Barcelona Guide

About Barcelona, Spain

It is little wonder why Barcelona has been a hub of human activity for over two millennia. Located along the Mediterranean coast, its near perfect climate averages between 50 - 85 degrees Fahrenheit all year round. Nearly 1.6 million people reside in the city's 10 divisions and 45 neighbourhoods, making it the most populated city in Spain.

The city has long been known for its mercantile traditions. It was one of the first in Europe to become industrialised in the 18th century when it produced some of the best textiles in the world. Previous to that, Barcelona's old harbour had been flourishing for centuries and the city enjoyed the wealth that its esteemed locale brought. This tradition is still noted today since Barcelona is an important hub in the fashion industry. The city's urban Fashion Fair, Bread & Butter, is one of the most sought after tickets in the textile and fashion industries.

Textiles aside, Barcelona is a wealth of culture as its roots go back nearly 2,000 years. There are hundreds of performing arts venues, museums, architectural sites and sporting events around the city any given week. The architecture here is so stunning that a handful of churches and structures by celebrated architects Montaner and Gaudi were named World Heritage Sites in 1984. Some of Barcelona's biggest draws are its 68 public parks. Twelve are historic, five botanical, forty five urban and six are forests, giving citizens and visitors the rarity of ample space to play in the middle of a busy metropolis.

The city also has seven beaches on nearly five miles of coast. To top it all off, nearly 200 clubs or "squats" as they are known to the locals, play into Barcelona's thriving nightlife. Barcelona truly is a city that has it all.

Things to do in Barcelona

January: Twelfth Night Procession - This spectacle is a favourite and is celebrated in Spain and Latin America. Spain's fete takes place by the sea as the crowd gathers to anticipate the arrival of the Three Wise Men's boats. Once in sight, the boats are brought in by boisterous cheers, foghorns, a 21-gun salute and a fireworks display. Once on land, the Three Wise Men are lead to the fountain of Montjuic by a noisy, colourful parade. The event begins on the steps at 6pm and is free for all.

February: Carnival - Spain follows many Latin American traditions in its own spirited way - and Carnival is no exception. Locals exhibit signs of gluttony as they indulge in food, drink and pleasures through January and February. Notable events are Fatty Thursday, when food eating competitions (think spicy meats, sausages and tortillas) take place. There are also markets and street parades daily. To round out the month-long fiesta, a funeral that marks the King of the Carnival's death takes place when all activities cease and the processions are followed by mourners dressed in black. Events are free of charge.

March: Palm Sunday Celebrations - Palm Sunday is one of the most important events in the Christian calendar in Spain, and it shows. The morning brings a sombre procession through the streets to La Seu (cathedral) in the historic part of the city. Families of different parishes create magnificent sculptures made from palm and adorned with braids, tassels and other elaborate design features. Masses are followed by feasting and merriment. There are no set hours or admission for these events.

April: Saint George's Day - Unlike other Valentine's Day celebrations, which usually take place in February, Barcelona has its own distinctive "Lovers' Day" on April 23. It's said that the day has sprouted from the tale of St. George slaying a dragon, after which a drop of the dragon's blood fell into a beautiful red rose, which St. George gave to a princess. Nearly 4 million roses are bought and, in following tradition, men give their women one as a gift. Uniquely, women give their man a book and, just for the occasion, Las Ramblas fills with hundreds of stalls with nearly 400,000 books to choose from.

May: The Magic Fountain of Montjuic - A favourite landmark, the fountain first emerged on May 19, 1928 at the Great Universal Exhibition. It is as much a delight today as it was then, and features a stunning display of colour, light and water, all choreographed to music. Beginning in May and continuing through to September, the fountain does its song and dance each Thursday and Friday from 9:00pm - 11:30pm during the summertime. From October through April, shows go on Friday and Saturday from 7:00pm - 9:00pm. On May 19 a small celebration commemorates the first day the fountain was displayed. There is no admission cost for the Magic Fountain.

June: Dance Days - With the Museum of Contemporary Art as the main venue, Dance Days spreads its veins through the entire city including other venues right down to the streets, squares and city parks as part of the Grec Summer Festival. The contemporary performances often leave spectators literally dancing in the streets from June straight on through July. Hours and admission vary for each event.

July: - European Balloon Festival Every July the small town of Igualada fills its friendly skies with dozens of hot air balloons from around the world, for one of the largest balloon festivals in Europe. Nearly 25,000 spectators come to watch the balloons take flight and to participate in a variety of activities, shop the market stalls and sample the local cuisine. The festival begins early in the morning and goes on all night. It is free of charge to watch.

August: Feast of the Assumption in Gracia - All of the homes in Gracia lie empty on August 15 to celebrate the Feast of Assumption in the streets. Avenues are filled with rainbow-hued decorations, live music and entertainment in preparation for seven days of celebration. Admission is free.

September: Catalan Wine and Cava Show - In correspondence to September's grape harvest, hundreds of exhibitors descend on the small town of Maremagnum just outside of Barcelona. Visitors can taste test a huge variety of wines as well as gastronomical specialties thanks to Slow Foods, which collaborates with the wine fest. Hours vary.

October: SITGES Film Festival - The International Fantastic Film Festival of Catalonia has been running for over 40 years, and is considered by many as the best fantasy film festival of its kind. Screenings and other events run throughout October 6 - 16, and prices range from 4 - 295 Euros.

November: World Press Photo - This touring photojournalism exhibition makes its annual stop in Barcelona each October through November at the Center of Contemporary Culture. Journalists from 123 countries submit nearly 5,000 award-winning photos in eleven categories. This event is the most esteemed in photojournalism. Hours run from Tuesdays to Sundays 11:00am - 8pm execept for Thursdays when it opens from 11:00am - 10;00pm. Admission is free.

December: Fira de Santa Llucia - A centuries-old tradition, Fira de Santa Llucia was first begun in 1786. The fair is still situated just outside of the Barcelona Cathedral and features upwards of 300 stalls filled with goodies. There is also a nativity scene contest, parades, exhibitions and a life-sized nativity among other festivities. Hours run from 10:00am - 10:00pm daily. The fair is free of charge except for what you buy.

Barcelona Airport

The Barcelona International Airport (BCN) is also known to locals as El Prat. It has three terminals which all cater to a different location. Terminal B is used for Spanish carriers, Terminal C for domestic flights and Terminal A for everything else.

The airport is located approximately 10 kilometers from the centre of Barcelona. There are taxis available but usually at a lofty cost. The recommended way to get to the city's centre is by the RENFE suburban train. The RENFE comes by about every half-an-hour and the ride is also about the same into Barcelona. The cost is 2.20EUR for a one way ticket but seasoned travelers know that a T-10 ticket for 6.90EUR will get you ten trips or 75 minutes of travel and includes bus and metro transfers as well. T-10's can be purchased as simply as a vending machine at the airport.


Barcelona Web Sites

In our travels around the web, we found these Barcelona web pages useful:

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