The city of Barcelona is slightly over 90 km2 in area, and has a population of
1,700,000 inhabitants. It is the centre of a large Metropolitan Area which has
over three million inhabitants. Over two thousands years old, Barcelona is the
capital of the historic nation of Catalonia.
There is not just one Barcelona, but several. The old city (Ciutat Vella) offers the visitor a wide range of routes to follow and reconstruct the history of Barcelona by starting at the Roman walls, moving to the medieval streets of the Gothic Quarter and going to the popular promenade know as La Rambla. From there you can discover the architectural and decorative models of the Modernism, with many works of Antoni Gaudi such as the Sagrada Familia.
Barcelona is a city fomous for its cultural tradition. The city has over twenty museums, covering all aspects of art and culture. The best known are the National Museum of Art of Catalonia with one of the major collections of Romanesque and Gothic art, the Museum of Historic Art, the Picasso Museum, the Mirˇ Foundation and the TÓpies Foundation. The Science Museum also presents a wideranging display of scientific and technological advances.
Besides some major art show rooms, most musical events take place in two large venues: the Palau de la M˙sica Catalana, a real modernist gem, and the Gran Teatre del Liceu, which is a leading opera house, currently in reconstruction after its burning. Many stage troupes and actors in Barcelona are the best in Spain, and achieve international acclaim. A glance at the programme of cultural and entertainment events published in the Barcelona daily newspapers is the best way of keeping abreast of what is in the city.
For thousands year Barcelona has had a strong trading tradiction. You can buy all kinds of goods in Barcelona. Althought purchasses can be made all over the city, there are certain particular shopping areas such as the Avinguda Diagonal, the whole Eixample, the old town...
More information on Barcelona can be found in the following Web sites:
The Catalonian landscape is very varied. The Pyrenee mountains contrast strongly with the coastal regions, although the pleasant environmental quality is generalised. Catalonia is a very pleasant country to live in. One look at life expectancy figures shows that the Catalans are among the longest living in the world. Their secret is a combination of good environmental conditions, a healthy diet, good health and social services and a life style in which, despite the hard work, one always finds time for leisure.
The Catalans have always placed a high value on work and have distinguished themselves with their capacity for improvisation. This has allowed Catalonia to grow into a solidly structured country, with a well developed civil society and an active work culture.
More information on Catalonia can be found in the following Web sites:
Catalonia's festivals and traditions unify Catalan society and help to give it
its particular character. Amongst the most striking of festive events are the
"correfocs", in which devils play with fire and with the people. These devils
are not the incarnation of evil; they are sprightly and festive, dancing to the
sound of the tambour and the traditional oboe, while they set off their
But perhaps the most spectacular of the Catalan festivals are those of the "colles castelleres", groups of enthusiasts who form impressive human towers. This is an old tradition of the Tarragona region, which has now spread to many parts of Catalonia, and has become a real spectacle, or sport, that attracts thousands of Catalans. Amongst other important festivities are the carnival in Vilanova i la Geltr˙ and the Patum in Berga.
Then, there is the very special music of the cobles, the wind bands that play "sardanas". The sardana is a circular, open dance, that originated in the north of the country, and is now danced in many squares and streets. Anyone can join in.
Language. Catalan is the native language of Catalonia. It is a Romance language derived from the Latin spoken in this area, which was occupied by the Romans in the 3rd century BC. The first texts to be written in Catalan date back to the 12th century AD.
Catalan has survived some difficult historical periods, particularly the 40 years of the Franco dictatorship, under which the language was officially banned and restricted to private use.
The Linguistic Normalization Law, passed in 1983, made it possible to speed up the process of recuperating the Catalan language. Since then, the Generalitat of Catalonia (Catalan government) has ensured the use of Catalan in all public fields.
Today 93.8% of the population of Catalonia speak Catalan, 68.3% can speak it and 67.6% can write it. Catalan is also spoken in a large part of the region of ValŔncia, the Balearic Islands, the part of Catalonia under French administration and the town of L'Alguer (on the island of Sardinia).
More information can be found in Where are you from? a Web designed to clear up any doubts you might have about the sociolinguistic situation at UPC and in the catalan language pages of the Generalitat.
Arts. Traditionally Catalonia and her people have taken keen interest in the cultivation of the arts. There are many Catalan artists who have been highly successful and are recognised all around the world.
Painters such as Salvador DalÝ, Joan Mirˇ or Antoni TÓpies, singers such as Josep Carreras, Jaume Aragall, Joan Pons, Montserrat CaballÚ, musicians such as Robert Gerhard, Enric Granados, Francesc TÓrrega, Ferran Sors, Jordi Savall, acclaimed architects such as Josep Maria Sert, Oriol Bohigas or Ricard Bofill, theatre companies such as El Tricicle, La Fura dels Baus, the Comediants or Josep Maria Flotats, the former director of the Teatre Nacional de Catalunya, popular singers such as LluÝs Llach, Joan Manuel Serrat, Maria del Mar Bonet or Raimon provide a small sample of the artistic activities of Catalans of the past and present. Many of these have become veritable ambassadors of their country wherever they have gone. This was the case with the outstanding'cellist Pau Casals who, at one of the worst moments in Catalonia's national life, addressed the General Assembly of the United Nations to reaffirm his nationality and the desire of all Catalans for national redress. The admirable work of Jordi Savall, both as conductor and instrumentalist, should also be mentioned.
Because of this relationship with the Catalan language, Catalan literature is a very special aspect of the national culture. Many important works are written in Catalan, and increasingly these are appearing in translation in other languages. Since the Middle Ages, Catalan literature has been able to boast authors of outstanding significance, such as the mediaeval writers Ramon Llull, AusiÓs Marc anb Joanot Martorell, or Salvador Espriu and MercŔ Rodoreda in the 20th century.
Gastronomy. Catalan cooking is above all a gastronomic version of the famous Mediterranean diet. Therefore, it combines a very special quality with healthy eating. Notable is fish on its own, or in a multitude of more complex dishes such as suquet, or in combination with rice. Rice is the basis of a number of gastronomic delights such as arr˛s a banda or "arr˛s negre", which are other examples of seafood dishes.
Vegetables are another crucial component, either raw in several sorts of traditional salad, or cooked, as in espinacs a la catalana (spinach), escalivada (red peppers and aubergines) or "samfaina" (peppers, tomato, onion and garlic). The calšotada. One of the typical vegetables of the country, calšots, spring onions grilled over hot embersis the centre of festive gatherings spent in the countryside, at which the main event is the meal.
Meat also plays an important role, with Catalan beef being exported all over Europe, as well as pork products.
Sports. When, on 25 July 1992, the archer Antonio Rebollo released his arrow to start the Barcelona Olympic Games, that arrow had behind it the force of the whole of Catalan sport, of thousands of small sports clubs which, together with the whole of the people of Catalonia, had turned the dream into reality. It was the moment of recognition for the efforts of generations of Catalans who had worked for sport and culture. It was the logical outcome of the recognition afforded by the International Olympic Committee in 1923, when they awarded the Olympic Cup.
Of all the innumerable local sports clubs and associations, by far the most important is the Futbol Club de Barcelona, with over 100,000 members and sections for numerous sports. It is one of the world's leading sporting bodies.
In recent years, interest in adventure sports has been growing all over the world. Because of its geographical situation, with many mountains and many rivers with rapids, is an ideal place for the practice of many of these new sports. The Pyrenees has become a centre for sports such as white-water rafting or hang-gliding. At the seaside, water-scooters, windsurfing and other water sports are popular.
Casinos. For those that want to challenge randomness and gamble a bit, some casinos are near the city of Barcelona :-)
Last updated: May 1998