Dripping in gorgeous architecture and crisscrossed with charming cobbled streets, it’s easy to see why the Gothic Quarter is Barcelona’s crowning glory! Known as Barrio Gótic in the local language, the compact neighbourhood is one of the oldest in the city, with some of its most intriguing landmarks.
Whether you want to soak up the beauty of Barcelona Cathedral or sip sangria in a serene square, here’s our guide to this epic district.
Getting to the Gothic Quarter
The Gothic Quarter sits right in the heart of Barcelona’s Ciutat Villa (Old City), meaning it’s within walking distance of numerous top attractions. If you’re travelling from further afield, you might prefer the ease of the city’s excellent public transport system.
Run by TMB, the transport here includes trams, metro trains and buses. The Gothic Quarter is sandwiched between two central metro stations: Liceu on line 3 (green) and Jaume I on line 4 (yellow). Numerous bus services skirt the small district’s borders. You can also find an array of transport options at nearby Plaça de Catalunya.
You could also get a mainline train to Barcelona-França station, which is located in the neighbouring Barceloneta. The station is served by trains to regional towns and cities scattered across Spain.
If you’re going down the metro route, you’ll be able to buy tickets from any station, on the TMB website or on the TMB app. These can then be used on all TMB transport (including buses and trams). When it comes to opening hours, you’ll find that Barcelona metro runs between the following times:
- Monday to Thursday: 05:00 to midnight
- Friday: 05:00 to 02:00
- Saturday: 05:00 to midnight
- Sunday: Nonstop
Things to do in the Gothic Quarter
The Gothic Quarter forms one part of Barcelona’s old city. Actually, it sits on the site of an ancient Roman village. Due to its rich history, you’ll be spoilt for choice by ancient attractions and fascinating museums. Here are some of our favourite things to do in this picture-perfect corner of Barcelona.
The Gothic Cathedral of Barcelona
The Gothic Quarter’s cathedral is by far its most iconic site. You’ll spot its intricate façade and dramatic spires as soon as you get to Pla de la Seu. The oldest part of Barcelona’s Cathedral dates back to the 13th century, a stunning example of Gothic architecture you don’t want to miss. The cathedral is open to visitors seven days a week.
A highlight of any visit is the cathedral cloisters. They’re dripping in fragrant citrus trees and are even home to a gaggle of geese! You can head down into the crypt or zoom up to the rooftop in an elevator to enjoy panoramic views across the city’s skyline.
The cathedral is by no means the only beautiful church in Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter. In fact, you’ll find the equally stunning Basilica de Santa Maria del Pi, a short stroll west on Plaça del Pi.
Roman Aqueduct and Temple
We’ve already mentioned that the Gothic Quarter was once a Roman settlement. It shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise then that it’s home to several remarkable Roman ruins.
This includes the Temple d’August (now part of the Barcelona History Museum) that sits on a narrow lane just south of the cathedral. Pop inside to view its ancient interiors and learn more about how Barcelona (then known as Barcino) was founded way back in the 1st century BC.
To the west of Barcelona cathedral is another Roman ruin that encompasses crumbling city walls, an ancient defence tower and an aqueduct. They’re all free to visit and marked by information plaques on Plaça de Frederic Mares.
Plaça Sant Jaume
The Gothic Quarter is littered with pretty squares that host numerous extraordinary landmarks. This includes Plaça Sant Jaume at the very centre of the district. It’s home to the Palau de la Generalitat de Catalunya. This stunning Renaissance-era palace now houses the Catalonian Government offices. Guided tours are regularly run and well-worth joining to learn more about both the building and the city’s political history.
Fringed with palm trees and inundated with chic restaurants and bars, it’s easy to see why Plaça Reial is one of Barcelona’s most famous squares! It’s found on the far west of the Gothic Quarter, close to La Rambla, and is a brilliant spot to head to after dark.
Grab a table outside, sip sangria and get ready for some people watching. Several nightclubs are located on the square, including top venues like Jamboree and Sidecar.
Plaça Sant Felip Neri
Barcelona was very much caught up in the events of the Spanish Civil War, and few places echo this more than Plaça Sant Felip Neri. The small, serene square has a harrowing past as it was sadly bombed in 1938 with 42 fatalities. You can still see evidence of the explosion if you look at the scarred and damaged walls of the square’s Baroque church.
Barcelona History Museum (MUHBA)
History buffs will love spending a few hours exploring the exhibitions at the Barcelona History Museum. Known as MUHBA, it sits just east of the cathedral in a magnificent medieval building.
Venture inside to discover the impeccably excavated and preserved Roman streets just below the Gothic Quarter. The Old City was built over the top of the original Roman settlement. You’ll be able to pick out specific structures, from houses and shops to laundry rooms and places of worship.
Top tip: Head to MUHBA on Sunday after 15:00 for free entry.
Gothic Quarter history and facts
Barcelona's Gothic Quarter has really gone a long way from a Roman settlement to a 21st-century tourist magnet! Here’s a short history of this fantastic corner of the city.
While the area around Barcelona is thought to have been home to humans since neolithic times, it wasn’t until the 1st century BC that it became a proper settlement. The Romans decided to colonise the region and began building a city that would later become known as Barcino.
Their chosen site is what we now call the Gothic Quarter, and they surrounded it with defensive city walls. The Romans also built numerous other structures, including the Temple d’August.
A conquered city
The Romans ruled the city for around 500 years until it was conquered by the Visigoths and temporarily became the capital of Hispania (the Iberian Peninsula). In the 8th century, the city was captured by the Moors, although they only ruled it for about 90 years.
In 801, Barcelona was taken by the Franks (who gave their name to France), then ruled by the Counts of Barcelona. The Counts also oversaw a part of Catalonia and gradually expanded the region.
An impressive port
Catalonia (and Barcelona) later merged with Aragon and became one of the most important medieval ports in the Mediterranean. At the very bottom of the district lies the Drassanes shipyards (now the Museu d'Història de Catalunya), where dozens of war and trading ships were built.
Many of the Gothic Quarter’s most iconic buildings were built during this period, including Barcelona Cathedral. This was also when La Rambla was incorporated into the city on the very edge of the district.
19th and 20th century Gothic Quarter
During the 19th century, when the country began to industrialise, the Gothic Quarter’s original city walls were torn down, and many buildings were restored.
The Spanish Civil War brought about unrest, with fights in the streets and bombings of areas like Plaça Sant Felip Neri.
In the 1990s, the section of the Gothic Quarter closest to the harbour was refurbished in time for the 1992 Olympics. Many of the original dock buildings and warehouses were torn down, and the city’s manmade beaches were created.
The Gothic Quarter today
Nowadays, no trip to Barcelona is complete without exploring the Gothic Quarter. The area is jam-packed with history and is home to some of the city’s best eating, drinking, and entertainment venues. Likewise, you’ll discover lots of accommodation here, from boutique hotels to self-catering apartments.
Restaurants, bars and shops around the Gothic Quarter
The Gothic Quarter really does have it all. Bulk out your Barcelona itinerary with some brilliant places to dine on traditional Catalan cuisine. There are also dozens of shops to buy everything from high-quality clothing to artisan arts and crafts. Need a hand choosing where to go first?
This ever-popular restaurant is found on Carrer d’en Quintana, and it’s thought to be one of the oldest eateries in the city! Can Culleretes means ‘House of Spoons’ in Catalan, but no one knows exactly how the restaurant got this name!
Can Culleretes first opened in 1786 and retained its old-school charm. Walls are plastered with photos of the many famous figures who have dined there over the decades. The restaurant additionally has six elegant dining rooms featuring dark wood-beamed ceilings and traditional furnishings.
When it comes to food, you’re in for a treat. Can Culleretes specialises in tantalising Catalan cuisine, with many recipes passed down through generations of chefs.
Els Quatre Gats
This fantastic café has been around since 1897 and gets its title from Le Chat Noir in Paris. As well as being a lovely little place for a quick bite or a cup of coffee, it’s also got some pretty impressive credentials.
It was once a favourite haunt of Barcelona’s artistic residents during the early 1900s, including Antoni Gaudí and Pablo Picasso. Picasso even famously hosted two of his first-ever solo exhibits in Els Quatre Gats in 1900!
Milk Bar & Bistro
Looking for somewhere sophisticated for an evening out? Milk Bar & Bistro is a favourite in the Gothic Quarter for visitors and locals alike. It’s close to the harbour, known for its colourful décor, tasty comfort food and creative cocktails. It’s also one of the best brunch spots in Barcelona!
Fan of thrift shops and vintage-style interiors? Calle d’Avinyo is the place to go! This quaint shopping street sits right in the centre of the Gothic Quarter and is home to some of the city’s best independent boutiques and second-hand stores.
Vintage kg is excellent if you’re hoping to go on a major shopping spree. At the same time, Crafts Barcelona Art Escudellers sells a vast range of beautiful gifts and homeware.
Travelling to Barcelona by train?
You can easily reach Barcelona by train from within Spain, as well as other major European cities, thanks to the many high-speed rail connections available.
If you're already in Spain and heading into Barcelona, Renfe trains offer high-speed routes from Valencia to Barcelona (2h 40m), Alicante to Barcelona (4h 25m), Malaga to Barcelona (5h 32m) and Seville to Barcelona (5h 37m). Some of the most popular international train routes include Paris to Barcelona (6h 40m), Amsterdam to Barcelona (13h 17m), and Toulouse to Barcelona (3h 51m).
Need more information about travelling to Barcelona by train? Check out our expert guide to trains to Barcelona.