In the morning the organized groups are the masters Gothic Quarter, so the best time to visit the area is around lunchtime, saving some queues at the main attractions, like the Cathedral or the MUHBA.
It is also located in a nerve center of the city, so from the Barrio Gòtico you can reach Barceloneta and La Ribera in a few minutes, while, on the other side of the Rambla extends the Raval, the other central district of the city, all destinations for possible excursions.
Not to mention the many restaurants, bars and clubs that pop up like mushrooms in the neighborhood, ensuring an intense nightlife.
Itinerary to visit the Gothic Quarter
1. Give Porta Ferrissa to Santa María del Pi
Start from the Rambla, at Carrer di Portaferrissa: one of the ancient medieval entrances to the city, when the Rambla did not exist.
You can reach the Carrer descending the Rambla from Plaça de Catalunya (lines 1, 3, 6 and 7) for a few hundred meters, or go up to Jaume I (line 3), covering a similar distance.
The ancient Porta Ferrissa it was one of the gateways to the medieval city: its name comes from the ancient iron bar used as a measuring instrument, to see if the chariots could enter the city walls.
An ancient ceramic decoration above the fountain recalls the position of the ancient gateway to the city, and the size of the development of the city walls.
Walk along carrer de Portaferrissa for a while and turn right along carrer del Petrixol, descending along the road to Plaça del Pi (in Catalan Pi means Pino, from the name of the ancient pine that once stood in the center of the square) .
The plaça is dominated by the imposing medieval church of Santa María del Pi, still home to weekly markets today.
The church's large rose window measures 10 meters, one of the largest in the Ciutat Vella, the oldest urban district in Barcelona.
2. The Cathedral and the Palau de la Generalitat
Continue your journey descending along Carrer de la Palla, until you reach the most important monumental joint in the city: the Plaça Nova.
Among the various buildings that adorn the square, the most important is certainly the Cathedral, the largest religious building in the city until the construction of the Sagrada Familia.
In addition to the Cathedral there are two other notable buildings in the plaça: having the cathedral in front the building immediately to the left is La Pia Almoina, from the fifteenth century, a charitable institution that offered food and aid to the poor of the city, now home to the Diocesan Museum.
On the right side instead you can see the Episcopal Palace, whose facade is actually a neoclassical remake, but which contains a medieval gallery of the thirteenth century.
On the side closest to that of Carrer del Bisbe you can see some remains from the Roman era. At the beginning of this street, the remains of one of the entrance gates of the XNUMXth century AD walls of the ancient Roman city are preserved.
The facade of the cathedral is actually from the XNUMXth century, but executed following original XNUMXth century designs.
The interior of the cathedral is worth a visit for its ornate altars, the retablos, the imposing choir and the crypt of Santa Eulalia, martyr at the age of 13 in the year 303 in the ancient Barcino, the ancient Roman colony on which the barri gòtic stands.
If you want to visit the Cathedral, you can enter for free at certain times of the day.
The size and importance of the Roman city can be admired inside the MUHBA, the historical museum of the city, whose excavations are wedged under the road surface, but this will be seen in more detail later.
Along the Carrer del Bisbe you can reach the Palace of the Generalitat, with its XNUMXth century Gothic facade. Halfway down the road you can admire a arch with triforium in neo-Gothic style, actually built in 1928 to join the seat of government with a religious building, the Casa dels Canonges.
3. Sant Felip Neri and Casa del Ardiaca
Located almost in front of the cathedral door that overlooks Carrer del Bisbe, there is a small square, with a lane called carrer de Montjuĩïc del Bisbe: take it and continue along its maze of curves, until you come to Plaça de Sant Felip Neri.
One of the most intimate places in the Barrio Gòtico, this pretty square, with its low fountain in the center, it is a small oasis of peace away from the tourist groups.
It is also home to one of the most tragic events in Barcelona during the Spanish Civil War: the bombers of the Spanish nationalists hit a refugee school class in the square, killing 47 dead.
The nationalists always denied any responsibility for what happened. Machine gun marks are still visible outside the church of Sant Felip Neri.
The interior of the church is in neoclassical style, with the lectern built in the shape of an eagle, a contour similar to that used by the much hated Franco dictatorship, which silenced Catalan nationalism for more than forty years.
Next to the church stands one of the most curious museums in Barcelona: the Museu del calçado, or rather the footwear museum.
The building was moved stone by stone from its original location, along the current Via Laietana, following the works for the opening of the important road artery.
Continuing along the other street that leads to Sant Felip Neri, carrer de Montjuïc del Bisbe, you return once again along carrer del Bisbe: continue along the direction of the cathedral, and turn into carrer de Santa Lucía.
To the left of the entrance is the House of the Archdeacon, the archdeacon's house, an old noble residence of the fifteenth century.
With one of the most beautiful inner courtyards in the whole neighborhood, and in its final part you can see the ancient remains of the Roman walls of the first century BC. You can climb along the access staircase to the first floor, from where you can enjoy a different view of the nearby Cathedral.
At the exit from the square, pay attention to the mailbox, it is the work of Lluis Doménech i Montaner, one of the greatest architects of Catalan modernism.
4. Plaça Sant Jaume and Plaça del Rei
After the Casa dell'arcidiaca take Carrer Paradís to the right. At the end of the street, before the bend, you can admire the remains of theancient temple of Augustus, from the Roman imperial era. One of the columns was once located in the Plaça Reial, but was later moved along with the other three.
Continuing along the street you will arrive at Plaça de Sant Jaume, the real political center of Catalonia: the regional parliament, the Generalitat, and the building of the municipality of Barcelona, the Ajuntament. The space now occupied by the square was built on the ancient Roman forum, of which there are numerous testimonies.
The Palau de la Generalitat is from the Gothic era, although its facade is a later Renaissance makeover. Opposite is the Ajuntament, the seat of the Municipality, also called House of the Ciutat. The façade of the Municipality is the work of the architect Josep Mas i Vila, in 1847, however the core of the building is much older: the ancient Gothic façade of the building, visible in one of the crossroads of Plaça Sant Jaume, dates back to 1399, and the Salone dei Cento, the main hall of the building, dates from the same period. The Casa de la Ciutat can only be visited on certain days of the week, usually on Sunday mornings, when free guided tours are available inside the palace. In case you ask if there are any special openings, at the nearby tourist office on Plaça Sant Jaume.
Cross the square on the left, and take Carrer de la Llibreteria, until you cross Carrer del Veguer. Grab it and you'll end up in Plaça del Rei, another of Barcelona's architectural wonders.
Plaça del Rei is one of Barcelona's most important historical conjunctions. Under the stone floor lies the treasure of the Museu Historic de Barcelona (MUHBA), consisting of a complex series of routes that can be visited along the underground Roman ruins of ancient Barcino, the Roman colony on which the monumental part currently stands of the city.
Il Royal Palace, the Royal Palace, was the center of power during the Middle Ages, of which you can admire the Saló del Tinell, the ancient Catalan throne room. To the right of the palace extends the royal chapel of Santa Agata, built during the fourteenth century by King Jaume II, on the remains of the ancient Roman walls. On the left side, instead, stands the Mirador del Rei Martí, a panoramic tower of the sixteenth century from which the royals could observe their domains as far as the sea.
If you have entered the MUHBA you can use the same ticket to visit its detached section at El Call, the ancient Jewish ghetto of Barcelona, for free. The section contains a rich collection of objects, historically framed in the life of the ghetto, one of the most flourishing in Europe during the Middle Ages. To get to the Call, just go back to Plaça Sant Jaume, and look for Carrer del Call among its exits: the ghetto starts from there.
5. Sant Just e la Mercè
From Plaça del Rei go back to Baixada de la Llibreteria, take it to the right and turn left shortly after, into carrer de la Dagueria.
Going all the way down the street you will come to Plaça de Sant Just, with church of Sant Just i Pastor, another of the wonders of medieval architecture of the Barri Gòtic: built in the XNUMXth century, this church is dedicated to two martyr brothers of the XNUMXth century, and is one of the oldest in Barcelona.
In the shadow of its older sisters, the Cathedral and Santa María del Mar, this temple rests placidly in a silent square.
Of very ancient origin - it dates back to the fourth century - the current building is dated to the fourteenth century, and is a compendium of Catalan Gothic.
Its Byzantine capitals reused as baptismal fonts are noteworthy, most likely belonging to an earlier basilica during the Visigothic period of the city.
It is worth paying for the guided tour, thus being able to combine a detailed explanation with the contemplation of the spectacular retablo de la Santa Cruz from the XNUMXth century. You can also climb the tower, taking advantage of the wonderful panoramic view to get a glimpse of the ancient core of Barcelona.
In the homonymous square you can quench your thirst at the Source of Sant Just, with its three sculpted faces, in more or less serious expressions depending on who looks at them.
The square is a good starting point for visiting the various surrounding streets, which hide some of the gods most beautiful interior patios in the city.
At number 4 of the nearby Carrer Lledó, you can discover the Palau Fiveller, with its imposing entrance, or get to the basilica of the Mercé, patron saint of the city, whose festival is one of the most popular events in Barcelona, if not all of Spain.
The surrounding square contains an XNUMXth century fountain, with a sculptural group dedicated to the god Neptune.
The Mercé church is a precious example of late Baroque architecture, built between 1765 and 1775 by the architect Josep Mas i Dordal. The interior of the church is finely decorated in the Rococo style, with marble and stucco cladding.
6. Santa Ana
Who wants get lost in the narrow streets of the Gòtico for a couple of hours, you can try to reach the church of Santa Ana, at number 29 of Carrer di Santa Ana: the church is certainly more beautiful inside than outside, with its octagonal tower; however the hidden gem is the cloister.
With a square plan, the cloister stands out for the sense of peace it manages to emanate, even more so if you think that we are just a few steps from the lively Plaça de Catalunya.
Its interior decorations are of two types: Renaissance on the upper floor, and Catalan Gothic on the lower level.
The route proposed in the Barri Gòtic is about 1 km and a half long, and can be traveled in various ways: on foot, by bicycle, or accompanied by a guide: the history of the neighborhood is full of anecdotes and curiosities, it is worth listening to them.
Timetables are important: most of the groups of organized trips visit the neighborhood during the morning, so from lunchtime onwards you can find much less queue at the entrances of the various attractions.
As for the Cathedral, there are times when entry is not due: you can read them here.
Eating in the Barrio Gòtico
The neighborhood is full of bars and restaurants, some are real tourist traps: avoid the busiest streets, the Gótico reserves many pleasant surprises among its narrow streets.
Safety in the neighborhood
We must be honest, the neighborhood has always been plagued by muggings against tourists that are repeated several times during the day.
The favorite victims are organized groups, especially those of Asian origin: the Japanese embassy calculated in 2010 that for every 3 Japanese tourists visiting Barcelona, one was the victim of a mugging.
The news, picked up by the British magazine The Guardian, has aroused much controversy at home and abroad. Following this story, and a policy more interested in the problems of the tourism industry, the number of muggings has steadily decreased in recent years, but it is far from being eradicated.
Often all kinds of tricks are used, sometimes even very creative, to distract tourists and rob them, however most of the thefts involve bags or backpacks left briefly unattended, like on a bar table, or on a bench, especially on La Rambla and along the most crowded streets.
Beware of the busiest metro stations, such as Plaça de Catalunya and Jaume I. In the unfortunate case of theft, read our guide on how to report a theft in Barcelona, and how to obtain a provisional travel document.