Barcelona Today

Capital of the autonomous Community of Catalonia, bilingual Barcelona (Catalan and Spanish) is the unrivaled visitor destination in Spain, and with good reason: dazzling art and architecture, creative cuisine, great weather, and warm hospitality are just part of what the city offers. Barcelona is proud of its cultural past and confident about its future.

A Tale of Two Cities

Restive for centuries in the shadow of Madrid, where Spain ruled from the center—more often than not, with an iron hand—Barcelona has a drive to innovate and excel that stems largely from a determination to eclipse its longtime rival. A powerful sense of national identity (Catalans consider themselves a "nation" and decidedly not a province of Spain) motivates designers, architects, merchants, and industrialists to ever-higher levels of originality and achievement. Especially since the success of the 1992 Olympic Games, national pride and confidence have grown stronger and stronger, and today nearly half the Catalan population believes the nation would be better served—whatever implications that might have for membership in the European Union—by complete independence.

Cuisine: Haute and Hot

Since Ferran Adrià’s northern Catalonian phenomenon elBulli closed, chef d’auteur successes in Barcelona have proliferated. Some two dozen superb restaurants (and more on the way) have won international recognition, so keeping abreast of the city’s culinary rock stars can be a dizzying pursuit. Here’s a quick primer: Adrià disciples Sergi Arola at his eponymous Arola Restaurant in the Hotel Arts, and Carles Abellán at BRAVO24 in the W Barcelona remain at the frontiers of Adrià-inspired molecular gastronomy. Rising stars such as Jordi Artal of Cinc Sentits, Jordi Vilà of Alkimia, the Torres twins at Dos Cielos, and Jordi Herrera of Manairó, join established masters Carles Gaig and Mey Hofmann in a dazzling galaxy of gastronomical creativity. Meanwhile, the Roca brothers from Girona, Raül Balam from Sant Pol de Mar, and Martin Berasategui from San Sebastián have opened award-winning hotel restaurants in, respectively, the Omm (Moo), the Mandarin Oriental (Moments), and the Condes de Barcelona (Lasarte). Add to this list up-and-comers like Xavier Franco of the restaurant Saüc (in the Ohla Hotel), Dani Lechuga of Caldeni, and Oriol Ivern of Hisop, and you begin to appreciate what a gastronomic haven Barcelona has become.

Design, Architecture, Fashion, Style

Barcelona’s cutting-edge achievements in interior design and couture continue to threaten the traditional dominance of Paris and Milan, while "starchitect" landmarks like Jean Nouvel’s Torre Agbar, Norman Foster’s communications tower on the Collserola skyline, and Ricardo Bofill’s W Barcelona hotel (nicknamed Vela: the Sail) on the waterfront transform the city into a showcase of postmodern visual surprises.

Fútbol Nirvana

The FC Barcelona soccer juggernaut seemed as if it had peaked in 2006 when Brazilian import Ronaldinho led the team to its second European title—but the best was yet to come. Former star-midfielder-turned-coach Pep Guardiola and an almost entirely homegrown team of stars amazed the world in 2009, winning—for the first time in La Liga history—a triplete, or Triple Crown: the Liga league championship, the King’s Cup, and the UEFA Champions League European title, which they won again in 2015. With the talent of star player Leo Messi as well as the farm system used (most players are trained at the club's "La Masia" youth academy), the team continues to strengthen.

Breaking New Ground

With a new airport terminal, a behemoth new convention center complex, and a new AVE high-speed train connection to Madrid, Barcelona is again on the move. City planners predict that the recent redesign of Plaça de les Glòries will someday shift the city center eastward, and that the new Barcelona hub will surround the Torre Agbar and the Fòrum at the Mediterranean end of the Diagonal.

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