10 fun facts about Barcelona

I’ve lived in Barcelona on and off for nine years, so it’s time for a post about my adopted home – the beautiful city by the Mediterranean Sea.

The Sagrada Familia

1.  Barcelona was founded by the Carthaginians in around 230BC. The then Barcino may even have been founded by Hamilcar, father of Hannibal.

2. The Ramblas, the famous series of streets that leads down to the sea, was originally a river. According to Robert Hughes in his history of the city, ‘Rambla’ originally meant ‘riverbed’ in Arabic.

3. There was once a local legend that Christopher Colombus was a Catalan, which is why there is a statue of him at the end of the Ramblas. As Hughes points out, in the statue, Colombus is pointing at somewhere in Libya, not at America at all. (Indeed, Colombus died thinking he had found Asia, which is why the continent is not named after him but the rather more savvy Amerigo Vespucci).

4. The hill above the city is called Tibidabo. This relates to a local legend that this is the place in the Bible where the Devil tempted Jesus with the dominion of the whole world: “All these things will I give thee” (tibi dabo in Latin). There’s now a theme park there and you can see it and its famous red plane in the Woody Allen Film Vicky Cristina Barcelona.


5. The area around Tibidabo is a natural park with forests that reach up to the edge of the city. This means that wild boar often encroach into the outskirts and can be found rummaging around the bins in the early morning. You can see one having a quiet dawn shufti of the local litter here.

6. Despite being famous for its palm-lined avenues and squares, none of Barcelona’s palms are native to the region. They were all originally imported from Africa.

7. FC Barcelona, the city’s legendary football club, was founded by a man from Switzerland. Joan Gamper, originally known as Hans-Max Gamper, was born near Zurich. Incidentally, locals never call their city ‘Barça’, that’s only used for the football team.

Camp Nou

8. Few cities bear the stamp of one architect more than Barcelona and Antoni Gaudi. Gaudi designed many of the city’s iconic buildings such as the Pedrera, Casa Batllo and the Sagrada Famila. Gaudi was killed by the number 30 tram which hit him while he was wandering round the city on June 7, 1926. He died three days later from the terrible injuries which he sustained in the accident.

La Pedrera

9. Pablo Picasso lived in the city early on in his career and his ‘blue period’ began here after the death by suicide of his friend Carlos Casagemas.

10. Barcelona retains one of the best-preserved Medieval centres in Europe. The Raval and the Gothic Quater are a winding maze of close-built narrow passageways. This has made it a popular location for movie shoots, alongside nearby Girona, which has just been used as one of the locations for the sixth series of Game of Thrones.

15 responses to “10 fun facts about Barcelona

  1. I travelled there a ten years ago and it is a beautiful city. I could live there without doubt! I did my thesis on Antonio Gaudi, and saw as much of his work whilst there as I could. I didn’t know most of these facts, so thank you Alastair. I recall a small mask shop in a small square that I found incredibly magical. the walls were full of hand-painted ones, incredibly detailed. I bought one after taking almost an hour choosing *laughs*. It is a place I shall return to. I know that.

    – sonmi.u.t.C

  2. We visited last year, I’m not one for cities, or hot beaches, or football come to think of it. Barcelona was Hubby’s choice of holiday, but I discovered Gaudi while there and he pursued me that I need to visit again and again. 🙂

    • We have everything you could possibly want here – even mountains. Did you get to visit the monastery of Montserrat while you were over? That’s an excellent day trip out of the city if you want to avoid the beaches and the footy.