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It always helps to know a few words in a local language before visiting a place, but language can be a particularly tricky thing in Barcelona. While many signs will include English translations in the more touristy spots and almost all residents speak Castilian Spanish, the official language of the city and its region, Catalonia, is Catalan. This language sounds more like French or Italian in many ways, and is not simply a dialect — be careful about saying that to locals, who would be offended by the notion.
Catalonia offers its own vibrant culture and at times can have an antagonistic relationship with central Spain. Even so, the people are friendly and open, likely a byproduct of the warm Mediterranean climate, abundant sunshine and rich art history. You needn’t look far to see the works of some of Spain’s most famous artists, who lived in Barcelona, including Picasso, Miró and Dalí. Architect Antoni Gaudí’s fingerprints are all over the city, found in some of its most famous sites, including La Sagrada Família, Parc Güell and Casa Milà, or La Pedrera.
You’ll likely need more than a few days to experience the wealth of art, nature and culture Barcelona has to offer, given its mix of the typically Spanish with the distinctly Catalan.