Colourful walls and buildings in park Guell, Barcelona

Barcelona travel guide

About Barcelona

Barcelona in Catalunya is Spain's second largest city and is filled with beautiful architecture, great shopping and much fascinating history, sitting on the edge of the Mediterranean Sea.

The largest metropolis on the Mediterranean coast and one of Europe's largest port cities, Barcelona is framed by the multiple peaks of the mountain of Montserrat on one side and the glistening Mediterranean on the other. Founded in the 1st century BC by the Romans who called it Barcino, and later under the ownership of the Moors for over 200 years, the city's fortunes have varied throughout its history. From the 13th to 15th century, Barcelona prospered, as can be seen by the splendor of the Gothic Quarter, but with the Great Plague, which left half of the city's population dead, and the loss of the economic and political importance that it had previously enjoyed, the city fortunes turned. However, at the end of the 18th century, Barcelona's wealth began to recover and today it is one of the wealthiest cities in Europe with thriving businesses in the manufacturing, technology and service industries as well as positioning itself as a fashion capital. Catalan culture is celebrated today, after centuries of oppression by the Spanish kings, and both Catalan and Spanish are official languages in the city - in fact, most street names and road signs are in Catalan here.

Barcelona's most famous symbol is undoubtedly, the Sagrada Familia, the striking basilica designed by the revered architect Antoni Gaudí, who lived in the city. It's arresting visual design makes the basilica instantly recognisable even though it is still not finished. With 2 of 3 facades completed, and 8 of the 18 towers, the Sagrada Familia is already open to the public who can witness the incredible interior and can also go up the completed towers. Gaudi's designs are heavily influenced by Gothic architecture but also by nature and much of the architecture has a natural and organic feel. This is indicative of Gaudi's style and another 6 of his works in the city, as well as the Sagrada Familia, make up a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Art and culture are an important part of life in Barcelona and there is also a museum dedicated to Picasso, the Museu Picasso, with 3,800 works by the painter, many from his youth and early life, on display in 5 beautiful Catalan-Gothic palazzos. The city has several themed walks where you can uncover the beauty and history of the city including a Roman route, Gaudí route and a Gothic route. Those wanting to discover the history of Barcelona should visit some of the MUHBA sites around the city that cover 2,000 years of history and include subterranean tours around Roman ruins, a museum looking at the history of the Jewish Quarter, and a visit to a shelter from the Spanish Civil War.

There are many other places that are great for families, especially, including the Barcelona FC museum about the history of the eminent football club; Barcelona Zoo, filled with over 4,000 animals including dolphins, tropical birds and reptiles and the descendants of the albino gorilla, Snowflake; and the Barcelona Aquarium, containing 11,000 animals in 35 Mediterranean and tropical tanks - with an immense Oceanarium which is the only one in Europe and has an underwater tunnel right through it. Go outside and enjoy some greenery by visiting some of Barcelona's parks. The Parc de Collserola is a protected natural site over 8,000 hectares which is the city's 'green lung'. It is filled with mixed woodland including white pines and evergreen oaks, and is home to wildlife such as squirrels and foxes, with the ocassional wild boar. The Parc de Montjuic spreads over the hill that overlooks the city and contains the Botanical Gardens. Don't forget to head down to one of Barcelona's golden sandy beaches with their shallow waters. Perfect for sunbathing, the beaches stretch for 5 km and are a popular place for tourists and locals alike to meet up and enjoy the pleasant, warm weather which the city enjoys in its position on the Mediterranean coast.

A fashion capital, Barcelona has some truly fantastic shopping along the 5km stretch of the pedestrianised Barcelona Shopping Line. Here you can find just about anything - from big brand names to 100 year old shops! If you're looking for some discounted out of town shopping, La Roca Village Outlet Shopping has over 100 leading brands offering up to 60% all year round and is a 40 minute drive from the centre. Barcelona has over 40 food markets, including the famous Boqueria market on La Rambla, where the smells are guaranteed to make you hungry! Catalan cuisine is varied thanks to the geography of the region with pork-based dishes common in the mountains and fish-based dishes on the coast. Wherever you go in Catalunya, you'll enjoy delicious fresh vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, and aubergines, as well as pulses like beans and chickpeas, and all these options are available on the restaurant tables of Barcelona. Like the rest of Spain, tapas are popular here, but be sure to try some of the more local dishes such as pa amb tomàquet, bread rubbed with tomatoes, olive oil and salt; escudella, a stew of meat, beans and potatoes; and 'surf and turf' style dishes where fish and meat are served together. There are some tasty desserts and sweets including crema Catalana, similar to a French crème brûlée, and panellets, marzipan truffles rolled in pine nuts. Enjoy your meal with a glass or two of Catalan wine such as Cava, a sparkling white wine produced in the region. 


  • Country: Spain

  • Region: Catalunya

  • Province: Barcelona

  • Population: 1,621,000

Holidays in Spain

Sail & stay with us to save time and money! Pack your car with everything you need - even the family pet, and enjoy the fun of travelling on board.

Casa in Cantabria


View of the Gran Hotel Pelayo, Covadonga


Family walking on the beach



Getting to Spain

Get closer to your holiday in Spain with a choice of routes sailing to Santander and Bilbao

Aerial view of Santander


Overlooking the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao


Aerial view of Santander