About Barri Gòtic
The ancient part of Barcelona where history remains very much alive, Barri Gòtic or the Gothic Quarter is hardly unheard of. A gem of Barcelona seated in the heart of the city where its deeply enthroned medieval spirit continuously spreads its olden day charm through the ages even till today. There are so many hidden intricate details, symbols, architectures, and amazing things that have tempted travellers from all around the globe to flock over to visit.
Part of the Ciutat Vella district, Barri Gòtic is the oldest part of Barcelona and stretches from the La Rambla to Via Laietana, and from the Mediterranean seafront to the Ronda de Sant Pere.
Going further back in history, Barri Gòtic was the main business and commercial hub during the Roman colonisation of Spain. Today, this area is the 21st century city hall and centre of Barcelona. With its narrow winding cobblestoned streets with centuries old gothic architectures accompanied by modern contemporary buildings, this town is a representation of past and present and the past in present.
Having based in Barcelona for such a long time, I have fallen in love with the many little spots in the Barri Gòtic area to the extent of having a habit or ‘standard operation procedure’ of doing certain things at certain places. Example being, Placa de Sant Just for hanging out with friends, Placa del Rei for an evening alone or Carrer de Ferran for food. Strolling along one of its many quaint little streets in the evening becomes a daily routine of mine and each day brings new and interesting discoveries. The ancient ambience that is and has always been so spirited never fails to keep my mood refreshed everyday.
An atmospheric locale that houses not only enthralling places of interests, relaxing squares, restaurants and cafes, it is also a place where local designers flair their labels aloud. To me, Barri Gòtic is like a bijou centre with so much to absorb and experience. Thus, I’ve decided to unite all my favourite spots and places that I loved here all under one roof to share as a general guide for any of you who are planning or happens to be there.
Within every nook and cranny of the Barri Gòtic area is something awaiting for your eyes to unfold. Be it the unique centuries old ‘salida’ street signages, the symbols of the old coat of arms, or, even the idiosyncratic door knob on one of the apartment’s main entrance gate. It really takes a good pair of meticulous eyes to spot out all of this area’s little discreet and hidden secrets.
A penchant for gothic arts, I love walking around Barri Gòtic, admiring its intricate architectural designs and studying the details of the different streets, including its antique street signs and road names reminiscing how the name of the street came about or what building or structure used to be around the corner back in those days. Even every one of its many different squares or ‘placa’ has a meaningful history to tell.
Cathedral of Barcelona
A splendour of Barri Gòtic. Also known as Catedral de la Santa Creu i Santa Eulàlia, the Cathedral of Barcelona was built in the 1300 to 1500, dedicated to Santa Eulalia.
Designed with stunningly complex neo-gothic facades on the outside that is impossible to miss, the interior of the cathedral is equally impressive. Embellished splendidly with great biblical symbolism and gold ornaments, everything within the interior is of great historical significance.
The complex engineering that was used to build this magnificent cathedral is an architectural wonderment. As it slowly undergoes restorative works, engineers begin to discover the intricate details and magnificent building techniques used that were way ahead of its time. A small museum dedicated to preserving and sharing knowledge of these architectural discoveries is located on the ground floor near the entrance.
There’s even an elevator to take visitors to the roof terrace. Up here on the picturesque rooftop, you’ll be amazed at the details of the bell towers and its fabled gargoyles. If you have a knack for history, legends and myths, see if you can decipher the stories behind the many different roof crestings and charms near the roof ends. But with such spectacular panoramic views of the city, this spot is definitely beset with a perfect backdrop to keep you way occupied for a few snaps of insta-worthy photos.
The lovely garden with its 15th century fountain seated in the Cathedral compound is also a very popular spot among visitors. It houses thirteen white geese which represented Santa Eulalia’s thirteen years of life of service in this Cathedral. Observe the tomb markings of the early crusaders that can be easily mistaken for pirate symbols. Nevertheless, the garden’s tranquil and relaxing atmosphere is certainly a much needed oasis after all the photo snapping workouts.
Of course, the visit to the cathedral is never complete without fully understanding its rich history and exploring every corner of the cathedral from inside out. As the cathedral is packed with so much elaborate detail, I would suggest you take a slow methodical tour to fully enjoy every single section of the cathedral and its various exhibits.
Bishop’s Bridge (Pont del Brisbe)
Constructed in 1928 by Joan Rubió i Bellver, a modernist architect and student of renowned designer Antoni Gaudí, the Bishop’s bridge today is a signature of Barri Gòtic located along Carrer del Brisbe. The bridge crosses the street connecting Casa dels Canonges and Palau de la Generalitat.
According to local legend, some people believe that ‘anyone who crosses the bridge and sees the pierced skull will fall prey to an evil spell’. On the other hand, there are also some people who speculate that ‘anyone who crosses the bridge and sees the pierced skull will be granted a wish’. Whichever you believe, enjoy the view and design!
What’s with the pierced skull you say? Inspired by gothic architectural designs, Joan Rubió’s aspiration was to build new buildings delineated by his own individual interpretation of gothic styles and impression. However, his proposal was utterly declined by the government and only the construction of Bishop’s Bridge was approved. Upset with the decision, he secretly incorporated a hidden skull pierced with a dagger inside its art.
Legend or not, almost all visitors flock over to take a glimpse of this beautiful neo-gothic bridge everyday. Be it taking a few postcard pictures for travel stories or putting the legend to test, this is definitely an interesting place for an afternoon walk. If you want the street and bridge to yourself, I highly suggest you come here really early in the morning.
As for the legends, I believe the latter that a wish has been granted. My wish during my first visit to Barcelona was to live and relocate here. And now, here I am!
What about you?
Museu d’Historia de la Ciutat
Barcelona City Museum is an informative underground museum packed with the cumulative archeological and historical heritage of Barcelona since the beginning of the Roman empire till the present day Barcelona.
The museum exhibits and preserves the comprehensive archaeological remains of the Roman-Barcino. Inside the museum, you will be walking over the ruins surrounded by its primeval aura as it was since discovered. Being here really does feel like travelling back in time, witnessing and understanding what the Roman lifestyles, livelihood, houses and common facilities were like in the early century. The whole experience is simply like visiting an ancient town of a different era.
Located right below the most nostalgic square of Barri Gòtic, the Barcelona City Museum is seated underneath Placa del Rei, a very popular spot for exuberant and passionate musicians who love to jazz up impromptu performances in the square. A perfect place to relive the character of good old days after your museum visit, do grab a beer from a nearby convenient shop and hang around the square to let the day pass slowly, forming memories and enjoying a slow yet entertaining pace of life.
Casa de l’Ardiaca
This gothic building is located right next to the Cathedral of Barcelona. Although Casa de l’Ardiaca is often an overlooked site in Barri Gòtic, it has, in fact, a lot of hidden beauty.
As you enter the building, you’ll be greeted by a serene courtyard and a lovely fountain at the centre. From here, you will notice that the present day architectural design of the building is a combination of a Gothic-Renaissance style. The upper terrace is a classic ‘Romeo and Juliet’ style balcony that is absolutely pretty for a few Instagram posts. At the back of the building, you will see a wall underpinning part of the ancient Roman wall of Barcelona. Part of the replica of the aqueduct which stood at the gateway to the city is attached to this wall.
Besides its balcony, Casa de l’Ardiaca has another unique quality. Look out for a stone letterbox that is adorned with seven swallows and a turtle at the entrance. I suppose this is an interpretation of differentiating postage services in the early days.
A former residence of Archdeacon Lluís Desplà built in the 1400 and has undergone several transformation over the years, Casa de l’Ardiaca today is home to the Barcelona’s Municipal Archive.
Gaudi Exhibition Centre
Still inquisitive about Gaudi’s Cryptogram? Here in the Barri Gotic lies the answer to most of his riddles. Near the entrance of the Cathedral of Barcelona is a small exhibition centre dedicated to preserving and documenting all of Gaudi’s life and works.
Since most of Barcelona’s main tourist attractions are Gaudi’s original works, it is definitely interesting to learn a bit of his checkered past and understand his genius behind his greatest works and secrets to deciphering his unique symbols and cryptograms. The museum also houses the only model replica of what was supposed to be his grand design of the incomplete Gaudi’s Crypt in Colonial Guell.
One thing to know is that within the Barri Gòtic vicinity there are many ‘placa’, otherwise known as ‘public squares’ in English. Each individual square has its own distinct historical characteristics and its own story to tell. Even the individual atmospheric aura in every square differs. Some are bright and open while some still gloom and whisper with hidden secrets, alleyways and windy stairwells. In recent years, trendy new chic cafes have also started springing up around these squares bringing the overall experience to a whole new level.
The squares are an open area where people gather and hang around, enjoying their daily lives in a slow pace while reminiscing the timeless architecture and art around them. You’ll get to experience the local culture intimately in a placid and lively atmosphere with the mix of new contemporary art objects framed before an ancient backdrop. Whether it is the tourists that pass through here or the locals, no one seems to get enough of the aura around here. All spirited, happy and lively at best!
Spend some time by yourself and away from your social media by square-hopping around Barri Gòtic. Take in the delicate details of the different squares or even unwind or chill at one of the squares’ many newfound cafes. Even the fashion and colours worn by the people who pass through these places, both locals and tourists, create a magical view on its own. The light-hearted atmosphere around these squares always relaxes your soul muting your sense of time altogether. In my words, Barcelona is a city that truly speaks to your heart. Who knows, you’ll find a new inspiration here!
Placa Sant Jaume
The main city centre of Barcelona with a huge open square and two of Barcelona’s most important buildings shining opposite each other. On one side stands the Palau de la Generalitat and on the other, the Barcelona City Hall. The square is also a local staging ground for some of Barcelona’s major events and cultural festivals.
Placa de Sant Just
A quaint and tranquil square where one of city’s oldest Christian church, Església de Sant Just i Pastor presides.
The main attraction here is the lovely little fountain seated under the ‘Placa de Sant Just’ signage on one of the apartment blocks. The fountain was designed by the renowned councilman of Barcelona, Joan Fiveller, who claimed to have discovered a spring in Collserola hills and piped the water directly to Barcelona.
The neo-gothic rooftop of Església de Sant Just i Pastor is exceptional and offers great views over the city. As for most European cities, no other building stands taller than the church and the church is almost always in the centre of town. While easy to navigate, it is highly recommended to head up the church’s rooftop at sunset to bathe in the old day’s golden-glow ambience of Barcelona and see the many colourful buildings around form a pastel like colourful reflection toward the church.
Placa de Sant Felip Neri
This is my favourite square of all. A truly emotional heartfelt square.
Placa de Sant Felip Neri stands out from the rest of the square as it has been deeply scared with its historic detail. The faded facades along the Baroque style Church of Sant Felip Neri are heavily wounded by bullets and shrapnel from the Spanish Civil War in 1938. The bombing by fascist planes took the life of 42 people, of whom most were children from the nearby School of Sant Felip Neri seeking refuge beneath the church.
Today, the School of Sant Felip Neri is still alive. However, with a tragic past, the scars on the walls could never be erased. When the square is all alone and quiet, pain and hurt can still be felt from around the square and serves as a reminder that the price of war is always paid by the blood of innocent people.
Placa del Rei
The King’s Square.
One of the most picturesque medieval square where the vast underground ruins of the Roman-Barcino once sprawled.
Located on site is the Museu d’Historia de la Ciutat. Adjacent to it is the royal place Palau Reial Major. According to some local scholars, this is where King Fernando II and Queen Isabel welcomed Christopher Columbus upon his return from the New World; the continent of America. To what may seem to follow after this reception was the great European enterprise for the colonisation and pioneering of America. It really amazes me what significance such a small quaint square would even bring upon our world and shape history as we know it.
No trip to Barcelona is ever complete without delving into some of the local cuisines. Greatly influenced by a diverse cultures and influences, the gastronomy scene in Barcelona has evolved from just traditional European cum Mediterranean tastes into a fusion and innovation of flavours from all over the world including some from the New World.
With so many local Spanish restaurants and international food fares dotted along the touristy streets and twisted alleys of the Barri Gòtic, you can never finish trying all the food in and around the area with one stomach. There are even smaller hidden little gems and snacks in the square that is to die for.
To simplify your dining experience, here are some of my favourite dining places for you to follow or whet your appetite with.
Taller de Tapas
The word ‘tapa’ alone consists of more than the all time familiar Patata Brava or Gambas Al Ajillo. It has today evolved into a cosmopolitan cuisine with hundreds of varieties over the years. Innovative dishes of tapa have been sprouting out of Barri Gòtic in brand new presentations with different fusions and taste. Some are heartily traditional while some are complete genre based fusions. A few dishes of tapas is equivalent to a whole good meal already.
Taller de Tapas serves a wide variety of exceptional tapas at an economical price and is definitely a ‘must-go’ and ‘must-try’ tapas bar for every visitor. With all its enticing tapas, I bet you will return the next day for more with a recharged belly. Try its Galician style octopus and grilled razor shells. You will not regret!
As brunching is an all trendy thing nowadays, Barcelona has no lack of cosy brunch spots. All the more reason not to fret if you woke up late here in Barcelona!
Seated in a quiet alley in the Barri Gòtic is the The Benedict, a British breakfast house that serves a wide variety of delicious hearty brunches.
Popular among both the locals and tourists alike with ravishing good recommendations flying around the cyberspace, this place tends to get crowded. So do try to wake a bit earlier and be there early. Or else, be prepared to join the queue with a grumbling stomach.
Paella, a Spanish rice dish with ancient roots and a well loved dish among young and old.
Every restaurant I went to serves paella with a slight difference in taste. Some tasted a tad too salty, some not flavourful enough or some even had the rice undercooked.
For a perfect paella fix, head over to Colom. You can never go wrong with their paella. Huge portion and value for money. The paella is rightly flavourful and well done to the very last crayfish.
A hidden gem in one of Barri Gotic’s quaint cobblestoned streets, popular for their top-notch quality tea and their tale of Moorish Aladdin-like Arabian ambience.
Featuring a dim and cozily exotic carved-out-of-rock interior, this Arabian inspired tea room is embellished with flying carpets, magical daggers, colourful cloth lamps and turbans.
This is a fantastic place to refuel your soul comfortably from a long hard-day’s tour and a definite ‘must-try’ for tea lovers. Do try their tasty flower-shaped flour scones!
Located along the aesthetic street of Carrer de Ferran, Restaurante Ferran is hard to be missed. An up-scale restaurant set in an immaculate ambience with eye-catching entrance, this is a great place for a fancy dinner or gathering with friends.
With a huge à la carte menu of local Spanish cuisines and Mediterranean fares, all at an affordable prices, your taste buds will definitely be spoilt for choice. If you’re visiting with a big group of friends, do check out their group menus.
And oh, they serve superb noodle paella.
Located in a little corner at Placa de Sant Just, Bliss serves the best tiramisu I’ve ever tasted!
Having tasted lots of tiramisus outside of Barcelona, I can tell you that I am actually not a fan of it. It either tasted too dry, too wet or overly sweet. Hardly any to ever get the right texture and oomph.
Bliss did it. The tiramisu simply melts upon entering your tongue carpeted mouth. Smooth, creamy and not overly sweet, its body will wrap around your senses till the next bite. This is the only tiramisu I ate or would eat most of the time if I ever suddenly developed the craving for it while around the corner.
As Barri Gòtic is overwhelmed with hidden treasures and surprises, I honestly do not have enough hands to type out the whole itinerary nor the stomach to taste every treat there is! Nonetheless, everyday brings a new adventure especially when the season changes and its festivals takes to the streets.
I will continue to update this blog as and when a new experience is added to my travel adventure. So follow me…
Next Read: The Ultimate Barcelona Travel Guide
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