While history indicates that the Iberian Laietani tribe may have first inhabited this area, the earliest records show that Barcelona began life when it was founded by the Phoenicians and the Carthaginians. They christened their newest acquisition Barcino after one of their esteemed rulers who was known as Hamilcar Barca, and they held onto their prize until the Romans arrived and occupied the city between 15 and 13 BC. The Romans were so proud of this particular conquest that they named Barcelona the capital of the region in the third century, and the Roman influence can still be felt and seen today thanks to the remains of underground stone corridors, ancient city walls and massive temple columns. The city was used by the Romans mainly as an army base and a stopover for many of their trade routes.

After the Romans, Barcelona was occupied by the Visigoths in the 5th century AD, followed shortly by the Moors in the 8th century. Because of the city’s location by the sea, Barcelona was considered worthwhile invading, and throughout the 10th century the city was one of the most important areas in the Mediterranean. Around this time, the entire region was divided into counties, and the county of Barcelona was considered the most important by far.

In the year 988, Count Borrell II secured the county of Barcelona's independence from the Carolingian empire. He then expanded the entire region, and it later became known as Catalonia. In the 18th century however, this growth and success came to an end. The independence of the region of Catalonia was compromised as a result of who they supported in the War of Spanish Succession and the city began to decline as a result of its marginalisation. It was not until the end of the 19th century that Barcelona regained its former glory. During this time, several walls in the city were demolished and removed so that the surrounding villages could be added to the city. The economy grew and prosperity returned to Barcelona. However, this elation was short lived. In 1935 the Spanish Civil War partially destroyed the city and it became used mainly for industrial purposes.

In the 1960’s, Barcelona became a tourist attraction, the arrival of tourists creating more employment and growing the economy once more. But it wasn’t until the country’s dictator Franco died, that Barcelona’s locals truly felt free. With his death bought the end of the suppression of the citizens of Catalonia and their culture, allowing the city to grow into the vibrant metropolis that it is today.

The real beauty of Barcelona lies in the treasures left behind from each of these periods in history. Those visiting today will find themselves enriched by history that goes far beyond the vast Roman ruins and the Gothic churches. You'll also be transported back through the ages by way of the many majestic cathedrals that are straight out of the 14th century, which include the Cathedral La Seu. Incredible plazas and masterpieces in sculpture may still be seen throughout the city, and the many one-of-a-kind architectural creations by Gaudi, which include the Casa Mila, the Casa Battlo and the Palau Guell, are not to be missed.

Antoni Gaudí

When you think of Barcelona, you think of the city’s incredible architecture, and Antoni Gaudí is a part of that architecture. Gaudí was born in 1852 and lived until 1916. Within his lifetime, the architect made many striking and revolutionary pieces, both small and large, around the city. The city of Barcelona was his canvas: a place where he could give homage to his creativity. One of the most famous architectural pieces by Gaudí is La Sagrada Família, a stunning basilica which has since become the emblem of Barcelona. The construction of this church is still in full swing and isn’t expected to be completed until 2026…

Parc Guell and Tibidabo


1. Sagrada Familia

La Sagrada Familia is the most popular attractions in Barcelona, attracting nearly 2.8 million visitors each year. Construction began in 1882 and continues through today, making it the largest unfinished Catholic church in the world. Antoni Gaudi took over as architect the following year and worked on it until his death in 1926. It’s just over 70 percent finished now. Current architects are following Gaudi’s design, which is based on Gothic and Byzantine styles, with 18 towers of varying heights, each dedicated to a different biblical figure. Visitors will be captivated by the design elements and the religious symbolism built into all the spaces of the church. The church was consecrated in 2010, allowing services to be held onsite.

2. Gothic Quater

It is located in the oldest part of Old Town Barcelona. Some say the quarter dates back 2,000 years, but what travelers will see today isn’t that old: a maze of narrow streets flanked by buildings from medieval times to the 19th century. Travelers will see the Jewish Quarter, considered the Gothic Quarter’s prettiest section; walk the paths where a young Picasso went to school; eat at Can Culleretes, the oldest restaurant in Barcelona, dating to 1796, and shop at the colorful Boqueria market.

3. La Boqueria Market

Foodies may think they have died and gone to heaven when they visit La Boqueria Market, a colorful market in the old town. Located just off La Rambla (This is probably the city’s most famous street and is a bustling hive of activity), the market dates back to 1297 when meat was sold at the city gates. More than meat is sold there today. There is an array of foods, from farm-fresh produce, seafood, spices and candies being sold by more than 200 stalls. Buy the fixings’ for a picnic lunch or eat at one of the many restaurants before continuing sightseeing.

4. Parc Guell

With other major works in the city including La Casa Batlló and La Pedrera, this has to be one of Antoni Gaudí’s most celebrated and it is certainly one of the most emblematic of Barcelona. The area was originally meant to be a residential property development with Gaudi doing much of the planning and landscape design. Only two houses were built and the land was later sold to the city of Barcelona and turned into a park. It is home to the famous Salamander sculpture, as well as other buildings and structures designed by the architect. With stunning views of the city, this is a magical experience. 2. La Rambla. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

5. Casa Mila

Built between the years 1906 and 1910, Casa Milà (La Pedrera) was the last civil work designed by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi. The colorful building is considered one of the artist’s most eccentric and enticing architectural creations with not one straight edge on the exterior. Tours of the interior and the incredible roof structures are available. It also hosts a large exposition of Gaudi works, covering Sagrada Familia and Casa Batlio, not only La Pedrera itself.

6. Tibidabo

Travelers who want panoramic views should go to the top of Tibidabo, at 512 meters (1,880 feet) high the highest mountain overlooking Barcelona. The easiest way to get there is via Spain’s first funicular. But there’s more than just stunning views on this mountain top. There’s the Sagra Cor church that took 60 years to build and is topped with a sculpture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Sharing space with this impressive church are an amusement park and a telecommunications tower. All three are visible from Barcelona below.

Sagrada Familia

Gothic Quater

Parc Guell