Barcelona – absolutely unique mix of contrasts: both traditional and modern, exciting and laid-back, home of Gaudi and Messi, all at the same time… Such perfect harmony makes the city fascinating enough to draw around 20 million tourists every year!
Surely there is a lot to be said about this super chic city, but I have enjoyed so much in making list of the most fascinating facts I found about Barcelona to make you the coolest person in a group during your next visit:
1. Barceloneta beach is artificial! But not only that…just by walking along, you may also end up on a nudist haven
In fact, there were no beaches in Barcelona till 1992, up until the city decided to host the Olympic games. The seaside was back then completely run over by local industries, but it now has seven beaches, two of which are nudist.
For all newcomers…if you are not a fan of nudity, don’t walk too far down the Barceloneta beach. They are located on the northern end (Mar Bella) and southern end (San Sebastia) beach. But also, seeing a woman without her bikini is very common on any beach in Barcelona, so please keep your eyes to yourself (or not?).
I find it very funny that Barcelona is considered the “best beach city in the world” by National Geographic, but just 30 years ago, no one would have imagined going for a swim or suntanning on this beach, just because there wasn’t one there.
Nowadays this is the most popular place to hang out in the city. You’ll be simply seduced by the great vibe spreading around plenty of charming bars and chilling spots facing the beach.
2. Did you know that La Rambla is far more than one street ?
Barcelona is well known for its most famous street La Rambla, a stunning 2 km long boulevard that runs through the very heart of the city center. But actually, it consists of 5 boulevards – thus known in the plural as Las Ramblas, which is ranging from the main city square “Placa Catalunya” to the “Colombus statue by the waterfront” from where Columbo’s ships sailed into the “New world” discovery.
More than 150,000 people wander around on Las Ramblas streets every day and night, enjoying the variety of street artists’ performances, souvenir shops or just relax with sangria and some tapas. But also, known as a “Pickpocket Capital”, keep a hand on your wallet just to be safe.
3. Would you dare to visit Ghost Metro Stations in the town?
Barcelona’s subway with its 165 stations is the second suburban nationwide, which platforms are used by more than 400 million passengers each year. But did you know there are even 12 abandoned metro stations and they are all hunted! For various reasons, they were never put into service or were closed. The famous ones are Gaudí (L5), Banc (L4), Ferrán (L3), Correos (L4), and Travessera (L3).
Fascinating is that you can still visit some of these stations and many are associated with mysterious stories. For example, if you take Line 2 or 5, take a peek outside your window for a quick look at the Gaudí metro station. This station is located near the Sagrada Familia, built-in 1968 but due to changing metro plans, was never actually opened for use. There are still some tourists who claim to have seen the figure of Antoni Gaudi on this platform awaiting a train. Spooky right?
4. Could you ever guess that the FC Barcelona museum is the most visited museum in Barcelona?
Most probably nobody would! I suppose, your first guess would be Picasso or Gaudi Museum…but that won’t be the right answer. As the most famous sports club in Barcelona, “Barca” attracts a lot of football fans from all over the world.
The museum FC Barcelona has newly been renamed to Camp Nou Experience and so far holds the record for being the most visited museum in Catalonia. Not even Picasso or Dali succeeded in catching the attention of more visitors than the shiny trophies and golden boots of Leo Messi. In 2014, the Museum welcomed its 25 millionth visitor.
5. The most pictured building – Sagrada Familia, but what do we actually know about it?
We are all witnesses that Sagrada Familia is still under construction since 1882, until this day. But did you know that Gaudi was well aware that the project would not be completed in his lifetime, moreover he wasn’t concerned about its competition? In fact, he once said, “My client is not in a hurry”. Maybe that explains why it takes around 10 times longer than the construction of the Great Pyramid of Giza and even 123 years longer than the time required to complete the Taj Mahal.
Did you know that Gaudi is buried there? This is not much of a surprise, as Gaudi has dedicated the latter part of his life to this basilica. His tomb is on the underground level of the building and his grave can be seen only through one window (look down). Make sure you add this to your list for your next visit.
Sagrada Familia attracts over 5 million tourists every year, which is on average two tourists enter the gates every second. Do you now still wonder why is it so crowded?
Antoni Gaudi wasn’t the first person chosen for this project, Francisco Del Vilar has started it. He was a Spanish architect designing a lot of churches in Spain, back then. He had finished building only the crypt when Gaudi took over the responsibility of the construction.
6. Barcelona doesn’t have one or two sites added to the UNESCO World Heritage Site, but nine different masterpieces
As of June 2020. there is a total of 1,121 sites under UNESCO heritage and nine of them are in Barcelona. Even more incredible is that seven of them are the work of Antoni Gaudi. This is the list of all nine masterpieces and I’m sure you will make it a priority while visiting Barcelona next time: Casa Battlo, Casa Mila, Casa Vinces, The crypt of Colonia Guell, Palau Guell, Park Guell, La Sagrada Familia, Hospital De La Creu and Sant Pau, Palau De La musica Catalana.
7. Park Guell is actually a failed attempt of a modern residential community
Did you know that Gaudi was commissioned to create a modern housing estate with even 60 villas away from the city hustle and bustle? After completing a model house (where Gaudi later moved into and today known as a Gaudi House Museum) to showcase the residential complex, nobody showed any interest for them, hence that plan was soon abandoned. By following his own life thought “The straight line belongs to man, the curved one to God”, Gaudi created “A fairytale under the open sky”- how many people call the Park Guell.
If you are planning your visit, make sure you book your ticket online and well in advance. Some areas of the park are open for free but don’t miss out on a chance to sit on the longest bench in the world, made of colorful ceramic tiles.
8. Did you know that Barcelona city is older than Rome?
There are quite a few theories about the origins of Barcelona. Some believe that the city was founded by Hercules, 400 years before Rome was built, but some believe that happened around 230 BC, by the Carthaginian general Hamilcar Barca, father of Hannibal, after which, legend has it, the city was named. Funny enough is that no one really knows…
9. Have you heard that Barcelona is one of the world’s major cities where you can legally smoke cannabis?
The fast-growing number of cannabis clubs in Barcelona making the city a smoker’s haven. If you are intrigued by this, make sure you plan a trip to Barcelona in early March and of course check out Spannabis, the biggest annual cannabis exhibition in Europe.
But don’t get too excited, as these “Asociaciones Cannabicos” are only intended for Spanish residents, and getting a membership is not the easiest.
Now, it’s not all about the cannabis story…Just recently someone has noticed that the base of the Columbus monument is richly decorated with cannabis leaves and here it goes a question… Was Columbo the first person to smuggle the plant to America? Was a huge amount of hemp stored onboard used to make ropes or was it used by sailors for pure enjoyment? Whatever is the case, without the natural fiber made of cannabis he would have never discovered the New World. So for that, we should sure thank him.
10. Eiffel Tower could have been seen in Barcelona instead
Believe it or not, the Eiffel Tower was originally supposed to be in Barcelona, but the city rejected Gustave Eiffel’s plans. The main reason for that was that the project was called too “radical” and didn’t fit the city’s aesthetic. Thus this world’s famous tower has found its place in Paris.
Well now that you know some of Barcelona’s most interesting facts, make sure you drop them into a conversation among your friends/family and add them to a must-see list during your next visit to the city.
If you know of any interesting facts about Barcelona, please share them below in the comments.
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