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Spain's strategic and accessible location enabled countless invasions from neighboring civilizations. North Africans, Celtics, Phoenicians, Greeks and Carthaginians all had their hand in settling the Iberian Peninsula. Although it took them two centuries to control the region, invaders from the Roman Empire arrived in the 3rd century BC. During the first century AD, Christianity arrived in Spain, and it was then that the country’s rich religious and culture landscape

began to emerge. When it was first introduced, Christianity was strongly opposed by the Romans, and the opposition led to years of persecution – the first of more to come. For the next hundred years, the area was dominated by the Romans until German tribes invaded it and Christian Visigoths took over until the Moors migrated from Northern Africa in 711.

By the time Moors introduced Muslim culture to Spain, the country had centuries of Christian beliefs and customs. But by 714, the Moors had conquered most of the peninsula, and the country became deeply rooted in Moorish culture, as their dominance lasted nearly 800 years. The area under Moorish control was called, Al-Andalus, and it flourished in the arts and sciences. As a result, the area today is one of the most culturally aesthetic regions in Spain. In 722, the Spanish Reconquista began when a small army of Christian Visigoths defeated the Moors in northern Spain. Gradually, Christians began taking back territory that was under Moorish control, and by the middle of the 13th century, Christians had regained most of the country with the exception of Granada. During that time, yet another religion made its presence felt in the area. A large community of Jews made Spain their home and they experience relative freedom under Muslim and Christian rulers. All this changed during the infamous and tragic Spanish Inquisition.
In the late 15th century, Catholic monarchs Isabella and Ferdinand expelled, tortured or executed thousands of Muslims, Jews and non-believers if they did convert to Christianity. Individuals were hired to seek out Muslims or Jews who claimed to have converted, but were secretly practicing their religion behind closed doors. Punishments and tortures were often conducted in public squares and would last, on many occasions, all day. In 1492, the last of the Moorish-controlled territory, Granada, fell to the Christians and the Reconquista was complete.

The same year Granada succumbed to the Christians, Christopher Columbus embarked on an overseas trip that led him to the Americas. Subsequently, Spanish dominance in the new territory became abundant, and extreme wealth and prosperity followed for the next few centuries, until the Spanish-American War of 1898 ended Spanish rule in the Americas.

The 20th century saw extreme political and social unrest. The Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) left 350,000 Spanish civilians dead. General Francisco Franco led a party of Nationalists that was backed by Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy and were pitted against the leftist Popular Front. Franco established a dictatorship that ruled until his death in 1974. King Juan Carlo became his successor, and it was under his leadership that Spain emerged from a tightly-controlled dictatorship to democracy.

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