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Barcelona Travel guide

Barcelona hotels, Barcelona vacation packages 2024 - 2025

Barcelona, located at the Mediterranean Sea in the very north of the Spanish coast, is certainly the most cosmopolitan and economically most active city in this country.
It has always proved its will to be modern, to follow the latest international tendencies or be ahead of them. To the tourist this is evident especially in its architecture, which so well reflects the general approach to life in this always-pulsating city.

Of course, Barcelona has an old history, and there are monuments of Romanesque, Gothic and Renaissance periods or still before, but most characteristic is what has been built during the last, say, 100 years. Barcelona has been a centre of Modernist architecture and is distinguished especially by the works of genial Antoní Gaudí, who together with his great contemporaries gave new and exciting, looks to it, but has remained since then at the top of modernity. If you want to find out which are the very latest tendencies today - go to discover it here.


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Travel Guide

Barcelona - History

The Phoenicians and the Greeks had settled the coast of Catalunya, but it was not until the Carthaginians established Barcino on an earlier Celtiberian settlement in the 3rd century BC that the modern name began to emerge. The Romans defeated the Carthaginians in 206 BC and ruled Spain for the next 600 years during which time Roman law, language and culture took a firm hold. The Roman citadel was located where the cathedral and city hall now stand.

After sacking Rome in 410 AD, the Germanic Visigoths swept into Spain, renaming the city Barcinona and making it their capital between 531 and 554 until they moved to Toledo. The Visigoth kingdom came to an end in 711 with the Moorish invasion from Africa and Catalunya was briefly overrun until defeated beyond the Pyrenees by the Franks in 732. Charlemagne's knights pushed in after them and installed themselves at the head of border counties to guard the southern flank of his empire. One of these feudal lords was Guifré el Pilós became the Count of Barcelona in 878 and founded a dynasty that lasted for almost 500 years. While the rest of Spain remained Moorish, Barcelona and the rest of Catalunya retained its links to the rest of Europe. Catalunya's flag of four red stripes on a gold background represent his four bloody fingers drawn across his shield.

After Louis V refused to help repulse Moorish raiders in 988, the counts of Barcelona declared their independence from the Franks. This is celebrated as Catalunya's birth as a nation state and soon enlarged through a series of marriages and military adventures. Mallorca, Ibiza and Tarragona where taken from the Moors by Ramon Berenguer III and Provence was taken through marriage. Ramon Berenguer IV united Catalunya with Aragon though marriage, resulting in his son Alfonso II to become the first Aragon-Catalan king, ruling the Mediterranean coast all the way to Nice. However, the next king, who lost many of these gains, reversed this.

This period also saw the beginnings of democratic institutions with the introduction of an early code of laws in the 11th century, known as the Usatges de Barcelona. As well as ensuring complete Catalan control of the Balearic Islands, capturing Valencia and building a second city wall around the expanding Barcelona, Jaume I (1213-76) introduced the Consell de Cent, a municipal council composed of leading citizens. Sicily was taken in 1282 and in 1283 a parliament, later to become the Generalitat, was founded. Also during this period came the Llibre del Consolat del Mar, the foundation of European maritime law and the following century saw Barcelona at the peak of its glory with Sardinia, Corsica, Naples, the Roussillon and, for a short time, Athens under its control.

Though Columbus' famed voyage took place in 1492, the Barbier-Mueller Museum makes clear that the `pre-Columbian' era extended well beyond that date, as the subjugation of indigenous cultures by the conquistadors lasted for decades. In 1996 the Barbier-Mueller museum in Geneva agreed to show around 170 pieces from its superb collection of ancient American art in Barcelona, meticulously selected and displayed on a rotating basis. To house them, the city spent several million pesetas renovating a medieval palace across from the Picasso Museum. A minus is its overly theatrical lighting, a cliché of `tribal art' presentation, but nevertheless the museum treats us to many extraordinary pieces from Mexico, Central America, the Andes and the lower Amazon, some of which date as far back as the second millennium BC. Among its treasures are a large, hollow, ceramic female figure from the pre-Mayan Olmec period, an expressive sculpture of the fire god Hueheuteotl (Veracruz, AD500-800) and rare holdings from the little-known Caviana and Maraj— islands at the mouth of the Amazon, stylistically close to present-day Brazilian indigenous patterns. Gold and silver objects from Peru and Bolivia complete this good short introduction to pre-Columbian art.

These centuries saw the construction of such magnificent Gothic buildings such as the cathedral and other palaces and monuments. Barcelona acted as the focal point for the exchange of scholarship and scientific knowledge between the European and Muslim worlds and the arts flourished under the great patrionage. Foreign trade saw to it that shipbuilding and conquest were established.

Ferdinand of Aragon-Catlunya (Ferrán II in Catalunya) married Isabella of Castille, thus forming the nucleus of the Spanish state. Barcelona was now just one of the seats of The Catholic Monarchs because in 1492 they finally captured the last Moorish stronghold, Granada. This year also saw the discovery of America by Columbus, financed by Isabella, and upon his return the monarchs in the Royal Palace in Barcelona received him.

The 16th century, which was a golden age for Spain as a whole, saw Barcelona's influence decline further and eventually Madrid, a previously insignificant city in the centre on the country was made the capital.

In 1640 a revolt against the five-year-old war with France started in Barcelona and saw Catalunya first declared as a republic allied to France. Forced to surrender under the 1652 siege of Barcelona, the Catalan territories north of the Pyrenees were given to France. The following years saw the city rebuilt, only to see it destroyed again in the wars against France of 1680 and 1690.

In 1705, following years of interference from Madrid, Catalunya signed a treaty with England and Genoa and went to war. This ended with the 13-month seige of Barcelona, which ended on 11th September 1714, celebrated today as Catalunya's national day. The Generalitat was dissolved and official use of the Catalan language was banned. To add insult to injury an occupying force was installed in the Ciutadella fortress, built specifically for this purpose.

Barcelona Sights, sightseeing, culture:

Travel Guide

There has been a flourishing city and port on this site for well over 2000 years. In Roman times it was known as Barcino and part of the Roman city can still be seen.
In the Middle Ages the centre of the city was what is now known as the "Gothic Quarter" and there are many examples of medieval architecture around theCathedral, the Old Royal Palace and the building which today houses the Catalan government (Generalitat de Cataluña) in the Plaza Sant Jaume. Near the sea can be found the "Ribera" district with the splendid church of Santa Maria del Mar and the Picasso Museum. Nearby is the park of the "Ciutadella" and the famous zoo, museums and the Catalan parliament. The Ramblas is the heart of Barcelona and here one can find stalls selling birds,flowers, books, magazines and newspapers. There are also many barsand cafes with tables and chairs on the Ramblas where one can sit and watch the world go by in a unique atmosphere.

In the small streets off the Ramblas there are many types of restaurants to suit all tastes and pockets. During the 19th century the city saw a period of great expansion. Following the plan of the architect Ildefonso Cerdà, the area known as the Eixample, with its wide streets and avenues, was built. Now in this area of the city some of the best shops, boutiques and art galleries can be found. The church of the Sagrada Familia, designed over 100 years ago by the Catalan architect Gaudi and still unfinished, must be seen. Also the Güell Park, which is another of his great works. In the Poble Espanyol (Spanish Village) on Montjuic can be seen reproductions of houses and streets from all the regions of Spain and craftsmen can be found still practising their trades. Also on Montjuic are the Olympic Stadium, swimming and diving pools. The Paseo de Gracia is also very interesting with typical buildings such as "La Pedrera" and "Casa Batllo". The most fashionable quarter is the Olympic Village with a very nice sporting harbour full of restaurants and fashionable bars .

In the attractively renovated Palace of Decorative Arts, built for the 1929 Exhibition on Montjuïc, this is one of the city's better scientific museums, and the art deco centre section has been imaginatively refurbished. With pieces mostly from digs in Catalonia and Mediterranean Spain, it begins with the Palaeolithic period, and moves on through subsequent eras, including relics of Greek, Punic, Roman and Visigoth colonisers, taking us right up to the early middle Ages. There are curious objects related to early metallurgy, along with models of Neolithic and Iron Age burial sites. A few galleries are dedicated to the Mallorcan Talaiotic cave culture, and lovely terracotta goddesses and beautiful jewellery from a huge dig on Ibiza recall the Carthaginian presence in the Balearics. A large gallery is dedicated to Empúries, a source of extensive holdings. Roman work includes original floor mosaics (curators argue they are better preserved when walked upon), and a reconstructed Pompeian palace room. The centre section has monumental Greek and Roman pieces, including a sarcophagus showing the rape of Proserpine, while the exterior rotunda is dedicated to the native Iberians. Upstairs there are Roman funerary stiles and fine mosaics, one of a woman wearing a grotesque comic mask. For some reason an enormous statue of a sexually charged Priapus cannot be visited up close (it was formerly hidden from view completely, and they are still unsure what to do with it). The museum also hosts occasional temporary shows.

A hermit in the city: Antoni Gaudí

Seen as the genius of the Modernista movement, Antoni Gaudí was really a one-off, an unclassifiable figure. His work was a product of the social and cultural context of the time, but also of his own unique perception of the world, as well as a typically Catalan indulgence of anything specifically Catalan. Whereas his two great colleagues in Modernism, Domènech and Puig, were both public figures who took an active part in politics and many other fields, Gaudí, after being fairly sociable as a youth, became increasingly eccentric, leading a semi-monastic existence and enclosed in his own obsessions.

Born in Reus in 1852, he qualified as an architect in 1878. His first architectural work was as assistant to Josep Fontseré on the building of the Parc de la Ciutadella during the 1870s. The gates and fountain of the park are attributed to him, and around the same time he also designed the lampposts in the Plaça Reial. His first major commission was for the Casa Vicens in 1883-8. An orientalist fantasy, it is structurally fairly conventional, but his control of the use of surface material already stands out in its exuberant neo-Moorish decoration and the superbly elaborate decorative ironwork on the gates. The Col.legi de les Teresianes convent school, undertaken a few years later (1888-9), is more restrained still, but the clarity and fluidity of the building, with its simple finishes and use of light, is very appealing.

An event of crucial importance in Gaudí's life came in 1878, when he met Eusebi Güell, heir to one of the largest industrial fortunes in Catalonia. Güell had been impressed by some of Gaudí's early furniture, and they also discovered they shared many religious ideas, on the socially redemptive role of architecture and (for Güell) philanthropy. Güell placed such utter confidence in his architect that he was able to work with complete liberty. He produced several buildings for his patron, beginning with the Palau Güell (1886-8), a darkly impressive, still-historicist building that established Gaudí's reputation, and including the crypt at Colònia Güell, one of his most original, structurally experimental and surprising buildings.

In 1883 Gaudí first became involved in the design of the temple of the Sagrada Família, begun the previous year. He would eventually devote himself entirely to this work. Gaudí was profoundly religious, and an extreme Catholic conservative; part of his obsession with the building was a belief that its completion would help redeem Barcelona from the sins of secularism and the modern era. From 1908 until his death he worked on no other projects, often sleeping on site, a shabby, white-haired hermit, producing visionary ideas that his assistants had to 'interpret' into drawings (on show in the museum alongside). If most of his modern admirers were to meet him they would probably say he was mad, but this strange figure would have an immense effect on Barcelona.

The Sagrada Família became the testing ground for his ideas on structure and form. However, he would see built only the crypt, apse and nativity façade, with its representation of 30 different species of plants. As Gaudí's work matured, he abandoned historicism and developed free-flowing, sinuous expressionist forms. His boyhood interest in nature began taking over from more architectural references, and what had previously provided external decorative motifs became the inspiration for the actual structure of his buildings.

In his greatest years, he combined other commissions with his cathedral. La Pedrera or Casa Milà begun in 1905 was his most complete project. Occupying a prominent position on a corner of Passeig de Gràcia, it has an aquatic feel about it: the balconies resemble seaweed, and the undulating façade the sea, or rocks washed by it. Interior patios are painted in blues and greens, and the roofscape is like an imaginary landscape inhabited by mysterious figures. The Casa Batlló Passeig de Gràcia, was an existing building remodel-led by Gaudí in 1905-7, with a roof resembling a reptilian creature perched high above the street. An essential contribution was made by Gaudí's assistant Josep Maria Jujol, himself a very original Modernista architect, and more skilled than his master as a mosaicist.

Gaudí's later work has a dreamlike quality, which makes it unique and personal. His fascination with natural forms found full expression in the Parc Güell, of 1900-14. Here he blurs the distinction between natural and built form in a series of colonnades winding up the hill. These seemingly informal paths lead to the surprisingly large central terrace projecting over the hall below, a forest of distorted Doric columns planned as the marketplace for Güell's proposed 'garden city'. The benches of the terrace are covered in some of the finest examples of trencadís or broken mosaic work, again mostly by Jujol.

In June 1926, Antoni Gaudí was run over by a tram on the Gran Via. Nobody recognised the down-at-heel old man, and he was taken to a public ward in the old Hospital de Santa Creu in the Raval. When it was discovered who he was, however, Barcelona gave its most famous architect an almost state funeral.


When his father José Ruiz Blasco was hired to teach at Barcelona's art school in 1895, 13-year-old Pablo Ruiz Picasso was a budding young artist whose drawings suggested a firm academic training. By the time of his definitive move to Paris in 1904 he had already painted his greatest Blue Period works, and was on his way to becoming the most acclaimed artist of the century. Barcelona's Picasso Museum is testimony to these vital formative years, spent in the city in the company of Catalonia's nascent avant-garde.

The museum arose out of a donation to the city by Picasso's private secretary and friend Jaume Sabartès, complemented by holdings from the artist's family. It graces a row of elegant medieval courtyard-palaces on C/Montcada, beginning with the mostly fifteenth-century Palau Berenguer d'Aguilar, with a courtyard almost certainly by Marc Safont, architect of the patios of the Generalitat. Since it first opened in 1963 it has expanded to incorporate two adjacent mansions, the later but also impressive Palaus Meca and Castellet, each with its own courtyard. In order to add another 3,500sq m the City of Barcelona has now begun further extensions in the next pair of buildings along the street (the baroque Casa Mauris and the early Gothic Casa Finestres, Nos. 21 and 23) and into a large courtyard behind them, which should be ready by late 1999. All to show as much of the collection of over 3,000 paintings, drawings and other work as possible, complemented by temporary shows on early twentieth-century masters and Picasso-related themes.

Two things stand out in the museum. The seamless presentation of Picasso's development from 1890 to 1904, from schoolboy doodlings - he was a constant, and very skilful, doodler - to art school copies to intense innovations in blue, is unbeatable. Then, in a flash, one jumps to a gallery of mature cubist paintings from 1917, and completes the hopscotch with a leap to oils from the late 1950s, based on Velázquez' famous Las Meninas in the Prado in Madrid. This veritable vistus interruptus could leave the visitor itchy for more. The culmination of Picasso's early genius in Les Demoiselles d'Avignon and the first cubist paintings (1907 and beyond) is completely absent.

So, there's nothing one can do but accept the collection's gaps as twists of history, and enjoy its many strengths. After some wonderful ceramics - donated by his widow Jacqueline - the chronological galleries begin in 1890, when young Pablo still lived in his native Málaga, sketching pigeons like his father (who painted them incessantly). Already at the age of nine his drawing was sure and inventive. After he had painted some perceptive portraits of old people and sailors in La Coruña (1895), Picasso and his family came to Barcelona, living on the nearby C/de la Mercè. Work from Picasso's student years includes portraits of his family, life drawings and landscapes, including some of Barceloneta beach. Pressured by his father to attract patrons, he did some large realist paintings, one of which, Science and Charity (1897), won a prize in Madrid. Only in the late 1890s did he begin to sign his bawdy nightlife scenes and caricatures with Picasso, his mother's last name. There are fascinating sketches of Barcelona 'decadents', letters-in-cartoons done on his first trip to Paris, and his menu cover from Els Quatre Gats, his first paid commission.

As he gained in artistic independence, his taste for marginal types intensified, with perversely beautiful paintings like Margot and La Nana (1901). The intense Blue Period is well represented by El Loco (1904) and Dead Woman (1903), as well as an azure oil of Barcelona rooftops recently donated by the Picasso heirs. The chronology is broken with the works from 1917 - the last extended period Picasso spent in Barcelona - including one titled Passeig de Colom, before you arrive at the many works inspired by Las Meninas and a series done in Cannes in 1957. Finally, the museum has an extensive collection of his impressive limited-edition lithographs and linocuts.


La Locomotora Negra is one of the oldest Jazz Bands existing in Catalonia and Spain. They made their début in 1971 as a quintet. The band has been expanding, and currently comprises sixteen members.

La Locomotora Negra style leans towards the black Jazz in its more clearly popular forms. They take as a model the most famous orchestras of the Swing Era, such as Fletcher Henderson, Jimmy Lunceford, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, etc... with some incursions into the New Orleans style.

La Locomotora Negra have taken part in the Barcelona International Jazz Festival, El Vendrell, Sitges, San Sebastián Jazz Festival (where they won the first prize in the Amateur Groups Competition in the Traditional Jazz Category (1977).

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