Gothic Quarter Walking Tour, Barcelona

Gothic Quarter Walking Tour (Self Guided), Barcelona

A walk around the Gothic Quarter is a journey through time to Barcelona’s oldest history, going back to times of Roman rule; in fact, the typically Roman grid plan is still visible today in the quarter's layout. Only a few roads are open for car traffic, so there will be little in the way of enjoying the many narrow, atmospheric streets filled with superb food, high-quality architecture, coffee shops and boutiques. You can wander around for many hours without getting bored, finding little surprises around every corner.

This walking tour starts right in the Old City's center, near the waterfront, where a towering La Seu cathedral – the main purely Gothic attraction – incorporates some remaining fragments of the ancient Roman walls. If you have enough time (and the proper attire), take advantage of the opportunity to go up to its roof and get an eyeful of the spire up close as well as some prime city views.

Other notable sights include Plaça Nova with its Roman towers and aqueduct remains; Casa de L'Ardiaca (Archdeacon's House) – a 15th-century Gothic building with sculptural reliefs and motifs; Plaça del Rei and the wonderful 16th-century Palau del Lloctinent, as well as another Gothic church – Santa Maria del Pi, with a statue of Madonna and a large rose window.

One of the hidden features is the Roman Temple of Augustus, built in the Barcino settlement in 1 B.C., of which four columns remain, tucked away in a small courtyard in a residential complex.

The Gothic Quarter is one of those medieval urban landscapes where it's easy to get lost, so follow our self-guided walking tour to appreciate its main historical landmarks, squares and curiosities – a nice way to “lose yourself” while staying on the right course.
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Gothic Quarter Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Gothic Quarter Walking Tour
Guide Location: Spain » Barcelona (See other walking tours in Barcelona)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 15
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.8 Km or 1.1 Miles
Author: clare
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Catedral de Barcelona (La Seu)
  • Placa Nova
  • Casa de l'Ardiaca
  • Museu Frederic Mares
  • Palau del Lloctinent
  • Placa del Rei
  • Capella de Santa Agata
  • Basilica of Saints Justus and Pastor
  • Placa de Sant Jaume
  • Temple of Augustus
  • Pont del Bisbe
  • Palau de la Generalitat
  • Placa de Sant Felip Neri
  • Basilica de Santa Maria del Pi
  • Placa de Sant Josep Oriol
Catedral de Barcelona (La Seu)

1) Catedral de Barcelona (La Seu) (must see)

La Seu, or Barcelona Cathedral, is one of the most famous and celebrated religious sites in the city; a classic piece of 14th-century Gothic architecture.

Set upon elevated ground, it is considered Barcelona's religious center. Historical records say this site was previously occupied by a temple and then a mosque before the cathedral was built.

Second only to Antonio Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia in terms of fame, the Barcelona Cathedral is definitely second to none in terms of magnificence. It represents a tasteful blend of Renaissance and medieval styles, complete with a tall bell tower - a classic sample of Gothic architecture.

Behind the high altar, inside the cathedral, there is a beautiful alabaster sarcophagus of its patroness, Santa Eulalia, who is also considered a co-patroness of Barcelona. According to historical documents, Santa Eulalia was burned at a stake by the Romans for her firm Christian faith that opposed Roman pagan beliefs. It is now a tradition for visitors to leave a coin here for Eulalia.

Why You Should Visit:
A very nice mix of church, mini-park, place to relax, place to pray...

Cathedral Visit (Choir entrance + Access to the rooftop + Chapter hall + Virtual Audio guide) €9.00
Cathedral + Museum (Choir entrance + Access to the rooftop + Chapter hall + Virtual Audio guide + Museum) €15.00

Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri: 10:00am-6:30pm (last entry: 6:00pm); Sat: 10:00 am - 5:00 pm (last entry 4:30 pm); Sun / public holidays: 2:00 pm - 5:00 pm (last entry 4:30 pm).
Placa Nova

2) Placa Nova

Placa Nova in Barcelona is a treasure trove for art lovers to feast their eyes on. The place reflects the history of Barcelona in its entirety depicted in the historical passageway on the wall. Among other notable things here are the sand cast friezes, designed by Pablo Picasso, adorning the famous Architects’ Association of Catalonia building. There are also beautiful pieces of Gothic art and architecture around as well.

The exact year of origin of Placa Nova, one of the four main entrances to the Roman City of Barcelona, is not known, although historians lean towards 1358 as the year from which its documented record can be traced.

Around August 16, the day of Sant Roc, the square hosts a festival reflecting many unique traditions and festive elements of Barcelona, making it one of the most unique celebrations of the city.
Casa de l'Ardiaca

3) Casa de l'Ardiaca

The current House of l'Ardiaca was built in the 1400s by the Archdeacon Lluís Desplà, who converted the traditional 12th-century site of his residence into a Gothic palace. The palace is in the heart of the Gothic Quarters, and as the archdeacon’s residence, it sits just to the side of the Barcelona Cathedral’s main portal, its entry facing the cathedral. And if you prefer Roman history to Catholic medieval, the back wall of the palace uses the original Roman wall that forms the gateway into what had been imperial Barcelona, called Barcino by Romans. Circling the exterior of the palace structure, you will see the Roman gateway.

Entry into the palace is free, and although it is in the midst of possibly the busiest tourist square in Barcelona, the inner patio is amazingly peaceful and one of the most evocative in the city. There is beautiful tile work all along it and, in the center, a tall, elegant palm tree rises high above a fountain, which is decorated with flowers and is the setting for a curious tradition – "l’ou com balla" – in which a fragile egg ‘dances’ on the spouting water. The building contains the Municipal History Archives, a valuable collection of historical chronicles and documents.

Next to the entrance of the Casa, look out for what may well be the most attractive mailbox you've ever seen! Designed by the modernista architect Domènech i Montaner, it is adorned with swallows and a turtle – an earlier era's way of suggesting airmail and slow mail?

Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri: 9am–8:45pm; Sat: 9am–1pm (Sep-Jun); Mon-Fri: 9am–7:30pm (Jul-Aug)
Free admission
Museu Frederic Mares

4) Museu Frederic Mares

As the name suggests, this museum is dedicated to showcasing the collections of its founder, Frederic Marès (1893-1991), whose donations helped reach the project's completion in 1946. Many modifications to have taken place since, but the original courtyard garden has been preserved in its original form.

Marès gave a whole new meaning and form to the conventional concept of sculpture. As a collector, he also gathered a priceless variety of Hispanic sculptures throughout his life, ranging from the Ancient world to 19th-century Catalonia, which can be seen along with the religious polychrome carvings widely present on many of the beautifully displayed pieces.

Here, too, visitors can see the "collector’s cabinet" where one can feast eyes upon the countless magnificent pieces of art and artifacts that depict the lifestyles of the 19th century. Among these objects, one can find interesting items such as old photographs and documents, jewelry, clocks, reliquaries, and an astonishing number of other everyday things.

The audio guide is highly recommended to further immerse yourself in this time capsule. A very affordable way to spend a quiet afternoon!

Why You Should Visit:
If you are into Baroque, Medieval, Renaissance or ancient sculpture, this is the place for you.
Be sure to take a look at the many stone treasures from ancient Roman times on the bottom -1 floor as well.

There is a wonderful secluded little tree-filled café in the summer; almost hidden away (keep going until you see steps going down into a courtyard), but friendly and with delightful food and drink. Sit at a table and be surrounded by medieval buildings!

Opening Hours:
Tue-Sat: 10am–7pm; Sundays and Holidays: 11am-8pm
Entry into museum halls up to 30 mins before closing time
Palau del Lloctinent

5) Palau del Lloctinent

When the kingdoms of Catalonia and Aragón were joined with that of Castile, Carlos V created the office of deputy ("lloctinent") for the court’s representative, and this palace, the official residence, was built in 1549 by Antoni Carbonell. The facade is Catalan Gothic, but the inner courtyard is one of the few examples of Renaissance architecture left in the city and has a wonderful carved wooden ceiling.

The fascinating thing about this magnificently restored place is all the history associated with it. Various documents, papers and other similar items from the 12th century have been preserved here, and visitors can even see some of these documents as featured in the exhibitions of the on-site museum and learn about the Archives of the Crown of Aragon – now evidently the largest Medieval Archive – and how they came into existence.

Take a stroll up the main stairs to the gallery/balcony and look up at the stunning carved wooden ceiling!

Opening Hours:
Daily: 10am–7pm; free admission
Placa del Rei

6) Placa del Rei

Barcelona is known for its abundance of historic sights in general and those of Roman era in particular. The Gothic Quarter is one such place in which the most picturesque and oldest site worth exploring is definitely Placa del Rei (or King's Square).

Some historians reckon it was here, on the steps fanning out from the corner of the square, that in 1493 King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella received Christopher Columbus and his crew upon their return from the first successful voyage to the New World. The history associated with this particular building is truly spell-binding as you try to imagine the scene that might have taken place, right on this very spot, centuries ago.

Apart from this, there are other interesting sites here that the architecture buffs would find worthy of attention, including centerpiece of the plaza, a banquet hall called Salo del Tinell, constructed in 1362. Another site nearby is the so-called Lieutenant’s Palace. Adding much character to the location is King Martin’s Watchtower built in the 15th century. To the right is the admirable Royal Chapel of St. Agatha. There are also traces of Roman and early Christian settlement here, the underground ruins of which can be seen.

History buffs will not want to miss the MUHBA (Museum of the History of Barcelona), which not only describes the history of Roman and early Christian times but goes underground to show Roman ruins from the earliest settlement. At the end of the tour, which begins sub-terranean on the lowest 2nd-century level and works its way up, visitors exit here, on this placa.

A very relaxing spot for a drink – enjoy a cervesa, tapa, or a mojito here!
Capella de Santa Agata

7) Capella de Santa Agata

This chapel was constructed in 1302 on orders of King James II of Aragon and his wife Blanca of Naples to adjoin the Royal Palace and replace its old chapel. Built in Gothic Catalan style, the chapel has a single nave with a rectangular apse Polygon, a small cruise to the chapel of the Queens, where you can see the coats of arms of Maria of Navarre and Eleanor of Sicily. On the side of the sacristy is the 14th-century octagonal bell tower complete with eight triangular pediments resembling a royal crown. There also are sixty clay tiles with images of angels and the coats of arms of Aragon and Sicily.

Why You Should Visit:
Another beautiful Catalan monument in the beautiful Gothic Quarter, that should not be missed when visiting the Museum of the History of Barcelona (visits here are included in the entrance price of the MUHBA).

Inside, visitors are allowed to take noncommercial photos, only without a flashlight. Don't miss the decorated ceiling timbers by Alfonso de Córdoba, the beautiful Epiphany altarpiece painted by Jaume Huguet in 1465, and the Taule de Santa Agata in the Queen’s Chapel from around 1500. Watch out for temporary exhibitions in both the chapel and the Salò del Tinell, which give access to these buildings without doing the museum tour.

Opening Hours:
Tue, Thu-Sat: 10am–7pm; Wed: 10am–8pm
Basilica of Saints Justus and Pastor

8) Basilica of Saints Justus and Pastor

One of the city's oldest churches, the Basilica of Saints Justus and Pastor was an ancient royal chapel until the 15th century. According to legend, it is built on the site of Barcelona’s first Christian temple, in memory of the two great martyrs who lost their lives in 304 AD. According to Roman poet Prudentius, the boys protested the persecutions of Christians by the Roman Emperor Diocletian. They were caught, flogged, and beheaded outside the Spanish city of Alcalá de Henares. Some of the relics that once belonged to these two saints have been preserved in a chest and are kept in the basilica.

Back in the Middle Ages, the square in front of the church was the only place of Barcelona where Jews and Christians were allowed to trade legally together. A testament to that period is the 14th-century fountain, where all sorts of commercial dealings and information exchange took place. This fountain is the oldest water source in Barcelona, although its present appearance – featuring three human faces carved in stone under a relief of Sant Just among two shields – was designed in the 19th century.

If hungry and wishing to soak up the atmosphere of the square, have a meal at the Cafè de l'Acadèmia (Mon-Fri: 1–4pm / 7–11pm) across the road – a popular dining spot in the Gothic Quarter.

Guided tours (with prior reservation):
Mon-Sat: 11am / 12:30pm / 4:30pm
Placa de Sant Jaume

9) Placa de Sant Jaume

The Saint James’s square, locally known as the Placa Sant Jaume is the heart of Barcelona in terms of administration and a great square to use as a reference point in navigating the Gothic Quarter, which can be quite confusing and twisty.

A place where some of the major roads cross, this square has plenty of history to boast, including being where the Temple of Augustus and the Forum were constructed. Meetings of the city council were held at the porch in front of the Temple each day. Four of the Temple's columns have been preserved and can still be seen today atop the Mont Taber.

To this day, architecture is probably the square's most noteworthy feature, with the two most imposing buildings immediately vying for attention – that of the Ajuntament (City Council), which runs Barcelona, and that of the Generalitat (Catalonian government). The square is also the time-honored site of demonstrations and festivals.

With most restaurants open until midnight and always lots going on, this is one of Barcelona's best parts to be in late at night. Be careful, though – unfortunately, pedestrians have to share the space with cars and bikes.
Temple of Augustus

10) Temple of Augustus

Placing a Roman temple inside medieval Gothic walls is quite a remarkable idea and its preservation is testimony to Barcelona's great care towards history.

Named a Cultural Asset of National Interest, the Temple of Augustus was built during the Imperial Period, acting as the city’s central structure. At some point, it was demolished and its ruins were not discovered until the late 19th century when three of its columns appeared on the construction site of Centre Excursionista de Catalunya. A fourth column was then exhibited at the Plaça del Rei and was later added to the structure, as it can be seen nowadays.

According to studies, the temple originally had 11 columns on each wing, including corner columns, and with 6 on the front and further 6 hinder part. The whole building would have been 35 x 17.5 metres in size, erected on a podium a third the height of the columns. When on-site, look for the very helpful photographs and recreations of this ancient landmark.

Opening Hours:
Sun: 10am–8pm; Mon: 10am–2pm; Tue-Sat: 10am–7pm
Pont del Bisbe

11) Pont del Bisbe

Although it may seem like an architectural work dating several centuries, the Pont del Bisbe was actually built in the year 1928 by Catalan architect Joan Rubió, a keen disciple of Antoni Gaudí, with whom he collaborated until the year 1905 on different important projects among which La Sagrada Familia, the Casa Batlló, and the Parc Güell.

Despite being relatively modern, the bridge blends in seamlessly with the architecture so prevalent in the wonderful Gothic Quarter, and connects Palau de la Generalitat to La Casa dels Canonges (Canons House). The decor is inspired by the forms of Flamboyant Gothic, making it one of the most photographed sights in Barcelona.

If you want a good photo-op, visit in the morning or late afternoon.
Palau de la Generalitat

12) Palau de la Generalitat

This beautiful historic building nestled away in the Gothic Quarter is worth a brief visit. Home to the offices of Catalonia's Generalitat, the autonomous regional government, it is – just like Casa de la Ciutat opposite – of Gothic origin, though following a major redesign, the current grand façade on the Plaça de Sant Jaume was done in Renaissance style. The first of its kind in Catalonia, this ornate façade certainly demands attention, especially when it is guarded by armed police during official, top-level events, audiences and receptions.

If you visit the Sant Jaume square, ask the guards at the entrance when the building will be open for a special visit (usually on key public holidays). Pati dels Tarongers (a 16th-century courtyard full of orange trees) is perhaps the Palau's most famous part and the scene of many official photographs, but once inside you will get to admire other key spots such as the Gothic courtyard (lined with pillars and gargoyles), the President's Office, the Gothic ornamental Chapel of Sant Jordi, the frescoed Torres Garcia Room, the Gilded Room with a beautiful coffered ceiling, and more.
Placa de Sant Felip Neri

13) Placa de Sant Felip Neri

Placa de Sant Felip Neri is a romantic quaint square in the Gothic quarter, one of the hidden secrets of Barcelona. Tragically, it is also the place where, in 1926, the famous Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí was struck by a tram and sustained injuries from which he died two days later in hospital.

The square lies on top of a medieval cemetery. In 1752, a baroque church was built here. During the Spanish Civil War, 20 children sought refuge within its walls one day but were hit by a bomb before could reach cover and died. Today, the church still bears scars from the bombardment and is a silent reminder of that tragedy.

In today's peaceful life it is also difficult to imagine this square being ground for summary executions that took place here during the late 1930s, following the fall of Barcelona to the nationalist forces led by Franco.

If lucky, you may spot some musicians here, who love this square because of its unique acoustics. A café is also located in the square.
Basilica de Santa Maria del Pi

14) Basilica de Santa Maria del Pi

The church of 'Saint Mary of the Pine Tree' is a 14th century Gothic church on Placa del Pi located in the Gothic quarter of Barcelona. Its construction lasted from 1319 until 1391. Consistent with the Gothic style, the building lacks any form of ornamentation.

In 1936 it suffered great fire largely affecting certain parts of it which later had to be replaced. A distinctive feature of the building is a large-sized colorful glass rosette window (largest of its kind in Europe). Inside the church there is a statue of the Virgin and Child.

Why You Should Visit:
Very nice in its simplicity; a peaceful place to sit quietly and cool off while checking out the biggest colorful glass rosette in Europe.

If you come here early or late, the admission will be free (otherwise there's a few euros charge).
For a few euros extra, you can climb the bell tower for a 360-degree view of the city but do mind the timing as it closes after dusk.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9:30am-8:30pm
Placa de Sant Josep Oriol

15) Placa de Sant Josep Oriol

Placa de Sant Josep Oriol is a cute little plaza in the Gothic quarter of Barcelona. It is named after Josep Oriol, a 17th-century priest who served community at the nearby parish of Santa Maria del Pi and dedicated his life to looking after the sick and needy. His statue tops one of the doorways overlooking the square but is somewhat difficult to find. The square is always packed with buskers, street artists and tourists drawn here by numerous cafes, restaurants and craft shops lining the adjoining streets, and thus making it a lively spot to hang out.

This is even more surprising, given that the square sits on top of the church’s former graveyard.

There are several attractions here worth noticing, namely:
- a bronze statue of Angel Guimerà, one of the classics of Catalan literature, created by Josep Cardona i Furró;
- the 16th-century building at Nº4 (commissioned by the Fivaller family) housing the Institut Agrícola Català de Sant Isidre;
- the del Pi Bar, one of the most iconic bars in Barcelona, set inside an 18th-century building at Nº1;
- a commemorative plaque on the wall of the of Santa Maria del Pi Church marking the historic and rather lucky escape of the builder José Mestres who fell from the top of the church and miraculously survived, without serious injury; and finally
- the ‘Square of the Unknown Soldier’ inscription painted on the northern wall of the church by a soldier during the Civil War in 1939. Under Franco’s regime, the inscription was painted over but in 2009 was restored back to its original form.

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