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about Barcelona

Barcelona is the capital of Catalonia, an autonomous region in the northeastern Spain (41º 23' N, 2º 11' E). It is in the comarca of Barcelonès. It is also the largest city of Spain after Madrid. Barcelona is located on the Mediterranean coast, between the mouths of the rivers Llobregat and Besòs, 160 km south of the Pyrenees mountain range, the border with France. As of the 2003 census, the population of the city of Barcelona was 1,582,738, and the population of the entire urban area was estimated to be 4,667,136.

Barcelona geography

To its north the city borders the River Besòs and the municipalities of Santa Coloma de Gramenet and Sant Adrià de Besòs; to the south it borders the Zona Franca, L'Hospitalet de Llobregat and Esplugues de Llobregat; to the east is the Mediterranean; and to the west Montcada i Reixach and Sant Cugat del Vallès.

Barcelona is divided into several districts; the following list favors Catalan-language names, rather than Spanish-language names; as of 2004, they are the most commonly used and the only official ones:

Barcelona sights

Barcelona offers a unique opportunity for the tourist on foot to walk from Roman remains to the medieval city, and then to the modern city with its open thoroughfares and grid-iron street pattern. The historic city center is fairly flat, while the modern city fans out towards the surrounding hills, bordered by steep streets that are vaguely reminiscent of those found in San Francisco.

A notable feature is La Rambla - a boulevard that runs from the city center to the waterfront, thronged with crowds until late at night and lined by florists, bird sellers, street entertainers, thieves, cafeterias, and restaurants. Walking along La Rambla one can, the food market of La Boqueria and the Plaça Reial (literally Royal square), with its arches and palm trees, amongst other interesting buildings. It is also worth keeping an eye out for pickpockets, for whom the boulevard is a favourite haunt. Visitors should also be aware that smack-heads in Plaça Reial who offer "chocolate" to passers-by are in fact selling hashish.

La Rambla ends at the old harbour, where a statue of Christopher Columbus points eastwards across the Mediterranean Sea to his birth place of Genoa.

Next to it is the Museu Marítim (naval museum), which chronicles the history of life on the Mediterranean, including a full-scale model of a galley. The buildings of the museum are the medieval Drassanes (shipyards), where the ships which sailed the Mediterranean were built. The old harbour offers all kinds of other amenities, including the largest Aquarium on the Mediterranean.

To the north of downtown is the Parc de la Ciutadella, which includes both the Parlament de Catalunya (Catalan Parliament) and the Parc Zoològic de Barcelona (zoo). One of Barcelona's most famous residents, the late albino gorilla Floquet de Neu ("Snowflake"), lived (and died) at the zoo. The park also contains science museums.

Outstanding is the legacy of architect Antoni Gaudí, who lived and worked in Barcelona, and who left several famous works like the Palau Güell in the city's old center, the Parc Güell at the northern tip of Gràcia, and the immense but still unfinished church of the Sagrada Família, which has been under construction since 1882, financed by popular donations like the cathedrals in the Middle Ages (However, it is not a cathedral: the cathedral of Barcelona is the Cathedral of Santa Eulàlia, a Gothic building of the late Middle Ages). The Sagrada Familia is billed for completion in 2020.

Another very notable modernist building in the older part of the city is the Palau de la Música Catalana, designed by Lluís Domènech i Montaner and built in 1908.

Art visits include the museum of the Joan Miró Foundation, where several paintings and sculptures of this artist are shown, together with guest exhibitions from other museums around the world. There is also a unique museum featuring the lesser known works of Pablo Picasso from his earlier period. The National Museum of Art of Catalonia (in the Palau Nacional left behind by the 1929 Ibero-American Exposition) possesses a well-known collection of Romanesque art, including wall-paintings of Romanesque churches and chapels around Catalonia that have been transferred to the museum. The Contemporary Art Museum is also worth a visit, not only because of its paintings and sculptures, but because of its architecture. The building was designed by the American architect Richard Meier. Visitors should note that the opening times of Barcelona's museums vary considerably and are often highly inconvenient - careful planning is recommended to avoid wasted trips.

In the modern districts of the city are several avenues on which most of the international merchants of clothing, jewelry, leather goods and other items have their stores. The most elegant avenue is the Passeig de Gràcia, where two Gaudí buildings are situated, the Casa Milà (La Pedrera) and the Casa Batlló, along with buildings by other famous modernista architects: Casa Ametller by Josep Puig i Cadafalch and Casa Lleó Morera by Domènech i Montaner. In recent years, office developments along Passeig de Gràcia have been allowed to break up the architectural unity of the 19th and early 20th century buildings lining the avenue - a process which shows no signs of slackening.

For spectacular views over the city and the coast line there are two hills. One, Montjuïc hill, is next to the harbour and perched above a large container terminal. On its top is an old fortress which used to guard the entrance to the port. Around the hill are the Olympic Stadium, the Sports Palace, the latter designed by Japanese architect Arata Isozaki, and the Botanical Gardens. Uptown is the hill of the Tibidabo, over 500 meters high, with an amusement park and a monumental church on its summit. The church mosaics provide a curious example of Nationalist Catholic art, much in vogue during the dictatorship.

Barcelona history

Legend attributes the Carthaginian foundation of Barcino to Hamilcar Barca, father of Hannibal. Later on, Romans redrew the town as a castrum (a Roman military camp) centered on the Mons Taber, a little hill nearby the contemporary city hall (Plaça de Sant Jaume). This planning is still visible today on the map of the historical center and the remaining fragments of the Roman walls. Important Roman remains are exposed under the Plaça del Rei, entrance by the city museum, Museu d'Història de la Ciutat. The city was conquered by the Visigoths in the 5th century, by the Moors in the 8th century, reconquered in 801 by the Frankish kings, and sacked by Al-Mansur in 985.

Barcelona became a Frankish county, which eventually became independent and expanded to include the Principate of Catalonia, later formed the Kingdom of Aragon who conquered many overseas possessions, ruling the Mediterranean Sea from Barcelona to Athens. The forging of a dynastic link between the Catalonia-Aragon Confederation and Castile marked the beginning of Barcelona's decline. This legacy exists to this day as evidenced by the fact that the city (and Catalonia as a whole) still has a substantial proportion of people whose first language is Castilian.

The city was devastated after the Catalonian Republic of 1640 - 1652, and again during the War of the Spanish Succession in 1714. King Philip V demolished half of the merchants' quarter (La Ribera) to build a military citadel as a way of both punishing and controlling the rebel city.

During the 19th century, Barcelona grew with the industrial revolution and the introduction of many new industries. During a period of weaker control by the Madrid authorities, the medieval walls were torn down and the citadel of La Ribera was converted into an urban park: the modern Parc de la Ciutadella, site of the 1888 "Universal Exposition" (World's Fair). The exposition also left behind the Arc de Triomf and the Museu de Zoologia (a building originally used during the fair as a cafe-restaurant). The fields that had surrounded the artificially constricted city became the Eixample ("extension"), a bustling modern city surrounding the old.

The beginning of the 20th century marked Barcelona's resurgence as Catalans clamoured for political autonomy and greater freedom of cultural expression.

Barcelona was a stronghold for the anarchist cause, siding with the Republic's democratically elected government during the Spanish Civil War (1936-39). It was overrun by Franco's forces in 1939, which ushered in a reign of cultural and political repression that lasted decades. The protest movement of the 1970s and the demise of the dictatorship turned Barcelona into a centre of cultural vitality, enabling it to become the thriving city it is today. While it may still be the second city of Spain, it has a charm and air that is unique and prized. A decline in the inner city population and displacement towards the outskirts and beyond raises the threat of urban sprawl.

The city has been the focus of the revival of the Catalan language. Despite the immigration of Castilian speakers from other parts of Spain during the Franco dictaorship for political and economic reasons to Barcelona, there has been notable success in the increased use of Catalan in everyday life.

Barcelona was the site of the 1992 Summer Olympics. The city's controversial Forum of Cultures was held between May and September 2004, lasting a marathon 141 days.

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This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Barcelona".

This city is also known as: Barcelona.

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