language, not a dialect, and sounds closer to Italian, Portuguese, and French in many ways. Avoid referring to Catalan as a dialect, which will offend Catalans.
The issue regarding the language is intertwined with Catalonian nationalism. Around 70% of local people consider Catalonia to be a separate nation, with its own culture, history and traditions, different from the other regions in Spain. Contrary to stereotypes, bullfighting and flamenco are not so popular in this region (as in many other Spanish regions), but there are also quite a few other differences. The identity subject might be a very sensitive one among certain traditional Catalans. Moreover, speaking in Catalan to Spanish-speaking Catalans might also be a sensitive issue.
These issues regarding language, national identity, and politics are like politics anywhere, and there's no way to summarize here (nor is it necessary in a travel guide) all the views that exist. While a significant number of Catalonians are anti-Spanish (and feel opposed to Spain and the Spanish language), many are simply indifferent.
In tourist areas, almost all shops and bars have some English speaking staff. However, like in the rest of Spain, English is not widely spoken, though it's still more widespread in Barcelona than in the rest of Spain, and you are more likely to encounter an English speaker in Barcelona than in Madrid. People will generally make an effort to try to help you if you speak in English, but their vocabulary will be very limited. If you do find a fluent English-speaking Barcelonian, the person is most likely to be born or have lived outside of Spain, usually a European or North American immigrant (both groups being a very significant part of the city center inhabitants along with the not-so-very-well-integrated Asian and African immigrants, who, of course, also often know English).
Your best goodwill in communication would be to try speaking in Catalan if you can. The locals learn both Catalan and Spanish in school (and are completely fluent in both), but Catalan is definitely the preferred language. Even for those who do not support independence from Spain, clearly Catalan is the first language, and if you can communicate with the locals in Catalan, this is really appreciated. While most locals understand that Spanish is more prevalent and are willing to converse with outsiders in Spanish, any attempts to speak Catalan will be met by smiles and encouragement, by and large. As such, visitors should make an attempt to say some basic greetings in Catalan, even if the rest of the conversation is held in Spanish.
OverviewWalk around the winding streets and hidden squares, fountains and palaces in the Barri Gòtic (Ciutat Vella).
If you are thinking of visiting several museums, an "articket" will save you some money. It is a combined ticket costing €30 and covering admission to seven museums.
Attractions spanning several districtsHarbour Cable Car ,Jun-Sep: 11AM-8PM, price One-way €10, round trip €15.1.The 1450 metre long harbour aerial tramway with red cars connects Montjuic and Barceloneta. It starts in Barceloneta on the top of the 78 metre tall Torre San Sebastian tower, which has also a restaurant at its top accessible by an elevator. It has an intermediate stop at Torre Jaume I tower (close to Columbus monument), which can be reached by elevator from ground--107 metre tall tower, the second tallest aerial tramway support tower in the world. The final point of the tramway is Montjuic. Overall, the tramway is quite old (built in 1929), and the car is packed with tourists during the daytime--particularly sensitive for a stroller or a wheelchair. Currently, the Torre Jaume I tower in Barceloneta is temporarily closed for renovation, while two other stops work as usual.
Gaudi architecture and Modernist Barcelona
Gaudi's Parc Guell is a must see in Barcelona Gaudi architecture includes the Parc Güell in Gràcia, the still unfinished (as of 2011) Sagrada Família in Eixample and the houses La Pedrera/Casa Milà and La Casa Batlló both in Eixample. The Ruta del Modernisme [☛] run by Modernisme Centre (Pl. de Catalunya, 17, subterráneo; phone +34 933 177 652): guidebook and discount voucher book for €12. Takes you round all the best Modernisme (art nouveau) buildings in Barcelona. The main part of the route can be walked in a couple of hours, providing you don't stray too far from the main routes. The Tourist Offices offer a pack that includes discounted tickets to many attractions such as La Pedrera and La Casa Batlló. All can be seen from the outside for free.
With children• Museum of Natural History in the Ciutadella Park (Ciutat Vella)
• CosmoCaixa: Museum of Science Amazing museum for kids from 4-5 onwards. Adults will really enjoy it also.
• Stroll along the following famous streets in Ciutat Vella:
•• Las Ramblas or La Rambla, a gorgeous tree-lined pedestrian walkway, the busiest and most lively street of the city. Mostly occupied by tourists, expect to pay higher prices for food and drink. Avoid the groups of people supposedly betting on a game played on a cardboard table, they are thieves. Head off into some of the side streets for a cheaper, more local, and authentic experience of Barcelona. Often called Las Ramblas, because it is actually a series of several different streets each called 'Rambla de ____', the sections also have distinct feels. As you get closer to Plaça Catalunya, you find more street performers doing stunts. In the middle, you'll find street performers in costumes. Towards the pier, there are artists who will do pencil drawings, paintings, etc.
•• La Plaça Catalunya. Connecting all the major streets in the city, the Plaça is known for its fountains and statues, and the central location to everything in the city. A favourite meeting spot for locals.
•• El Portal de l'Àngel. Large pedestrian walkway with many new and stylish shops to browse in.
• Cruise miles of beachfront boardwalk starting from Barceloneta or get a tan on the beach.
Platja de la Barceloneta Looking onto Port Olímpic • Sit on a wooden bridge to Maremagnum in Ciutat Vella and cool your toes at the water's edge: with a book, sandwich or just for a short rest.
• Wander the Barri Gotic in Ciutat Vella, the largely intact medieval center of the city.
• Enjoy your Sangria at La Plaça Reial in Ciutat Vella, near the La Rambla Street. Great place to sit,relax and drink. While visiting La Placa Reial
• Walk in Born in Ciutat Vella, a very popular area with great restaurants and places to have a few drinks. If your accommodation is on Rambla, Born is a great place to escape the crowds, enjoy a relaxed atmosphere and meet off-the-beaten track travellers and non-tourist-industry locals--especially in the evenings.
• Visit a Flamenco Show in a real tablao. One of the best is Tablao de Carmen in Sants-Montjuïc. A cheaper alternative is in the jazzclub Jazz Si in Ciutat Vella.
• Ride the Cable Way to get from the sea front to Montjuïc mountain in Sants-Montjuïc
• Sit and sip on a coffee in Plaça dels Àngels in Ciutat Vella, while admiring the whiteness of the MACBA and the best street skate tricks in town.
• Catch a performance at the beautiful Teatre del Liceu or the Palau de la Musica Catalana both in Ciutat Vella.
• Rent a bike or join a Biketour and get to see the highlights of the city in a different way. Ride from the magic beaches of the Mediterranean, to Gaudí's modernist buildings through the medieval atmosphere of the Gothic Quarter.
• Sail 3 hours to see Barcelona from the sea. Together with professional skippers with proven experience you will be able to experience coastal sailing in all its aspects and enjoy a beautiful view of the city. More info: Business Yachtclub Barcelona [☛] [☛]
Festivals and eventsBarcelona hosts a number of annual fiestas, many of which are unique to Catalonia and offer an insight into its distinctive culture.
• Sónar. A annual three-day music festival. It is described officially as a festival of Advanced Music and Multimedia Art. Music is by far the main aspect of the festival. The festival runs for three days and nights, usually starting on a Thursday in the third week of June.
• Monegros Desert Festival [☛] The most famous and biggest one day/night electronic music festivals in Spain is in desert of Fraga 200km from Barcelona. More than 40 000 people gather every July to celebrate the electronic music with the best DJs representing styles from house, electro, minimal, techno, to drum&bass, dubstep and hiphop. 20hours nonstop, unique desert experience.
• Festes de la Mercè. Barcelona's main annual festival around the 24th of September, encompassing many events such as which group of 'castellers' can form the highest human tower, live music events, firework displays and processions involving wooden giants. All of this is accompanied by a heavy consumption of Cava, the national drink of Catalonia.
• Festes de Gràcia. The Festes de Gracia is a Catalonian celebration, held around the 15th of August each year to commemorate the Assumption. During the week of festivities that mark one of Barcelona's most important fiestas, the city of Gracia explodes with fun, excitement, color and fireworks. Many streets are decorated by the neighbours, live music, food in the street, and the parties continue all night.
• Festes de Sants. Similar to Gracia's event, but smaller and later on in August. If you can't go to the Gracia's, try to go to this festival instead.
• Sant Jordi. 23rd of April. Considered to be like Valentine's Day. People give roses and books around the streets. Traditionally men give women roses and women give men books. It is one of the most popular and interesting celebrations in Catalonia.
Casa de l'Ardiaca during Corpus • Corpus. Late in May (Corpus Christi day). An egg is put over the fountains (most of them in the churches, and decorated with flowers), and "magically dances" over the water. Most of the churches are in the city center: Cathedral's cloister, Santa Anna, Casa de l'Ardiaca, Museu Frederic Marés, and over 10 more fountains.
• Fira de Santa Llúcia. From December 2nd/3rd to December 23rd, to commemorate Sta. Llúcia (December 13th). During this time, in front of the Cathedral, Christmas objects are sold. Some places sell Christmas trees, but most of them sell elements for making the pessebres (Nativity scenes). These include small sculptures, wooden pieces and moss used to simulate grass.
:December 13th is the feast day of Santa Llucia, patron saint of fashion designers and blind people, who gather at the Santa Llucia chapel in the cathedral to pay their respects.
• Revetlla de Sant Joan. This is the midsummer solstice celebration. It is celebrated on 23rd June every year and is signified by the fireworks (note that there are frequent and loud amateur fireworks all night long, which may make it hard to sleep) that are permanently on display during this time.
• Fira de Barcelona. There are trade events all year round [☛] in Barcelona.
• La Mercè. (few days before Sept 24): Another day that is famous, but not that important. It is a holiday and the city offers a lot of activities to have fun. Enjoy a fountains and fireworks show at the base of the Montjuic hill.
During festivals and especially during mobile world congress[☛] which is a major trade show at the Fira, accommodation in Barcelona and especially near the Fira is much more difficult to find and more expensive than usual.
Most shops and shopping malls are closed on Sundays because of law restrictions, but not all. In Ciutat Vella you will find plenty of small fashion shops, souvenir shops and small supermakets open on Sundays. The souvenir shopping scattered throughout the Barri Gotic and all along La Rambla are tourist traps, none of them sell Catalan or Spanish products but the typical array of Chinese general souvenirs, they should be avoided. Moreover on the the Port Vell, right at the end of The Ramblas there is Maremagnum, a shopping mall that stays open all Sundays.
• Secondhand English books in Grácia.
• Design lovers head for Grácia.
• El Corte Inglés, [☛]. Spanning several floors and several buildings, and in several locations around town, many in Eixample and Inland Suburbs and a couple also in Ciutat Vella. You can find anything and everything in this department store, from gastronomy to pneumatics. Tax return checks are made on a separate floor of the store. See review for the whole chain in the Spain article.
market La Boqueria .In Ciutat Vella. Large public market with a diverse range of goods and produce. Enjoy freshly squeezed organic fruit juices for €1.5 per cup. If you go near closing time (20h, 8PM) sellers will make you a special price (2 or 3 for 2€). Closed Sundays. • Stamps are actually sold in 'Tabacs' or tobacconists. Once you know what they look like, you'll notice them on every block or so. To post your mail, you need to find one of the yellow letter box located rather infrequently along the sidewalks.
La Gauche Divine .in Ciutat VellaA multi-functional space that combines fashion, music, art and design. Camper ,multiple locations [☛] ,(10AM-10PM; vacation from mid-Aug to Sep 5).
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