With a population of more than five million, Barcelona is Spain’s second largest city and attracts millions of tourists every year who come in search of a vibrant nightlife atmosphere, great food and fantastic shopping facilities. But the Catalan capital is also famous for being home to an abundance of fascinating historic and cultural attractions telling an interesting tale of the city’s history from Roman times right through to the present day . Make the most of your time in Barcelona with our guide to its very best historical attractions.
Flickr /Bert Kaufmann
La Sagrada Familia
La Sagrada Familia is the city’s most famous building and its most important religious site. If you only see one landmark in Barcelona, make sure it’s this one! The unique cathedral building forms part of a UNESCO World Heritage site which brings together seven examples of work by the renowned architect, Antoni Gaudi. Though the cathedral is closely associated with Gaudi, he only took over work on the project in 1883, when building was already underway. He was responsible for some radical changes made on the overall design though, and is responsible for the Art Nouveau sensibility throughout. However, the Nativity Façade was the only one to be completed before Gaudi’s died in 1926.
If you want to learn about the history of the city, the best place to start is at one of Barcelona’s myriad museums. Start off at the Placa del Rei where you’ll find remains of the Roman settlement known as Barcina including portraits, coins, ceramics and other items from the Roman Empire. Then move on to the El Call museum which is dedicated to the story of the city’s Jewish population. Housed inside a 14th century building in the old Jewish quarter, exhibits here include Hebrew tombstones as well as a copy of a Catalonia-produced 15th century Hebrew manuscript. Finally, pay a visit to the Museu d’Historia de Catalunya. Located in a former warehouse near the old port, you can learn all about the Catalan nationalist movement here.
The museums are well worth checking out and provide a fascinating insight into the city’s colourful history.
Palau de la Musica Catalana
Barcelona definitely isn’t short of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and another one of these can be found at the city’s Palau de la Musica Catalana, which was completed in 1908. Built to provide a place for Catalan music performances, and was designed by Modernist architect, architect Doménechi Montaner. It was the upsurge of Catalan nationalism at the end of the 19th century which led to the construction of this magnificent building.
The history of the building is interesting, but it’s also known as one of the most exciting contemporary art spaces in Barcelona. The innovative design is also very notable, constructed in such a way that it’s based around a reticulated metal frame and none of the building’s weight is borne by its walls. Focusing on visual art at the CaixaForum, this gallery and exhibition space hosts art and sculpture exhibitions that are ever-changing.
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