The top 10 cultural and historical tours in Barcelona
Whether you are visiting Barcelona for the first time or you are a regular visitor, you will never tire of the vast range of cultural and historical tours on offer in this vibrant city. Some of the best places to visit on a guided tour include:
- Barri Gotic
The tightly packed maze of narrow streets and alleyways of Barcelona's Ciutat Vella (Old City), bordered by Las Ramblas, the Ciutadella Park, Placa Catalunya and the sea, was once enclosed by medieval city walls and, until the massive building boom of the Eixample, 150 years ago, comprised the entire city. Its crowning glory, the Cathedral, is surrounded by former residences of the counts of Barcelona and the Kings of Catalonia and Aragon.
- La Boqueria Market
La Boqueria is the best and the busiest food market in Barcelona. Always bustling with local shoppers, restaurateurs, gourmands and tourists, no trip to the city is complete without a stroll around here. Its cavernous market hall (best entered through an imposing wrought iron entrance-way halfway up Las Ramblas) was built in the 1830s to house the food stalls that cluttered Las Ramblas and surrounding streets.
- The Columbus Monument
This vast monument, commemorating the return of Christopher Columbus to Barcelona in 1493 from his first trip to the Americas, stands outside the naval headquarters of Catalonia, at the seaward end of the Ramblas. It was designed by Gaieta Buigas for the Universal Exposition of 1888, with Columbus standing at the top of a column 50m (164ft) high, pointing out to sea towards Italy Take the lift to the top for breathtaking bird’s-eye views of the harbour front.
- The Art Museum
The Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art focuses on the art movements of the second half of the 20th century. The building, itself a work of art, was designed by the American architect Richard Meier. It has been the subject of much controversy but is increasingly being included as one of Barcelona's must-see attractions.
- Frederic Mares Museum
This museum was founded by local artist Frederic Mares, Spain's most prolific collector, in 1946. The entrance is via a beautiful medieval courtyard, which was once part of the Royal Palace of the Kings and Queens of Catalonia and Aragon. The museum itself is divided into three main sections: Roman artefacts in the basement, the sculpture collection on the first floor and the Sentimental Museum on the other floors, which portrays daily life from the 15th to 20th centuries.
- The City History Museum
The City History Museum is divided into several sections in various locations around the Placa del Rei. To start, visitors can familiarize themselves with the earliest origins of the city by wandering around along the underground walkways beneath the square, which explore a vast area of excavations that have exposed evidence of the ancient Roman settlement of Barcino.
- The Palau Gell
This stunning building, constructed between 1886 and 1888 and declared a World Cultural Heritage site by UNESCO, was Antoni Gaudi's first major architectural project, commissioned by the Guell family. The facade is particularly striking, with its twin arches leading into the central vestibule. Off the latter are various rooms decorated with Modernista fittings.
- The Placa de Catalunya
The Placa de Catalunya is the heart of Barcelona and the hub of the city's transport system. It was first landscaped at the end of the 19th century and became of major importance as the pivotal point between the old and new city: the Barri Gotic to the east, the Eixample district to the north and west, and, to the southeast, Las Ramblas.
- Placa del Rei
The charming King's Square was once a bustling medieval marketplace. Today, it forms a frequent backdrop to summer open-air concerts and theatrical events, especially during the Grec festival, and is the location of the City History Museum, a huge section of which is housed in the Palau Reial Major (Great Royal Palace), former residence of the Counts of Barcelona.
- The Placa Reial
This sunny porticoed square, just off Las Ramblas, with its tall palm trees, decorative fountain and buskers was constructed in 1848. Some of the facades are decorated with terracotta reliefs of navigators and the discoverers of America, and the two tree-like central lampposts mark Gaudi's first commission in Barcelona. The pretty central fountain was inspired by the Three Graces. If you are planning a trip to Barcelona, book a cultural, historical or city tour before you arrive to save time when you arrive in this beautiful city.