City Guide

Barcelona

Student-accommodation-in-barcelona-pano

Introduction to Barcelona

One of Barcelona’s main traits is the pride of its people, as a community which has suffered many changes and never achieved independence.

Spain has passed through a number of hands: originally Roman, then conquered by Muslims for 700 years, Spain pushed out the moors in 1492 and became an Empire. The country experienced an economic fall and passed to the French in the 18th century before returning to the Spanish King Ferdinand VII. Spain lost its Empire and the country was divided, resulting in many civil wars. Franco took control of Spain at a time of desperation and imposed Catholicism and Nationalism. Catalan was thus forbidden in schools and Catalans were murdered for their communist views and sexual preferences.

Catalonia’s fight for independence is not over, although the enthusiasm of its people has died down. The region has two national languages (Castillian and Catalan) but there is an obvious preference for the latter. As a foreigner, it is important to respect their past and appreciate Catalan as a language.

The City

Barcelona is the second largest city in Spain and is most famously described as “Gaudi’s city”. The French multi-lingual film “The Spanish Apartment” has added to Barcelona’s attraction for students: it certainly is representative of Erasmus life and the Catalonian capital.

Barcelona operates in areas, most of which are characterised by the attractions within them: Sagrada Familia, Gracia, Montjuic, Ciutat Vella, and Barcelloneta being the most popular. Each district is very distinct from the next, combining old and new.

La Sagrada Familia obtains its name from the architectural brilliance of Gaudi’s incomplete church. Its construction work is endless, funded by the many visiting tourists and sponsors. The church’s ever-growing nature allows you to visit it over and over again, finding new additions every few months. The Sagrada Familia district is also an interesting area to live, with its New York style streets leading down to the sea and up to Gracia.

Gracia is at the top of Passeig de Gracia, the Champs-Elysées of Barcelona with its never-ending shops, cinemas, restaurants and cafes. This wide street is also home to two of Gaudi’s houses: Casa Battlò and Casa Milà (La Pedrera).  Gracia is also home to Casa Vicens and the nearby Casa Calvet.

The Military Museum of Montjuic sits on a hill, west of Barcelona, with a spectacular panoramic view overlooking the beachfront and city centre. Its immense park and gardens are ideal for escaping the busy city life. From Plaza d’Espanya, the illuminated fountain leads up to the castle-like building. The Mirò museum is also a must-see, holding a vast amount of his work and other temporary art exhibitions. Montjuic also hosted the Olympics in 1992, contributing to Barcelona’s economic and architectural development.

It is not by chance that Ciutat Vella means “old city” in Catalan. The history of Barcelona permeates every stone of the old town hall “Ajuntament” and Cathedral “Generalitat”. Wandering the narrow streets of Bari Gotic will lead you to the Plaza Reial, a traditional Spanish square. The most famous street in Barcelona also belongs to this neighbourhood: La Rambla or Les Rambles. Running from Plaza Catalunya down to Columbus’ needle, street performers line the promenade and entertain its many walkers. There are small stalls and the popular Boqueria meat and fish Market. Due to the many tourists, look out for pickpockets! This district also holds the Parc de la Ciutadella which is not only the city’s zoo but a relaxing place to row a boat on the lake or stroll through the gardens. El Raval occupies the West of the neighbourhood, previously renowned for its dangerous nature but recently improved. The area now has its own Rambla del Raval and is a lively place dotted with bars and restaurants.

The Barcelloneta is a long promenade along the beachfront stretching across the length of the city. There are many fish restaurants to choose from and music played at the busy beach bars below.

Festivals

Barcelona is renowned for its lively festivals, rich in culture. In February, the Carnival takes place all over Spain. Barcelona celebrates in style, where everything becomes possible, organised by the “mercados municipales”.

Sant Joan marks the summer solstice in June. Millions gather on the beaches for the music, dancing and drinking till the small hours! Similarly in December, the day of Santa Llucia prepares for the winter and Christmas festivities.

La Merce is the festive day of Barcelona and is celebrated in September. The whole city joins in with the 382 diverse and entertaining shows that take place.

Every district also has its own "fiesta mayor" for its traditional patron saints. The inhabitants get together to revive their neighbourhood’s culture.