Away from the world of sport, however, there are plenty of reasons to sing the praises of the Catalonian capital – yet there are two legends of how the city with a population of more than one million people was founded. One of them ascribes its foundation to Hamilcar Barca, the father of the famous Carthaginian general Hannibal, after conquering a Greek colony during the Second Punic War around 218 BC in the region where Barcelona now stands. The other version has the founder as the Greek demigod Heracles, who discovered a stranded ship belonging to the Argonauts as they accompanied Jason (the man with the Golden Fleece) off the coast of Catalonia during his twelve labors and was so taken by the region that he founded a city.
However it came about, Barcelona is very old. Even though the city wasn’t overly important within the Roman Empire, its strategically advantageous location meant that it evolved into a settlement that justified its sacking at the hands of the Goths in the late phase of the Imperium Romanum. After an occupation by the Moors that lasted less than 100 years, the Carolingians retook the city, resulting in the development of the Crown of Aragon over the course of the centuries, with Barcelona as the cultural, economic, and military center. However, after Ferdinand II of Aragon married Isabella I of Castile, Aragon became less important. The center of power initially shifted to Toledo and then under the Habsburg Philipp II to Madrid.
From the mid-nineteenth century, the city enjoyed a new economic upswing and became an industrial center in Spain. In the Second Spanish Republic Barcelona was a stronghold of the Left and therefore the government. It was heavily bombed during the civil war and ultimately fell to the troops of the later dictator Francisco Franco on January 26, 1939. He severely punished Barcelona’s loyalty to the Republic: The use of the Catalonian language was suppressed and the city lost its role as a political and cultural center. One hotbed of resistance against the Francoists during the dictatorship was the Camp Nou of Barcelona FC, which fought passionate duels against the “Royalists” of Real Madrid, the capital city’s club that enjoyed Franco’s patronage. This rivalry remains to this day and “El Clásico” is one of the biggest derbies in the world.
Yet Barcelona is not just home to one of the world’s most glorious soccer clubs. It is also a cultural center par excellence: The historical city center is brimming with imposing architecture, including La Catedral (the Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulàlia), the Plaça del Rei, and the City Museum. La Rambla, a tree-lined promenade, leads out of the city center toward the port. World-famous and taking even longer to build than Berlin’s new airport is the Sagrada Familia – a Catholic basilica in the Modernisme style – a kind of art nouveau originating in Barcelona and significantly shaped by Antoni Gaudí. Work began on its construction in 1882 and is set to be completed in 2026 on the day of the 100th anniversary of Gaudí’s death – so probably still before Willy Brandt Airport.
We have put together a list of other places worth seeing in Barcelona besides the cultural and sporting highlights – and of course the Rutronik office that opened back in 1994:
Hot spot: Vila Viniteca
A paradise for wine lovers: The wine store was established in 1932 and is one of Europe’s top addresses for wine lovers. Wines and cavas from around 200 wineries in Spain and throughout the world are sold here. The ambience is also impressive and this alone makes a visit worthwhile. Opposite is La Teca, a gourmet store with a cheese grotto featuring more than 350 handmade varieties as well as a cellar where the tastings take place.
Hot spot: Mercat da la Boqueria
“Welcome to the best market in the world” – that is the self-confident slogan of the Mercat da la Boqueria located on La Rambla. With around 300 stalls, the market is the biggest in Spain. It is where locals and top chefs like to buy their ingredients – from fresh fruit to fresh seafood.
Restaurant: Skybar Grand Hotel Central Barcelona
Extraordinary view, extraordinary food – and an infinity pool: That is the Skybar at the Grand Hotel Barcelona. It is imperative to make a reservation beforehand. Typical Spanish dishes such as tapas and seafood are on the menu.
Restaurant: Can Valles
Small, fine, exclusive – and heavily frequented. A reservation at the Can Valles is essential. The Mediterranean cuisine delights diners with its select ingredients and exquisite quality at acceptable prices. Whether pepper steak, seafood, or paella – everyone will find their perfect dish here.
Restaurant: Irati Taverna Basca
Traditional Basque cuisine in the heart of Catalonia: This really does exist – the Irati Taverna Basca serves numerous specialties ranging from Kokotxas (hake cheeks) and freshly caught wild fish to salted cod omelet and Galician beef tartare.
Bar: La Vinya del Senyor
This small wine bar is situated in the shadow of the Basilica Santa Maria del Mar. It is the ideal place for wine lovers: There is a unique selection of wines and cavas on the menu, which guests can enjoy while watching the tourists, street artists, locals, and – if you’re lucky – wedding parties.
Hotel: H10 Catalunya Plaza
The H10 Catalunya Plaza is located in the heart of Barcelona – in a fully restored building dating back to the late nineteenth century. The interior is a fusion of classic and contemporary design elements and thus breathes a little bit of history. A quality breakfast can be enjoyed in the 1892 Restaurant.