Before you travel to the land of Gaudi’s magical modernist architecture, endless plates of tapas, and one of the world’s most famous soccer teams, read up on a few interesting facts about one of our great global cities: Barcelona!
Barcelona has nine UNESCO World Heritage sites, seven of which are the work of the city’s most famous modernist architect Antoni Gaudi. It is also the only city in the world awarded a Royal Gold Medal for Architecture by the Royal Institute of British Architects.
Don’t be surprised if you are wandering the city streets and come across a human tower reaching up to nine levels high! The tradition of building castells dates back to the 18th Century and is now recognized on UNESCO’s Intangible World Heritage list.
3. GREEN SPACE
Barcelona has the largest park in Spain—Montjuïc—with 500 acres. It overlooks the harbor from the top of a hill. 10% of the city is parkland, split over 68 different green spaces. Parc de Collserola is the world’s largest metropolitan park —22 times larger than NYC’s Central Park.
Barcelona has 55 museums, many covering typical topics, but some that are out of the ordinary: the only funeral carriages museum in Europe, a Lego museum, and a chocolate museum with cocoa versions of the city’s famous architecture. Its most frequented of all? FC Barcelona’s museum, dedicated to the beloved soccer team.
5. APRIL 23
Día de Sant Jordi (Saint George’s Day) and Día del Libro (The Day of the Book) coincide on April 23, which is similar to our Valentine’s Day. It is celebrated by friends or lovers with an exchange of roses and books. Speaking of World Book Day, did you know Barcelona is also a UNESCO City of Literature?
6. LA SAGRADA FAMILIA
One of the UNESCO World Heritage sites, La Sagrada Familia has been in progress for 200 years and is taking longer to build than the Great Pyramids which took only 20 years using ancient tools. There’s an estimated completion date for 2026. While the building is well known as Antoni Gaudi’s, he was not the first architect to work on it; that honor goes to Francisco de Paula del Villar.
In 2005, Spain became the 4th country in the world to legalize gay marriage. The city also adopted an anti-homophobia law in 2014. It’s considered one of the most LBGT-friendly cities in the world with a vibrant scene, especially around L'Eixample and Gràcia, and a popular Pride festival that happens in June.
Before hosting the 1992 Olympics, Barcelona’s coastline was overrun by industry. It was relocated to create new leisure space for visitors. Sand was then imported from Egypt to spread along the coast to make the sunny beaches that line the mediterranean now. All of them have been awarded a blue flag for excellent water quality and services.
While perhaps not quite as popular as in some other areas of Spain, tapas are an important part of Spanish culture wherever you go and sharing small plates of food is a common way to eat. In Barcelona, try pan con tomate, patatas bravas, chipirones, or croquetas. If it’s the type of place where napkins are tossed on the floor, the more the better.
Barcelona has two official languages: Catalan and Spanish. Catalan has been banned or repressed many times over its long history, but is still spoken by about 9 million people today. It has six dialects with Central Catalan spoken in Barcelona, and has more in common with French and Italian than it does with Spanish.
If you find these 10 facts interesting, imagine what else you'll learn about Barcelona by studying abroad there.