What to Do in the Gothic Quarter in Barcelona

If you find yourself in Barcelona, one of the starting points of any exploration must be Barrio Gòtico. From human-castling building in Plaça Jaume to the history-steeped backstreets around the La Seu cathedral and the laid-back, arty bars and cafes of its squares, Barrio Gòtico is a place to combine time travel with carefree hedonism.

Where is Barri Gotic?

The Barri Gotic is a part of the Ciutat Vella (old town), along with La Ribera, La Raval, and Barceloneta.

Walking down Las Ramblas from Placa Catalunya to the Columbus monument, the Barri Gotic, or Gothic Quarter, is on your left-hand side.

What is in the Barri Gotic?

The main sights in the Barri Gotic are the cathedral and Placa Reial.

But the real beauty of the Gothic Quarter is its interesting little streets and alleyways. There are so many little streets to wander around, we challenge anyone to take the same route twice—and if you do manage to follow the same route twice, you're not being adventurous enough!

Arguably, the area between Placa Reial and the seafront is one of Barri Gotic's best places to wander. Though you would expect this area to be full of tourists, somehow it escapes the hordes of visitors that occupy other parts of the Gothic Quarter.

  • 01 of 10

    Walk Around La Seu Cathedral

    La Seu Cathedral Barcelona
    ••• Jesus Jover/EyeEm/Getty Images

    Although the imposing La Seu Cathedral's interior is impressive, a jaunt into the quiet alleyways along its walls offers equally pleasurable outdoors treats. Particularly, Carrer del Bisbe with its neo-Gothic bridge hanging over the street and Plaça Sant Felip Neri, with its fountain and bullet-holed walls, where you can sit down and enjoy whatever the ever-present buskers happen to be playing.

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    Gothic Quarter Walking Tour

    Night view of a Barrio Gotico outdoor cafe with tourists seated, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain
    ••• Stefano Politi Markovina/Getty Images

    A walking tour is a great way to discover the stories and legends behind Barcelona's most antique district and make new friends along the way. For the best experience, choose from several recommended guided walking tours in this neighborhood or throughout the city. 

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    Els Quatre Gats

    The Els Quatre Gats historical cafe restaurant, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain
    ••• The Els Quatre Gats in Barcelona. Stefano Politi Markovina/Getty Images

    This neo-Gothic cerveseria is a Barrio Gòtico institution. It dates back to the 1890s and, having held one of Picasso's first exhibitions, has always been a popular bar with artists.

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    Human Towers and Sardana Dancing in Plaça Jaume

    Traditional Catalan dance of Sardana, Barcelona
    ••• Graham Lucas Commons/Getty Images

    The best time to catch the jaw-dropping phenomena of human castle-building — Castellers — is during the La Mercé Festival in late September. Watching bodies scuttle to the tops of pyramids of arms and legs near the rooftops of Plaça Jaume's neoclassical palaces is a wonder to behold. Throughout the year you can also catch Sardana dancing, every Sunday afternoon.

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  • 05 of 10

    Plaça del Pi

    Placa del Pi in Barcelona
    ••• Domingo Leiva/Getty Images

    A stone's throw from the hectic, circus-like Las Ramblas is one of Barcelona's most enchanting squares, enjoyed for its architecture, shops and laidback ambiance. In the shadow of one of the city's finest Gothic churches, there are market stalls, artists on deck chairs and chilled café terraces to lull you into an agreeable state of ambling.

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    Treasure-Hunting in the Gothic Quarter

    La Manual Alpargatera on Carrer d'Avinyo
    ••• Enfo/Wikimedia Commons

    There's treasure galore to be found wandering in the Gothic Quarter's backstreets. If retro fashion or local underground labels are your things, head for Carrer Avinyó and the surrounding streets. For art, bric-a-brac and curios, dive into the antique stores along Carrer de la Palla. For traditional tiles, bowls or jugs, there's a ceramics emporium on Carrer Escudellers.

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    El Call Jewish Quarter

    View of the Barcelona's Jewish district (El Call)
    ••• Sergi Escribano / Getty Images

    Before the Inquisition took a stranglehold on Barcelona, Jewish merchants played an important role in city life. Located between the Cathedral, Plaça Jaume, and Plaça del Pi, El Call is their legacy. The Jewish Quarter is a pretty labyrinth of alleys, whose highlights are the Sinagoga Mayor — a synagogue deserted in the 14th century — and the Centre d'Interpretació del Call, a museum about Jewish life in medieval Barcelona. 

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    El Bosc de les Fades

    ••• Las Ramblas/Getty Images

    Its name means 'fairy wood', and this sangria-serving grotto just off the bottom end of Las Ramblas is decorated just like one. Fake trees, illusory mirrors, haunting music and simulated rainstorms are all part of the experience.

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  • 09 of 10

    Museu d'Historia de La Ciutat

    Plaça del Rei, Barcelona
    ••• Domingo Leiva / Getty Images

    Overlooking the Plaça del Rei, where Columbus supposedly made a glorious re-appearance after returning from the New World, the City History Museum is full of Roman remains and centuries-old treasures. It charts the story of the city from early Iberian settlement to its golden age as a medieval port, via conquest by the Visigoths and Moors.

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    Plaça del George Orwell

    Placa de George Orwell in Barcelona, Spain
    ••• Morgaine/CC/Flickr.com

    This square is a slice of alternative Barcelona. Also known as Plaça del Tripi (The Trippy Square), it has a bizarre postmodern monument at its center, bars full of wildly dressed locals, and the presence of a multitude of security cameras and police vans keeping an eye on perpetually unruly shenanigans. Plaça George Orwell is never dull.

Museu de'Historia de la Ciutat Featuring some excellent subterranean Roman ruins. Temple de'Augustus Museu del Calcat Museum of Footwear Iglesia de Sants Just i Pastor Church in Placa de Sant Just Correu i Telegraf Post office with interesting decorations inside by famous artists. El Gran Cafe A modernist cafe, though not as famous as Les Quatre Gats. Palau Reial Museu Frederic Meres Capella Reial de Santa Agata Palau del Lloctinent Casa de l'Ardiaca Home to the city's archives. Notable Streets in Barcelona's Gothic Quarter Carrer dels Banys Nous Nice street that follows the old Roman wall. Antique dealers here. C/Bisbe The street that connects the cathedral to Placa Jaume. Always buskers playing around here. Carrers de Petritxol Nice art galleries here. Carrers de la Palla More antiques.