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About Barcelona

Just decades ago, few tourists would have considered visiting the northern Spanish city of Barcelona. However, this once rather rundown industrial centre, which seemed to have little to offer, has undergone a seismic change that culminated in the hosting of the Olympic Games in 1992, an event which completely transformed Barcelona. As well as a string of purpose built sporting developments springing up all over the city – with the epicentre on the slopes of Montjuïc – Barcelona also benefited from major investments, which saw the face of the city dramatically transform.

Barcelona has since become something of a Mecca for the world’s top architects, who have flocked here to conjure up an array of modern structures and avant-garde designs. Many have drawn their inspiration from the seminal work of Barcelona’s most famous son, the modernist architect, Antoni Gaudi, whose unique style can still be savoured in a number of key buildings around the city. His masterpiece is the unfinished Sagrada Familia cathedral but his work can be seen even in the lampposts and fountains of Plaça Reial. Fortunately, the rush of new construction has not completely dwarfed the older buildings, as the old and new architectural styles harmoniously combine. Barcelona is the kind of city where a contemporary glass and steel office block can rest happily within striking distance of a gothic cathedral, a city where the old port has been rejuvenated without losing any of its charm.

As the capital of Catalunya, the city is also solidifying its position as a major regional economic power, tucked, as it is, strategically close to the French border and with a wide Mediterranean coastline. Its key industries include manufacture, textiles, electronics and tourism – in 2001, Catalunya received 10,115,516 visitors from a total of 49,519,408 throughout Spain. The economy of Barcelona has been steadily expanding during the past decade and although it contains just 4% of the Spanish population, the city contributes 8% to the country’s GDP. The locals are very aware of the city’s potential and a strong desire still remains among some to create an independent Catalan state with Barcelona at its helm, instead of the current Spanish set up, where Barcelona plays second fiddle in political terms to Madrid. Some observers believe that the desire for outright independence has waned since the death of General Franco and the granting of a greater deal of autonomy to the region. Nevertheless, in the bars and cafés of the city, the patriotic feelings still remain strong. Nowhere is this proud drive for greater self-determination more evocative than at Camp Nou, the home of Barcelona FC – one of Europe’s greatest football teams – when a capacity 120,000 crowd pulsates to a rousing victory over arch rivals Real Madrid.

With a balmy year round climate – not too steamily hot in summer and with few genuinely cold days in winter – it is not surprising that Barcelona is attracting an increasing number of visitors. Indeed, with cheap air travel becoming more popular, Barcelona has entered the millennium as one of Europe’s most popular short break destinations.



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