Barrio Gótico, Spanish for ‘Gothic Quarter,’ is one of the oldest and most beautiful districts in Barcelona. It is a labyrinth of small streets full of little bars, restaurants and shops. The neighborhood is part of the Cituat Vella, Catalan for ‘the old city,’ and is situated right in the city center: it stretches from the famous Rambla to Via Laietana. Here, we describe ten of the best things to see and do in this popular part of Barcelona.
When you are discovering Barrio Gótico, you cannot miss the beautiful Gothic Cathedral of Barcelona on Pla de la Seu. The official name of the church is Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia, and it was build between the 13th and 15th centuries. One of the highlights inside the cathedral is the crypt below the Capella Major, which contains the sarcophagus of Santa Eulalia. You can also visit the cloister, which was constructed in the 14th-15th century. In the center of the cloister, you will find a beautiful garden with an orange tree, magnolias and palm trees, and a charming fountain in the middle. You can also go to the top of the church by elevator, to enjoy amazing views all over the city. If you want to enter the cathedral, make sure you dress appropriately and cover your shoulders and knees.
The perfect way to get to know the amazing Gothic district is by taking a walking tour. You will be guided through the little streets, learn more about Barcelona’s history and end up at hidden gems and unexpected places. Do not forget to look up every once in a while, to see all the beautiful decorations on the old gothic buildings. There are several companies who organize tours through the neighborhood; one of them is Travel Bound. Every day they host free walking tours through the area in English and Spanish. Joining their tour is very easy, they meet up before every tour at the Travel Bar in carrer de la Boqueria and depart from there.
In the Museu d’Història de la Ciutat (MUHBA) you can spend your day learning about the historical heritage of Barcelona from the Roman period until now. The museum has seven different locations, which you can all visit with the same ticket. The headquarters are located in Barrio Gótico on Plaça del Rei, where you can go to the underground area and walk along the streets of Roman Barcelona. In this part of the MUHBA you can also visit some medieval buildings, for example Palau Reial, the Chapel of Santa Àgata and Saló del Tinell.
MUHBA, Plaça del Rei, Barcelona, Spain +34 932 562 100
If you like art, you should walk through Carrer Petritxol. Here,you can see lovely art galleries and small shops, ending up at pretty Plaça del Pi. The best highlight on the square is without a doubt the big and beautiful Gothic church Santa Maria del Pi. On the left side of the church you can find a small art market during the weekends, where local artists sell their paintings. On the first and third Friday and Saturday of the month, the square holds a lovely artisan food market in front of the church. There are only a few stalls, but it is definitely worth a visit to try traditional Catalan specialties and other handmade products like cheese, chocolate, fuet, nougat, honey, wine and more.
If you love shopping, Barrio Gótico is the place to be. On the Portal de l’Angel you can find all the big department stores and famous Spanish and international brands like Zara, Mango, and H&M. This wide shopping street is located between Plaça Catalunya and the famous Cathedral. However, if you are looking for something more local and a bit more special, you should go to Carrer Avinyó. It is a side street branching from Carrer de Ferran and goes all the way down to the harbor. The whole street is full of exclusive small boutiques, which sell original clothes, jewelry and home accessories. Aside from the cute boutiques you can also find the American Apparel and Adidas Store.
If you are wandering through the small streets of Barrio Gótico, you might end up in a small street called Carrer Regomir. Here, you can find Sweet Dreams, the perfect place to have lunch. From the most beautiful-looking (and tasting) cakes, to ice cream, cupcakes and cookies, they have it all! However, if you don’t have a sweet tooth, they also have delicious fresh, homemade bagels. In the back of the store are some small tables where you can enjoy your lunch in peace. The place might be a little hard to find, but it is definitely worth the trip!
Sweet Dreams, Carrer Regomir 4 bis, Barcelona, Spain +34 930 073 995
If you are looking for a less touristy place, you should visit Plaça Sant Felip Neri: a tiny, romantic-looking square with a tragic history. In 1938 the square was bombed and 42 people, mainly children who were playing on the square, died from the attack. You will notice that the walls on the church and the buildings on the square are badly damaged. On the left side of the church you can find a plaque, which says: ‘In memory of the victims of the bombing of Sant Felip Neri. Here 42 people died, the majority children, by the action of the fascist aviation on the 30th of January, 1938.’ During the middle ages the square functioned as a cemetery behind the Cathedral, but nowadays you will find a small fountain, a church, a school and El Museu del Calçat, one of the smallest museums in Barcelona. The museum contains two small rooms with a collection of shoes from all over the world, and some old shoemaking tools. Unfortunately, there is no information in any language, but there is a very nice old man who would love to tell you everything he knows in Spanish.
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 some other places in this maze of a neighborhood). Bars and palm trees surround the square, and in the middle stands a beautiful fountain. The square contains some famous nightclubs like Jamboree, Sidecar and Karma. A very nice and remarkable bar is called Ocaña, named after the performer, activist and painter José Pérez Ocaña. He was often found performing around the Rambla and Plaça Reial, and was very noticeable because he loved to wear make-up and women’s clothing. He said: ‘They ask me if I’m a transvestite. I am not a transvestite, I am a theatre and my stage is the Rambla…’
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 centers of modernism in the city. Pablo Picasso, Antoni Gaudi and other artists, architects and musicians loved to drink something here while working. In 1900, Picasso hosted his first and second individual exhibition in this charming café. Due to debts, the owner had to close Els Quatre Gats in 1903, but it reopend in 1989 and since then it has been an incredibly popular place with an amazing history.
Els Quatre Gats, Carrer de Montsió, 3, Barcelona, Spain, +34 933 024 140
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 Casa de la Ciutat, the City Hall, and the Palau de la Generalitat, the palace of the Catalan government, are located here. On Sunday mornings the City Hall opens its doors for visitors and you can take a look inside this stately building. When in luck (mostly in the weekends), you might also be able to see some traditional Catalan traditions showcased on this wide square. For example, you can spot a group of people dancing the traditional Catalan dance the Sardana, or people doing the Castellers, building human towers.