Barcelona

Alternate uses: Barcelona (disambiguation)


Barcelona seen from the harbour.


Beginning of La Rambla at the old harbour.


The Plaša Reial next to La Rambla.


The church of the Sagrada FamÝlia.

Barcelona is the capital of Catalonia, an autonomous region in the northeast of Spain. It is also the second largest city of Spain after Madrid. Barcelona is located at the Mediterranean coast, 160 km south of the Pyrenees mountain range, the border with France. The city has a population of around 1.6 million, and its metropolitan area of around 3 million.

Barcelona was the site of the 1992 Summer Olympics. In summer of 2004 the International Forum of Cultures will take place in the city.

Table of contents
1 History
2 Tourist attractions
3 World Heritage Sites in Barcelona
4 Transportation
5 External link

History

Legend attributes the Carthaginian foundation of Barcino to Hamilcar Barca, father of Hannibal. Later on, Romans redrew the town as a castrum (a Roman military camp) centered on the Mons Taber, a little hill nearby the contemporary city hall (Plaša de Sant Jaume). This planning is still visible today on the map of the historical center and the remaining fragments of the Roman walls. Important Roman remains are exposed under the Plaša del Rei, entrance by the city museum, Museu d'Hist˛ria de la Ciutat. The city was conquered by the Visigoths in the 5th century, by the Moors in the 8th century, reconquered in 801 by the Frankish kings, and sacked by Al-Mansur in 985.

Barcelona became a Frankish County, which eventually became independent and expanded to include the Principate of Catalonia, the Kingdom of Aragon and many overseas possessions, ruling the Mediterranian Sea from Barcelona to Athens. When the Catalonia-Aragon Confederation was dynastically linked to Castile, the decadence of Barcelona began.

The city was devastated after the Catalonian Republic of 1640 - 1652, and again during the War of the Spanish Succession in 1714. The king Philip V demolished half of the merchants' quartier (La Ribera) to build a military citadel to punish the rebel city.

During the 19th century, Barcelona grew with the industrial revolution and the introduction of many industries. The medieval walls were thorn down and the citadel of La Ribera was converted into an urban park: the modern Parc de la Ciutadella. In the beginning of the 20th century, Barcelona became again a center of culture and politics in a resurgence of Catalan culture and the will for more political autonomy.

In the 20th century during the Spanish Civil War Barcelona was a stronghold of the Anarchist cause, but surrendered to Franco's forces in 1939. In the 1970s, once again, Barcelona started a new wave of cultural vitality, becoming the thriving city it is today, one of the most cherished cities in Spain and Europe.

Tourist attractions

Barcelona offers a unique opportunity for the tourist on foot to walk from Roman remains to the medieval city, and to the modern city with its open thoroughfares with all intersections left wide open by the unique cut-off corners of the buildings. The historic city center is reasonably flat, while the modern city extends towards the surrounding hills with streets showing increasing slopes, some of them reminiscent of San Francisco.

A notable feature is La Rambla (that is, THE one Rambla), a boulevard that runs from the city center to the waterfront, crowded with people until late at night, with florists, bird sellers, street entertainers, cafeterias, and restaurants. Walking up or down La Rambla one can see the prestigious opera house El Liceu, the food market of La Boqueria and the Plaša Reial (literally Royal square), with its arches and palm trees, amongst other interesting buildings.

La Rambla ends at the old harbour, where a statue of Christopher Columbus points to the sea.

Next to it is the Museu MarÝtim (naval museum), which chronicles the history of life on the Mediterranean, including a full-scale model of a galley. The building of the museum are the medieval Drassanes (shipyards), where the ships which sailed the Mediterranean were built. The old harbour offers all kinds of other amenities, including the largest Aquarium of the Mediterranean.

To the north of downtown is the Parc de la Ciutadella, which includes both the Parlament de Catalunya (Catalan Parliament) and the Parc Zoològic de Barcelona (zoo). One of Barcelona's most famous residents, the late albino gorilla Floquet de Neu, lived at the zoo.

Outstanding is the legacy of architect Antoni GaudÝ, who lived and worked in Barcelona, and who left several famous works like the Palau GŘell, the Parc GŘell, and the immense but still unfinished church of the Sagrada FamÝlia, which has been under construction since 1882, financed by popular donations like the cathedrals in the Middle Ages (notice though, that it is NOT a cathedral - the cathedral of Barcelona is the Cathedral of Santa Eulàlia, a Gothic building of the late Middle Ages). The Sagrada Familia is expected to be finished in the year 2020.

Art visits include the museum of the Joan Mirˇ Foundation, where several paintings and sculptures of this artist are shown, together with guest exhibitions from other museums around the world. There is further a unique museum featuring less known works by Pablo Picasso of his earlier period. For those interested in romanic art, the National Museum of Art of Catalonia is a must. It shows wall-paintings of romanic churches and chapels around Catalonia, which have been transferred to the museum. Also worthwhile visiting is the Contemporary Art Museum, not only because of its paintings and sculptures, but because of its architecture, the building having been designed by American architect Richard Meier.

In the modern districts of the city are several avenues on which most of the international companies of clothing, jewelry, leathergoods and other have their stores. The most elegant avenue is the Passeig de GrÓcia, where two buildings of Antoni GaudÝ are located, the Casa MilÓ (La Pedrera) and the Casa Batllˇ.

For spectacular views over the city and the coast line there are two hills. One, Montju´c hill, is next to the harbour. On its top is an old fortress which used to guard the entrance to the port. Around the hill are the Olympic Stadium and the Sport Palace, the latter one designed by Japanese architect Arata Isozaki, so as the Botanical Gardens. Uptown is the hill of the Tibidabo, more than 500 meters high, with an amusement park at its top.

World Heritage Sites in Barcelona

World Heritage Sites of UNESCO in Barcelona:

Transportation

In addition to its port, of great historical and contemporary commercial importance, Barcelona is servec by
El Prat International Airport in the suburb of El Prat de Llobregat.

Barcelona is a hub for Renfe, the Spanish state railway. It has two main interurban train stations: Sants, mainly serving traffic from elsewhere in Spain, and Franša, serving traffic from elsewhere in Europe. The AVE high-speed rail system was recently extended from Madrid to Lleida in western Catalonia, and is expected to reach Barcelona by 2005. Renfe and the Ferrocarrils de la Generalitat de Catalunya (FGC) run Barcelona's efficient and widespread commuter train service.

Barcelona's transit company, Transports Metropolitans de Barcelona (TMB), runs the Barcelona metro system and city buses. See List of Barcelona metro stations.

External link




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