The Gothic Quarter is the oldest part of Barcelona and retains its medieval layout of narrow crisscrossing streets and squares in which awe-inspiring churches are crammed. No trip to Barcelona is complete without really exploring this lively mix of history and contemporary life.
Head east off Las Ramblas and you’re in the Barri Gotic, or El Gotic, in the Catalan language. The boundaries of the area are La Rambla, Via Laietana, the Mediterranean Sea and a major road through the city Ronda de Sant Pere.
One of the first places you’ll find is the 14th century La Seu Cathedral in Place de la Seu. This impressive structure of arches and spires is sometimes known as Santa Eulalia and her remains are found in the crypt beneath the church. Thirteen geese within the church commemorate her early life.
Delving further into Barri Gotic you’ll find the small medieval streets now filled with cafes and bars, shops and apartments. Traffic is restricted here so it’s a great place to wander and explore by foot. It gets lively at night and is a fabulous if noisy part of town in which to stay. In the midst of it all you’ll find another worthy church, La Merce Basilica, as well as the soaring bell tower of Santa Maria del Pi and the Church of Sant Miquel.
The administrative center of Catalonia is here as well, in the Palau de la Generalitat on the square Placa Sant Jaume – you’ll know it by the serious-looking guards outside. This was the location of the original Roman forum of the ancient city.
Another impressive square is Placa Reial or the Royal Square. This is one of Barcelona’s best squares and always packed with a huge variety of people. The drinks in the cafes are not cheap but it’s worth it for a bit of people watching, especially as evening draws in. For those on the Gaudi trail around Barcelona this square has lampposts and a fountain he designed.
To really explore the Barri Gotic you’ll need to take a walking tour with someone who knows the district well – there’s so much to see and it’s so easy to miss the hidden treasures and history.