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History of Barcelona | Barcelona Travel Guide | Barcelona Tickets

The city of Barcelona has carved out a niche space for itself in Europe’s political, sports, and tourism chart. However, Barcelona wasn’t always the perfect exponent of a cosmopolitan that it is now. Its journey began in the neolithic age. The city itself was founded by the Romans. Barcelona had been under Muslim rule for over 200 years, and after the Christian reconquest, it became one of the Crowns of Aragon's main court residences. Barcelona entered a period of decline between the 15th and 18th centuries, struggling to maintain its political and financial stability. The 20th century saw the revival of urban development in Barcelona, reaching its peak during the 1992 Olympic Games. The city hasn’t looked back ever since. Here is our guide to the history of Barcelona.

Origins and Middle Ages
The Golden Age
Contemporary History
History of Barcelona

Early Origins

Although Catalonia may have first been inhabited by the Iberian Laietana people, the earliest records show that Barcelona started life when it was founded by the Phoenicians and the Carthaginians. 

  • One of their revered rulers, known as Hamilcar Barca, was the inspiration behind christening their newest possession of Barcino. 
  • They maintained their residence there until the Romans came to claim it during the first-century B.C.E. Romans lost Barcelona to the Visigoths in the fifth century.  


Then, in the 8th century, Barcelona was captured by the Moors and held it for a full 100 years before the Franks took it away. 

Finally, Barcelona became a part of the Crown of Aragon through a marriage of convenience between two royal lines that ought to have made the culture of Barcelona prosper more than ever, but that did not work out.  

The great city began to lose its influence and value for many years. Conflicts between Barcelona and Madrid grew, and Barcelona was even barred from trading with American colonies.

History of Barcelona Golden Age

The Middle Ages

Barcelona became the epicenter of bold self-government experiment in the 13th century. 

  • Jaume I formed the Council of the Sworn-In Hundred to help with the management of city affairs.
  • Soon afterward, Catalonia saw the formation of the Corts Catalanes, a legislative council for Catalonia consisting of members of the aristocracy, the clergy, and high-class merchants, to form a counterweight to royal power. Its home was the Palau de la Generalitat. 
  • This, in turn, led to the beginning of the age of prosperity in Barcelona.
History of Barcelona

The 14th Century

The 14th Century represented Barcelona's golden age. The city's commercial prosperity accounted for the great Gothic buildings that adorn Barcelona to this day. 

  • During this time, La Catedral, the Capella Reial de Santa Àgata (inside the Museu d'Història de Barcelona) and the Santa Maria del Pi church were built. 
  • The magnificent Drassanes Reials (Royal Shipyards) was later developed by King Pere III (1336–87) and expanded the city to include El Raval to the city's west. The port also led to Barcelona’s busy maritime trade activity and the flexing of its naval power.
The Renaissance

The Renaissance

The Romanesque churches were restored and new buildings were designed in the magnificent Gothic-style and are still preserved today. 

The Llotja market, religious buildings such as the Cathedral and the Church of Santa Maria del Mar, are perfect examples of Catalan Gothic, palaces, mansions, convents, monasteries and more. 

A development fever came over Barcelona that has left a magnificent heritage all over the region.

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History of Barcelona

Early 20th Century

The 20th century marked the beginning of extensive urban renewal throughout the city of Barcelona, culminating in its flagship district of Eixample, which features some of the most distinctive Catalan art-new, or modernist, buildings. 

  • One of the most renowned Catalan architects, Antoni Gaudí, designed buildings such as Casa Milà (known as La Pedrera), Casa Batlló, and Sagrada Família which have become continental landmarks. 
  • During the Civil War in 1936 and the ensuing dictatorship, the liberties gained during the early 20th century were severely restricted. 
Barcelona Stadium

Late 20th Century to Present

  • With the re-establishment of democracy in 1978, the Barcelona Community regained its economic strength and revived the Catalan language. 
  • The 1992 Olympic Games gave the city renewed momentum to Barcelona and reaffirmed its position as a major metropolis. 
  • The Forum of Cultures reclaimed industrial zones in 2004 and began turning them into residential districts.

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