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Barcelona History Timeline

Barcelona History Timeline

All of us should be interested in the history of this city which we love so here is an in-depth Barcelona History Timeline.

This beautiful city of ours, now containing over 1.600.000 inhabitants, is one of the most popular tourist destination in Europe. With all the qualities it has to offer, it’s no wonder why; the beach, the sun, the mountains, the culture. And it’s excellent location, between the Collserola mountain ridge and the Mediterranean Sea.

This excellent location, which now attracts so many people every year, which attracted me, was the same thing that attracted it’s settlers, so many thousands of years ago. Not because of the beach, which is actually man made, but because it was, and is, easily defendable.

Barcelona is one of the most ancient cities in Spain, and certainly it is rich with history.

Barcelona History Timeline

2000 BC

The legend of its creation is that in 2000 BC Hercules, the mythical Greek hero, set sail from Africa in nine boats. During the voyage, one of the ships is lost to a storm by the Catalan coast. Searching for the ninth boat, Hercules and his men eventually find it, stranded on a new land, surrounded by a beautiful hill. The men survived, and so struck by the beauty of the place, named it Barca Nona, ‘Ninth Ship’.

First Century BC

Towards the end of the first century BC, the Romans Would you like me to write for your website? Click here to go to my website "Website Copywriter" and find out more. established a city called Barcino around what was then called the Taber mountain. The Romans used the same spot as their political and administrative base as they do today; Plaza Sant Jaume. However, the Romans showed little interest in what is now the capital of Catalunya. Instead they focused on Barcelona's neighbor, Tarragona.

The Romans enclosed the city with looming walls, which still remain very much visible today. Excellent examples can be found in the Plaza del Rei and the Plaza Ramon Berenguer.

Early 5th century

The Visigoths (Western Goths; one of the main branches of the Goths, an eastern Germanic tribe) conquered Barcelona in the early 5th century. Barcino, as Barcelona was known so long ago, was an important center of the Visigoth kingdom, attributed to its insurmountably defensive walls. So highly important was Barcino that it was made the capital of the kingdom, after it’s predecessor, Toulouse in France.


The Muslim inhabitants of Al-Andulus, the Moors, arrived to the Iberian peninsula in 711. Under the rule of ‘Taric el Tuerto’ (Taric the one-eyed), they reigned over most of Spain, conquering the Visigoths. Tarragona, in 717 was invaded and largely destroyed. When the Moors entered Barcelona after such damage caused to Tarragona, they met with little resistance. The reign of the Moors lasted less than a century. When in…


...Louis the Pious, under Charlesmagne, conquered the city, and Barcelona fell under Frankish rule. From 878 to 897, Guifré el Pelós, Catalan for Wilfred the Hairy, was the count of Barcelona, Girona and Besalu.

11th Century

In the 11th century, Barcelona invaded Cordoba, which ended in success for Barcelona, bringing with it a significant gain of wealth and economy. The city developed rapidly. At this time, other Catalan counties united, with Barcelona as their capital.

During the 12th Century…

…Barcelona prospered. The then count, Ramon Berenguer IV married the daughter of the King of Aragon, Petronila of Aragon, uniting the two territories. This brought vast increase of political and economical power. Upon the death of Petronilas father, Berenguer became King of Aragon. Helped by commerce from the Mediterranean sea and tariffs collected from the ‘Moorish Taifa Kingdom’, Barcelona’s conquest increased to include Valencia, the Balearic islands, Sicily and Sardinia.

In this period, two new sections of the city wall were built. One to encompass assexed towns, the other to include agricultural areas which is now known as the Raval.

The city flourished and grew, attracting merchants from around the world. Guilds were formed, concentrated in different areas around the cities political center, Plaza Sant Jaume. Street names still reflect these guilds which existed so long ago, e.g. Flassaders (blanket makers) or Sombrerers (hat makers).

The 15th Century brought with it…

…the bubonic plague and civil wars.

These two factors devastated the population of Barcelona and saw a dark period in the history of the city. The plague alone cut the population to over half its previous number, from 50,000 to 20,000.


In this time, Castile, the former central kingdom of Spain, spawned the Segadors War, also known as the Catalan Revolt, to suppress the cities nationalism. Castile, was the power center at the time; it had expanded south, recapturing land from the Moors. Through marriage, annexation and assimilation, it grew to be the great power that it was. The word Castile gives name ‘Castilian’, the English word for the Spanish language spoken in Spain. For 12 years Barcelona resisted the forces of Castile, but eventually, in 1652, they were defeated. Catalunya succeeded in holding on to its autonomy but had to witness the dismemberment of its territories. This war gave name to the Catalan anthem, “Els Segadors”.

In this time, northern Catalunya came under French rule.

1701-1714 War of Succession

In 1701, upon the death of King Charles II, another war fizzled to life in Catalunya. Barcelona fought against France and Castile, but lost its war, losing its autonomy. Castila claimed most of the territories of Barcelona; Sardinia, Sicily, Naples and Mallorca. Catalan, as a language, was declared illegal, not only in public but in private also.

Take a wander through the area of Born in Barcelona and you will find, by the Santa Maria del Mar church, the “ Fossar de les Morenes”, a torch which commemorates all Catalans who lost their lives during the War of Succession.

Towards the end of the…

...18th Century…

...Barcelona became once again an important center, due to the industrial revolution, it’s position on the Mediterranean and the proximity of availability of lignite in the Bergueda, a county lying in the interior of Catalunya. Barcelona and Catalunya, as had occurred before in history, increased in power and prosperity.


In this year, the first general strike in Barcelona took place, which accompanied bombings, riots, convent fires and general conflict.

In 1848…

…the first railway route was built; from Barcelona to Mataro, another Catalonian city on the Costa Maresme. In 1850, railways began being built on a larger scale, due to certain laws being passed which made investment more attractive.

In 1859…

…Barcelona was finally freed from it’s bounds of the city walls. The capital was now at liberty to expand; essential as it’s population was itself growing rapidly. The area of Gracia was already a thriving and independent town, with the only road connecting Barcelona and Gracia, being the boulevard which we now know as Passeig de Gracia. The land on either side of Passeig de Gracia was barren. In order to make use of it a competition was created. The barrio of Eixample was to be born, and the title of the best man for the job was given to Ildefons Cerda. And so Eixample came to be.

In 1888…

…the Barcelona World Fair took place, and drew Europe’s eyes to the capital city of Catalunya. Incidentally, the Arc de Triunfo, located at the end of Passeig de Lluis Companys, was built specifically to be the entrance to the World Fair.

Towards the end of the 19th Century...

...Barcelona began to evolve into the culturally avant-garde epicenter which we know it as today. The famous 'Els Quatre Gats' sprung to life in 1897, influenced by 'Le Chat Noir' in Paris. Offering affordable food and live piano music, the restaurant soon attracted a crowd of artists who obviously fell in love with the atmosphere of the place. Most notably, Pablo Picasso held his first exhibition there, in 1899.

Located on Calle Montsio 3, 'Els Quatre Gats' still stands proud and is definitely a must see. On their website which you can find here , you can see what their menu of the week is.

It is also around this time that Gaudi started making his mark on the city; creating Sagrada Familia, La Pedrera and Park Guell

With the good comes the bad, and so... 1906 occurred 'Tragic Week'...

...which was a rebellion against the calling up of troupes to fight in Morocco. Between 104 and 150 civilians were killed and 5 people were executed because of this week.

In 1923...

...General Primo de Rivera came to power and brought Spain under a period of dictatorship. Generally supported by the Spanish public, General Rivera ruled with an iron fist, and once again, banned Catalan as a language. He ruled until 1931 when the first Catalan Republic was established, with Lluis Companys as president. Continuing with the up and down theme of Barcelona's history, in...


...the Spanish civil war broke out, introducing a new dark period to Barcelona. With thousand fleeing into exile during this period, the war finally ended in 1939 when the Franco dictatorship rose to power. In this time, thousands of Catalans fled across the border to France, to avoid further repression. Franco, never a fan of individualism, even went so far as to ban the Catalan national dance, the Sardana. This, evidently, was a difficult time for the Catalan nation, until Franco finally... 1975...

...died and Spain came to be a democracy. Barcelona reinstalled the Generalitat as it’s autonomous government, and Barcelona became again the capital of Catalunya.

In 1981...

...the International Olympics Committee announced that Barcelona would be the host city for the Olympics in 1992. In preparation for the games, Barcelona got a new face lift; the sea front was pulled away from it’s industrial drudgery and created into the wonderful beaches that we know to exist here today. Barcelona developed architecturally and culturally and finally, when 1992 came, people saw Barcelona in all it’s glory and yearned to visit this city of Gaudi, beaches and passion.

This relatively recent event has sculpted Barcelona into the culturally rich, burning with life, capital of Catalunya that we know it as. But we can see, quite clearly, that the turmoil and graces that Barcelona has experienced throughout the centuries are what really shaped it’s people.

Click here for an external site which has another barcelona history timeline