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Since hosting the 1992 Summer Olympics, Barcelona has transformed into a prime destination spot for tourists from all over the world. The city drew nearly 8 million tourists in 2014, and according to BarcelonaTurisme (Barcelona Tourism), it is not only a destination for leisure, but for business as well, drawing vacationers and CEOs alike to bask in the warm, Spanish sun.

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History

Although there is evidence that humans have lived in the area since 5500 BC, there are two legends that detail the creation of the city. The first legend states that the Greek hero Hercules founded the city, while the other states that the Carthaginian Hamilcar Barca (father of the more famous Hannibal, who was known for waging wars against Rome) founded it, calling it Barcino after his family. The town came under Roman rule, but control of the city cycled through both the Visigoths and Arabs before coming under the rule of Charlemagne’s son, Louis.

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The Caliphate of Cordoba ruled the majority of Spain, which was at the time called al-Andalus. Barcelona was among the independent kingdoms directly to the north. While the Caliphate of Cordoba did sack the city, Barcelona managed to retain its relative independence (despite having a dynastic union with the Kingdom of Aragon) until the Muslims were completely driven out of the peninsula in 1492. Barcelona has suffered through many conflicts, from the Napoleonic Wars to the Spanish Civil War, where predominant Catalan culture was often supressed. It wasn’t until the aftereffects of hosting the Summer Olympics in 1992 that Barcelona began to truly modernize, turning it into the popular tourist destination that it is today.

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Where To Go

There are two tour bus companies that allow you to explore Barcelona at your own pace: the City Tour Barcelona and Barcelona Bus Turistic. These buses take you to the city’s main tourist spots, allowing you to hop on and off at whim. The tickets for the buses are valid for the entire day and explore the entirety of Barcelona, including its mountains.

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The highlight of the city is the Basilica Sagrada Familia (Holy Family), the work of Antoni Gaudi, a Catalan architect who designed many of the city’s iconic buildings. Gaudi started building the basilica between 1882 and 1883 and it remains unfinished to this day (it is slated for completion in 2026 or 2028). When asked when the Sagrada Familia would be completed, Gaudi stated that his client had all the time in the world (referring to God). Gaudi was also known for his rivalry with artist Pablo Picasso. The latter famously stated, “Send Gaudi and the Sagrada Familia to Hell,” and Gaudi made no secret that he despised Picasso as well. Both, however, made their impact known in the city, as the Pablo Picasso museum is housed in Barcelona.

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Another highlight of Barcelona is the Camp Nou, home to Futbol Club Barcelona, one of the most popular and successful association football (soccer) clubs in Europe. The stadium is also the biggest stadium in Europe, seating 100,000 spectators. FC Barcelona has recently won a historic second treble, winning the UEFA Champions League (European Cup), La Liga (domestic league) and Copa del Rey (domestic cup) in 2015.

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One can also visit the Plaza Catalunya, which is lined with shopping malls and is close to the Mobile World Center, where the Mobile World Congress is held yearly. Major phone manufacturers such as Apple, Samsung, Sony, HTC, Nokia, Lenovo and LG announce their products at this yearly convention. The next Mobile World Congress will take place on February 22-25, 2016.

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Food

Barcelona offers a divine gastronomical experience. 22 restaurants in the city have at least one Michelin star, and there are also many other quality restaurants in the city offering both local Catalan cuisine and Spanish cuisine. The Salamanca restaurant in the Barceloneta district (located next to the Mediterranean Sea) is renowned for its deliciously fresh lobster.

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Another highlight is the 7 Portes (Seven Ports) restaurant along Passeig Isabel II (Isabel II Avenue), famous for its paella, lamb chops, bacalao (dried cod), and a Catalan take on crème brulee.

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And then, there’s the mind-blowing nightlife with an endless array of places to listen to live music, dance and drink. shutterstock_212746912

Whether it’s the city’s history, business climate, landmarks or culture drawing you, Barcelona is a world-class city that you can create lasting memories in, whether you’re there for business or pleasure.

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