I was lucky to be born in the Canary Islands, which I described as a small piece of Paradise on Earth here. I was also lucky to study in Barcelona, which is possibly one of the best cities to visit in the world. Actually, according to several surveys and rankings, it is the most visited city in Spain, outranking the capital city Madrid, and consistently on the top 10 most popular cities to visit in Europe.
Before flooding you with pictures and urging you to buy a ticket to go visit right away, I want to share some facts about Barcelona that you may, or may not, know. Get yourself acquaintanced with Barcelona while I put together more info on tourism! 🙂
8 facts & figures about Barcelona!
- Barcelona is the capital of the Catalunya region,one of the main provinces in Spain. It is the 2nd biggest city in Spain in terms of both size, population and economy (in terms of GDP). It is also the largest metropolis along the Mediterranean.
- One of the most popular holidays in Barcelona is called Sant Jordi, on April 23rd (also known as St. George’s in English), which inspired the UNESCO to create the Day of Books. On this special day in Barcelona, men will buy a red rose for their beloved and she will respond with a book. This is not to be confused with Valentine’s day, which also exists in Catalunya, but it’s less celebrated.
- Many of the famous beaches in Barcelona are… actually fake! Barcelona used to a be a very industrial city, and it wasn’t until 1992 that, due to the developments for the Olympic games, the industries were moved away and the seaside was reconverted into beaches. There were beaches before, but they got highly improved, and 5 new beaches were created. What!?
- The archi-famous Sagrada Familia, by Gaudi, has taken longer to finish than the Great Pyramids. Construction began in 1882 and it is expected to be finished by 2041… I hope to be alive by then! Although it is known to be designed by Gaudi, the truth is that the original architect wasn’t him. He did, however, spend his last 40 years of life working on it, until the day a tram accident took his life.
- The most visited museum in Barcelona is… the FC Barcelona Museum! The Barca soccer team is famous and popular all around the world, and their museum received 1,629,990 visits in 2011, becoming the 3rd most visited museum in Spain.
- The Eixample is a district of Barcelona, renowned for its strict grid pattern. The urban planner Ildefons Cerdà planned this utopian neighborhood considering sunlight, ventilation and traffic. Originally, each block was conceived to be a community by itself, with a big green space in the center and round corners on the outside (so that it could accommodate a system of Steam trams that never became true). The plan was close to a utopy because buildings would be only 3 floor tall, streets would be broad and, most importantly, there wouldn´t be social classes, as all block would look the same.
- Here´s some gossip: the catalan bourgeoisie wasn´t very happy with this revolutionary idea, and therefore the Barcelona City Hall accepted a similar project from Rovira i Trias that would still follow the grid pattern but with less of the utopian characteristics. However, months later, the central Government in Madrid didn´t agree with this and still appointed Cerdà to plan the area. He was, nonetheless, preassured to redesign the Eixample to make it more urban and less utopian.
- Catalunya is very rich in culture. They use their own language (catalan), which has many similarities with Spanish but is considered a separate language. Some of the most famous events/ performances not to miss are: els Castells (human towers), els Gegants (giants made of paper mache), las sardanas (a popular catalan dance) or the correfocs (devils of fire). You can see most of these during neighborhoods celebrations or during some major catalan festivity like La Mercè (September 24th).
- On the other hand, be warned that Catalunya has banned bullfighting, so if you were planning to watch one of these shows (not judging you), you’d better go to another province! (Random trivia: the Canary Islands was the first province to forbid bullfighting, yay~!)
- Last but not least, some of you may have heard about the conflicts between Spain and Catalunya. I am no expert in this topic, and I don’t want to take a side, but I’ll try to objectively expose the main issue: Catalunya is a big part of Spain, and they consider themselves different (with a different culture, language, and history). Through history, Catalunya has been part of Spain but also independent. To set things clear, while most Catalans consider themselves different and would like to have a different treatment, as they feel mistreated by the central Government. However, regarding the question of independency, they do not have majority, according to recent surveys.
I hope these facts help you understand Barcelona and Catalunya a bit better, and remember that next week I will be uploading a new post about Barcelona as a tourist destination with some usual tips and the most popular places to visit. See you!