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Soaking up the culture in Catalonia


The early history of Catalonia is one of colonization; first it was the ancient Greeks, who were followed by the Romans as they expanded their empire. The Visigoths overthrew the Romans and after them came the Moors, who were superseded by the Franks. Finally a sense of stability was established with the region’s annexation by the Aragonese Crown. From feudal state, to dictatorship, to democracy, Catalonia has had anything, but a peaceful past. 

The people and culture of Barcelona

Catalonia is home to approximately six million people, which represents roughly 15% of Spain’s total population. The recent large increase is mainly due to immigration and over 25% of Catalans live in Barcelona.

Barcelona is a major cultural center, with museums, libraries and many specialized collections of art and literature, some of which are in private hands. As literature forms a significant part of its heritage, it has become a major publishing center for books intended for sale in Spanish-speaking countries. Barcelona is a bilingual city; Catalan and Spanish are official languages and both are widely spoken. 

The city stages opera and ballet, with regular performances being held at the Liceu Opera House, which was originally constructed in 1847, destroyed by fire in 1994 and subsequently rebuilt. There is also an abundance of art museums, ranging from the National Art Museum of Catalonia, with its focus on Gothic and Romanesque art, to the Museum of Modern Art, which displays works from the 19th and 20th centuries. There are collections dedicated to famous artists, such as Pablo Picasso.

When Barcelona became host city to the Olympic Games in 1992 it underwent a massive program of regeneration. Where previously it had its back turned to the sea, the redevelopment reclaimed the seafront so that now the city has marinas, promenades and beaches. History sits comfortably alongside modernity in Barcelona, as bars and clubs have found homes in historic buildings and the range of cuisine available will make a foodie salivate. There are traditional Catalan dishes served in Michelin starred restaurants and molecular gastronomy eateries. Menus include an abundance of meat dishes and freshly caught fish, sometimes on the same plate, along with vegetables and spices.

Architecture and music

Catalonia has two distinct styles of architecture, Romanesque and Modern. There are many Romanesque churches, particularly at Valle de Boi. The rest of the surrounding area consists of distinctly Modernist architecture, with some structures being classified as World Heritage Sites. Much of the work of the architect, Antoni Gaudi, is located in this part of Barcelona, including the huge, but still incomplete, Church of the Sagrada Familia, which was started in 1882.

Catalonians will use any excuse to have a party and numerous music festivals are held every year.  For three days in June, there is an electronic pop and rock festival, Primavera Sound. Also in June, there is Sonar, a music and multimedia festival, while from June to September, the region’s oldest music festival, the International Music Festival de la Porta Ferrada, takes place.

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