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The city of Barcelona is the second largest city in Spain, and the capital of Catalonia, with a population of 1,7 million inhabitants and 3 million in the metropolitan area. Its cultural richness, vibrant life, and splendid location has made it one of the most visited cities in the world, with over 4 million visitors per year.
Over two thousands years old, there is not just one Barcelona, but several. The old city (Ciutat Vella) offers the visitor a wide range of routes to follow and reconstruct the history of Barcelona by starting at the Roman walls, moving to the medieval streets of the Gothic Quarter and going to the popular promenade know as La Rambla. Barcelona is best known for its architectural treasures, featuring many unique buildings from the "Modernist" period (late 19th-early 20th centuries), seven of which have declared World Heritage Sites by UNESCO. Furthermore, in the last two decades, Barcelona has been an experimentation ground for the most innovative architectural concepts.
Barcelona is also famous for its cultural tradition. The city has over twenty museums, covering all aspects of art and culture. The best known are the National Museum of Art of Catalonia with one of the major collections of Romanesque and Gothic art, the Museum of Historic Art, the Picasso Museum, the Miró Foundation and the Tàpies Foundation. The Science Museum presents a wideranging display of scientific and technological advances. The Fòrum de les Cultures recently buit is another cultural target.
Besides some major art show rooms, most musical events take place in three large venues: the Palau de la Música Catalana, a real modernist gem, the Auditorium, and the Gran Teatre del Liceu, which is a leading opera house, reconstructed after its burning in 1994. Many stage troupes and actors in Barcelona are the best in Spain, and achieve international acclaim. A glance at the programme of cultural and entertainment events published in the Barcelona daily newspapers is the best way of finding out of what going on in the city.
Driving inside Barcelona is not particularly recommended, especially in downtown. The public transportation system consists of metro and buses, plus a few internal train lines and a couple of tram lines. It is safe and fairly reliable.
Metro: The metro system is probably easiest to use and will take you to most places of interest. Barcelona has 5 lines (L1 to L5, color-coded). The last metro is at 2am on Fridays and Saturdays and at 12pm. If you plan to take more than 5 trips, we recomment you to buy a T-10 card (10 trips, 6,65eur).
Bus: You pay on board. You can use the T-10 card, but not buy one on board. You can use the same ticket (or T-10 trip) for a combined metro+bus journey. Most bus lines stop around 11pm; there are few night bus lines, all of which pass by Plaza Catalunya (i.e., the hotel area).
Taxis: All taxis in Barcelona are black with a yellow strip, and free when the green light on top is on. There is a taxi stop in Plaza Catalunya next to Las Ramblas. Note that drivers may complain if you want to pay with a 50eur bill or larger; ask first.
Tourist bus: If you have only 1 or 2 free days in Barcelona, the Bus Turistic is a reasonable option to see the main attractions. There are three routes (North, South, and Forum) and a ticket lets you get on and off the bus as many times as you want in a day.
Tourist information: There is a Tourist Information Office in the basement of Plaza Catalunya. Check also the links below.
Violent crime is really rare in Barcelona. However, the huge number of tourists does attract pick-pockets, especially in downtown. So exercise the usual caution when walking in touristic areas or sitting at a terrace or restaurant, especially if you carry your laptop, cameras, etc. In the most crowded places, it may be wise to carry your backpack in your hand or on your chest.
Be assured that the conference hotels and the Residencia de Investigadores are 100% safe.
General and touristic information:
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