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Barcelona, Spain

Spires of Gaudi's La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain. Photo Creative Commons License J. Salmoral.

Beloved by locals and tourists alike for its cutting-edge modernity, fine city beaches, outdoor cafes and colorful Catalan culture, Barcelona is the capital of the region of Catalonia and the second largest city in Spain (pop. 3 million). Situtated on the northeast coast of Spain not far from the French border, Barcelona has been inhabited since Roman times, when it was known as Barcino. Its 13th-century cathedral stands on a site previously occupied by a Roman temple and later a mosque.

Today's Barcelona is home to a magnificent array of churches, ranging from the 10th-century Romanesque Sant Pau del Camp to the cutting-edge Art Nouveau La Sagrada Familia designed by Antoni Gaudi. In between, chronologically speaking, are several medieval churches built in the Catalan Gothic style, which is characterized by huge bare walls, heavy columns, large rose windows, and austere ornamentation; Santa Maria del Mar is considered Barcelona's most splendid example.

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Sacred Sites and Religious Attractions in Barcelona

  • Barcelona Cathedral (La Seu)
    Barcelona's 14th-century cathedral is a celebrated example of Catalan Gothic architecture. Its best feature is the cloister with lush gardens and, oddly, a gaggle of white geese.
  • Pedralbes Monastery
    Dating back to the 14th century, the Reial Monestir de Santa Maria de Pedralbes is a stunning example of Catalan Gothic architecture and one which is well worth visiting.
  • La Sagrada Família
    The Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família is a magnificent basilica designed by celebrated Art Nouveau architect Antoni Gaudi. It remains unfinished, with estimated completion in 2026.
  • Sant Pau del Camp
    The church of "St. Paul of the Countryside" is the oldest church in Barcelona and a rare example of Romanesque architecture in Catalonia. Once surrounded by green fields, it is now in the city center.
  • Santa Maria del Mar
    The beautiful Catalan-Gothic church of St. Mary of the Sea dates from the 1320s. Built to commemorate the conquest of Sardinia, it was intended to symbolize the maritime supremacy of the Kingdom of Aragon.
  • Santa Maria del Pi
    This 14th-century Catalan Gothic church stands at the heart of three picturesque little plazas. Named for a pine tree (pi in Catalan) that once stood nearby, it boasts a huge rose window.