BarcelonaBarcelona has grown into a prime holiday destination for beach-goers and the culturally interested alike. Shop, leisure, see and be seen on Las Ramblas, the city's famous Boulevard. Barcelona is the political center of Spain's Catalonia region with its own history and cultural heritage. It houses world-class museums and buildings that exemplify the city's diversity, from Mies von der Rohe's "less is more" Barcelona Pavilion to Gaudi's stupendous Sagrada Familia Cathedral.
Barcelona is a vibrant city with a fresh, flavorful cuisine and plenty of little restaurants to enjoy it in overwhelmingly beautiful settings. The place is abundant with street life and culture of all traits and for all tastes. Keep in mind that this is also the home of the FC Barcelona, the favorite football team of many around the Mediterranean. The club's museum is the most visited in the city.
Today Spain's second largest city, Barcelona was an insignificant small town in the Roman Empire. Around BCE 1000, however, the counts of Barcelona gained hegemony over the other counties in the northeast of the Iberian peninsula; thus creating the nucleus of Catalonia. In 1137 the county was united with the Kingdom of Aragon to form the "Crown of Aragon" which was to become the leading power of the Western Mediterranean. Barcelona grew into one of the largest and richest cities of Europe.
In 1469 Ferdinand II. of Aragon married Isabella I. of Castile, thus uniting the two dominating kingdoms of Spain. Now the political center shifted to Castile. Barcelona was at the new realm's periphery. After the War of the Spanish Succession, in 1716 King Philipp V. suppressed all Catalan institutions and charters.
It wasn't until the 19th century that Barcelona flourished again. It was the center of Spanish industrialization, and with the new wealth of the citizens, the arts flourished, too. The Catalan variant of art nouveau, called Modernisme, gave the city a new face; the inimitable architect Antoni Gaudí became its greatest star. Throughout the 20th century Barcelona was home to artists of world renown such as Pablo Picasso, who started his career in the city, Joan Miró, and Antoni Tàpies.