Category Cycling News

Why is Barcelona so popular?

Every year, something incredible happens in the city of Barcelona. Over 30 million tourists from all over the world visit the city of only 1.5 milion. The city swells up as people arrive by planes from all continents. They drive in from Europe, get off cruise ships from the Medditerranean in the thousands, you name it. Summer time in Barcelona is a busy time. As cycling holiday operators and road bike tour guides, we love the excitement, living here as locals, as much as the tourists do. But what makes this city so famous? Why is Barcelona so popular?

We have the answer

We happened to stumble upon the book which answers that question, we’ve read it, and it’s amazing. It opens like this:

I love Barcelona. I love its streets, its buildings, the soupy air, the smelly hammy bars, the Mediterranean in the winter, the diversity of its neighbourhoods, the music on the metro (Midnight Cowboy, muzak and Mozart), the arty urban parks, the way the rub tomato on their bread before they make sandwiches, the harsh rasping Catalan, the Rambla after it has rained, the magnificent combination of football and concrete at the Camp Nou, expat shopping at Marks and Spencer, the lush hills which pop up all over the city, the density which means you could walk across the whole city – a city of 1.5 million people- in half a day, the greasy butifarra sausages. The beaches and the beer.„

For the love of Barcelona

Well, who doesn’t! In our opinion, it is exactly the love for Barcelona which makes Donald McNeill’s book „Urban Change and the European Left – Tales from the New Barcelona” so insightful and so interesting. And that’s just the introduction. What comes next are seven chapters lots of with vintage photos which read like seven stories about Barcelona. The book explains why, how and from when and why is Barcelona so popular. That, and much more, for the love of the city.

It’s like your grandfather’s life story

Reading this book is like listening to your imagined Catalan grandfather talk about his life. It’s about the changing governments and the change in the architecture that came with them. Donald McNeil talks about what reshaped Barcelona between the early 1920s till late 1990s and made it what it is today.

Immersing yourself in this book is like watching Spanish civil war protests and anti-franco manifestations. It’s like observing thousands of hopeful Catalans enjoy their new-found freedom in Spain’s democracy in the 1970s. More, it’s like watching buildings being torn down and new ones erected in the 1980s. Also, it’s like witnessing the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona. And last but not leats, it’s like being one of the first excited tourists to arrive here in late 1990s. It’s like watching it all unfold.

Closest to the answer

It’s understanding why Barcelona is now a city of 1.5 million people visited annually by more than 30 million.

I am not alone in this homage to Barcelona, being joined by multitudes of curious or hedonistic visitors on architecture field trips, football weekends, honeymoons, raves, inter-rails, cultural espionage forays, conference circuits, and Thomson city-breaks. Its popularity has been an indicator of the city’s success in marketing itself abroad, helped by the boundless free publicity of the 1992 Olympics and a grapevine that has wended its way throughout Europe and as far afield as North America and Japan.”

Pick up „Urban Change and the European Left – Tales from the New Barcelona” by Donald McNeill if you have an interest in anything and everything Barcelona.

Why Barcelona is what it is in 2018

Why is Barcelona so popular cannot be answered simply, but this book comes the closest to doing just that. Pick it up if you’re interested in the region’s politics and culture, the Catalan history and identity and why Barcelona is what it is in 2018. We picked it up and learned about all the above, Kat quoted the book in her dissertation and now that we cruise the Barcelona beachfront on one of our Catalonia cycling tours, we remind ourselves it did not even exist 25 years ago.