Barcelona Hotels Articles

April 22, 2010

Navigating Barcelona – how to find your way around the Catalan Capital

Despite being Spain’s second biggest city, for a tourist Barcelona is fairly easy to navigate. If you fly into Barcelona you can see from the aerial view that it’s quite hilly at the back, and then gradually goes downhill towards the Mediterranean sea with the Port and the beach. To the right of the port is another hill called Montjuic (meaning Jewish mountain, where the Olympic installations are) which means that the city is kind of in a bowl, so is therefore compact. This also means a good rule of thumb – if you’re walking downhill, you’re going towards the sea, so it’s difficult to get lost.
The centre of the city is the old town, and is home of Barcelona’s most famous street; Las Ramblas. This long street used to be a river and disects the old town from the top of Plaça Catalunya, the city’s main square down to the Port. This street is Barcelona in a nutshell – terraces of cafes and bars, kiosks with daily press, a multi-cultural mix of locals, steet performers, artists, tourists and flower sellers all making up this 24 hour street’s personality that is impossible to dislike. They even invented a new word “ramblear” meaning to wander, to amble aimlessly enjoying your surroundings. The old town also houses some amazing Gothic architecture and some of Barcelona’s favourite son’s – Antoni Gaudi – work. The old fisherman’s quarters and tiny streets of La Barceloneta complete the old town’s neighbourhoods and is where the beach starts.
As an extension to the old town, the “Eixample” (literally meaning extension) is divided into right and left, and from a bird’s eye view, looks a little like Manhattan – a grid style expansion. Apparently when it was designed the locals absolutely hated the idea. That was until the traffic light was invented, and then happy days! Eixample is home of Barcelona’s landmark, the unfinished masterpiece – The Temple of the Holy Family, or “Sagrada Familia”. Just above Eixample are 2 areas, Gracia, which is where most students tend to live, and the “Zona alta” or high zone, where the more expensive properties of the city lie as well as the emblematic stadium of FC Barcelona.
Wherever you stay in the city, it’s inevitable that you’ll work your way around these neighbourhoods and you’ll be surprised at how easy it is. Once you have one or two landmarks of east or west, then north and south take care of themselves due to the natural geographics of the city.

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