The cultural heavyweight of Catalonia offers everything a tourist could want, but what are its green credentials?
You’ll find it all in Barcelona. The Catalan capital has a vibrant cultural scene, a huge beach, excellent food (the tapas are particularly renowned), world-class architecture and a rich history. There is sport too: the city is home to FC Barcelona, the famous football club, while the 1992 Summer Olympics site can still be visited. Around the city, much of Barcelona’s identity is shaped by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí. His famous works include Park Güell, Casa Milá, Casa Battló. And of course La Sagrada Família – a masterpiece of a church, which is still under construction.
But although the past has given Barcelona many gifts, the city is looking towards the future. Bullfighting has long been banned – Arenas Barcelona, the former bullring, has been converted into a shopping centre – and the city council is proactive on environmental issues. There is a thorough composting scheme, while waste disposal options include general waste, organic, glass, paper and plastic. Public transport is cheap and efficient – you get 10 rides on the metro for roughly €10 (£8.50/$13). There is also a long list of urban parks and green areas, which the city council estimates to include more than 2,000 plant species.
Walk the streets
Barcelona’s main avenues are clean, spacious and green. Large flourishing trees occupy the sides and branch over the lanes like an arched roof. Walk down La Rambla, the famous main street, which is filled with stalls, artists and a lively food market. Or wander the narrow alleys of the Gothic Quarter; Barcelona’s old city, which features many buildings from Roman times.
Get on the bike
The wide and comfortable avenues give plenty of room for bikes. In most places, designated cycling lanes run alongside pedestrian ones. The city council says there are 150 kilometres (90 miles) of cycling lanes in total. Take advantage by joining the Barcelona Cycle & Tapas tour. The three-hour ride swings by the main touristic sites, a tapas bar and the Gothic Quarter.
Unsurprisingly, Barcelona offers plenty of vegetarian and organic restaurants. Some include the Antonia Organic Kitchen (Carrer de la Junta de Comerç, 11), the vegetarian Amaltea (Carrer de la Diputació, 164) and L’hortet (Pintor Fortuny, 32).
This Gaudí chef-d’oeuvre is essentially a vast garden complex featuring characteristic architectural elements. Those with interest in botany and design will find both here. Located in the north of Barcelona’s gradually rising geography, the garden is also a belvedere, offering a stunning view of the city’s skyline.
The magic fountain
Created by Carlos Buïgas for the Universal Expo of 1929, the ‘Magic Fountain of Montjuïc’ has become a fine attraction. Its shows are the closest one gets to an aquatic firework display; water is pumped upwards in various formations, illuminated by colourful lights, supplemented by music. Do remember to check the opening hours.
Location: Spain’s north-eastern coast
Area: Roughly 100km2 (38.5mi2)
Population: 1.6 million
Currency: Euro (€)
Time zone: GMT+1
Photos: Luciano Mortula, Tupungato, Mikhail Zahranichny, karamysh, Brandon Bourdages, Valerie Potapova [all via Shutterstock.com].