Like most of the cities situated on the Mediterranean, Barcelona has a long and tumultuous history. With origins beginning about 2,000 years ago, there have been many groups vying for political control of the city, access to its agricultural resources and prime harbor location. The Romans, Visigoths, Franks and Castilians have all left their marks on the region and influenced the popular cosmopolitan destination that is now Barcelona.
Visitors can investigate the extraordinarily intact Julia Faventia Agusta Pia Barcino, an old Roman city with medieval additions that can be found under the City History Museum. A walled enclosure surrounds a city that dates back to the age of the emperor Augustus. After Roman control of the region crumbled, many other groups tried their hand at ruling, among them the Visigoths, the Moors and the Franks. Feudalism followed Frankish rule and the success of Wilfred the Hairy at the end of the 9th century marked the emergence of Catalonia, what is still an autonomous community of Spain. This historical cultural identity is still present today and Catalan is spoken widely in Barcelona and the rest of the region.
Barcelona adapted to the industrial revolution early, finding success in textiles, with raw materials being brought in from the New World. Industrial productivity brought along with it wealth, which precipitated a 19th-century renaissance for the city. The economy and the arts prospered. Today, travelers find Barcelona a diverse mix of Gothic architecture, modernism and contemporary living, thrilling nightlife and world-class museums. The old center has one of the most densely concentrated areas of Gothic buildings in Europe. Antoni Gaudi’s Church of the Holy Family cannot be missed; its grand structure and intense symbolism embodies Gaudi’s style.