La Ribera Walking Tour, Barcelona

La Ribera Walking Tour (Self Guided), Barcelona

La Ribera is a culturally rich, historic area of Barcelona’s Old Town; somewhat less touristy than the Gothic Quarter (which one should really visit as well) and quite unspoiled, authentic and pretty. Centuries ago, it was a very well-to-do neighborhood inhabited by aristocrats, merchants, wealthy sailors, and Jewish money-lenders. Today, it is regarded as the Soho of Barcelona – a popular hangout place seamlessly transcending the old & new parts of the city, reflected in its vast array of restaurants, cafes, and trendy shops.

Start your walking tour of La Ribera with a stroll through spacious Parc de la Ciutadella (free entry). It feels like walking through a maze, and you can hire a rowboat on the lake or climb to the top of the Cascada monumental fountain stand directly above the waterfall to get a better look across the surroundings.

A few minutes away from the park, the Justice Palace (Palau de Justícia de Catalunya) stands out for the large number of sculptural works; its exterior decoration consists of 48 figures related to law, as well as 22 reliefs with legal and historical themes. This leads to Arc de Triomf – one the most unique aches of its kind, given the Gothic style, detailed carvings and red brickwork.

On the second stretch, Mercat Santa Caterina is a great local market with associated restaurants which, combined with the Picasso Museum and the Chocolate Museum, allow you to end the trip in style.

Follow this self-guided walking tour to explore the unique sights of La Ribera!
How it works: Download the app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" from Apple App Store or Google Play Store to your mobile phone or tablet. The app turns your mobile device into a personal tour guide and its built-in GPS navigation functions guide you from one tour stop to next. The app works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.

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La Ribera Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: La Ribera Walking Tour
Guide Location: Spain » Barcelona (See other walking tours in Barcelona)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 8
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.8 Km or 1.7 Miles
Author: clare
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Parc de la Ciutadella (Citadel Park)
  • Esglesia Castrense de la Ciutadella (Citadel Military Church)
  • Palau de Justicia (Palace of Justice)
  • Arc de Triomf (Triumphal Arch)
  • Esglesia de Sant Pere de les Puelles (Church of St. Peter of the Nuns)
  • Mercat de Santa Caterina (St. Catherine's Market)
  • Museu Picasso (Picasso Museum)
  • Museu de la Xocolata (Chocolate Museum)
Parc de la Ciutadella (Citadel Park)

1) Parc de la Ciutadella (Citadel Park) (must see)

Originally built as a fortress to assert Madrid's military control over Barcelona, the Ciutadella is now the city's primary downtown park. It was established shortly after the War of the Spanish Succession in the early 18th century when Felipe V demolished around 1,000 houses to construct a fortress, barracks, and an open space known as the "glacis" between rebellious Barcelona and his artillery positions. The fortress walls were later dismantled in 1868, and the area was transformed into gardens designed by Josep Fontseré. In 1888, the park gained significance as the venue for the Universal Exposition, which propelled Barcelona into the spotlight as a truly European city. Today, the Ciutadella houses notable landmarks such as the Castle of the Three Dragons ("Castell dels Tres Dragons"), originally built as a café and restaurant for the exposition (now a botanical research center), the Catalan parliament, and the city zoo.

Both locals and tourists appreciate spending time in the Ciutadella. The park is well-equipped for picnics and public holidays, and offers various recreational activities such as jogging, cycling, and boating. Boats and bicycles are available for rent at a reasonable price. Entry to the park is free, making it a worthwhile destination to explore regardless of the duration of your stay in Barcelona.

Why You Should Visit:
To escape and relax without leaving the city centre!

One of the prominent features within the park is the Cascada, a monumental fountain located in the northeast corner. It was designed by Josep Fontseré, the architect responsible for the park's conversion, with assistance from a young Antoni Gaudí, who was still a student at the time. The extravagant Baroque style of the Cascada foreshadows Gaudí's later flamboyant architectural designs. The ideal spot to admire the fountain is from the nearby open-air café-kiosk. In close proximity, there is also a small lake where visitors can rent rowing boats and enjoy a leisurely paddle amidst the ducks.
Esglesia Castrense de la Ciutadella (Citadel Military Church)

2) Esglesia Castrense de la Ciutadella (Citadel Military Church)

Situated within the confines of the Citadel Park (Parc de la Ciutadella) and designated as a Cultural Asset of Local Interest, this charming chapel is dedicated to the Immaculate Conception, the patron saint of the Infantry.

The chapel, dating back to 1720, exhibits a Neo-classical style with French influences and features a cross-shaped layout comprising a single nave and side chapels. Originally part of the fortification of the citadel, it underwent modifications during the 19th century when the Citadel was transformed into a public garden for the Universal Exhibition in Barcelona. Additional restoration work took place in 1928.

Today, only this chapel, now known as the Military Parish, remains from the original fortress. Its dome, adorned with a cylindrical lantern, and the bell tower adjacent to the apse are among the remarkable features. The chapel is typically open on Sundays.
Palau de Justicia (Palace of Justice)

3) Palau de Justicia (Palace of Justice)

The grand edifice, constructed between 1887-98, is a collaborative work of renowned architects Domènech Estapà and Enric Sagnier, who, although not as famous as Antoni Gaudi, have left their mark on Barcelona's architectural landscape. Sagnier's versatile style encompassed elements of Neo-Baroque, Neo-Gothic, and Modernista, allowing him to adapt his designs to suit each unique structure. Among his notable works in Barcelona are the Caxia de Pensions building, the New Customs House, and the church on Tibidabo.

The palace itself showcases a monumental style, distinguished by eight domes reminiscent of Northern European architecture and adorned with intricate sculptural details on its facades. The ornate decoration combines classical motifs with modernist elements. Welcoming visitors through a portico and staircase, the main entrance leads to a well-lit vestibule featuring a vibrant stained glass skylight. The arch of the portico proudly displays the engraved name of the building, topped by a sculptural masterpiece by Agustí Querol depicting Moses and the Tablets of the Law. Inside, the building showcases impressive mural paintings by Josep M. Sert from 1908.

An exceptional feat of engineering, the interior structure, designed by engineer Joan Torras Guardiola, stands out with its well-organized, luminous, and spacious areas, captivating the eye and adding a touch of modernity to the overall architectural ensemble.
Arc de Triomf (Triumphal Arch)

4) Arc de Triomf (Triumphal Arch)

Standing proudly as the entrance to the Citadel Park ("Parc de la Ciutadella"), this imposing brick structure serves as a gateway to the architectural wonders awaiting visitors within the verdant space. Originally built as the main gate for the Universal Exposition of 1888, the Triumphal Arch continues to impress visitors with its grandeur, even from afar.

Its decoration comprises four monumental friezes that depict significant themes. The front frieze portrays Barcelona as a welcoming woman, inviting nations from around the world to the Exposition. The back frieze depicts the same woman presenting awards. The side friezes symbolize the main sections of the Exposition: Agriculture, Industry, Trade, and Art.

With its distinctive Mudejar architectural style, influenced by Moorish design, this Arc de Triomf stands out from other triumphal arches worldwide. Adding to its charm is the picturesque alley lined with palm trees – the most attractive palm-tree species found in Barcelona.

The arch is a popular spot for tourists to capture memorable photos, and it is equally beloved by locals, considering the number of joggers, rollers, or picnickers regularly flocking nearby.

The nearby El Born neighborhood offers a plethora of cafes and pastry shops that cater to the cravings of cake and dessert enthusiasts. If you have a sweet tooth, be sure to give your taste buds a good treat!
Esglesia de Sant Pere de les Puelles (Church of St. Peter of the Nuns)

5) Esglesia de Sant Pere de les Puelles (Church of St. Peter of the Nuns)

Set on the side of the quaint Saint Peter's (Sant Pere) Square in the Ribera district, the lesser-known eponymous church holds a rich history within Barcelona. In fact, as one of Barcelona's most ancient churches, it holds a significant place as the site from which the city's ancient settlement originated. In the year 985 AD, the invading Muslims attacked and largely destroyed the Sant Pere convent, killing or capturing all its resident nuns.

Over the centuries, the church underwent reconstruction, yet certain elements of the original structure have endured. The pre-Romanesque Greek-cross floor, the Corinthian columns supporting the 12th-century dome, and the Renaissance vault leading to a side chapel serve as reminders of its storied past. Despite its medieval appearance, the high-walled facade of the church is a rather recent, 20th-century remake. One of the original bell towers still in place provides a rather captivating subject for photography. With some luck, you may climb to the top and enjoy a bird's eye view of the surrounding area.
Mercat de Santa Caterina (St. Catherine's Market)

6) Mercat de Santa Caterina (St. Catherine's Market)

An easy walking distance from the Barcelona Cathedral, Saint Catherine's Market underwent a remarkable transformation in 2005, emerging as a stylish market with a touch of designer elegance. Its inviting facade, complemented by a colorful roof, sets the stage for a clean and relaxing shopping experience.

Within and around the market, you'll find an abundance of eateries that prepare delectable dishes using the freshest ingredients available. A must-visit spot is Bar Joan's, where you can savor some of the finest tapas around while enjoying a couple of drinks. What's more, the prices are surprisingly affordable, as this place is a local favorite.

If you're in the mood for a well-balanced plate of vegetables, head towards the back of the market to La Torna. Here, you can indulge in their marvelous cod (bacallá) dish, prepared with spinach, pine nuts, raisins, and topped with allioli. The magic happens right before your eyes as everything is grilled to perfection.

Another essential stop is Cuines de Santa Caterina, an impressively elegant yet relaxed modern space that offers the best of "fusion food". From breakfast meals to traditional tapas, vegetarian options to a variety of sushi and Asian-inspired dishes, as well as Mediterranean favorites, this place has it all.

Of course, if you prefer to prepare your own meal, the market offers a wide selection of products to choose from – from fresh vegetables, seafood and meats to olives and olive oil, spices and more. The prices here are generally more affordable compared to La Boqueria Market, and the vendors are friendly and accommodating, even if you decide not to make a purchase.
Museu Picasso (Picasso Museum)

7) Museu Picasso (Picasso Museum)

For an unparalleled experience of early Picasso, the Picasso Museum in Barcelona is the ultimate destination. Established in 1961, this museum presents a remarkable collection of over 4,300 works by the renowned master, showcasing his formative years and highlighting the profound connection he shared with Barcelona, the city that greatly shaped his character and largely influenced his art.

Picasso harbored a deep desire to leave his artistic imprint on the fabric of Barcelona, and this wish was graciously fulfilled by his colleagues and friends, most notably Jaime Sabartés, who adorned the city with the magnificent works of one of history's greatest artists.

While the majority of the artworks exhibited at the museum represent Picasso's early endeavors, the overall collection looks quite impressive. Encompassing the period from 1917, it includes iconic series such as Las Meninas, highlighting the artist's extraordinary talent. In 2008, the museum also unveiled a significant display of Picasso's prints.

If you have a keen interest in Picasso's artistic journey and wish to witness his remarkable progression from a young prodigy to a mature artist, expressed through paintings, sculptures, ceramics, and various other mediums, a visit to this museum is an absolute must.

And if you do visit, be sure to venture into the museum shop, as it offers fascinating and unique items not easily found elsewhere.
Museu de la Xocolata (Chocolate Museum)

8) Museu de la Xocolata (Chocolate Museum)

As its name suggests, the Chocolate Museum is a place that delves into the rich history of chocolate in Europe. Within its walls, visitors can explore the origins of chocolate, its legends and realities, and its diverse uses in food, beverages, and medicine. One can take a comprehensive journey through the entire chocolate-making process, from cocoa beans to the final packaging.

Exhibits of impressive chocolate sculptures, informative panels that detail the fascinating history of chocolate, and displays of the machinery used in the chocolate-making process, are all here to be seen. As a delightful touch, the ticket itself is a charming small bar of dark chocolate. If you pre-register, you can also participate in interactive workshops, which are particularly enjoyable for children (and apparently free with registration).

At the museum shop, one can purchase delectable chocolates to take home, and upon exiting, it is highly recommended to visit the cozy café. There, you simply must indulge in a cup of heavenly hot chocolate or try the "mocha", which is that same hot chocolate mixed with an equal amount of espresso. Both options are truly divine and not to be missed!

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