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World > Spain > Barcelona
City Guide Barcelona
Overview
General Information
Barcelona has become during the last few years one of the most attractive culture centres of Europe. Barcelona is filled with so many amazing sites and it is impossible to visit all of its wonders on a several day visit. The wise tourist that has only a few days to spend in this colourful city, would better decide a head what attraction he wants to visit so he can focus on attractions and activities that really interest him. Barcelona is heaven for architecture lovers. The imaginative and strange art nouveau designs, created by Antonio Gaudi have become a symbol of the city, like the Pedrera, Guell Park and the church of Sagrada Familia, which is one of the most visited spots in the city. The splendor of medieval Barcelona can still be seen around the old center and especially at the Barri Gotic and Ciutat Vella. Barcelona is a wonderful blend of old and new that somehow create a natural combination and a unique atmosphere that can only be found here. Barcelona is rich with bustling nightlife, shopping malls that can make even shoppoholics head spin, exquisite restaurants and cafés, wide beaches, lively parks and even some of the best sport events. There is always too much to see and explore in Barcelona, so inevitably it justifies another visit to this great city.
Barcelona and the sea
Since 1992, when a massive beach clean – up was made as part of the preparations for the Olympic games, the recovery of the Barcelona seafront has been one of the most important changes in the city. Today, the beaches are very popular and are considered as the largest leisure spaces of the city.
Weather
Barcelona has a Mediterranean climate and enjoys hot summers and cool winters. The best time to visit Barcelona is during May, June and September when the temperature is perfect. In July an August the weather becomes very hot and humid and many locals leave the city for their summer vacation. The temperatures often exceed 84°F (29°C) at midday during summer, and the average temperature in December is around 55°F (13°C).
Language
The two official languages of Barcelona, as in the rest of Catalonia, are Spanish and Catalan. Although Catalan is more commonly spoken, everyone can speak Spanish. English is not as common as you would expect it to be due to the amount of tourists that visit the city. You will find that goodwill and hand gestures help the local English skills.
Religion
90% of the residents are Roman Catholic and 10% are Muslims and Jews.
Currency
The Euro is the official currency of Spain. Euro (€) = 100 cents. Notes are in denominations of €500, 200, 100, 50, 20, 10 and 5. Coins are in denominations of €2, 1 and 50, 20, 10, 5, 2 and 1 cents.
Tipping
Tipping is not obligatory and has no fixed rules, but it is common to tip 5% to 10% if you had a good service. It is also common to tip hotel porters and taxi drivers.
Taxes
The VAT of 16% can be reclaimed by visitors from outside the EU as long as the purchase exceeds € 90,15 (VAT included) and was purchased at one store on the same day. In order to do that, you have to ask in the store for a tax refund cheque containing the description of goods, the personal data of the non European resident as well as the particulars of his passport or of any such equivalent document. At the airport your purchased items need to be taken to the customs clearance before checking the luggage in. In order to get the VAT refund, you have to cash the stamped cheque at any Bureau de Change in your chosen currency. Tax refund information line: +35 45 64 64 00
Telephone
To call Barcelona from abroad, first dial +34 for Spain and then 93 for Barcelona. There can be high charges on calls made from hotels, restaurants and bars and it is generally cheaper to use a calling card. Public telephone boxes take coins or phone cards for local and international calls, which can be bought from tobacconists and post offices.
Internet
There are some bars and cafés that offer internet access. Most hotels offer internet access to their guests and there are also public places as around the central university building at the Placa Universitat that offer internet access.
Emergency Numbers
Police: 092 Medical emergencies: 061 Centralized emergency line: 112 Dental emergency: +34 93 4159922 On Duty pharmacies: +34 93 4810060
Opening times
Banks are usually open Monday through Friday from 8.30 am to 2 pm. From October through April, banks are open also on Saturdays from 8.30 am to 1 pm. Most shops, churches, museums and businesses close for a siesta of two hours at midday. Usually, working hours are 9.30 am – 1.30 pm and 4.30 pm – 7.30 pm from Monday to Friday. Large department stores and shopping centres usually stay open from 9 am to 9 pm. Most museums are closed on Mondays and are open on Sundays only until 3 pm.
Public Holidays
· January 1: New Year’s Day (Año Nuevo) · January 6: Festival of the Reyes (Dia de los tres Reyes) · March 19: Father’s Day (San Jose) · April Good Friday (Viernes Santo) · April Easter Sunday (Dia de Pascua) · May 1: Labour Day (Dia del Trabajo) · June 24: St. John’s Day (San Juan) · August 15: Assumption (Asuncion) · September 11: Catalonia’s National Holyday (Diada) · September 24: Barcelona’s Patron Saint (La Merce) · October 12: Columbus Day (Dia de la Hispanidad) · November 1: All Saints Day (Todos los Santos) · December 6: Constitution Day (Dia de la Constitucion) · December 8: Immaculate Conception (Immaculada Concecion) · December 25: Christmas Day (Navidad) · December 26: Boxing Day
Safety
As in any other large city, you should watch for pickpocketing and bag snatching. Be careful mostly around tourist attractions like the Old City area and particularly around La Rambla. Back packs, dangling purses, and wallets in back pockets are particularly vulnerable, and anything on your person is fair game on a crowded bus or train.
Sightseeing
La Sagrada Familia temple
This architecture masterpiece that was created by Gaudi is one of the most famous symbols of the city. La Segrada Familia is Gaudi’s best - known work even though he was not the one who started it, and its construction was never finished. The organisation that is coordinating the construction of the temple nowadays, predicts to complete the construction by the year 2022. If you have a head for hights you can visit the structure and climb up some of the towers. Reaching the top involves climbing tight spiral staircases, but you can also get to the top by a lift. The temple has two facades; The Passion and the Nativity. The Passion façade includes work of local sculptor Josep M. Subirachs and the Nativity façade includes work of different sculptors such as Japanese artist Etsuro Sotoo. Opening times: October to March: Daily: 9 am – 6 pm, April to September: Daily: 9 am – 8 pm. Closed on December 25th, December 26th, January 1 and January 6.
Catedral de Barcelona
This ancient cathedral’s construction begun at 1298 and ended at about 1880 except for one neo – Gothic facade that was added to the cathedral at 1913. The most striking aspect of this cathedral is its volume: it has three naves of equal width. Due to the fact that the cathedral was built over a few centuries, this is a real eclectic cathedral that reflects the historical changes of the city. Every Sunday noon many locals gather around the cathedral and dance the famous Catalan dance, Sardana. Opening times: Daily: 10 am – 1 pm.
Güell Park
Gaudi’s patron, Eusebi Guell, was deeply influenced by garden cities in England and had a vision to transform a large estate in the north of Barcelona into a residential area overlooking the city. This park is currently the most visited attraction in Barcelona. It is very easy to spend at least half a day wandering through this wonderful park. You will find here the famous mosaic dragon fountain, the Hansel and Gretel chocolate house, the undulating bench and much more. The park is magical with twisted pathways and it is just a pleasure to wonder around and sort of get lost in its surroundings. Gaudi lived for a few years in one of the two houses built on the site. Opening times: Daily: 10 am – sunset.
Discovering Barcelona
Barcelona’s old city is definitely known as one of the most romantic and charming places in Europe. Since its makeover in 1992 for the Olympic Games, the improvement if the city is enormous so it has become one of the most celebrated cities in the world. The best way to enjoy it is to walk down its small streets and allies and just to wonder around so you can absorb the atmosphere. The best place to start and get an idea about what is Barcelona is La Rambla. The bustling avenue is famous for its flower and animal stalls and for its vivid atmosphere. Barcelona is very easy to explore. Most well known sights are just a walking distance from one another, and further key attractions that are not very close to the city centre are very easy to reach with Barcelona’s public transportation. Traces of the Roman wall glimpsed between well-preserved Gothic buildings, the remains of the Jewish Quarter, witnesses to the industrial expansion of the 19th century and the design of the 20th. Further more, Barcelona enjoys a wonderful coastline four kilometres long where you can enjoy the most modern facilities. During high season the beach is pretty crowded, so if you are in search for cleaner water and more space, it is advised to take a short trip out of the city the a little further beaches.
La Rambla
This is definitely the most famous and characteristic boulevard in Barcelona, and shouldn’t be missed. This is the city’s heart and whenever something important happens in Barcelona, La Rambla is the place where everyone shows up. The boulevard runs from the Placa Catalunya, down to the monument of Columbus statue and ends at the port. It is best to enjoy it by day, when everything is in full vibrant flow and the flower and animal stands decorate the way. Further down you will find the Boqueria Market, the Miro Mosaic and the Liceu, which is an opera house. There are also free public chairs at Placa Catalunya, so you can sit back and enjoy the varied crowd, or you can relax in one of the many café’s. During weekends, the avenue is filled with street artists, fortunetellers, dancers, musicians and handcraft vendors.
Plaza De Catalunya
Placa de Catalunya is a major square in the heart of the city and was built in 1927 by the architect Franscesc Nebot. This square enjoys outstanding fountains and monuments such as the monument of Francesc Macia. The square is a very popular meeting place especially on weekends. It is very touristy and is surrounded by some of the major department stores, café’s and restaurants. Placa de Catalunya is also the entrance to La Rambla.
La Pedrera (The Stone Quarry)
One of the most interesting buildings in Barcelona is La Pedrera, also known as The Stone Quarry. It was designed by Gaudi with a wavy, curving stone facade and was exposed to the public in 1910. The public was not impressed with the strange looking building until 1984, when UNESCO declared it a World Heritage Site. It is possible to visit both patios of the building, but in order to visit the roof you should ask for permission.
The Fountains of Montjuic, The
The fruit of the inspiration of the engineer Carles Buigas, who conceived a new type of fountain where the artistic element consists in the changing shapes of the water, the Magic Fountain was one of the last works constructed in the grounds of the Universal Exhibition of 1929. The project was completed with cascades and smaller fountains installed at various points of Avinguda Maria Cristina. The fundamental element, however, was the monumental fountain situated on a platform erected at the end of the avenue, with the perspective of the Palau Nacional as a backdrop.
A walk around the Olympic Vill
While your visit to Barcelona, especially if you are visiting in the warmer month, you should definitely visit the Olympic Village, which was created for the 1992 Olympic games. Most tours begin at the Placa dels Voluntaris, in front of two of the tallest buildings in Spain. One of the towers is the Hotel Arts with 44 floors and 456 bedrooms, and the other is the Mapfre Tower. Make sure to explore the Olympic Harbour, which was designed by architects Oriol Bohigas, Josep Martorell, David Mackay and Albert Puigdomènech and the engineer Joan Ramon de Clascà. Today, the Olympic Harbour area has a large number of restaurants and bars and is part of Barcelona’s nightlife scene.
Palau Güell
The Palau Guell is located just off the La Rambla. It is quite difficult to detect it from the street, but if you look up you can see the multi-coloured chimneys of Gaudi. It is not possible to visit Palau Guell without a guided tour, so make sure to book a tour early in the day as the day tours fill up quick. The Guell palace was built by Gaudi in 1886, as a residence for his patron Eusebi Guell. The famous roof terrace is a garden of decorated chimneys, covered with colourful ceramic pieces each one different from the other. Opening times: Mon – Fri: 10 am – 1 pm & 4 pm – 6.30 pm.
Santa María del Mar Church
This impressive church is considered by many to be the most perfect example of 14th century Catalonian Gothic architecture. Its construction has begun in 1329 by Berenguerde Montagut and was completed in 1383. During the Spanish Civil War, in 1936 a fire destroyed the interior of the church. Inside the church there are two rows of perfectly proportioned columns rise high up and creat a unique atmosphere of peace and space. Opening times: Mon – Sat: 9 am – 1.30 pm & 4.30 pm – 8 pm, Sun: 10 am – 1.30 pm & 4.30 pm – 8 pm.
Parc de Joan Miró
This unique park is built on a site of a 19th century large slaughterhouse. It is worth a visit especially for Miro’s famous statue “Dona i Ocell“, meaning: Woman and Bird that rises out of a shallow square pool. The rest of the park is vary enjoyable with lovely flowers, pine and palm trees. Opening times: Daily: 10 am – 8 pm.
Parc de la Cuitadella
This is a wonderful nature break in one of the most historical parks of Barcelona. The area was turned into a park as part of the cities preparations for the 1888 Universal Exhibition. Just outside the park is the Arc de Triomf, which formed the main entrance to the exhibition. The arc leads into a wide walkway filled with benches a long the side. The park contains many attractions such as the Museu d’Art Modern, the Museu de Geologia and Museu de Zoologia. You can also hire a boat at the lake that is located at the middle of the park. Beside the lake is the cascade, an ornamental fountain situated in a most relaxing spot surrounded by statues, plants and water pools. Opening times: Apr – Sep: Daily 8 am – 10 pm, Oct – Mar: Daily 8 am – 8 pm.
Zoological Park of Barcelona
Barcelona’s zoo hosts more than 7,000 animals none of which are caged. This zoo is well known for its conservation programmes for endangered species such as the white stork, the fallow dear, the Eurasian otter and many more. On Saturdays there are special zoo mornings for children aged 4 to 11 from 10 am to 1 pm. This is a perfect place to spend the day with children. Opening times: Nov – Feb: Daily 10 am – 5 pm, Mar – May: Daily 10 am – 6 pm, Jun – Sep: Daily 10 am – 7 pm, Oct: Daily 10 am – 6 pm.
L'Aquàrium de Barcelona
This spectacular Mediterranean life-size aquarium is one of the cities most visited attractions and is the largest aquarium in Europe. The main attraction here is the sharks found in the Oceanarium with more than 8,000 other fish. There is even an underground tunnel that enables you to watch the shark swim just above you. You will discover here many fascinating creatures such as fish without eyes, piranhas, alligators and penguins. Opening times: Mon – Fri: 9.30 am – 9 pm. During July and August closing time is at 11 pm.
Palau de la Música Catalana
The Palau de la Musica Catalan is one of the world’s leading concert halls and is definitely the most fantastic modern building in the city. It was officially opened in 1908 after three years of building work orchestrated by the famous architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner. This magnificent building is an excellent example of Catalonian Modernism. The interior is decorated with ceramic mosaics and polychrome glass with floral motifs. In 1997 it was declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO. The best way to see and enjoy this building is by going to a concert, but guided tours are available in English, Spanish and Catalan every 30 minutes. Guided tours are available from Monday to Sunday from 10 am to 3.30 pm, every half hour. Opening times: Daily: 10 am – 9 pm.
Arc de Triomf
This beautiful arch, located at the Passeig Lluis Companys, used to serve as the main entrance of the city’s Universal Exposition in 1888. The impressive arch was designed by Josep Vilaseca and is decorated with stone carvings. The front side shows the city welcoming visitors, and the backside shows a prize giving ceremony.
Castell Montjuïc
The castle at the head of Montjuic hill dominates Barcelona since 1640. It was built in order to resist Felipe the IV forces during the Segadors war. Later on, it was used as a prison for political prisoners and was used also as an execution site. Nowadays, it is the home of the Military Museum and has an impressive selection of historic weapons, such as swords, armour, rifles and pistols. Opening times: Tue – Sat: 9.30 am – 7.30 pm.
Barcelona card
The Barcelona card includes free travel on public city transportation (metro and busses) and discount on the airport bus and cable cars. It also provides a discount entry to museums. Theatres and clubs and discounts for leisure attractions, shops and restaurants (a list of places is provided with the card). The Barcelona card can be purchased in the information office at the airport and in the tourist infornation offices accross the city.
Barcelona Bus Turístic
Discover Barcelona on a sightseeing tour that takes you through the most famous and interesting monuments of the city. There are two circular routes, both running through Placa Catalunya. The northern route passes La Pedrera, Sagrada Familia, Park Guell, Tibidabo and Pedralbes. The southern route passes Montjuic, Port Vell, Vila Olimpica and the Barri Gotic. Audio guides are available in Spanish, English, German and French. Tickets are available on the bus, in any tourist information office or online via the website.
Barcelona walking tours
If you would like to discover Barcelona on foot, led by a professional guide, you can joyn the walking tours. Enjoy a walk around the Gothic Quarter, through Picasso’s bohemian Barcelona and to the old town area. All city walks depart from the tourist information office at Placa Catalunya 17s.
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