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Rumoured to have been founded by Hercules himself, Barcelona has been envied and fought for almost since its inception. Romans, Visigoths, Moors, and Franks have all claimed the city as their own over the centuries.
In the 12th century, with the city growing in importance, the Counts of Barcelona took control of the whole of Catalonia and through marriage formed an alliance with the Kingdom of Aragon. United under the Crown of Aragon, they engaged in empire-building, conquering territories as far afield as modern-day Italy and Greece.
In the 15th century Barcelona's progress halted. After Aragon and Castile united, Madrid was chosen over Barcelona as the capital and seat of power. The rising power of Castile and dominance of Madrid started the bad blood that persists between Barcelona and Madrid to this day. A hotbed of Catalan independence, Barcelona rose up against Philip IV in the 17th century and later opposed General Franco's coup. When Franco claimed power, he robbed Catalonia of its autonomy and forced the Catalan language underground. As ever Barcelona rose again, reinstating its language and reasserting its Catalan identity, and in 1992 it got the chance display itself to the world by hosting the Olympics. Since then, Spain’s second city has not looked back, being known throughout Europe and the world as a capital of culture and the country’s most important city for tourism. With so much on offer, it is a favourite destination for world travellers.
The weather in Barcelona is pleasant throughout the year. Even in December, January and February, the temperature does not usually go below 7Â°C, and in July and August, daytime temperatures can reach 28Â°C. July is the ideal month to visit Barcelona if you enjoy the sun, as it is also the driest month. However, July is peak tourist season, and you may find that popular tourist attractions are extremely crowded. With its spring-like temperatures and refreshing sun, March is a great time for a quieter visit to Barcelona, and no matter when you want to visit, you will find the best deals for air tickets and hotel rooms on ebookers.
This quiet stretch of beach is located right near the port of Barcelona. Watch the ships as they depart from the port as you soak up the beautiful Barcelona sun.
Enjoy the atmosphere of a real local bar at any of the locations of this small chain of shot bars.
Located off of Las Ramblas, this vibrant marketplace sells everything related to food..
This park features spectacular waterfalls as well as some of the famed architect Gaudi's earliest work.
This is the avant-garde and bohemian shopping strip of Barcelona, where you can find anything from American-style letter jackets to authentic vintage clothing.
For the regal experience, check in at the Catalonia Albinoni Hotel. Built as a palace in the late 19th century by Pedro Bassegoda y Mateu, the hotel today retains much of its neoclassical splendour. It is built around a courtyard—the reception and bar are here. The original central staircase is a marvel to behold. Recent additions include an outdoor pool with waterfall, and a solarium.
Perfectly situated for exploring the city's modernist art treasures, the Murmuri Hotel almost falls into that category itself. Contrasting with the marble façade outside, the design within is sleek, with clean lines but plenty of warmth and comfort. The rooms feature flat-screen TVs and mood lighting to make your visit as pleasant as possible. The hotel's terrace on the Rambla Catalunya is a great place to watch the world amble by.
Check in and head straight to the rooftop swimming pool with a spectacular view at B-Hotel. A monument to modern design, the hotel is easy to find—just look out for the giant sculpture of the letter 'B' perched on the roof. From the pool you can look down on Plaza Espanya and the spectacular coloured fountains of Montjuic.
A happy marriage of the old and the new, the Claris Hotel can be found in a 19th-century palace. The palace has been extended to ensure guests can enjoy both period charm and all the comforts one expects from a top-notch hotel. It even has a gym, spa facilities, and an outdoor pool.
Fast and reliable and with stops anywhere you would want to go in the city, the Barcelona metro is a great way to move around. The 'M' signal indicates a station on one of the city's eight lines. You can buy single journeys or purchase sets of ten. Travel passes are flexible and convenient, and also work on trams and buses. The metro runs until midnight on weeknights and 24 hours on Saturdays.
The city's black-and-yellow taxis are an inexpensive travel option. All are metered, and from the airport to the centre of town is a 25 minute trip.
Barcelona is well served by buses, but most lines stop running before the metro and traffic congestion in the city can make bus travel frustrating. However, if you are stuck for a taxi home after a night out, the yellow Nitbus runs from late night to early morning and its routes cover most central locations. Your travel pass will not work on these buses.
If you prefer to sit back and relax rather than trying to decipher a new city's transport network, the Bus Turístic is perfect for you. You can board and jump off these spacious double-deckers as you please. They are open-topped for the ideal viewing experience. The three routes cover all of the major attractions, from the city beaches, to Montjuic and even out to FC Barcelona's Camp Nou stadium.
Barcelona is a busy city, and its streets are prone to traffic problems. But if you are planning to get out of town for a day trip, check out offers on car hire in Barcelona.
For a taste of true Catalan cuisine, where better than Barcelona’s oldest restaurant? Can Culleretes (C/ Quintana, 5) has been welcoming customers since 1786, and it is hard to believe the menu has changed much in 220+ years at this city stalwart. Traditional Catalan favourites still dominate, with dishes like escudella (a rustic stew with beans, vegetables), and butifarra (a Catalan sausage), wild boar, and a wide range of local fish and seafood.
For something a little more contemporary, try Tapioles 53 in Poble Sec (Tapioles 53). Closed-door restaurant, food society, speakeasy—call it what you will—Tapioles 53 is not your average restaurant. With nothing to mark it out as an eatery on the street and almost no money invested in publicity, it is a word-of-mouth kind of place. Booking is essential, as there is space for only 24 people. The menu reflects the cosmopolitan background of owner and chef Sarah Stothart, who has lived in half a dozen countries and personally sources all of her ingredients from local markets.
Barcelona is famed for its traditional small dishes, or tapas, and there are few better places to go for an introduction to this way of eating than Taller de Tapas (Argenteria 51, El Born). With menus in English and plenty of tables, this is a great stepping-stone before trying one of the standing-room-only traditional tapas joints where menus in any language are a rarity. Choose from plenty of standard tapas along with exciting daily specials.
There are no compulsory vaccinations for a trip to Barcelona, although boosters for those covered in the vaccination schedule are recommended. This includes: Tetanus, polio and diphtheria.
The tap water is fine to drink.
Barcelona's health infrastructure is excellent. Before you go, ask your local Social Security centre for a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).
As in most major cities, acts of petty crime do occur in Barcelona. In order to be on your guard, bear the following advice in mind:
- Do not walk unaccompanied after dark or in poorly lit areas.
- Do not walk around with jewellery or other objects that may attract attention.
- Do not leave valuable belongings in parked vehicles.
- In bars, do not take drinks or food offered by strangers.
- Do not carry a large quantity of cash on your person.
Following the terrorist attacks organised by ETA in 2004, travellers are urged to exercise the utmost caution.
Tip: It is highly recommended that you make photocopies of all your travel documents and keep the copies on you so you are prepared if the originals are stolen or lost. Keep the original documents in a safe place with a little money. Most hotels in Barcelona can offer a safe for this purpose. When you travel, take a mobile phone with you and ensure you know the emergency telephone numbers. If you are assaulted, keep calm and do not resist or retaliate.
Transport: Drivers are advised not to stop for hitch-hikers.