Audio Guide

What better way of visiting Barcelona than with an audioguide? Forget about books, papers or leaflets; be ecological and download all the information you need to know to your mp3 player!

BARRI GÒTIC
LA RIBERA
LA MERCÈ
EL RAVAL
LES RAMBLES
L'EIXAMPLE
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General Information

Barcelona is the capital of Catalonia – Catalunya in Catalan -, a region situated in the northeast of Spain. With a population of over a million and a half, it is the second biggest city in Spain – after Madrid – and the eleventh in Europe.

The city is situated by the Mediterranean sea and is 120 Km south of the Pyrenees and the French border. It’s well placed location makes this city an important point for communications not only with Spain but also France and the rest of Europe. Its port, one of the most important in the Mediterranean, allows easy  access to other coastal countries.

Thanks again to it’s situation Barcelona has a really nice and moderate weather. The sea breeze prevent from having cold winters and cools down summers giving relatively warm temperatures.

There are two official languages in Catalonia: Catalan and Spanish, Catalan being the most used by locals. It’s important to keep in mind Catalans are particularly proud of their culture, traditions and language to such an extend that they consider Catalonia to be another country separate from Spain. Nowadays, the situation is quite difficult with Spain not letting Catalans decide about the future of their country and even trying to impose Spanish as main language and trying to take Catalan out of schools.

             

Keep in mind that lunch and dinner times are later than in the rest of Europe. Restaurants and bars normally open from 1pm to 4pm and from 8pm until 11pm even though some may open a bit earlier. Shops also have longer opening hours starting at 10am and closing between 8 and 8.30 or even 10 in shopping centers and department stores and closing all sunday except for the first Sunday of sales.

[Map of Catalonia via Google maps; Catalonias’s flag via Willtron; Sardanes picture via Bernatff]

History of Barcelona

The first human settlements in Barcelona date back to Neolithic times. However, the city itself was founded during the 1st century BC by the Romans, on top of an old Iberian colony called Barke-no. Barcino – the Roman name for Barcelona – was built taking the Mont Tàber – a small mountain situated where Plaça Sant Jaume is now – as its centre. During the 2nd century BC a defensive wall surrounding the city was built, the remains of which can still be seen all around the Old Town.

         

In 711 Barcelona was conquered by the Muslims, who controlled the city until 801, when it was reconquered by Charlemagne’s troops and became the regular residence of the court of the Crown of Aragon. The following centuries were a fruitful period for Barcelona. The crisis of the remaining Muslim Kingdom and the importance of the city’s harbour to trade and transport materials gave Barcelona the status of economic and political centre of the Western Mediterranean. A clear example of this is the city’s old town, known as Barri Gòtic, with its amazing buildings built between the 13th and the 15th centuries following the gothic style.

However, the end of the Medieval Era brought nothing but a period of depression for the city with the Black Death and numerous civil wars that left a weak and hungry population. This compromised the city’s economic and political independence as well as its status as important city of the Mediterranean. 

In 1714, after a terrible battle where numerous Catalan soldiers died, the city finally fell to the Bourbon troops (nowadays the Spanish royal family). This heralded the start of a period where Catalonia’s and Catalan’s rights and privileges were suppressed.

The Industrial Revolution brought new hope for the city’s habitants: the development of the textile industry brought work and money to locals and gave back to the city the status of being an economically important Mediterranean city. It was during this period that the popular Ramblas were built as well as the neighbourhood of La Barceloneta. A period of cultural recovery known as the Renaixença also started in the mid-19th century: after years of being persecuted, Catalan culture, language and traditions regained prominence and were openly celebrated.

   

During the 20th century Barcelona underwent an urban renewal with the application of Pla Cerdà. This project established a new direction for the city and as a result led to the Eixample district, popular for it’s squared isle of houses. Dating from this period are some  of the most distinctive Catalan art-nouveau and modernist buildings such as La Pedrera/Casa Milà, the Casa batlló and the Sagrada Família (all made by Gaudí) or Domenech I Muntaner’s Casa Ametller date from this period.

The Spanish Civil War in 1936 was the start of a new period of economic and political decline. The continuous bombings and attacks from General Franco’s troops brought hunger and poverty to Barcelona’s inhabitants, getting worse with the subsequent Military dictatorship. Catalonian and Catalan’s rights were suppressed.

With the reinstatement of democracy in 1978, Barcelona society regained its economic strength and Catalan’s rights were restored. The city’s hosting of the 1992 Olympic Games put Barcelona in the spotlight and showed the world its potential, reaffirming its status as a major metropolis. The number of tourists increased dramatically causing the development of an important Tourist Industry – not only in the city but also around Catalonia – with a supposed eleven thousand-million euros of income in 2011. 

   

In 2004, due to the Forum of Cultures the city had an important boost and some of the most abandoned areas were refurbished. The clearest example of this is the new district 22@, the most important urban development project in Barcelona, which transformed two-hundred acres occupied by old factories into a new modern space for innovation and creativity. 

[Pictures credit: Roman City via Localyte; Painting 1714 war via Secret Forest; Barcelona in the 18th century via Gencat; Barcelona in the 20th century via Agrupació Fotogràfica de Catalunya; Bombing of Barcelona 1938 via Antiquari;  Barcelona Olympics 1992 via Desdebellaterra; Forum 2004 via Singular Digital]

Eixample

The Eixample is characterized by long straight streets, a strict grid pattern crossed by wide avenues and square blocks. This visionary and pioneering design was made by Catalan architect Ildefons Cerdà, who considered traffic and transport along with sunlight and ventilation when coming up with this octagonal blocks, characteristic of Barcelona.

Probably the most visited street in this district is Passeig de Gràcia, one of the major avenues in the city as well as one of its most important shopping and business areas with designer and luxury shops and hotels. Built in 1827, it shows the constructing style of the period with amazing Modernist buildings. Here you can find some of the best work of architect Gaudí. 

The hot spot of this beautiful avenue is the world renowned building of La Pedrera (“The Quarry” in english, due to the material used) or Casa Milà, part of UNESCO’s World Heritage site. Designed by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí it was built between 1905 and 1910 following the modernist style. The building was designed taking the sea as an inspiration, reason of the wavy front wall and curvy interior, and the roof’s chimneys are decorated as if they were soldiers using broken champagne bottles and mosaics. The building is open to the public everyday from 9am to 8pm, more information can be found here.

   

Casa Batlló (Passeig de Gràcia, 43) is another indispensable piece of Barcelona’s Modernist architecture. Built by Antoni Gaudí between 1904 and 1906 under the orders of businessman Josep Batlló, is part also part of UNESCO’s Work of Gaudí Heritage for its innovative design and creativity. The front wall was inspired by nature and human anatomy, resulting in skull-like balconies and columns that look like bones. The house-museum can be visited everyday from 9am to 9pm for 18,15€ or 14,55€ student price. More information can be found here.

Just a few steps away there is Casa Ametller (Passeig de Gràcia, 41), another modernist building made by architect Puig i Cadafalch in 1898. The design mixes traditional Catalan gothic style with characteristics elements of the Medieval period. The detail of the windows is exquisite, and the roof is remarkable too designed to recreate the look of a chocolate bar, reflecting the business of the building’s original owner.

          

Number 35 of Passeig de Gràcia hosts another of Domenech i Muntaner’s work: Casa Lleó-Morera. The building, constructed in 1864 and renovated in 1902, takes the name (“Lleó” is Catalan for lion and “Morera” for mulberry tree) from its decoration with sculptures, ceramics and mosaics made by local artists. 

Turning right at Carrer Aragó there’s the Fundació Antoni Tàpies, created by the artist itself to promote the study and knowledge of modern art. The museum hosts one of the best collections of this artist including some of his best work; the building itself has been converted with an intelligent use of space, definitely worth stopping by! More information about opening times and prices can be found here.

Last but not least is the Sagrada Família, one of the most emblematic and popular buildings of Barcelona, also part of the UNESCO’s Work of Gaudí. The church’s construction started in 1882 under the supervision of the architect Francisco de Paula del Villar until 1883, when Antoni Gaudí was asked to continue the project. The building is being built using public’s donation – reason why it’s construction is taking this long – with the objective of gaining God’s forgiveness. The three main towers at the centre of the construction represent the Sacred Family, surrounded by twelve smaller towers representing the twelve apostles mentioned in the Bible.

[Pictures credit: Passeig de Gràcia via Bernard Bagnon; Casa Milà via Diliff; Casa Batlló via Sabalas; Casa Amatller via Year of the Dragon; Casa Lleó-Morera via Kwon Yee Cheng; Sagrada Familia via Arte en el Valle]

El Raval

The neighbourhoof of el Raval was “land of convents” – how locals used to call it – until the beginning of the eighteenth century, when numerous factories were built. During the twentieth century and after being left out by the council, the neighbourhood was refurbished and started recovering it’s initial charm.

Probably the most emblematic building of el Raval is the Palau Güell (c/ nou de la rambla,5), part of UNESCO World Heritage of “Works of Gaudí”. Built by Antoni Gaudí for the Güell family (also owners of the popular Park Güell) was bought by the catalan government in 1954 and restored. The chimneys are made of ceramic, the flat roof and the entrance with its handmade iron door are stunningly beautiful and clearly show the style of catalan modernism. The building is visitable for 10€ an adult. More information can be found here.

At the end of the street Nou de la Rambla there’s the Rambla del Raval. This avenue is the centre of the neighbourhood and is always full of people, street musicians and terraced bars. It is a good place to eat, have a coffee or just enjoy the walk and the decorative sculptures along the avenue.

The Hospital de la Santa Creu is one of the most amazing buildings in Barcelona in need of promotion. This bulding, now the National Library, used to be a hospital run by nuns: Antoni Gaudí died here in 1926 after being run over by a tram. The building was designed following a gothic style and has a fantastic reading room with a high ceiling and is full of arches. In front of the Hospital, there is a baroque building made in 1629 with a typical baroque hallway and nice paintings. Outside, where the two buildings meet, there is a beautiful garden with orange trees and a cafeteria for those who enjoy relaxing with a coffee. Information about opening times and guided tours can be found here.

      

The clearest example of how el Raval has been modernized and opened to thetourists is the MACBA, the Contemporary Art Museum of Catalunya, designed by the north american architect Richard Meier. The building has adapted perfectly to the area with an amazing use of light and a curious layout that gives a feeling of space and free movement. In September 2006 the museum was expanded with the acquisition of the church of an old convent next to the main building called Convent dels Angels, made following the gothic style. The museum regularly hosts art and photography expositions such as the World Press. More information about the museum can be found here.

         

Along with the MACBA, Carrer Tallers is one of the most famous places around el Raval and Barcelona. This small and dark street – really quiet despite being next to the Ramblas – has beautiful buildings that have been converted into music or second hand shops. It’s a must see for everyone that likes vinage shopping. At the end it has a beautiful square with numerous bars an restaurants were to chill and enjoy the atmosphere, it’s always full of young people!

[Pictures credit Raquel Gella except: Palau Güell via Suite Life BCN Blog; MACBA via Tim Ershot]

La Mercè

Built around the basilica of La Mercè – dedicated in honour of Saint Mercè, patron of Barcelona – this became a popular area during the eighteenth century. Even though it hasn’t been well conserved and hasn’t been promoted enough, there are still some buildings that deserve to be seen and small restaurants to enjoy.

Plaça Milans is another well kept secret in the city of Barcelona. Just off Gignas street there’s hidden this beautiful small square. The most remarkable and interesting thing is its octagonal shape, created using neoclassic buildings built in the eighteenth century. The best way to appreciate its geometry is to look at the sky.

Walking through Carrer Ample you get to Plaça de la Mercè, a square made in 1983 as a result of demolishing some buildings. Called the “wedding square” by locals, it has on one side the beautiful Basílica de La Mercè and, at the other, an official building used for civil ceremonies. The cathedral is dedicated to the patron of Barcelona Saint Mercè and was built by Josep Mas d’Ordal. It contains a good collection of sculptures made by a local artist and has an amazing cupola with religious paintings about the saint and her life.

         

The Royal square or Plaça Reial was created in 1848 as a result of demolishing a nuns convent. In the middle there is a really nice fountain called “Tres Gracies” (three graces) surrounded by modernist street lights designed by Antoni Gaudí, architect of the Sagrada Familia, and beautiful palm trees. Always full of people, the square has, hiding inside a corridor made of arches, numerous bars and restaurants perfect for an after lunch coffee (very typical in Spain) or even a drink at night. Leaving the square through the north exit, there’s the Herbolari del Rei, a beautiful shop made in the nineteenth century now an Herbalist’s. Inside still has the original decoration and well deserves to be seen.

   

[Pictures credit Raquel Gella except: Plaça Milans via Fum i Estalzí; Basícila de la Mercè via About.com; Interior Basílica de la Mercè via Tick R]

La Ribera

The hidden neighbourhood of La Ribera is known for its beautiful gothic mansions, small streets and good restaurants. However, if there are two things you can’t miss they are the Santa Maria del Mar, a church built in the fourteenth century, and the old market of El Born.

Santa Maria del Mar is the only fully finished gothic church in all Catalonia. Designed by the architect Berenguer de Montagut, it has a beautiful entrance with numerous arches and sculptures. Inside, there is a feeling of space achieved with a clever use of light coming though strategically placed rose windows. Outside, just in front of the church there is a lovely gothic fountain dedicated to Saint Maria.

The old cemetery of the Santa Maria del Mar church known as Fossar de les Moreres, has become an important symbol for Catalans. Here are buried the soldiers that defended the city from the family Borbon’s troops – nowadays the Spanish Royal Family – in 1714. On one side there is a plaque with a poem by Frederic Soler called “Pitarra” that in english says: “to all martyrs of 1714, in the Fossar de les Moreres no traitors are buried; until we lose our flags, it will be a place for people with honor”. The gas light in the middle is lit all year around to remember the people that died defending Catalunya and its traditions.

             

The street to the left of the church takes you straight to Carrer Montcada. Opened in the fourteenth century, used to be home to the richest families of Barcelona. Its “small” gothic palaces are charming and every one of them deserves, at least, a short look.

Palau Cervelló (Montcada, 25) is a building that dates from the end of the fifteenth century, built by the Cervelló Family, one of the richest in Barcelona at that time. The structure is common in Catalonia’s gothic style and the interior garden is beautifully conserved. Nowadays it belongs to the art gallery Maeght and is used for art expositions.

Further along, the amazing Picasso Museum (Carrer Montcada 15-19) takes up to three medieval palaces on Montcada street. The building has been really well refurbished and adapted to the necessities of a museum (the interior patios are really beautiful and done with great taste). The palace is also home to a collection of the world famous artist, Pablo Picasso. The museum opens everyday except monday from 10am to 8pm and the tickets are 11€ per adult and 8€ for students. More information about the expositon can be found here.

Another iconic building of La Ribera is the Mercat del Born, at Plaça Comercial. built by Josep Fontseré and Josep Maria Cornet, it is an imposing building that used to be a fruit and vegetable market until 1979, when it was refurbished. At the entrance there is a nice avenue called Avinguda del Born with modernist street lights as well as different sculptures. There are numerous bars and restaurants perfect for a short rest.

El Palau de la Música is the clearest example Catalan’s Modernist Architecture. Designed by Lluís Domenech i Montaner it has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1997. The building has continuous references to music and Catalonia, reasons why it is an important symbol for Catalans. The palace hosts regular classical music concerts as well as being known as the headquarters of the oldest Catalan Choir, the Orfeó Català. Inside, you can’t miss the auditorium with a stunning skylight at the centre and amazing sculptures at the stage. El Palau – how locals call it – has guided tours everyday from 10am to 3.30pm for 15€ per adult has a maximum of 55 visitors a day. More information can be found here.

[Pictures via Raquel Gella except: Santa Maria del Mar via Visit-Bcn and Palau de la Musica via Josep Renalias]