Barcelona (1)

Barcelona: an open city, a Mediterranean city. There is no doubt that this is a city to enjoy - for its streets, for walking, shopping, for finding out about its history, its art, enjoying its climate, its people, its gastronomy…Discover every corner with Play & Tour.

Spread out between the sea and the mountains, from its roman origins to state-of-the-art artistic, cultural and social expression, Barcelona reveals through its urban history all the weight of a long and important past. The original settlement inhabited by the Iberians provided the foundations for Roman Barcino, on which the medieval town was built, and on top of that the renaissance layer and so on, one on top of the other, up to the present day. That is why you will see that there is not just one Barcelona, but several. 

The first traces of population in the area of the city go back to the end of the Neolithic period, between 2000 and 1500 B.C. although the first significant settlements, belonging to the Layetans, an Iberian people, did not appear until the 7th century BC. Later, during the second Punic war, they were conquered by the Carthaginians, themselves overthrown in 218 BC by the Romans who took the city and named it Julia Augusta Paterna Faventia Barcino.

There are other stories which talk about the origin of the name Barcino. One says that the city was founded by Hercules during one of his journeys from Thebes; another version attributes the name of the city to the Carthaginians who named it Barcino in honour of Amilcar Barca, the father of Hannibal. 

The Romans built the city so that the streets ran from the sea to the mountains and they built walls which would protect the population for almost two thousand years, until their demolition in the 19th century. Roman rule lasted for 600 years up to the Barbarian invasions when it was broken by the victory of the Visigoths who turned it into the capital of the Hispanic territories. Later, in the year 716 the Arabs attacked Barcelona led by Al-Hurr. In 801 Ludovicus Pius, the son of Charlemagne reconquered the city, although the Muslim attacks did not stop and in 985 Almanzor troops destroyed a large part of Barcino.

As early as the Middle Ages, under the rule of the Counts of Barcelona, Borrell the Second began to rebuild the city laying the path for a period of great splendour and rapid development, until it became one of the biggest Mediterranean powers in the 13th and 14th centuries, competing with Genoa and Venice. 

From the 15th century, with the marriage of Fernando of Aragon and Isabel of Castile, and the new routes which opened up on the discovery of America, the city became shrouded in decadence. This was the start of a period of great tension between the city, the central government and the Bourbon dynasty of Spain.

Later, from 1640 to 1651 this culminated in the Wars of the Reapers, and later still, from 1706 to 1714 with the War of Succession which meant an end to Catalonia’s national institutions. It lost its autonomous status, the Courts were suppressed and the Catalan government and language were banned. Curiously, Catalonia’s national holiday, known as “La Diada” is on the 11th of September, the day in 1714 when the city fell to the Bourbon troops of Philip V.  

The resurgence of Barcelona came at the end of the 18th century during the reign of Charles III, when the port was reopened for trade with America. In 1775, under a project by Count Ricla, development started on what was to become the most famous walkway in the city: The Ramblas. 

The intense period of industrialisation in the 19th century meant that once again Barcelona became an important political, economic and cultural centre, at the head of the so-called ‘Renaixença’ or romantic revivalist movement. From 1859 the city began to expand. The city walls were pulled down and six outer municipal areas were added including Sants, Gracia and Les Corts, according to the urban plan of Idelfons Cerdà, which unfortunately was not faithfully carried out. Barcelona was also hosted two Universal Exhibitions in 1888 and 1929 which helped to launch the city onto the international scene. 

The 20th century came and the Modernist and Noucentista movements transformed the appearance and life of the city. Barcelona left behind its industrial past to embrace the new cultural vanguards and become a meeting point for experiencing the scientific and artistic advances from Paris and London.  This spirit of “opening up” still impregnates all the city’s activities. However, healthy economic growth was cut short in 1936 with the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War. The city was a focus for internal rebellions and was bombed on several occasions until Franco’s troops finally took control of the city at the end of 1939. 

There followed a period of dictatorship which ended with the death of Francisco Franco. It was with the reestablishment of democracy that Barcelona undertook a series of urban planning initiatives at the end of the 1970s, in which neighbourhoods were revitalised, open spaces recovered and the communications system was reorganised.

The 1992 Olympic Games provided the final impulse for the city to achieve international recognition as a cosmopolitan and cultural capital. The urban planning works carried out for the event enabled Barcelona to gain something rather more valuable than medals: the sea. The seafront was recovered and became one of the most characteristic areas for leisure in the city, and it was been extended northwards for the celebration of the Forum of Cultures in 2004. 

With a little bit of New York, a touch of Paris, and also some of the charm of a small village, Barcelona is one of those cities that you can never really finish getting to know, and it always holds plenty of pleasant surprises. That’s why we want to encourage you to see it without a guidebook, and discover it for yourself. 

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