Fanciful architecture and hip restaurants have come together with the sunny Spanish climate and beaches. This has transformed Barcelona in just a few decades from a rough port city to one of Europe’s—if not the world’s—premier destinations. Stroll along La Rambla, admire the Casa Calvet’s façade or the Casa Mila designed by Gaudi, visit the Market of la Boqueria or shop at El Corte Inglés, and sample some of the many bars, cafés and late night haunts while you’re at it.
Like many other cities on the Mediterranean, Barcelona was founded by the Romans. The original settlement, called Barcino, was a small port located on the same spot as today’s cathedral. The town was overshadowed by Tarragona, the capital of the province. Both the Visigoths and the Moors invaded Barcelona; however, their influence was not as important to the future of the city as the arrival of the Franks in the late 9th century. It was at that point that Barcelona and Catalonia started shaping their own identity, different from the rest of Spain.
This is most apparent in the language - Spanish, or Castilian, has many Arabic words, while Catalan has many French words instead. So Catalan is not a Spanish dialect, but a language in its own right, related to other Romance languages.
Barcelona’s history is seen everywhere in the city. The oldest areas are located by the sea, including the shopping enclave Barri Gotic. On the other side of the main boulevard, La Rambla, lies the legendary Raval district. Until the 1980’s this was the slum area, home to the city’s own Chinatown (Barrio Chino) and the red light district. Today, designer shops and cafés have moved in. Further north is fashionable Eixample, the area created as a result of the 19th century expansion of the city.Read More