Introduction to Barcelona

From the Romans to modern time

Barcelona, Spain
Kasper Christiansen
Text & photos: Kasper Christiansen
November 17th, 2020 (revised version)

Barcelona has approximately 3 million inhabitants (1,6 million inhabitants in the city centre), and is located in the Western part of the Mediterranean Sea. The city was founded by the Romans 12 BC, but it is not until the late Middle Ages that the city starts to grow and to be an important city in the Mediterranean area.

In the 13th and 14th century, Barcelona's heyday as capital of the Kingdom of Aragon-Catalonia begins. The Kingdom took a dominant role in Europe, with conquest towards south: Valencia, and towards east: Mallorca, Menorca, Sardinia, Corse, Sicily & Naples and Athens.

Followed by the conquests came commerce with hundreds of ports in the Mediterranean Area that brought wealth to Barcelona and the region around it. If you visit the gothic quarter today, many of the buildings that you see are constructed in this period: The Cathedral, Santa María del Mar, The Townhall, etc.

In recent times, the city and the region around it (Catalonia) has experienced a "renaissance", triggered by the World Expositions (1888 and 1929) and the Olympic Games held in Barcelona in 1992.

Barcelona views from Montjuic
Barcelona seen from obove - views of Barcelona from the Botanical Garden, Montjuïc

From the world fairs to the Olympic Games

One of the reasons why Barcelona had such great success organizing the Olympic Games is thatthe city had celebrated huge events several times over the last hundred years, including the two world exhibition in Barcelona, respectively the one in 1888 and in 1929.

During the first world exhibition held in 1888, a new architecture, modernism (modernismo in Spanish and Moderisme in Catalan) had its break through. The most well known architect of the movement is Antoni Gaudí, but there are more than hundred architects working along the same line from 1888 to the 1920’s.

With the second World's Fair in 1929, the monumental area below the Montjuïc mountain, was building. Among the most important monuments from this period is The National Palace (which is today's Museu Nacional d'Arquitectura de Catalunya).

In 1992 Barcelona held the first Olympic games in Spain ever. The infrastructure, highways, homes (more than 10,000!) were built and the beach area was renovated.

The hotels of the Olympic Games are now used by Spaniards and people from all over the world, participants of the congresses and fairs held in the city, cruise guests, etc.
Sant Felip Neri
The National Palace - the famous fountains on Montjuic from the National Palace to Plaza España

For visitors, Barcelona is a marvellous city and has much to offer: the city's history comes alive in the many museums in the city centre (Museum of the history of the city) and its Gothic Quarter. But we also recommend to see the citys modern architecture.

Read more about our Modern Architecture Tour

Moreover, Barcelonas has both beaches and mountains. For the gastronomy lovers, Barcelonas has many gourmet restaurants  - many excellent restarants with 1, 2 and 3 Michelin Stars - but you can also find a great variety of less expensive restaurants where you can 3-dish meal for just around 10-12 € including a drink. Barcelona's many offers to tourists is one of the main explanations for the city's popularity today.

Read more about our Wine & Gastronomy Tour

Just outside Barcelona, you will be able to visit a wide variety of beautiful wine regions with many different types of wines. The Penedes region, 45 minutes' drive west from Barcelona, is known for its many excellent cava producers, as well as the world known winery Bodegas Torres. Alella is a tiny wine region less than 30 minutes' drive north of Barcelona that produce high quality cava and white wine. And in Priorat and Montsant, you will be able to taste some of Spain's very best red wine.

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Get out of Barcelona on a wine tour to one of the wine regions south of the city, like Penedès or Priorat.
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