This sun-soaked Catalonian capital is home to jaw-dropping architecture, a brilliant and burgeoning foodie scene, and 24-hour parties. But how much do you really know about this iconic city? From artificial beaches to Europe’s largest football stadium, these interesting facts about Barcelona might just surprise you.
7 Interesting Facts About Barcelona
1. Barcelona hasn’t always had beaches
People used to say that “Barcelona lives with its back to the sea”. That’s because, before the Olympic Games in 1992, Barcelona had no beaches. Most of the city’s factories were located on the shoreline, which didn’t make for much of a ‘stretch out and sun yourself’ vibe. But with the Olympic Games, local authorities decided to clean up and beautify the seaside. They did a pretty good job; there are now seven blue-flag beaches sprinkled across the city’s 4.5 km shoreline. National Geographic voted it one of the best beach cities in the world too.
2. Barcelona is one of Europe’s most popular cities
Around 20 million tourists visit Barcelona every year.
3. Barcelona boasts the largest football stadium in Europe
Camp Nou, home to Barcelona FC measures a staggering 55,000 sq. metres and a capacity of 121,401. The record attendance for a match was the Barcelona European Cup quarterfinal against Juventus in 1986 – 120,000 attended the match. It’s also the second-largest football stadium in the world, second only to Rungrado May Day Stadium in Pyongyang, North Korea.
4. It’s received a gold medal from the Royal Institute of British Architects
The Royal Institute of British Architects usually only gives the gold medal to an individual or group of architects, but Barcelona became the exception in 1999. The medal, which is a gift of the queen, presented the award to the city for its high standard of architecture ranging from medieval times to the present day. It’s full of Antoni Guadi’s greatest hits too.
The institute singled out Narcis Serra, the first post-Franco mayor and Oriol Bohigas, the city’s co-ordinator for urbanism their role in city planning.
5. It took longer to build the Sagrada Familia than the Egyptian Pyramids
Antoni Gaudi’s magnum opus, the soaring Sagrada Familia, is still unfinished. Work began in 1882, which means that it has taken close to 150 years to complete. The Great Pyramids of Giza probably took around 20 years to finish.
Gaudi is actually buried in the crypt of the Sagrada Familia. His gravestone has the inscription: “Antoni Gaudí Cornet. From Reus. At the age of 74, a man of exemplary life, and an extraordinary craftsman, the author of this marvellous work, the church, died piously in Barcelona on the tenth day of June 1926; henceforward the ashes of so great a man await the resurrection of the dead. May he rest in peace.”
6. Barcelona inadvertently invented World Book Day
Catalans celebrated Saint George’s Day, a tribute to their patron saint, on April 23rd every year. It’s a tradition for couples and friends to exchange roses – and books. That’s because in 1922, Spanish writer Vicente Clavel Andrés thought it would be a good idea to celebrate the life of author Miguel de Cervantes, who died on the same day.
UNESCO liked the gesture, so declared World Book and Copyright Day in 1995 on 23 April every year.
7. It’s home to the largest metropolitan park in the world
The Parc de Collserola is the biggest metropolitan park in the world. With an area of 84.65 sq. km, it’s 22 larger than Central Park in New York and eight times larger than the Bois de Boulogne. The park is located behind the Tibidabo Hills, an easy 20-minute train ride from Plaza Catalunya and the Barcelona city centre. Around 50% of the Catalonian population lives within 10 km of the gargantuan park. The park is crisscrossed with hiking trails, forests, manicured meadows and wildlife.