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Sightseeing in Barcelona

NEIGHBOURHOODS
Barri Gótic

One of Barcelona's main attractions are its fascinating and unique central districts, each one representative of the historical period in which it was constructed. The Barri Gòtic (Metro Stops: Jaume I, Line 4; Liceu, Line 3) is, as its name suggests, a neighbourhood replete with Gothic architecture and its street layout dates back to the time of the Roman Empire. El Raval (Metro Stop: Paral·lel, Lines 2 and 3 and the Montjuïc Funicular) is a diverse district which in recent years has become a focal point for Barcelona's immigration, particularly Pakistani immigration. Formerly a no-go area, the wave of new residents and revived commercial activity has transformed the Raval into a bustling, dynamic neighbourhood. A classic example of urban renewal, in the past few years it has even become a trendy spot for going out and is increasingly popular with students. The Barceloneta (Metro Stop: Barceloneta, Line 4) is one of Barcelona's most striking neighbourhoods, with its unique grid of narrow streets and buildings. Originally an island some 100 metres from the coast, it was artificially incorporated into the mainland with the construction of Barcelona's port in the late 15th century. The dyke built over the island had the effect of retaining the sands brought in by the sea currents and the River Besós, creating the terrain over which the Barceloneta would be built. The neighbourhood owes its existence to the destruction of residential buildings in La Ribera ordered by King Philip V in the 18th century to make way for the Citadel. Those who lost their homes were relocated to the new settlement in the Barceloneta designed by civil engineer Pròsper de Verboom. The Eixample is Barcelona's newest addition. Planned in the late 19th century and built throughout the 20th century, it was designed to accomodate the city's new industrial middle class. Wide avenues and sidewalks meant to facilitate heavy traffic are laid out in a logical grid and fills in what, as recently as fifty years ago, were open fields and pasture between different towns which have since been mostly incorporated into Barcelona. The total area of the Eixample is enormous, with many Metro stops and neighbourhoods scattered throughout.

LA RAMBLA
La Rambla

Barcelona's most famous landmark is the Rambla (Metro Stops: Drassanes, Line 3; Liceu, Line 3; Catalunya, Lines 3 and 1), known universally as the world's most varied and colourful street. A visit to Barcelona without a stroll down the Rambla is like visiting Pisa without seeing the Leaning Tower. Home to all sorts of vendors, street artists and performers, it divides the Barri Gòtic from the Raval and runs from the port up to Barcelona's centremost and largest plaza, Plaça de Catalunya (Metro Stop: Catalunya, Lines 3 and 1). It is also hands down the busiest pedestrian walkway in Barcelona and possibly in Spain. The Spanish poet Federico García Lorca said of the Rambla that it was "the only street in the world I wish wouldn't end". This quote is no of surprise considering how much the Rambla has to offer; this is not just your run of the mill market street where generic stalls repeat their cycle further down the road. On the Rambla you'll find the Gran Teatre del Liceu, an opera house with breathtaking detail put into the design. Plagued with problems over the years, including break-ins and fires, the Liceu hasn't had the best of luck, though it has several significant distinctions. For example, it has the oldest orchestra in Spain and they have had a vast selection of guest composers perform, such as Otto Klemperer and Igor Stravinsky, both boasting an influential profile and conducting style.

LA BOQUERIA
El Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria

La Boqueria (Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria), situated in the heart of the city (Metro Stop: Liceu, Line 3), is the liveliest open air market in Barcelona and is just off the Rambla. The first written records of the existence of the Boqueria date back to 1217. The Rambla was acutally built as an addition to the Boqueria, mainly for butchers and fishmongers to use. All kinds of delicious food, both foreign and domestic, are sold here amid a constant flurry of economic activity. Restauranteurs, locals and tourists alike converge in the Boqueria, be it to stock up on a certain item, buy a tasty gift or just have a bite to eat. Be sure to stop by if you're strolling down the Rambla and try out whatever strikes your fancy. With the freshest food in Barcelona made available to the public on a daily basis it is no wonder that the Boqueria is such a crowd pleaser. Try Pinotxo for a taste of what is on offer; the array of colours among the ingredients displayed are certain to reassure you of the well-founded reasons that Mediterranean meals are so popular around the world.

PORT OF BARCELONA
Port of Barcelona

One of the most important ports in the world, the Port of Barcelona (Metro Stop: Drassanes, Line 3) is the second busiest in Europe and in the Mediterranean (after Algeciras, Cadiz). Built in the 15th century shortly before the colonisation of the Americas, in the 20th century it was revamped and greatly enlarged to serve as major industrial port. Today it is the second largest cruise ship port in the world after Miami and the surrounding coast has been developed with beautiful walkways and bridges. You might like to go shopping in nearby Mare Magnum, a major commercial centre accessible via the Rambla del Mar (Sea Rambla), a bridge which crosses the bay.

PARK GÜELL
Park Güell

Park Güell (Metro Stop: Vallcarca, Line 3) is Barcelona's most famous park. This emblematic park is the work of Catalan architectural genius Antoni Gaudí. It was originally designed as an upper-class housing development financed by wealthy industrialist Eusebi Güell, for whom it was named. Güell was a great fan of Gaudí's work and became his patron and friend. It failed as a housing development due mainly to its great distance from the city centre at the time of its construction. In 1922 it was made into a public park. Its rich symbolism and unmistakable organic style reflects Gaudí's "naturalist period" in which he strived to perfectly integrate architecture with nature. In Park Güell Gaudí, who was deeply religious, sought to imitate the Garden of Eden in what was meant to be a neigbourhood conceived around the concept of well-being and harmonious and seamless coexistence between human edifices and nature. Yet Gaudí was also a Catalan nationalist and this is also reflected in the symbolism of his works. He was inspired to design Park Güell through his observations of English gardens. This is why the original inscription in the park actually reads "Park Güell", using the English spelling rather than the Catalan spelling "Parc Güell". The salamander at the main entrace to the park is perhaps, along with the Sagrada Familia (Gaudí's masterwork), Barcelona's most famous icon.

The intense beauty of Park Güell with its sinuous structures that seem almost to grow out of the ground, simply must be experienced. Any textual description does not do it justice. Not for nothing is Park Güell considered a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO. Indeed, it is one of several of Gaudí's structures to have achieved this status (collectively known as The Works of Antoni Gaudí).

SAGRADA FAMILIA
Templo Expiatori de la Sagrada Familia

The Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Familia (Metro Stop: Sagrada Familia, Lines 2 and 5), masterwork of Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí, remains under construction over a century after construction started in 1882. Work on this cathedral which, even in its unfinished state, has already become Barcelona's most emblematic building, has continued uninterrupted since its inception except during the Civil War period. Upon completion in 2026 it is thought that it will become one of the architectural wonders of the world, and even in its present state it is a truly magnificent structure and already attracts thousands of tourists every year and a great deal of interest and enthusiasm in the architectural community. It is intended to have 18 towers representing the 12 apostles, 4 evangelists, Mary and Jesus. The word sanctus is carved all around the 3 façades, meaning "holy" or "saint" in Latin. The complexity both of what has been built and what is yet to be built demonstrates the sheer creative genius of Antoni Gaudí.

MONTJUÏC
Mont Juïc

Montjuïc (Funicular de Montjuïc) is a mountain in central Barcelona just next to the coast and the site of a Jewish cemetary thought to be well over a thousand years old. The oldest surviving recorded mention of the cemetary was made by the Count of Barcelona in 1091, Berenguer Ramon, who remarked that a vineyard he'd ordered restored bordered with some old Jewish graves, indicating that they were already quite old in his time. It is thought the graveyard dates back to the 9th century, about 200 years before its mention by Ramon. It was abandoned in the 13th century after the expulsion of the Jews from Spain by Queen Isabella and rediscovered in the late 18th century in the course of the construction of coastal defences in the vicinity. The name Montjuïc is therefore generally thought to be a reference to Barcelona's medieval Jewish community (Mount of the Jews). Nevertheless, an alternative and equally convincing etymological interpretation exists based on ancient Roman records which describe Barcino (ancient Barcelona) as being located at the base of Mount Jupiter (mons Iovis in Latin). It has several interesting places to visit when passing through, such as the Castell de Montjuïc which is now home to the Museu Militar boasts a beautiful view of the city. Also, Poble Espanyol was originally a Spanish village and is currently an open-air architectural museum, constructed in 1929 to offer a vision of what the perfect structure would be. It also has credits to its name within the sporting world; for example, it was one of several venues used during the 1992 Olympic Games and it was part of the Spanish Grand Prix circuit until 1975. Those with an interest in anthropology will be allured by the chance to visit the Museum of Ethnology, certainly a fascinating tour of the cultures of Africa, Asia and America, among others. With over 20 thousand items, it will surely expand your horizon.

TIBIDABO
El Tibidabo

The Tibidabo (FGC Stop: Avinguda Tibidabo Line 7, Tibidabo Funicular) is a mountain to the northwest of Barcelona. Upon this mountain with breathtaking panoramic views of the city of Barcelona you can visit Barcelona's amusement park (el parc d'atraccions del Tibidabo), with which, in modern times, the Tibidabo has become synonymous. It is also home to several beautiful and historically important buildings such as the Casacuberta, Casa Roviralta, Casa Arnús, and the Temple Expiatori del Sagrat Cor (Expiatory Temple of the Holy Heart) now located within the amusement park and plainly visible to the naked eye from most of Barcelona.

The etymological origin of Tibidabo is thought to be religious. In the era in which it was given its name religiously charged names were in fashion. Tibi dabo in Latin means "I will give thee" and the name Tibidabo is a reference to the Biblical passage "All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me" (tibi omnia dabo si cadens adoraveris me), said to Jesus Christ by the Devil atop an "exceedingly high mountain" from which "all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them" were visible. According to a popular legend in medieval Barcelona this mountain was in fact the Tibidabo. The Tibidabo Funicular was built in 1901 and was the first of its kind in Spain.

OLYMPIC PORT
Olympic Port

The Olympic Port (Metro and Tram Stop: Ciutadella/Vila Olímpica, Line 4 and Tram Line 4) was designed by Oriol Bohigas, Josep Martorell, David Mackay and Albert Puigdomènech and constructed in 1991 for the Olympic Games to be held in Barcelona the following year. Athletes from around the world who'd come to Barcelona to participate in these historic Games were housed here and competed in the sports complexes built here. The sailing competition was held at this port. It has since become a residential neighbourhood and one of the most well-reputed sports venues in the Mediterranean. It is also a very popular spot for tourists with a wide variety of services on offer, including two hotels, a shopping centre, 8 bars, 19 restaurants and 9 night clubs. The beach right beside the port is ready for you to participate in water sports and if you're lucky there may be a stray scout from the 1992 Olympics hunting down talent for 2012. Those looking for a more relaxed day will find the Catalonian History Museum (Metro Stop: Barceloneta, Line 4) an educational joy piecing together the traditions of the great Spanish culture. If you are an angler then you can set up at nearby Barceloneta to get first hand experience of the refreshing scent of the ocean while you spend your day looking for the big catch.

COSMOCAIXA
Cosmocaixa

The Cosmocaixa (FGC and Blue Tram Stop: Avinguda del Tibidabo, Line 7, Blue Tram) is Barcelona's Museum of Science. The building was an asylum for the blind for most of the twentieth century. In 1979 it was renovated and enlarged to house the Museum of Science of the La Caixa Foundation. After being renovated once more into its present state it was dubbed Cosmocaixa. In the last renovation glass ceilings were combined with a steel skeletal structure to transform the building into a vast open space, filled with natural light even in its basement floors. It is well worth a look for the beautiful architecture and highly entertaining and educational exhibits. The Cosmocaixa is divided into several permanent exhibits: the Geological Wall (El Mur Geològic), the Flooded Forest (El Bosc Inundat), the Hall of Matter (La Sala de la Matèria), the Planetarium (El Planetari), Science Plaza (La Plaça de la Ciència), Click and Flash, the Bubble Planetarium (El Planetari Borbolla) and "Touch, touch!" (Toca toca!). At over 50,000m² it has a tremendous variety of educational exhibits suitable for all ages. Exhibits are explained in Catalan, Spanish and English. The museum also has a café, store and a programme of special activities which is constantly updated.

OTHER SIGHTS TO SEE
Parc de la Ciutadella

The Parc de la Ciutadella, "Citadel Park" (Metro and Tram Stop: Ciutadella/Vila Olímpica Line 7, Tram Line 4) is a popular place to go relax and have a nice, cold refreshment in the hot summer months. Located in Ciutat Vella, it is sandwiched between the Olympic Villa, France Station (la Estaciò de França) and Barcelona's very own Neo-Mudéjar Arc de Triomf (Metro Stop: Arc de Triomf, Line 1) also worth a visit if you're in the area. The Catalonian Parliament can be found within the park. If you don't mind taking a bit of a trip outside the city then we highly recommend a visit to Catalonia's most emblematic mountain, Montserrat, just 50km from Barcelona. Well-known throughout Spain and beloved by Catalonia, practically every Catalan has made a piligrimage to this imposing and mysterious mountain range at least once in their life. Be sure to stop by the gorgeous Monastery of Montserrat and visit the patron saint of Montserrat, la Moreneta. Catalans visit the statue of the Moreneta and rub it for good fortune, a tradition so deeply rooted that even many non-Catholics practise it. You can reach the Monastery from Barcelona by taking the R5 (Barcelona-Manresa) train there from FGC station Barcelona-Plaça de Espanya. The Agbar Tower, whose design quite simply speaks for itself, was created by Jean Nouvel. It first opened its doors in 2005 and it is purposed mostly as an office building. The spectacular exterior glass design makes it a breathtaking sight to behold, particularly at night when it is all lit up. Each panel of glass is programmed with LED lights to portay images and blend colours flawlessly. It also adapts to the weather, opening or shutting the windows for energy efficiency. They say a picture is worth a thousand words and that is certainly the case for the Agbar Tower.

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