Arts and Culture

What Can You Do in Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter?

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If you had to rank Barcelona’s neighbourhoods, the top spot would be a no-brainer: the Gothic Quarter. After all, it’s got everything you could want in a super-cool district, including a captivating history, a myriad of unforgettable eateries that are far from the tourist trail, plenty of significant cultural sites, a mish-mash of architecture, plus museums, bars and shops. Need we go on?

But what are the absolute best things to do in Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter? Well, grab your pen and paper, because if you don’t tick all of these off your must-visit list, then you haven’t done the Gothic Quarter justice.

Go On a Free Walking Tour of Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter

The first thought you’ll probably have when you arrive in Spain‘s Catalan capital is, ‘Where is the Gothic Quarter in Barcelona?’ The best way to figure it out is to start with a walking tour, because not only will it help you get your bearings (the Gothic Quarter is a labyrinth of narrow laneways perfect for confusing tourists), but you’ll also learn about the city’s history, hear some pretty amazing tales and visit all the main sites. There are plenty of guided, English-speaking tours that run daily, most of which are free, although it’s recommended that you tip at the end. A top tip is to join a Barcelona Gothic Quarter morning walking tour, which usually last two to three hours. That way, you’ve got the rest of the day to explore and immerse yourself even deeper in the rich culture of the neighbourhood.

Visit Barcelona Cathedral

It’s the most famous landmark in the Gothic Quarter, so there’s no way you can pass through without stopping by the Barcelona Cathedral. Built between the 13th and 15th centuries, this grand pile goes by a number of names (Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia, La Seu Cathedral and the official Catalan moniker, Catedral de la Santa Creu i Santa Eulàlia) and is dedicated to the city’s patron saint, Eulalia, a young girl martyred by the Romans for not renouncing her faith. An impressive and imposing sight from the outside, venture in and you’ll discover numerous chapels and cloisters, gargoyles carved into the soaring roof, and a crypt that contains the sarcophagus of Eulalia. And don’t leave without taking the elevator right to the top – the views are magnificent. It’s free to visit, but remember to cover your shoulders and dress appropriately to guarantee entry.

Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia. Credit: Varun Chatterji | CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Uncover Barcelona’s Jewish Heritage

You’ll feel as though you’ve stepped back in time when you wander through Barcelona’s ancient Jewish Quarter. Before the Spanish Inquisition, a Jewish community of more than 4,000 people called Barcelona home, basing themselves in a part of town known as El Call. In the centre of the district, and representing the heart and soul of the Jewish Quarter, is Spain’s oldest synagogue, Sinogoga Major. Believed to have been constructed some time during the third or fourth century, it was deserted in the 14th century when the Jewish community came under persecution, and didn’t open again until 2002. Another highlight is the tiny Centre d’Interpretació del Call, an offshoot of the Museum of History of Barcelona, which provides an in-depth exploration of the city’s Jewish history.

Eat Your Way Through the Gothic Quarter

Offering a smorgasbord of gastronomic delights for visitors to feast upon – including tapas, jamón and patatas bravas – there’s absolutely no excuse for leaving Barcelona with an empty stomach. Luckily, we’ve rounded up some of the best restaurants near the Gothic Quarter Barcelona to ensure you don’t go hungry. First up is Can Culleretes, which was established in 1786, making it Barcelona’s oldest restaurant. With a legacy like that, you know the food is going to be good, and they specialise in traditional Catalan dishes and free-flowing housemade wine. For mouth-watering tapas in the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona, head to La Plata – a cheap, cheerful corner bar serving up seafood that may just change your life. And for those who prefer something on the sweeter side, Granja La Pallaresa’s exquisite churros will take you to dessert heaven.  

Museum of the History of Barcelona. Credit: Alejandro | CC BY 2.0

Hang Out At The Museum of the History of Barcelona

Contrary to popular belief, Barcelona isn’t a warm, sun-drenched destination all year round, and actually does experience milder conditions during the colder months. So what is there to do in Barcelona in winter? Plenty, as a matter of fact – the coolest one being a trip to the Museum of the History of Barcelona. One ticket will give you access to all seven locations of the museum, with the main building located just near the Plaça del Rei. An excursion here covers everything from heritage sites and archaeological ruins to a run-down on the city’s Roman roots, life during medieval times, the Spanish Civil War and even information on how the modern-day Catalan capital was formed. 

Shop Up a Storm

Euros? Check. Credit card? Check. Comfy shoes for trawling the streets in search of a bargain? Check. Then it’s time to go shopping in the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona. The neighbourhood is a treasure trove for shopaholics, with a mix of expensive designer showrooms, vintage emporiums and high-street stores to splash your cash at. Those with a penchant for iconic Spanish brands such as Zara, Mango and Pull & Bear should make their way to the popular Portal de l’Angel, a wide pedestrian-only shopping strip. Retro connoisseurs can try their luck in the quieter parts of the Gothic Quarter, exploring backstreets like the stylish Carrer Avinyó, which is jam-packed with exclusive, one-off boutiques. Happy shopping!

Gothic Quarter. Credit: Isen Majennt | CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Explore The City Squares

Dotted throughout the Gothic Quarter are a collection of charming city squares, each with its own unique drawcard. And the easiest way to see them all is to embark on a little Barcelona Gothic Quarter self-walking tour. A good place to begin is Plaça Reial, one of the most famous squares in the entire city. Located close by busy La Rambla, it’s a space that comes alive at night, with popular nightclubs, bars and restaurants contained within its palm tree-fringed perimeter. Then there’s Plaça del Pi, which is dominated by the stunning Santa Maria del Pi church on one side, and cafes with outdoor terraces on the other. For those more politically inclined, Plaça de Sant Jaume is where you’ll find Barcelona City Hall and the palace of the Catalan Government.

Have a Drink at El Quatre Gats

Fancy sipping a sundowner in the exact same place that Picasso and Gaudi once frequented? Of course you do! El Quatre Gats is one of the most revered bars in the Gothic Quarter; a vibrant and colourful building adorned with incredible mosaics and modernist artwork. It first opened its doors in 1897, quickly becoming a bohemian hangout for architects, musicians, artists and creative types, and was so loved by Picasso that he actually held his very first exhibition at the bar. Debt forced the closure of El Quatre Gats in 1903, before it finally reopened in 1989, much to the delight of locals and tourists alike. Head down in the afternoon for a jug of sangria and some live music.

Gothic Quarter. Credit: Lucas Theis | CC BY 2.0

Say ¡hola! to Spain and the charms of the Gothic Quarter by booking cheap flights to Barcelona with Webjet. While you’re at it, find the perfect Barcelona hotel, or combine your accommodation and flights into the one booking with a money-saving Webjet holiday package.

Hero image: Placa Reial, Barcelona. Credit: Stuart Bramley | CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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