The Top Things to Do in Barrio Gótico, Barcelona

The bridge on Carrer del Bisbe in the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona
The bridge on Carrer del Bisbe in the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona | © Alex Segre / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Myrthe Peper
7 August 2021
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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.

Admire the view from the Cathedral of Barcelona

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Cathedral of Barcelona, The Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia. Barcelona, Spain, Europe.
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When exploring Barrio Gótico, you cannot miss the beautiful gothic Cathedral of Barcelona on Pla de la Seu. It was built between the 13th and 15th centuries. Highlights include the crypt below the Capella Major, which contains the sarcophagus of Santa Eulalia. Stroll among the orange trees and magnolias of the 14th-century cloister – or climb to the top and enjoy panoramic city views. Top tip: make sure you dress appropriately and cover your shoulders and knees.

Discover Roman streets at the Museum of History of Barcelona

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Spain, Barcelona, History of the City Museum (MUHBA), ancient Roman ruins, archaeological underground
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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.

Ponder the tragic tale of Plaça Sant Felip Neri

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Placa de Sant Felip Neri, Barrio Gotico, Barcelona
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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.

Dance the night away in Plaça Reial

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Ocana Bar, Club, Placa Reial, Barri Gotic, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain
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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.

Sip coffee in Picasso's shadow at Els Quatre Gats

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Interior of the Els Quatre Gats - El Cuatro Gatos - Four Cats Restaurant in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain
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One of the most famous cafes in Barrio Gótico is Els Quatre Gats, Catalan for “the four cats”. The place is inspired by a bar in Paris called Le Chat Noir. In 1897, three artists who all had worked as waiters in this bar opened the café in Barcelona and soon Els Quatre Gats became one of the most important centres of modernism in the city. Pablo Picasso, Antoni Gaudi and other artists, architects and musicians would drink here. Picasso even hosted his first and second individual exhibitions here in 1900.

Catch a performance in Plaça de la Generalitat

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Generalitat of Catalonia Palace, Barcelona
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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.

Join a Barrio Gótico walking tour

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Carrer del Bisbe. Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain.
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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.

Go vintage shopping at Calle Avinyó

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La Manual Alpargatera,Carrer Avinyo 36,Barcelona, Spain
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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.

These recommendations were updated on August 7, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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