Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter
Cathedrals, Roman ruins and quiet squares await…
By Duncan Rhodes
The Main Attractions
Foremost on your Gothic hitlist should be the Cathedral of Santa Eulalia (also known as Cathedral La Seu and not to be confused with Gaudi’s bruiser La Sagrada Familia in the Eixample district). An open space in front of the Cathedral enables onlookers to admire the church’s grand facade, even if it is most likely marred by the odd crane or two. Venture inside to discover the 13 geese representing the 13 years of the virgin matyr Saint Eulalia herself.
Right by the cathedral the sharp eyed tourist should be able to make out the remnants of a Roman aquaduct which once ferried water supplies to thirsty toga-wearers all those centuries ago. In fact, the historically inclined tourist should be able to find several other interesting Roman remains, including the pillars of what was once a temple to Emperor Augustus – head to Carrer Paradis 10 to see them. (More Roman remains can be seen under the City History Museum).
Wandering from the Cathedral further East into the Barri Gotic and you should come across Plaça Santa Jaume. A significant square indeed, as this used to be Barcelona’s ancient Roman forum and has kept its political role – today you can behold the magnificent Renaissance facade of the Palau de la Generalitat, the headquarters of the government of Catalonia. It’s the one with the surly-looking guards out front.
Exceeding the Placa Santa Jaume in beauty however, and possibly the cynosure of the entire Gothic Quarter is Placa Reial (Plaza Real). This resplendent space comes replete with palm trees, and Gaudi-designed lampposts and fountain… no wonder it takes some beating. Always packed, not always with salubrious characters, this is prime people watching territory and it’s worth paying the mark-up on a beer to sit on this square for a while. Later on the plaza becomes a centre of Barcelona’s nightlife.
Needless to say reams could be written about the many museums, churches, attractions and legends, intertwined with the Gothic Quarter’s medieval streets – we’ve yet to mention the Plaça del Rei, Santa Maria del Pi and Plaça Merce – and the more culturally aware may well profit from taking a guided tour.
Those that prefer sampling the vibe over taking in dates and details can still have plenty of fun simply wandering the Barri Gotic’s labyrinthine passages and uncovering their secrets… throw away your map and get lost and before you know it you’ll be in a tiny forgotten plaza sipping a quiet cerveza and reflecting on just how good life can be!
Gothic Quarter Hotels
Naturally, as this is the touristic centre of the city, there are plenty of great hotels in the Barri Gotic if this is where you’re looking to bed down. We’ll bring you a guide to accommodation in the Gothic Quarter very soon! Meanwhile you might want to try the following apartments agencies.