Secret Barcelona: 12 Things You Didn’t Know

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1. May Be Older than Rome

Well.. the maybe is important.

One legend says that the city was founded by Hercules, centuries before Rome was founded.  The second legend attributes the foundation of the city directly to general Hamilcar Barca, Hannibal’s father.

The more official, streamlined version, though, is that the Romans themselves founded the city as a Castro in the 1st century BC, naming the colony Barcino. In case you wondered about the giant letters in front of the Barcelona Cathedral and what they stand for – now you know.

While you’re in front of the sign, take a moment to also admire the remains of the defensive Roman wall built around the city, and the way it blends with medieval and modern architecture.

2. Had no Beaches

This secret Barcelona curiosity not many people know, but Barcelona didn’t have any beaches – that is, until 1992. Take a minute to let that sink in.

It’s true: the Barcelona seaside was completely unimpressive and lined with factories, until the city decided to host the Olympic Games of 1992, thus transforming the landscape – beaches included.

Barcelona now has a good 6 km of beachfront, and was even voted Best Beach City by National Geographic in 2015.

Because it’s man-made, the beach is under threat from overtourism as much as it is threatened by the natural elements. The last big injection of sand was in 2010, and since then the well known Barceloneta beach in Barcelona has already lost almost a third of its sand.

3. Has Legalized Weed

You know it when you get here. The smell is ever present, making you wonder whether you got on the wrong flight and somehow ended up in Amsterdam

With over 300 cannabis clubs in Barcelona alone, Spain is often dubbed “Holland of the South”.

Note however that the  Asociaciones Cannabicos are only intended for Spanish residents; getting a permit is no piece of cake.

4. Has a Statue of Liberty

A replica surely, and a much smaller one, but as beautiful and old for that matter.

The statue was commissioned in 1894 to dress the main entrance of the Arús Library to the famous modernist sculptor Manel Fuxà.

The secret Barcelona replica has similarities with the one we found on Liberty Island, but it is not exact. In the book that holds the left arm instead of the date that the United States proclaimed its independence, the copy of Fuixà can read “Anima Libertas” – Freedom of the Soul.

5. Could have been Home to the Eiffel Tower

Paris almost didn’t get the Eiffel Tower!

A very popular theory is that Gustave Eiffel’s initial pitch was to Barcelona, and not Paris, however, the city supposedly rejected the architect’s project. Quoting from the Renfe SNCF website itself, we find that:

The Project was presented in many cities but was rejected by all of them. Actually, Gustave Eiffel was thinking in Barcelona when he designed it, but the Catalan capital did not approve its construction due to lack of adaptation to local aesthetic.

Take it with a grain of salt, of course: there’s no official documentation to support the increasingly urban legend-sounding theory.

6. Counts 55 Museums

And the most visited museum in the city is… The FC Barcelona Museum! Honestly, who would have thought?

The Club’s museum was inaugurated in 1984 and the number of visitors has increased consistently over the years – reaching 1,785,903 visits in 2015.

7. Has one of Europe’s most powerful Supercomputers

Which some of you may have known, after reading Dan Brown’s latest book, Origin. MareNostrum is located in a former 19th-century chapel, now the Barcelona Supercomputing Center.

It is the largest supercomputer in Southern Europe and the 93rd fastest in the world.

8. Has Venetian Towers in Plaça de Espanya

If you’ve visited both Venice and Barcelona, you probably noticed it. Secret Barcelona indeed has Venetian towers in Placa de Espanya.

Well known for its Magic Fountain, as well as stairs leading up to Montjuic Placa de Espana is beautiful. However, there is something else which catches your attention, almost reminiscing about Venice…

It’s not your mind playing tricks on you – there are in fact two Venetian towers there. Built during the International Exhibition of 1929, the two twin towers were built by architect Ramón Reventós, who took the campanile of the Basilica of San Marcos, in Venice as a model.

9. Has Art Hidden in Plain Sight

A Gehry

The architect Frank Gehry designed for the Barcelona Olympic Port a steel sculpture resembling a whale, located on top of the Barcelona Casino.

A Miro

Every day, there are more than 150,000 people taking a walk along this one-mile long street. The famous street links the harbor and beach to the city center – Plaza Catalunya – making it one of the busiest and most crowded pedestrian streets in the world!

So crowded, in fact, you may not even notice the Miro you’re stepping on!

Painter Joan Miró put his circle on the Ramblas, where unsuspecting tourists walk across it every day.

Look for a circular colored mosaic in the middle of the street, close to the Liceu metro station.

Not to be ignored are also the impressive human statues along La Rambla, who take this practice to the next level.

10. Has a Thing for Dragons

Affectionately called Drakcelona, Barcelona has an obvious passion for Dragons. Which makes sense, given that San Jordi (St. George) patron of Catalonia, killed one.

Hundreds of dragons are hiding in plain sights, on the façades, the streets and the squares of the city, making Barcelona the western city with the greatest number of dragons scattered through its streets. 

From the Waterfall Dragons in Parc de la Ciutadella, to the 32-meter long dragon sculpture in Parc de l’Espanya Industrial, to the guardian eastern dragon on the La Rambla House of Umbrellas, to the numerous Gaudi masterpieces (the Guell Park lizard is actually a dragon!) you’ll be hard-pressed not to find a dragon during your visit.

Did you know Casa Batllo is actually a representation of a dragon? Gaudí designed the roof with the shape of the back of a dragon, covered with ceramic scales, and the cross to crown the facade symbolizing the sword

Here’s how to find the Dragons of Secret Barcelona

11. Has A British Royal Gold Medal

For its architecture we’ve all come to know and admire, Barcelona is the first and only city receiving such an honor by the Royal Institute of British Architects, back in 1999.

Well deserved, and another testament to the city’s world-class architectural display.

12. Is the most visited city in Spain

According to Statista.com, the number of overnight tourists in Barcelona reached close to 9 million in 2017 – this not including those staying in non-hotel accommodation.

And Spain got no less than 82 million tourists, which would make it the world’s second most visited country after France. Talk about crowded..!

 

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