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Spread out on a fertile plain, ringed like an amphitheatre by mountains, enclosed by two rivers, the Besós and the Llobregat, Barcelona city slopes gently down to the sea. One small hill alone rises in the heart of the mass of buildings and on this has been built the Cathedral, successor to the former Acropolis.
Barcelona is characterised by its vigour and drive, its readiness to adapt to new ideas and concepts and its creative power.
These traits are to be found throughout its history. Barcelona founded the first commercial tribunal and the first Literary Academy in Spain and surprisingly established the first shipping insurance in Europe.
Barcelona was the first city in Spain to establish a stage coach service, to have gas lighting, steam power, to build a railway.
The origins of the city are lost in the mists of time. A popular local story is that the mythological hero Hercules settled the area.
Another another version of street talk has it that the Carthaginian general Amilcar Barca extended the town and named it Barcino, which later became Barcelona.
There have been times when the Visigoths ruled, 5c and The Moors, 8c.
The Romans raised the city to new heights of splendour, and from these times remain the old town bounded by the Plaza Cataluna, the Rondas Universidad, San Antonio and San Pablo, Montjuich, the port, the Parque de la Ciudella and the Ronda of San Pedro. Around it was built the Ensanche, a collection of wide avenues and modern streets which intersect at right angles. This second period of growth began towards the end of the 19c. The third involved absorbing surrounding villages.
The Old Town
The centre of the old town is the Cathedral dedicated to St. Eulalie. The neighbouring streets form the Bario Gotico, where are found almost all of the buildings which have survived since the Middle Ages. The Cathedral which does not reach the proportions of those in Sevilla and Salamanca was begun in the 11c and completed in the 15c. It is contemporary with the best epoch of Gothic art. It is not the work of artists and architects from the north, but of regional masters who created a Catalan architecture.
The pseudo-Gothic facade was added in the 19c.
Barcelona's romantic history is evoked by the old quarter, with its traces of Roman domination, of the Goths who made it their capital, the Arabs and Franks, who made Catalonia a Spanish dependency until the Counts of Barcelona declared their freedom.
More recent history can be read in its stones and museums: the union of Catalonia and the Throne of Aragon in the 12c, and their merger with the Throne of Castile in the 15c, which sealed Spanish unity.
The Middle Ages still live in the district around the Cathedral. In the little square opposite are the Pia Almoina Buildings, 15c and in the Calle de Santa Lucia the Casa del Arcediano ( Archdeacons residence)15c with a noteworthy patio. In the same street stands the Bishops Palace linked to a tower erected on the site of a Roman fortification. Also Roman are the three 48 foot high columns which run through all floors of the Gothic edifice housing the Centro Excursionista of Catalonia, in the Calle del Paradiso, and pierce the roof. Local legend believes they were part of a temple of Hercules.
The churches of Santa Maria del Mar, San Pablo del Campo, Nuestra Senora del Pino, Santos Justo y Pastor and San Jaime are Gothic.
Outstanding among the civic buildings in the old quarter is the former Palacio de la Generalidad, a Gothic structure which features a colonnaded staircase of unblemished style. On the first floor is the Patio de los Naranjos, formed by two galleries of pointed arches supported by Greco-Roman columns. The audience chamber, San Jorge Chamber and chapel contain tapestries and interesting archaeological treasures.
Opposite the palace is the town hall which features its original Catalan Gothic facade. The great meeting hall, Salon del Ciento, is sumptious, while the Salon de las Cronicas owes its decoration to to the artist Jose Maria Sert.
Most characteristic section of the Gothic quarter is the Plaza del Rey, where stands the remains of the Palacio Real Mayor, former palace of the Counts of Barcelona. This admirable collection of buildings includes, among others, the superb throne room, the Santa Agueda Chapel, in Catalan ogival style with mudéjar decoration, the Aragon Royal Archives, and the Town Museum. In the basement of the museum, are some of the foundations of the Roman city ( bath, walls, mosaic pavements...)vestiges of antique pillars, souvenirs of the Arab epoch, portraits, and exhibits portraying the public the public and working life of the city.
The Federico Mares Museum, housed in the former Clarisses Convent on the Calle de los Condes de Barcelona, contains a collection of religious and secular paintings portraying daily life of the city through history. In the same street are many buildings which formed part of the palace of the Counts of Barcelona, later the palace of the Catholic Kings. ( It was here that Christopher Columbus was received in audience on his first return from America.)
On the right of the Plaza de Palacio stands La Lonja, a beautiful Gothic building with three naves.
The Virreina Palace in the Rambla de las Flores is furnished like a noblemans mansion contains the Decorative Arts Museum; costumes, furniture, porcelain....
Many of Barcelona's old churches were irreparably damaged in 1936. Among them were Santa Maria del Mar and San Pedro de las Puellas, founded in the 10c and the oldest Christian monument in the city.
Time moves on......
Not far from the medieval street if Calle de Moncado modern buildings and thoroughfares await with that rude creation the motor vehicle. The Pasco de Gracia is an aristocratic thoroughfare with sumptuous buildings, which is now a major economic resource of the city. Close by is something of an eye opener the Sagrada Familia Church. In this work the creator Antonio Gaudi has given free reign to his fantastic imagination. It is to Barcelona's credit that they encourage this talent and further works include the Güell Park and the strange houses with animated façades in the Calle del Conde del Asalto and in the Pasco de Gracia. The Casa Milà is itself a family day out with activities for all.
The succession of Ramblas, magnifiscent plane tree bordered avenues which run from the Avenida del generalisimo Franco, ending at the statue of Christopher Columbus overlooking the port and which cut in two the tangle of streets of the city, present a very different aspect here. Crowded with street stalls, they are the happy meeting place of Barcelona citizens and the mix of modern life and much loved ancient traditions.
The Calle del Marqués del Duero, commonly known as El Paralelo, ( latitude 41º22'34 "north ) also runs off Plaza de España. This is the theatre district much like London's 'West End' or New York's 'Broadway'. This area is not what it was but maybe that's a good thing. It was a rather dubious place in the 30's.
Barcelona is a city with beautiful parks and gardens. The Monjuich Park on the slopes of the hill of the same name was adorned with beautiful fountains and illuminated water jets for the 1929 International Exhibition. It is commonly used for for fairs and exhibitions. There are several museums in the park. The Archaeological Museum (Passeig de Santa Madrona) contains palaeolithic age specimens mostly from Catalonia and the Balearic Islands as well as being an art deco building with Greek, Roman & prehistoric artefacts.
Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya, ( is the national museum of Catalan visual art )in the Palau Nacional, Parc de Montjuïc, contains a fine collection of religious painting from the 11c to the 15c. Also wonderful Roman frescoes from the Pyrenean churches. Perhaps the most remarkable being from the church of San Clemente de Tahul, with 'The Pantocrator surrounded by Apostles and Evangelists'. There are also wood paintings of the 12c and 13c. Reredos by the 15c Catalan artists: Borrassá Mortarell, Dalmau, Jaume Huguet, the Vergós. A visit to this museum is essential to understand Spanish art of the Middle Ages. Renaissance and 18c painting is represented by work from Velasquez, El Greco, Zurbarán, and Ribera.
To the west of Montjuich Park stretches the Pueblo Español (Spanish Village)erected for the 1929 Exhibition. Reproductions of streets and houses most typical of the various Spanish regions and of an astonishing accuracy. There are Andalucian, Basque, Aragon, and Castilian streets....... Palaces, fountains, monastery façades, in a limited space a true picture of the various Spanish styles.
The eastern side of Montjuich Park can be visited and from the Miramar Cafe terrace which can found at the end of Carretera de Montjuïc there is a wonderful view over the harbour.
Overlooking all things Barcelona is the Castell de Montjuïc which is a wonderful interesting day for all the family with its exhibitions, displays and concerts.
Tourist Office:Plaza Catalunya, 17,
soterrani - 08002
Tel. +34 807117222
Top Ten must see and do in Barcelona
Maps of Barcelona & Catalonia
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'Magic Fountain - Fountains of Montjuic'
Music and light with water jets
Barcelona Fiestas, Festivals
Sant Joan - Midsummer's Eve
Barcelona June 23
Fiestas de Nuestra Señora de la Merced -
Nuestra Señora de La Merced Fiesta
Since 1871, in honour of the Virgen de la Merced, named patron saint of the city by Pope Pious IX in 1868, Barcelona has held important fiestas with countless activities and events all over the city.
Street entertainment, concerts, traditional dances and music, theatre performances.
Saint George's Day
Barcelona celebrates its very own version of St Valentine's Day,
Lovers Day, on St George's Day.
Joan Miró Foundation
The Fundació Joan Miró (Joan Miró Foundation) possesses an incomparable collection of work by the 20th-century master, and also stages many impressive temporary exhibitions.
Miró himself set up the Fundació in 1971 and it was expanded in the 1980s. The Miró archives boast thousands of drawings, 200 paintings and 150 sculptures created between 1914 and 1978. Artistic treasures by leading lights of 20th-century art also contribute to the permanent show - Henri Matisse, Marcel Duchamp, Claes Oldenburg, Henry Moore and Fernand Leger all feature. Check out, too, the reconstruction of kinetic artist Alexander Calder's Mercury Fountain outside.
The Espai 13 section is devoted to up-and-coming contemporary artists.
In the summer it also plays host to classical music concerts.
Joan Miró Foundation
Centre d'Estudis, Parque de Montjuïc,
Barcelona, Barcelona Province,
Catalonia 08038, Spain
Palau de la Música Catalana
The Palau de la Música Catalana is one of the world's leading concert halls.
Considered to be one of Modernism's chief exponents, it was built by architectLluís Domènech i Montaner between 1905 and 1908.
In 1997 it was declared a "World Heritage Site" by UNESCO.
With over ninety years of history, the Palau de la Música Catalana (1908) is one of the main focal points of Catalan musical life.
The building, an original design by the Catalan architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner, has been declared a "World Heritage Site" by the UNESCO.
From 1982 until 1999, the Tusquets-Diaz Architects Studio has been carrying out works to redesign and extend the building, a project which will endow it with all the features demanded of a modern concert hall .
Palau de la Música
2, C/ St Francesco de Paula, Barcelona,
Barcelona Province, Catalonia 08003, Spain
Tel +34 902 442 882
Gran Teatre del Liceu
TOUR INFORMATION FOR THE GENERAL PUBLIC
Tel. + 34 93 485 99 14
TOUR INFORMATION FOR SCHOOLS
In the El Petit Liceu section or at firstname.lastname@example.org
Gran Teatre del Liceu
51-59, La Rambla, Barcelona,
Barcelona Province, Catalonia 08002, Spain
Tel +34 93 485 9913
The home of Barcelona Football Club
Barcelona Football Club
Av Aristides Maillol, Barcelona,
Barcelona Province, Catalonia 08028, Spain
l +34 902 189 900 / +34 902 33 22 11 (tickets)
L'AQUARIUM OF BARCELONA SUPPORTS CAMPAIGNS TO SAVE NATURE - (27-April-2006)
L’Aquàrium has joined the first campaign to preserve the wild life of the Iberian Peninsula, and which is being organized by AIZA (The Iberian Association for Zoos and Aquariums), of which it has formed a part since 1997.
Moll d'Espanya del Port Vell, Barcelona,
Barcelona Province, Catalonia 08039, Spain