Up close and personal with the Gothic Quarter

Gothic Quarter and Bridge of Sighs during sunrise in Barcelona, ​​Catalonia, Spain | Photo via 123RF
Gothic Quarter and Bridge of Sighs during sunrise in Barcelona, ​​Catalonia, Spain | Photo via 123RF

Up close and personal with the Gothic Quarter

by Anna Leigh Bagiackas
Stripes Europe

Sometimes the journey is all about the destination. But when visiting Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter (Barri Gòtic), that is not the case: it is all about the journey. The Gothic Quarter is the most historic neighborhood of Barcelona and the center of its Old Town, home to Roman wall remains, medieval landmarks and the Jewish quarter, called El Call or “little street.”

What makes this area so unique is its labyrinth street plan, with lots of small, narrow side streets opening out onto large and open squares or “plaças.” And as a very pedestrian-friendly neighborhood, your journey is about winding through these side streets, getting lost while finding the old cozied up next to the new and contemporary.

To do

In your wandering, you may stumble upon the beautiful Gothic Barcelona Cathedral, the Roman temple and Roman forum or one of the many museums, like the Museum of History or the Gaudí Exhibition Center. Be sure to hop around to the various large squares, which are picturesque gathering spots surrounded by beautiful architecture, cute cafes and all sorts of lively activity. A few favorite squares are Plaça Reial, Plaça Del Pi and Plaça de Sant Jaume.

Whether you’re ready to update your wardrobe or just window-shop, this neighborhood will give you a memorable shopping experience. Las Ramblas, the major pedestrian boulevard through the quarter, is home to the bigger, more well-known brands and side streets that contain many smaller and local boutiques worth exploring.

To eat & drink

No matter the time of day, the Gothic Quarter will have you covered in the food and drink department. All you need to do is make a few choices.

Choose between a relaxed cafe setting, some casual tapas or a little gelato from a small shop or tapas bar. This area also offers many options for drinks at a pub or a more formal dinner. Next, choose if you want to be on one of the squares, overlooking the goings-on and taking in the beauty of old and new, or if you want to get lost in the winding, narrow streets and stumble across a place that you might not be able to find again if you tried.

The tapas bar El Quatre Gats will give you a brush with history and fame, as it was a spot famous for hosting Pablo Picasso and was home to his very first exhibition, welcoming many artists and musicians ever since. For the oldest restaurant in the city, try Can Culleretes. Opened in 1786, it offers delicious dishes of Barcelona and Spain, creating set menus to feature fish, meat and vegetable dishes. Set Portes is known as a must-visit eatery, serving traditional Spanish dishes as well as newer, innovative creations, all with a beautiful view through the seven arched doors that gave the restaurant its name. They are famous for their paellas, rice and seafood, featuring the products of the area.

When it comes to nightlife, the Gothic Quarter will be buzzing. You will find many bars, pubs and clubs around Plaça Reial filled with locals enjoying the night and each other’s company. And you can bet the Gothic Quarter will be buzzing into the early morning hours, so whether you’re joining the fun or hunkering down after a day of wandering, be sure to plan accordingly.

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