Barcelona is both a city of art and history, known for its gothic and modernist architecture, and a party town. It is a dynamic city with a constant supply of sunshine that gives it a perpetual holiday feel, and its beaches and boulevards provide a wonderful space for runners, walkers and cyclists.
"A thousand perfumes and a thousand colours, Barcelona has a thousand faces", said the artist Joan Manuel Serrat. The city that Frédéric Beigbeder describes as "a madman's dream" is a real theme park for any runner who wants to combine sport and culture. Stroll through the Guëll Park with its amazing enamel roofs, resembling the legendary gingerbread house from the fairy tales.
Below, take the Rambla, Barcelona's emblematic avenue that connects Plaça de Catalunya, the city's nerve centre, to the Port Vell, where Christopher Columbus' column stands.
Before you go for tapas in the city centre, you can also enjoy Barceloneta, the long sandy beach that borders the city. Or climb - an arduous climb! - to the spectacular fountain on Montjuic Hill.
Gaudí, the (almost) patron saint of Barcelona
Antoni Gaudí i Cornet, a Catalan architect of Spanish nationality, is the main representative of Catalan modernism. His work has left an indelible mark on the architecture of Barcelona, making him the leading figure of this artistic movement. In many ways, he is the city's patron saint.
Gaudí was deeply religious and led an ascetic life, and is currently being beatified.
During your run, you will discover some of his works. Seven of them, all located in Barcelona, have been declared World Heritage Sites by UNESCO. The park and the Güell Palace, but also the crypt of the Colonia Güell. As well as several famous facades: the Casa Milà, the Casa Vicens, and the Casa Batlló. Finally, don't miss its most famous creation, still unfinished: the Sagrada Familia.
Running from the Rambla to the Gothic Quarter
The poet and playwright Federico García Lorca called La Rambla "the happiest street in the world, the street where the four seasons of the year live together, the only street on earth that I wish would never end, rich in sounds, abundant in breezes, beautiful in encounters, ancient in blood."
This symbolic avenue of Barcelona is characterised by its numerous kiosks dedicated to the press but also to the sale of flowers or animals. It is also the favourite place for living statues and in the middle of it stands the adjacent Boqueria covered market. It is completed by a footbridge, known as the Rambla de Mar, which leads to the Maremagnum shopping centre.
In the heart of the Old Town, the Barri Gòtic is Barcelona's oldest district, a maze of narrow streets with Gothic architecture. It is home to the remains of Roman Barcelona. You can walk along the foot of the ancient wall and the columns of the Temple of Augustus, as well as admire many buildings from the medieval period. You will discover the cathedral of Saint Eulalia, the Casa de la Ciutat, the palace of the Generalitat de Catalunya.
As you stroll through this maze of streets, you will probably come across the Plaça Nova, where two cylindrical towers dating back to Roman times stand. Or the Plaça del Rei, seat of the Palau Reial Major, a count's and later a royal residence.
You will also see many traces of the violence of the Spanish Civil War in the streets or on the buildings of the district. For example, in the Plaça de Sant Felip Neri, where the façade of the eponymous church bears the marks of machine-gun fire from a Nationalist air raid on 30 January 1938.
From the beach to the hills
La Barceloneta, which has become the focal point of mass summer tourism, borders Port Vell, the city's historic port. This beach, which was originally adjacent to the fishermen's and sailors' quarters, was occupied by shanty towns until the 1960s. After the 1992 Olympic Games, the city created a number of sports facilities, cultural institutions and beach tourism facilities in their place. Anyone who decides to run along this long stretch of sand should enjoy the lively scene, with its casinos, private bars and clubs and luxury hotels. Further along, you'll see the Rambla de Mar in Port Vell, with the Maremagnum shopping centre and the Barcelona Aquarium.
If you prefer to run on steeper ground, the hills are there for you. The highest point of the Collserola massif, overlooking the city, Tibidabo has also become one of Barcelona's tourist attractions. Here you can see the Sagrat Cor temple of expiation and the Fabra astronomical observatory. The Castell de Montjuïc dominates the city from the top of its hill, and the 1992 Olympic site can be seen below. The site of the 1929 Universal Exhibition, where the Font màgica stands, with its water, sound and light shows, welcomes many tourists in the evening.