Do you want to know more about Barcelona city its districts and neighbourhoods? Our Barcelona city guide takes you on a tour of the entire urban Barcelona area.
The face and body of Barcelona are formed by several historical big steps:the first city formation within the Roman wall, the extension (“Eixample”) constructed by architect Ildefons Cerdá, the growth of “shanty towns” for the first wave of migrant workers under the industrial revolution, the swallowing up of nearby villages and finally the urban renewal projects leading up to the 1992 Olympics and the on going urbanisation of the city’s northern limits.
Ciutat Vella – The Barcelona Old Town
The Laietani (an Iberian tribe) may have got here first, but the Romans will always get the credit for turning the small Mediterranean harbour into a great city. The place the Roman settled around 15 BC on the small hill of Mont Taber originally showed no great promise of becoming a strategic important Mediterranean center of power and trade. It was actually not, however, the Romans that took the small seaside town to greatness, butthe Franks making Barcelona their southern bastion in the 8th century and elevating its importance. Successive centuries saw incredible highs and lows for Barcelona to its recent status as one of the planet’s most popular city break destinations.
The beating “medieval heart” of Barcelona. The origin of the city is here in the Gothic Quarter. This is also where a lot of the “action” is today. Most of this is centered on and around the Plaza Reial in the form of nightclubs, bars and restaurants. The charming area is ideal for shopping, clubbing, eating and discovering historical Barcelona. The most interesting landmarks include the gothic cathedral La Catedral, the city hallAjuntament, the regional parliament Palau de la Generalitat and the Museu d´História de la Ciutat (the historical museum).
As Barcelona’s fortunes grew, so did the outer barrios as the need for migrant workers accelerated during the Industrial Revolution. The port side of El Raval was referred to as Barrio Chino (“Chinatown”) and despite a “dubious” past as a zone of crime and prostitution it is today an area not to be missed! The nightlife is vivid and there are several quality restaurants here and interesting landmarks like: the Sant Pau del Camp – the city’s oldest church. Gaudí’s Palau Güell, the Boquería market, Museum of Contemporary Art (MACBA), the Maritime Museum Drassanes and the Cultural Center for Contemporary Art (CCCB).
El Born & Sant Pere
El Born (or La Ribera) is one of the city’s more attractive areas with its maze of medieval streets packed with delicatessen, small boutiques, retaurants cafés and bars. The area rose to prominence with the arrival of a merchant class in Barcelona, and today it is still characterized by mansions and spaces that once were stables or storage rooms for goods (wine and wool etc.) for export to the New World. The heart of the district is the “Cathedral of the Sea” – the Santa Maria del Mar church and thepasseig de Born that is lined with bars and cafés. The more westernly situated neighbourhood of Sant Pere is more residential but worth visiting especially for the fantastic modernisme classic, Palau de la Música.
Landmarks: Santa Maria del Mar, the Picasso Museum, Ciutadella park, Barcelona Zoo, Palau de la Música, Santa Caterina market.
Eixample is often referred to as Barcelona’s Manhattan due to the contrast between the district’s examplatory urban planning and the other more charmingly “haphazard” areas. When the city “broke free” of the constraints of the Roman wall this expansion was left in the hands of one architect, Ildefons Cerdá. Even though his vision was never fully realized here, Eixample still has the appearance of a classic 19th century European city. Visiting Eixample is a very different experience from the Old Town, but no less essential as the home of another Catalan architect’s (Antoni Gaudí) splendid vision: La Sagrada Familia. Furthermore the district world class restaurants, a busy nightlife and exceptional shopping. Landmarks: La Pedrera, Casa Batlló, Hospital de Sant Pau, La Sagrada Familia.
This former “pueblo” has an atmosphere that is one part cosy village and one part cosmopolitan. Since being included as a part of Barcelona, the district has aways retained a certain “independence” from the rest of the city. Alternative culture often has had its Barcelona “headquarters” here. Today though it is popular among an international crowd for exotic restaurants, lively clubbing and a large number independent stores.
Landmarks: Parc Güell and Casa Viçenc.
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