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Interesting facts about Barcelona

Ben Gibson spends a day in Barcelona, Spain’s most dynamic city, which is visited throughout the year on Saga ocean cruises.

The vivacious city of Barcelona in Costa Brava is such a welcome addition to the Saga's cruises to Spain, that most of the cruises to the Mediterranean include a visit here.

One of Europe's most captivating cities

Barcelona's waterfront

Although the sun shines virtually all-year round, it’s during these summer months that Barcelona gives off its infectious party atmosphere, abuzz with carnival festivities. This, combined with spectacular Mediterranean scenery, whitewashed Modernist architecture, elegant boulevards and a thriving cafe culture, make it one of Europe’s most captivating cities.

It’s quite surprising to learn just how old Barcelona is. Said to be founded by Hercules, we know for sure that the Romans settled here in 15BC, using it as a military camp and colony (they called it Faventia).

A proud history

Barcelona's Sagrada Familia

For the next two millennia it built up under various influences, including the Christians, Visigoths and Moors, who converted the city’s cathedral into a mosque. More recently Barcelona was ruled by the Spanish monarchy, and of course Franco, whose right-wing dictatorship took over the whole of Spain following civil war. These struggles seem to be lifetimes away from the city as it stands today, and in a way they are. The Barcelonins are rightly proud of their city, as they should be – a recent survey placed it behind only New York, Paris and Amsterdam as the world’s top city-break.

Famous artists

Gaudi's fantastical art in Barcelonat

Barcelona has also been home to many famous artists including Pablo Picasso, Joan Miró and the eccentric architect Antoni Gaudi, and many of their works are now symbols of the city. Wherever you go you are sure to come across Gaudi’s striking creations: his beautifully-coloured buildings almost seem to sprout organically from the ground. The home-grown talent is also celebrated with several world-class galleries and museums, most of which are reasonably priced, air conditioned, and a fantastic escape for an hour or two.

Explore outside the city

The impressive Montserrat Abbey

You could argue that a day in port here just isn’t enough – but Saga’s comprehensive range of optional shore excursions prove there is just so much in this city to see and do, even if you only have a few hours spare. From a tour that goes in search of the city’s greatest artistic treasures, to a trip around the Old Quarter and famed Park Güell, there is much to choose from. Other options include a more relaxing coach amble around the city, or even a ‘rack train’ ascent to the summit of Montserrat Mountain, proving that when stepping ashore in Barcelona for just one day, the possibilities really are endless.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.