CULTURE AND LEISURE
Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia, is located at the North-East of Spain on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. The city is placed between the Collserola ridge and the coast. Its location on the shores means that it enjoys a warm, welcoming weather and pleasant temperatures all year round.
Barcelona is located on the European Union's Mediterranean curve. It is Spain 's second most important city, and the economic and administrative capital of Catalonia. It has a population of 1,6 million inhabitants, and when we add this figure to the population of its metropolitan area this gives us a total of 4,3 millions.
Throughout its history it has consolidated its reputation as a major centre for industry, business and services. Barcelona continues to be an open, integrating city. At present, the city's clear vocation is to play an active role on the world stage. Within the framework of the European Union, Barcelona tends to give impetus to the economic area of the Mediterranean.
Generally speaking, business is the main reason for visits to the city and represents slightly more than 50% of the total volume of visits. Barcelona, with a long-standing tradition in organisation, ranks among the most important congress cities in Europe.
In Barcelona, the official languages are Catalan and Spanish. The two languages coexist in a bilingual situation similar to that found in many other parts of the world. However, the importance of tourism and the city's historic role as a point of encounter between cultures means that other languages, such as English, French or German can also be regularly heard in the streets.
In Barcelona, as in the rest of Spain, people normally have their meals later than in other European countries. The first meal of the day, the breakfast, is usually eaten between 8:00 and 10:00 in the morning, and tends to be lighter than in the rest of Europe, being similar to what hotels call a "continental" breakfast. People sit down for lunch between 13:30 and 15:00 in the afternoon and for dinner between 20:30 and 22:00 in the evening. Nevertheless, restaurant hours are adapted to the pace of the working life, and you can find lunch as early as 13:00, while dinner may be served as late as 23:30 at night. It should also be noted that there are restaurants where you can eat at any hour of the day.
The workday generally begins at 8:00 or 9:00 in the morning lasts till about 20:00 in the evening, with a one- or two-hour break for lunch in the early afternoon.
Shops in Barcelona open their doors between 9:00 and 10:00 in the morning, and generally close for lunch at 1:30 or 2:00. They open again in the afternoon between 4:00 and 5:00 and remain open until 8:00 or 8:30 in the evening. Nevertheless, it should be noted that many shopping centres and larger establishments open from 9:30 to 21:30 and do not close at midday. Many shops and all department stores and shopping centres open Saturday afternoons, while all shops close Sundays, except for a few dates when they are allowed to open.
The Euro (€) is the currency of the European Union. The banknotes circulate in denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and 500 €. Coins are minted in the following denominations: 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 cent or 1 € and 2 €. You can change money at the city's banks and savings banks as well as at the exchange booths located in the city centre and at tourist sights.
Barcelona is known throughout the world as a cultural city, with an important heritage and a permanent and exciting range of activities on offer. It is a city of renowned architectural interest, from its Roman walls to the new urban planning schemes of the eighties. Particular highlights are its modernist heritage, such as La Pedrera and La Sagrada Familia of Gaudí, and contemporary architecture, e.g. Palau Sant Jordi and the Olympic Harbour.
With the opening of the city to the sea, from the Moll de la Fusta and the area around the Palau de Mar to the Rambla de Mar and the Olympic Port area, the redeveloped seafront has become one of Barcelona's most popular spaces for recreation and leisure. In addition, there are more than four kilometres of beaches within the city. Barcelona receives annually nearly seven million visitors, and has all the facilities and services necessary for these people to enjoy a pleasant and safe day in the city.
Barcelona affords countless possibilities for recreation. Over 40 museums: monographic art collections such as the Museu Picasso, the Fundació Joan Miró and the Fundacio Antoni Tàpies which hold permanent exhibitions of works by the artists as well as temporary shows; the world's finest collection of Romanesque art at the Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya; Temporary exhibitions of contemporary art at the Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona - MACBA and also numerous art galleries.
Theatre companies of international standing -Els Comediants, La Fura dels Baus, Els Joglars, El Tricicle- and spectacular Local festivals pulsating with life and colour such as the Mercè, hold in September, and events such as the Grec summer festival, from June to August, one of the most important culture fests on the European calendar.
Barcelona is famed for the wide variety of its musical events. From classical music, opera and ballet, through jazz, pop and rock, to the most innovative festivals. In 1999 the city regained its opera house, the Gran Teatre del Liceu, and opened the Auditori with a programme featuring the most diverse genres and musical styles. In addition to these musical events we find the Palau de la Música Catalana, a jewel of modernist architecture.
TRIPS AROUND BARCELONA
Barcelona's location on the shores of the Mediterranean , near to France and the rest of Europe , means that it is well-served by transport links and is accessible by land, sea and air. The city has a number of railway stations and a rail network providing connections with the rest of Spain and a number of European cities.
Barcelona currently has eight metro lines covering almost all the city. It also has a city railway network, run by the the Generalitat de Catalunya, known as FGC which supplements the metro network. You can also find four more train lines of Rodalies Renfe which cover the surroundings of Barcelona, including the airport. A fleet of 840 buses connects all the city's districts. You can also find the lately reintroduced Tram. It is useful to know that there are a number of travel passes which can be used on public transport (metro, tram, city railway and buses). These are valid for 1, 3 or 5 days or for 10 travels.
Barcelona has a fleet of 11,000 taxis which can be easily identified by their yellow and black livery. A green light on top of the taxi indicates its availability. You can take a taxi from any of city's numerous ranks and if you want to hail one in the street, just put out your hand when you see an available one approaching. There are a number of telephone taxi services. Many taxis accept payment by credit card.
You can find more information about public transportation in the links at the bottom of this page.
TRIPS OUT OF BARCELONA
Barcelona is a city with charming streets, busy with people and full of life. There is nowhere better to make Barcelona 's acquaintance than La Rambla, the bustling avenue, famous for the vivid colours of its flower stalls.
Barcelona is the city of marvels. The old town, comprising the Gothic Quarter, the Ribera and Raval districts, and famed for its historical monuments, narrow streets and bohemian atmosphere, is a perfect place for a stroll. A wander through the maze of streets is essential in order to understand the different periods in the history of Barcelona and to admire its finest monuments: 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. Musicians in the medieval streets provide the ideal accompaniment.
The city also has the biggest selection of modernist architecture: a genuine open-air museum. Most of the buildings, built in this unique style, are in the Eixample, a district planned in 1860 by the engineer Ildefons Cerdà which constitutes a unique model of European urban planning. The Sagrada Família, the Casa Batlló, the Casa Amatller and the Casa Milà are some examples of this.
Barcelona is the only European capital with over four kilometres of beaches where you can enjoy the most modern amenities. The beaches are not far form Barcelona's historical and cultural landmarks, and they have opened up our modern and cosmopolitan city to the sea.
Today, the Olympic Harbour and the old port, the Port Vell, are some of the main meeting places, with many bars, restaurants, shops and recreational areas.
Barcelona is, without a doubt, a city of marvels: on foot, by bicycle or bus, it is a magnificent spectacle which you should not miss.
Barcelona 's favourable location, in perfect harmony with its immediate surroundings, together with its ease of access and varied climate, make it a starting point for discovering new landscapes and enjoying contact with nature. Within a radius of a little over 200 kilometres you can find charming areas offering a wealth of cultural and historical landmarks, as well as recreational activities.
To the west, you will find Lleida and its province: the fruit producing area of Catalonia which is also famous for its olive oil and Romanesque church trail. Heading inland, we reach Girona with its important, recently refurbished Jewish Quarter; Figueres, whose Dalí Museum is the second most visited in Spain; and Montserrat, a peculiar rocky mountain range which is the site of the monastery where people come to worship "La Moreneta", the black madonna who is the patron-virgin of Catalonia. You can also visit the Museum of Montserrat and admire works by artists such as Picasso, Dalí, El Greco and Caravaggio. The nearby Penedès, a wine-producing region of long standing, makes the cava, or sparkling wine, drunk by half the world. The main wine producers in the sector open their cellars to visitors so that they can find out, firsthand, about the processes involved in making this sparkling wine, which is associated with celebrations and joyous events.
To the south, you will find Tarragona , the southern capital of Catalonia , which was the main bastion of the Roman Empire on the Iberian Peninsula . A wander through its archaeological landmarks is an absolute must. The monastery trail includes Poblet, Santes Creus and Vallbona de les Monges: clear exponents of the transition from Romanesque to Gothic architecture.
To the north of the Catalan coastline, we find the Costa Brava , with its endless succession of beaches, coves and cliffs; where the pines grow on the shore and are an exceptional and unique sight. And Empúries, whose impressive ruins bear witness to the Greeks and Romans who lived there before the time of Christ. In the south, 35 km from Barcelona , we come to Sitges, the white town with a distinctive personality, famous for its lively carnival celebrations and bohemian atmosphere.
Another area to explore is the Pyrenees , the natural frontier with France and Andorra , with its many ski resorts, such as the Vall de Núria which is only accessible by rack railway. They provide all kinds of services and infrastructures for winter sports and the natural setting is also ideal for those who want to go climbing or participate in adventure sports.
Fun and thrills are also to be had near Barcelona . The Port Aventura theme park will take you on a fascinating journey to far-flung corners of the planet, where you can enjoy their entertainments and cuisine.