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.
Mark Nayler contributed additional reporting to this article.