Barcelona in Spain
After a makeover lasting more than two decades, Barcelona has transformed itself into one of the most dynamic and stylish cities in the world. Summer is serious party time, but year-round the city sizzles-it's always on the biting edge of architecture, food, fashion, style, music and good times. Read more...
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After a makeover lasting more than two decades, Barcelona has transformed itself into one of the most dynamic and stylish cities in the world. Summer is serious party time, but year-round the city sizzles-it's always on the biting edge of architecture, food, fashion, style, music and good times.
Barcelona International Airport
Barcelona International Airport, from 2011 officially called Barcelona-El Prat, is a major transport hub and fields flights from all over Europe and beyond.
Terminals: There are two terminals, Terminal T1 and Terminal T2 (T2A, T2B and T2C).
At Terminal T1 operates airlines members of different Alliances (One World, Star Alliance, Sky Team), Barcelona-based airlines and transoceanic flights. In that terminal, the most important airlines are: Vueling.com, Iberia, Air Europa, Air Berlin, KLM, Swiss, Air France, Singapore Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Airlines, US Airways, Aeroflot...
At Terminal T2 there are low-cost airlines and non-allianced airlines that haven't many flights to Barcelona. Terminal T2C is only operated by EasyJet. At Terminal T2B there are airlines like Ryanair, Air Transat (in summer vacation season) and others. Terminal T2A is usually used by airlines that connect Barcelona-El Prat with non-European destinations and aren't part of an Alliance like Jet4you or Transaero.
Transfer to/from the airport: The airport is only about 10 km away from the city center. Taxis are frequently available although they can be costly, The minimum fare is 20€. A cheaper and often faster option is the half-hourly RENFE train calling at Sants (20 minutes), Passeig de Gràcia (25 minutes) and El Clot-Aragó in the city centre, from there the train is on line R2 nord that is going to Granollers-Centre and Sant Celoni. A single ticket is about €3.60, but an under-advertised fact is that you can use the T-10 ticket (€9.25 for ten trips, including all bus and metro transfers made within 75 minutes) instead. You can buy a T-10 from the ticket vending machine at the airport station.
Alternatively, the Aerobús A1 line stops at Terminal T1 and Aerobús A2 at Terminal T2 between Terminal T2A and Terminal T2B or at Terminal T2C and travels along Gran Via to Plaça Catalunya. Buses depart every 5-10 minutes, the published journey time is 35 minutes (although can take considerably longer during rush hour) and costs €5.65 one-way and €9.75 a return ticket. Buses are heavily air-conditioned in summer: have something extra to wear during the journey. Aerobuses stop running at midnight, but you can catch a Nit Bus night bus service instead line N17 and you can pay a single ticket €2.00 or use your T-10 card (see train connection for more info about it).
Duty-free shops. Open from 6/6:30am to 9:30pm (few to 10pm). Shops are numerous and some are hard to find elsewhere in the city. Most shops are before the passport control; only one or two are afterwards.
Tax-free shopping refund. Office closes at 10pm without compromises. After that time checks can be only processed by mail: complete your tax-free forms with your passport data and addresses, stamp them with the custom office (a window next to arrivals gate door; they don't ask to see your purchases); put them into envelope you were given in the shop--and wait for several months.
Cafes, pre-security check. Limited options, and sub-standard fare.
Cafes, post-security check. Numerous options, all close something between 10pm and 11pm.
Parking: Costs €1.35/hour, €9.45/day, €6.75/day from the 6th day. (Old prices)
Luggage lockers: Baggage storage is €4.60 per day for a large locker that easily fits 2-3 serious suitcases. Left-hand end of Terminal B, behind the Ars cafe.
Departure gates: Poorly conditioned at ground level (at least gate #57, sector A, after 11pm).
WiFi: Available throughout the airport, operated by KubiWireless http://www.kubiwireless.com/: €7.5 for 45min, €9 for 1 hour, €15 for 24 hours.
Some low-cost carriers, notably Ryanair, use the airports in Girona, nearly 100km to the north, or Reus, around the same distance to the south, instead. The Barcelona Bus service runs a shuttle bus from Estació del Nord in Barcelona to Girona Airport and this ties in with various flight times. A one-way ticket costs €12 and a return ticket costs €21. The journey takes approximately one hour and ten minutes. For Reus airport, the easiest way is to take the train from Barcelona Sants station to Reus and then the local bus to the airport. The train costs €6.45 and then the bus costs €2. This takes roughly an hour and a half.
Several trains per day (including overnight hotel trains) from other parts of Europe (via France) are regular & reliable.
Main train stations: Barcelona-Sants (to the south west of the centre). Barcelona-Estació de França, Avinguda Marquès de l´Argentera (on the edge of the old town next to the seafront district of Barceloneta).
From/to Barcelona-Sants there are several connections per day to Cerbère (France), connecting there on trains towards Marseille and Nice. There are also 2 direct trains a day from Estació de França to Perpignan, Beziers, Narbonne, Montpellier and Paris in France; and a night train some days (depending on the season and the day of the week) to Milano (Italia) and Zürich (Switzerland).
The long-delayed AVE high-speed train line to Madrid finally opened in February 2008. Travel time is 2 hours 15 minutes non-stop or around 2 hours 30 minutes - 3 hours with intermediate-stops, depending on the number of stops.
You can arrive to Barcelona by boat from the Balearic Islands, from Genoa and from Rome. From Rome ( Civitavecchia ) it is actually cheaper than the bus. The ferry docks almost directly on the Ramblas.
Contact Barcelona Nord for all bus connections, national and international.
By public transport
The 'Bus Turístic http://www.tmb.net/en_US/turistes/busturistic/busturistic.jsp'* links all of the Barcelona tourist sites you could possibly want to visit. It has three routes, including a northbound and a southbound line which leave from opposite sides of the*Plaça de Catalunya. You can buy tickets valid for one day (€20) or two consecutive days (€26).
The metro can take you to many places. Stations are marked M on most maps; every station has a detailed scheme of exits to the city. A one-journey ticket cost €1.30, so it's probably best to buy a multi-person 10-ride ticket for €7.30 (called a T-10) or a personal 50-ride monthly ticket for €27.55. These tickets are also valid on the buses and trams. http://www.tmb.net/en_US/home.jsp. 1-to 5-day public transport tickets are available which allow unlimited travel on the metro and bus networks (€10 for two days). These are excellent value. Be sure to look after them well as bent or damaged cards will not be read by the ticket machines (such cards can be replaced at one of TMB's customer service centers).
Pay attention to the fact that sometimes to get from one line to another, or to another metro type, you need to exit and then enter through a new pay-gate. In this case, if you had a one-journey ticket, you need to get a new one.
Unusual features are: all cars are air conditioned; there are large screens for video advertising between lanes (e.g. at Universitat).
When to go
Barcelona is a friendly city with few violent crimes. However, many tourists and even experienced travellers and residents get pickpocketed in Barcelona, which is the biggest risk you will face. Crowded places and metro/buses and areas such as Raval and the famous Rambles are still the most likely places to get pickpocketed, but if you are just arriving be aware of pickpockets at the bus terminal Estació del Nord and train station Sants Estació. Take particularly care of your backpack and handbags. Also be very careful at internet cafes. At the airport, even in the arrival hall, you may be approached by individuals posing as foreigners and claiming they have been robbed during a train ride or similar, and asking you for some 50 or 100 Euros that are missing for their ticket home.
If you need to use an ATM, especially in very tourist heavy areas, use caution. When possible, use ATM in less crowded areas just off the main street. Scams have been known to happen involving ATM and PIN number theft. Be sure to stand directly in front of the machine and do not let yourself get distracted until your transaction is complete, and your cash and card safely stowed. Do not pay any mind to anyone trying to help you retrieve a card that seems stuck in the machine by imploring that you enter your Pin number until it comes out. At this point your card is already stolen and you should proceed directly to the nearest phone to cancel said card.
Even while in your hands, your money may not be safe. An all too common occurence in commercial establishments is that the cashier will either simply overcharge you, and/or (even if you have already had the first corrected) apply the following trick; if you make a payment that requires change, they will refuse it and demand that you pay the exact amount. If you are not very attentive however, they will forget to return your initial payment. It may seem lousy not to notice this, but in a fast moving and confusing setting, it happens easier than you think, especially if you are somewhat tired or intoxicated. Incidents like this do also happen in decent looking establishments, such as shopping malls and airport stores. A telltale sign of impeding trouble is that the cashier will suddenly lose the ability to speak or understand any single word of English, and the register to display the total amount. If you still have all your money in hand, the best course of action is to abandon your goods and walk away.
Often a version of Three Card Monte is played on Las Ramblas. This game involves a dealer placing an object under one of three cups. The dealer then moves the three cups around mixing them up. The gambler tries to keep track of which cup the object is located under. After the cups have been mixed up, the gambler is given a chance to pick which cup the object is under, if the gambler chooses correctly he/she wins the amount gambled (usually €50). However, it is not possible to win as the people supposedly winning are in with the dealer.
Other areas of the city are less secure than average, such as Plaça Reial and the Raval and indeed the whole of the old town.
Women traveling alone should exercise caution while exploring the more isolated parts of Montjuïc. The city beaches, particularly the ones adjoining Barceloneta, have proven to be quite lucrative for bag-snatchers. Anything that one would rather not chance losing is best left (locked) in one's hostel or hotel.
Men traveling alone should expect the prostitutes on Las Ramblas in the early hours to be very aggressive, and to be in with thieves and robbers.
There have also been incidents of bag snatching while stopped at traffic lights, whereby the thieves open the car doors and take what they can. Please make sure that you always have your car doors locked both at night and in the day.
If you come to Barcelona with your own car, you may attract organised thieves. A typical scam is to puncture your tire. While you change the tire, a motorcyclist arrives, offering to help you. As you speak with him, another thief steals your purse, wallet, camera, or anything expensive to hand (this can happen within seconds). If you need to remove luggage from your trunk to get at the spare tire, put it inside the car. Also, close and lock all doors. Don't speak to anybody around and be extremely cautious.
If you need to report a crime-for example, to claim on travel insurance-be prepared for the reality that in the downtown police station, officers may not be able (or willing) to speak English, despite that fact the official theft report form is in both English and Spanish. The police station most often used to report theft is on Las Ramblas.
EU citizens can get free or reduced cost medical treatment on presentation of an EHIC card and passport.
Hospital Clinic I Provincial De Barcelona C/ Villarroel 170 +34 932 275 400 Metro: Hospital Clinic (Line 5)
Barcelona has emerged from a wannabe history. With Castilian kings pumping cannonballs over the city walls and anarchists disagreeing on which shoulder to hang their rifles, the city shrank in the shadow of greater cities and powers for centuries.
Legend establishes the foundation of 'Barcino' by the Carthaginians at around 230 BC, and although the city was later invaded by both the Visigoths and the Muslims, the history of Barcelona only truly began after armies from what is now France pushed back the Muslims in AD 801. At the time, the plains and mountains to the northwest and north of Barcelona were populated by the people who by then could be identified as 'Catalans' (although surviving documented references to the term only date to the 10th century).
In the 12th century, Catalonia grew rich on pickings from the fall of the Muslim caliphate of Córdoba. The Catalans managed to keep their creative beacon alight through to the 14th century, when Barcelona ruled a mini-empire that included Sicily, Malta, Sardinia, Valencia, the Balearics, the French regions of Rousillon and Cerdagne and parts of Greece. But by the 15th century, devastated by the plague, spectacular bank crashes, and the Genoese squeezing its markets, the empire ran out of steam. While the Catalans may have hoped that union with the kingdom of Castile would pump cash back into the coffers and vitality onto the streets, heirs to the crowns of Castile and Aragón were more interested in juicing Catalonia to finance their own imperial ambitions.
A 1462 rebellion against King Joan II ended in a siege in 1473 that devastated the city. Barcelona was more or less annexed into the Castilian state, but was excluded from the plundering of the Americas that brought fantastic riches to 16th-century Castile. By now, the peasants had started to revolt. Disaffected Catalans resorted to arms a number of times, and the last revolt, during the War of the Spanish Succession, saw Catalonia siding with Britain and Austria against Felipe V, the French contender for the Spanish throne. That was their undoing. Barcelona fell in 1714 after another shocking siege, and as well as banning the Catalan language, Felipe built a huge fort, the Ciutadella, to watch over his ungrateful subjects.
After 1778 Catalonia was permitted to trade with America, and the region's fortunes gradually turned around. Spain's first industrial revolution, based on cotton, was launched there, and other industries based on wine, cork and iron also developed. By the 1830s, the European Romantic movement virtually rescued Catalan culture and language just as it was in danger of disappearing. The Catalan Renaixença, or Renaissance, was a crusade led by poets and writers to popularise the people's language. A fervent nationalist movement sprang up around the same time, and was embraced by all parties of the political spectrum.
The decades around the turn of the 20th century were a fast ride, with anarchists, Republicans, bourgeois regionalists, gangsters, police terrorists, political gunmen called pistoleros and centrists in Madrid all clamouring for a slice of the action. This followed an explosion in Barcelona's population-from around 115, 000 in 1800 to more than half a million by 1900, then over a million by 1930-as workers flocked in for industrial jobs. As many as 80% of the city's workers embraced the anarchist Confederación Nacional del Trabajo (CNT) by the end of WWI, and industrial relations hit an all-time low during a wave of strikes in 1919-20 when employers hired assassins to kill union leaders.
Within days of Spain's Second Republic forming in 1931, a coalition of leftists and Catalan nationalists under the moniker Esquerra Republicana di Catalunya won the election and soon declared a republic within an 'Iberian Federation'. In 1934 the regional ERC government proclaimed a Catalan state, triggering the arrest of key government figures. In 1936, in the face of rising ultra-right popularity, the ERC joined forces with other leftist groups across the country to form the Popular Front, which convincingly won elections of that year. In May 1937 infighting between factions of the municipal government-notably communists, anarchists and the POUM-exploded into a three-day street fight that killed at least 1500 people.
The Republican effort across Spain was troubled by similar infighting, which destroyed any chance they may have had of defeating Franco's fascist militia. Barcelona, the last stronghold of the Republicans, fell to Franco's forces in January 1939, and the war ended a few months later. Thousands of Catalans fled across the border to France, Andorra and further afield.
Franco wasted no time in banning the Catalan language and flooding the region with impoverished immigrants from Andalucía in the vain hope that the pesky Catalans, with their continual movements for independence, would be swamped. But the plan soured somewhat when the migrants' children and grandchildren turned out to be more Catalan than the Catalans. Franco even banned one of the Catalans' joyful expressions of national unity, the sardana, a public circle dance.
But they'd barely turned the last sods on El Caudillo's grave when Catalonia burst out again in an effort to recreate itself as a nation. Catalan was revived with a vengeance, the Generalitat, or local parliament, was reinstated. Catalonia was granted limited autonomy in 1980 and today people gather all over town several times a week to dance the sardana. While there's still talk of independence, it remains just talk. Meanwhile, Barcelona is the country's most happening town, and seems set to stay that way.
The 1992 Olympics allowed Barcelona to once again strut its stuff on the world stage, projecting an image of cultural prosperity. It hasn't looked back since. The once-shabby waterfront has been transformed with promenades, beaches, marinas, restaurants, leisure attractions and new housing. The games may be receding from the public mind but the impetus created has hardly slowed. Enormous projects to 'rehabilitate' vast tracts of rundown central Barcelona continue, the most recent being the huge Forum 2004 development in the city's east, which includes a massive convention centre and auditorium. The city's profile continues to rise; these days, Barcelona needs no introduction.
All in Barcelona, Spain:
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