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Barcelona is the capital and largest city of Catalonia and Spain's second largest city. This beautiful city is full of what European cities are known for (outdoor markets, restaurants, shops, museums and churches) and is fantastic for walking with an extensive and reliable Metro system for more far-flung destinations.
(the Old City), is indeed the oldest part of the city and is numbered as District Number One. It is located in a central position on the Mediterranean coast and is the top tourist magnet of the city. Top attractions in Ciutat Vella include: the Medieval architecture of the Barri Gotic neighborhood, the Contemporary Art Museum of Barcelona in Raval and the Naval Museum at the end of the entertainment-filled walking path known as Las Rambles.
is known as the "Modernist Quarter" for its imposing Modernistic buildings such as the Casa Mila, the Temple Expiatori and the local district hall. The district's street-grid is extremely strict, being divided into square blocks with widened streets at every intersection to allow for greater visibility.
is located in north-central Barcelona just north of Eixample. It was originally a separate city, which was founded in 1626 as the Our Lady of Grace Convent. It joined Barcelona only in the 20th Century and maintains an ambiance of its own
is located along the Mediterranean on the southern edge of Barcelona. It was formerly a separate municipality centered in Sants, but also includes the port and industrial complex called the Zona Franca and a wealth of museums and monuments. There are also frequent fairs and festivals in this part of Barcelona.
on the east edge of town, is named after the first church built in the area- St. Martin's.
Areas such as Sarrià, Pedralbes, Horta and Sant Andreu invite you to get off the beaten path and get away from the tourist crowds.
The city of Barcelona has a classic "Mediterranean climate" with mild, humid winters and hot, dry summers. While there are four distinct seasons to the year, they are not at all of equal length if measured by conditions rather than equinoxes: "summer" lasts from May till October (half the year), cooler winter temperatures continue for three months, (December, January and February), and the transitional periods of spring and fall are only represented by the single months of April and November.
Spanish is spoken almost universally in Barcelona, but the Catalan language has also made a comeback due to intensive efforts in the school systems in recent years.
When to visit
August is probably the busiest time in Barcelona; at the same time about 10% of shops and restaurants can be found closed from mid-August to early September, when the owners go on vacations. In the centre of Barcelona you will find most shops and restaurants open. However there will still be plenty of tourists. Barcelona has decent enough beaches but the locals will really appreciate it if visitors do not consider it a beach resort and don't wear beachwear when visiting churches, restaurants, etc.
Easter week, as well as Christmas to New Year's Eve are very busy times. If you'd rather avoid the crowds, don't come during those dates. Also, avoid visiting during the Mobile World Congress or the Formule 1 racing, unless you are ready to pay extremely expensive hotel rates.
Low cost carriers include: Norwegian, Air Berlin, Monarch Airlines, Jet2.com, Vueling, Wizz Air, easyJet, Ryanair , Blue Air, Transavia, Germanwings, TUI Fly among many others.
Trick: You can also take a RyanAir carrier to an inner city like Zaragoza and then use the train to reach Barcelona one hour and 30 minutes later. Those flights are usually much cheaper (around 35 euros from Paris, London or Brussels).
Barcelona International Airport
Barcelona-El Prat International Airport (BCN), is a major transport hub and flights land from all over Europe and beyond.
There are now two terminals, T1 and T2, the latter with A, B, and C subdivisions. T1 and T2 are linked by a bus shuttle.
T1, the newer terminal, hosts Iberia, Air Europa, Vueling and a variety of major international airlines, including Singapore Airlines, Qatar, Pakistan Intl., Emirates, Delta Air Lines, US Airways, American Airlines, Air Canada, Avianca, Aerolíneas Argentinas, Alitalia, CSA, SAS, TAP, Lufthansa, Austrian, Air France, KLM, British Airways, LOT, Tarom, etc.
The airport is only about 12-14 km away from the city centre.
A cheap and fast option is the half-hourly RENFE R2 Nord suburban train line calling at Sants (travel time is 18 min), Passeig de Gràcia (24 min), El Clot-Aragó (30 min) and more stations beyond Barcelona city limits.
The department store El Corte Inglés publishes a helpful (and free) street map for tourists. You can pick a copy at the store, or from most hotel front desks. They're also available at the tourism information offices.
At the Tourism Information Offices they also sell "official city maps", but they aren't that worth. Ask instead for the free "Barcelona Hotel Map", which contains a pretty good blow-up of the Old Town alleys.
Explore highlights the of Barcelona by segway in hours. Barcelona Segway day gives you the opportunity to Get to know the history of Barcelona from professional tour guides also get advice for the best places for eating going out and shopping.
Barcelona's official languages are Catalan and Spanish. However, most signs are indicated only in Catalan because it is established by law as the administrative language. Yet, Spanish is also widely used in public transport and other facilities.
Spanish-speaking visitors will have no problems in Barcelona. In tourist areas, almost all shops and bars have some English speaking staff. People will generally make an effort to try to help you if you speak in English. If you are an English speaker you will not have any problem as Barcelona is a very touristic city.
What to do
Despite having 1.6 million people within its city limits and nearly five million in its metropolitan area, Barcelona is a relatively compact city, with many of its top tourist attractions within easy walking distance of each other. This makes it practical to "do" Barcelona by means of a professional walking tour or even to explore its streets and attractions entirely on your own.
Things to Do in the Ciutat Vella
The Ciutat Vella, meaning "Old City," is the oldest, most central and most tourist-visited neighborhood of Barcelona. Some of its famous streets and their attractions are:
Las Ramblas is the liveliest pedestrian walkway in town and is spelled in the plural because it is actually a series of streets (each one a "rambla"). Though crowded with tourists, Las Ramblas is tree-lined and beautifully laid out.
The Barri Gotic is at the very heart of the Ciutat Vella. Here, you can see numerous buildings that date from medieval times as well as a few that go back to the Roman Period.
In various parts of the Old City, you will find literally miles of beachfront boardwalks. These are worthwhile just to walk along- but you can also get in the water to swim or lay down for a tan on the sand.
El Portal de L'Angel is a spacious pedestrian walkway lined by some of the most expensive and most in-style shops in all of Barcelona.
Things to Do in Other Barcelona Neighborhoods
In Sants Montjuic, you can ride high in the sky on a cable car that takes you from the sea coast all the way up to the mountain known as Montjuic.
Also in Sants Montjuic, you can see a Flamenco Show, which is a traditional Spanish performance with guitar music, song and dance, at the Tablao de Carmen.
Coastal tours of Barcelona can be had by sail boat for three-hour spans, but you can also arrange for full-day coastal tours by "classic yacht."
Cruise miles of beachfront boardwalk starting from Barceloneta or get a tan on the beach.
Sit on a wooden bridge to Maremagnum in Ciutat Vella and cool your toes at the water's edge: with a book, sandwich or just for a short rest.
Wander the Barri Gòtic in Ciutat Vella, the largely intact pseudo-medieval center of the city.
Enjoy your Sangria at La Plaça Reial in Ciutat Vella, near the La Rambla Street. Great place to sit, relax and drink. While visiting La Plaça Reial.
Walk in Born in Ciutat Vella, a very popular area with great restaurants and places to have a few drinks. If your accommodation is on Rambla, Born is a great place to escape the crowds, enjoy a relaxed atmosphere and meet off-the-beaten track travellers and non-tourist-industry locals--especially in the evenings.
Rent a bike or join a Biketour and get to see the highlights of the city in a different way. Ride from the magic beaches of the Mediterranean, to Gaudí's modernist buildings through the medieval atmosphere of the Old Quarter.