Barcelona is absolutely magical to visit – Sagrada Familia, the beach, beautiful views, endless parties, charming squares, captivating culture…the list is endless! If you haven’t made your way to Barcelona, you need to get on it. Just trust us on this one. But do you know what are some of the most important historical events that shaped Barcelona into the city it is today? (don’t worry, this is a quick TL;DR version!)

Please note that there are a million of equally important events in between the ones we’ve outlined! We also recommend reading the 12 Events that Shaped Barcelona’s History article by our friends at The Culture Trip!

How Barcelona Became Barcelona

Timeline: 1st Century BC

Important people: Phoenicians and Carthaginians, but also Hercules.

Barcelona was originally called Barcino and many suspect it was named after the Carthaginian ruler Hamilcar Barca.

If you dive into this subject, you’ll notice there are many legends and rumors out there, but the story that seems to be consistent involves Hercules and his 9-boat expedition – a storm led them to Barcelona and everyone but the 9th boat survived. Hercules named the city Barca Nona, which translates into “the 9th boat”.

Four red stripes on the Catalan flag

Timeline: 1551

Important people: Guifré el Pilós (also known as Wilfred the Hairy, the last count of Barcelona)

The story behind the four red stripes on the Catalan flag (also called La Senyera) goes back to the second part of the General Chronicle of Spain. It was the battle against the Normans, involving the Frankish king and Guifré el Pilós, who got wounded in the process of keeping the Moors outside of Barcelona – the 4 red stripes represent his blood, while the 5 yellow stripes refer to his shield.

Barcelona comes with many flags though – we suggest you read the article by The Spanish Trails Barcelona to get the full history and meanings of each flag.

The War of Spanish Succession

Timeline: September 11th 1714

Important people: Habsburg King Charles II, Catalan troops, Archduke Charles of Austria and everyone who lived in Barcelona at the time.

The date probably rings a bell – today it’s celebrated as the Catalan National Day and it’s one of the must-experience events in the city. Also known as La Diada, the holiday pays respect to those who have fought for Barcelona’s independence.

The Catalan troops fought Bourbon King Philip V of Spain and were defeated after more than a year-long siege of the city. It all went downhill since then, and the holiday is an act of political rebellion.

It’s a tribute to those who have lost their lives in the battle while fighting for the city and its independence, and it’s still one of the most important historical events many passionately speak of – it sparks political debates and goes beyond just some festival on a street.

The 1992 Olympic Games

Timeline: 1992

Important people: Anyone attending and being a part of the Olympic Games, and those living in Barcelona

The 1992 Olympic Games changed Barcelona forever. Before 1992, the city didn’t have a beach – that’s right, it was man-made to support the 1992 Olympic Games and played a very important part in the overall reconstruction of the city.

Although a controversial statement, the Olympic Games put Barcelona on the map, made the city innovative and tourist-friendly, and started shaping it as one of the biggest financial hubs in Europe. The Olympic infrastructure itself brought more than 20,000 new jobs to the local people and significantly dropped unemployment.

Its port now plays an important part in the commercial and industrial trading and it remains Catalonia’s largest ports.

So there you have it! Of course, Barcelona comes with plenty more important (as well as underrated) historical events that have shaped the city. We recommend exploring every part of this city’s history to truly appreciate everything Barcelona has to offer!

“Here in Barcelona, it’s the architects who built the buildings that made the city iconic who are the objects of admiration – not a bunch of half-witted monarchs.” Julie Burchill