You can’t visit the Catalan capital without strolling through the famous Barrio Gótico. The cobblestone streets of the Gothic Quarter are home to the Cathedral of Barcelona, Picasso’s former haunt Els Quatre Gats and political hub Plaça de la Generalita.
Barrio Gótico – Spanish for Gothic Quarter – is one of the oldest and most beautiful districts in Barcelona. A labyrinth of narrow streets full of atmospheric bars, restaurants and shops, the neighborhood is part of the wider old city and is situated right in the heart of Barcelona, stretching from the famous Rambla to Via Laietana.
In the Museu d’Història de la Ciutat (MUHBA), you can learn about the city’s historical heritage from the Roman period until now. Once inside, you’ll see why it’s worth a visit – the impressive excavations of Barcelona’s Roman streets have been carefully preserved inside the museum walls. Retrace the footsteps of citizens 2,000 years ago, through ancient shops, laundries and chapels. You can also learn about wine making in the 3rd century AD. If you’re visiting on a Sunday, visit after 3pm for free entry.
If you are looking for a less touristy spot, visit Plaça Sant Felip Neri, a tiny, romantic-looking square with a devastating history. In 1938, the square was bombed and 42 people, mainly children who were playing outside, died from the attack. You’ll notice that the church walls are badly damaged and hold a plaque commemorating those lost. During the middle ages, the square was a cemetery behind the cathedral, but nowadays you will find a small fountain, school and the swish Hotel Neri, home to a chic restaurant.
One of the most famous squares in Barcelona is Plaça Reial, the Royal Square. It is located directly next to La Rambla and is therefore very easy to find (in contrast to others in this maze of a neighbourhood). Bars and palm trees surround the square, including renowned nightclubs like Jamboree, Sidecar and Karma. Stop by Ocaña, a bar named after the performer, activist and painter José Pérez Ocaña. He was often found performing around the Rambla and Plaça Reial.
Probably one of the most important squares in Barcelona is Plaça de Sant Jaume (also known as Plaça de la Generalitat). It is considered the political heart of Barcelona, because the City Hall and palace of the Catalan government are located here. On weekends, you might be able to spot groups dancing the Sardana (a traditional Catalan dance) or castellers building human pyramids, plus on Sunday mornings, the City Hall opens its doors for visitors.
There’s an overwhelming choice of walking tours around Barcelona’s most iconic neighbourhood, but some of the best leave from Bar Travel on Calle Boqueria (just off the Rambla). Written and led by local enthusiasts, they’ll take you to all the usual destinations – the cathedral, castle and Las Ramblas – but also to places you would probably have overlooked by yourself, divulging the area’s alternative history in the process. The tours last for two hours.
If you’re done with the fashion houses of Eixample, head to Calle Avinyo for a more soulful experience. Weaving south to north through the centre of the Gothic Quarter, it’s lined with boutiques selling everything from fifties attire to leatherwear and books. Must-visits are The Rent Shop and Wasabi for vintage clothing and, for footwear, La Manual Alpargatera, which in 1940 made the world’s first espadrilles. Just off Calle Avinyo, on Plaza George Orwell, bohemian Bar Oviso serves great value wines and tapas.
Mark Nayler contributed additional reporting to this article.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.