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!
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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
  • Castrense Parish Church
  • Justice Palace
  • Arc de Triomf
  • Church of Sant Pere de les Puelles
  • Santa Caterina Market
  • Picasso Museum
  • Chocolate Museum (Museu de la Xocolata)
Parc de la Ciutadella

1) Parc de la Ciutadella (must see)

This beautiful park in Ciutat Vella, the no. 1 district of Barcelona, has been in place since the mid 19th century. The name Ciutat Vella translates from Catalan as the "old city". There was a time when this park was the only patch of greenery in Barcelona - boasting both seasonal and annual plants - and, as such, enjoyed much popularity with the locals (and it still does, actually).

The park covers an area of 70 acres and incorporates a lake and a fairly large zoo, accommodating over 7,000 animals. Among them, once, there was a world-famous attraction, “Snowflake” - the albino male gorilla, who used to live here until his death in 2003. Another prominent sight within the park is the humongous Cascada fountain designed, back in the 1880s, by Josep Fontsere assisted by the then student of architecture Antoni Gaudi. Apart from that, the park is also home to the parliament of Catalonia.

Locals and tourists alike, enjoy spending time here, and especially those with kids. The park is well equipped for picnics and public holidays, plus caters for sports, such as jogging, cycling and boating. Boats and bicycles are available for hire here at a small price. The park itself is free to enter and is well worth a visit no matter how long you stay in Barcelona!

Why You Should Visit:
Escape and relax without leaving the city centre!
Castrense Parish Church

2) Castrense Parish Church

Located inside the Ciudadela Park and registered as a Cultural Asset of Local Interest, this lovely chapel is dedicated to the Immaculate Conception, patron of the Infantry, and dates back to 1720. Built in a Neo-classical style with a French inspiration, it has a single nave with chapels on its sides and was formerly a part of the citadel's fortification. In the 19th century, with the Universal Exhibition in Barcelona and the Citadel converted into a public garden, the church underwent some modifications, with further restoration carried out in 1928. Its dome crowned with a cylindrical lantern and its bell tower located next to the apse are striking. Usually open on Sundays.
Justice Palace

3) Justice Palace

Justice Palace (or "Palau de Justícia") was designed by the Catalan Spanish architect Enric Sagnier i Villavecchia. Although not as famous Antoni Gaudi, Villavecchia designed many buildings that have become well known landmarks today. His style was very versatile and comprised elements of the Neo-Baroque, Neo-Gothic and Modernista styles. Villavecchia was able to modify his style and design to accommodate the type of structure he was architecting. In Barcelona he has also designed the Caxia de Pensions building and the New Customs House, as well as the church located on the Tibidabo.

The Justicia Palace was originally constructed to house the court of law, and featured neo-gothic style. The entrance has a highly decorated archway with engravings done around the arch. The structure was completed in 1888 and until 1910 had served its purpose as the house of law in Barcelona.
Arc de Triomf

4) Arc de Triomf

Marking the inland gateway to Parc de la Ciutadella, this imposing brick structure is the precursor of the architectural marvels awaiting visitors further inside the park. The Arch of Triumph was built for the Universal Exposition of 1888 and initially served as the event's main gate. Years on, the arch still looks impressive, even from a distance.

Its decoration comprises four monumental friezes: the one at the front depicts Barcelona as a woman welcoming world's nations to the Exposition; the one at the back features the same woman giving out the awards; while the side friezes each symbolize respectively the Exposition's main sections, namely: Agriculture, Industry, Trade, and Art.

The arch reflects Mudejar architectural style, the origins of which are distinctively Moorish which, in turn, make it stand out from the crowd of other similar triumphal arches around the world. Also adding to its appeal is the adjacent alley lined with palm trees – reportedly, the most attractive palm-tree species found in Barcelona.

The arch is a popular photo sight with tourists and is just as much loved by the locals too, considering the number of joggers, rollers, or picnickers regularly flocking nearby.

The surrounding El Born area abounds in cafés and baking shops catering to the tastes of lovers of cakes and of other delicacies. If you're a sweet tooth yourself, make sure to give your taste buds a good treat!
Church of Sant Pere de les Puelles

5) Church of Sant Pere de les Puelles

Set on the side of the quaint Sant Pere Square in the Ribera district, the eponymous Sant Pere de les Puelles church is not very well known outside Barcelona, whereas it is one of the oldest churches in the city with a great deal of history behind. As a matter of fact, it marks the site where the ancient settlement of Barcelona stems from. In the year 985 AD, the invading Muslims attacked and largely destroyed the Sant Pere convent, killing or capturing all its resident nuns.

Although in the course of centuries the church was subsequently rebuilt, certain parts of the original structure, such as the pre-Romanesque Greek-cross floor, the Corinthian columns beneath the 12th-century dome, and the Renaissance vault leading to a side chapel, have remained. 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 looks pretty awesome from a photography standpoint. With some luck, you may climb to the top of it for a bird's eye view of the surrounding area.
Santa Caterina Market

6) Santa Caterina Market

An easy walking distance from the Barcelona Cathedral, Mercat de Santa Caterina has been dramatically overhauled in 2005 to become a stylish market with a designer edge, sporting a colorful roof with an inviting facade and offering a clean relaxing experience all around.

There are plenty of places in and around the market that will cook some great dishes with the freshest ingredients possible. Make sure you stop at Bar Joan's for a couple of drinks and probably the best tapas available – very economically-priced, too, because it's there for the locals.

If you're looking for a well-mixed plate of vegetables, try La Torna at the back of the market, who also serves some of the most marvelous cod (bacallá) with spinach, pine nuts and raisins, topped with allioli – everything grilled right before your eyes.

Another definite must is the Cuines Santa Caterina, a remarkably elegant – yet still casual – large modern space that serves the best of "fusion food" – from breakfast meals to typical tapas, vegetarian selections to numerous types of sushi and Asian sensations to Mediterranean favorites.

Obviously, you can also choose from a variety of products to cook a meal yourself – from fresh vegetables, seafood and meats to olives and olive oil, spices and more. The food here is cheaper than in the La Boqueria Market, but vendors not minding your interest even if you don't buy anything!

Opening Hours:
Mon, Wed, Sat: 7:30am–3:30pm; Tue, Thu, Fri: 7:30am–8:30pm
Picasso Museum

7) Picasso Museum

The ultimate place to observe early Picasso is the Picasso Museum in Barcelona. Opened in 1961, this museum showcases over 4,300 works of the great master at his early stage, reflecting the intimacy of his relationship with Barcelona, the city that shaped his personality and largely influenced his art.

Picasso always wanted to “imprint himself” through artwork in the tapestry of Barcelona. That wish fortunately materialized, courtesy of his colleagues and friends, particularly Jaime Sabartés, adorning the city with the works of one of the greatest artists ever lived.

Although most of the pieces presented here are Picasso's first attempts at art, the overall collection looks quite impressive. It spans the period from 1917 and includes one of Picasso's best-known series, Las Meninas. In 2008, the museum put on display a large collection of Picasso’s prints.

If you take interest in Picasso's work and want to see his progression from a very young age to adulthood, manifested in paintings, sculpture, ceramics and other forms, do visit this museum.

And if you do visit, make sure to explore the museum shop as some of the items offered are quite interesting and not available anywhere else.

Opening Hours:
Mon: 10am-5pm; Tue-Wed, Fri-Sun: 9am-8:30pm; Thu: 9am-9:30pm (Mar 16–Oct 31);
Tue-Wed, Fri-Sun: 9am-7pm; Thu: 9am-9:30pm (Nov 1–Dec31)
Chocolate Museum (Museu de la Xocolata)

8) Chocolate Museum (Museu de la Xocolata)

The Chocolate Museum, as the name implies, is home to the history associated with chocolate in Europe. The museum explains the origin of chocolate, its myth and facts, and its use in food, drinks and medicine. One can witness the complete process of chocolate-making from a cocoa bean to the final packaging.

Exhibits of impressive chocolate sculptures, informative panels that detail the history of chocolate, as well as the machines used to make chocolate, are all here to be seen. The ticket itself is a cute, small bar of dark chocolate. If you register beforehand, there are also some small hands-on workshops, which look fun, especially for children (apparently, they are free as long as you sign up).

One can buy tasty chocolates at the museum shop and the small café at the exit is where you definitely have to order a hot chocolate or a "mocha", which is that same hot chocolate mixed with an equal quantity of espresso. Both are to die for!

Opening Hours:
Mon-Sat: 10am–8pm; Sundays and Holidays*: 10am–3pm (Jun 15–Sep 15)
Mon-Sat: 10am–7pm; Sundays and Holidays*: 10am–3pm (Sep 16–Jun 14)
* May 1, Jun 24, Aug 15, Sep 11/24, Oct 12, Nov 1, Dec 6/8

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