Time stands still in Ciutat Vella (Old City). This part of Barcelona can be traced back to 15BC when the Romans built a settlement that is now known as Barri Gòtic or the Gothic Quarter. During the 13th century, Barcelona was one of the three most important and richest cities in the Mediterranean. Its wealth reflects through the magnificent Gothic buildings and churches. This is the closest I got to re-living the moment when the mighty Counts and Kings of Catalunya and Aragón lived and ruled here.
We spent our third day in Barcelona roaming around Ciutat Vella’s maze of dark and narrow cobblestone streets. The gargoyles and strange figures on the buildings made me feel like we were being closely watched as we walked by, occasionally stopping in few of the small squares for some coffee.
The main purpose of today’s walk was to experience the glory of Barcelona’s oldest and grandest treasures but we also admired some beautiful and newer sights along the way, which I’ve included in my map. We’ve seen a lot (and even learned more) on this walk, so feel free to make this as your guide if you wish. As some of you may already know, I have a very deep fondness about anything old that’s preserved well. And that made this walk my favourite part of our trip. Barri Gòtic tour starts in Picasso Museu.
1. Parc de la Ciutadella is one of the most famous parks in Barcelona and has a long and lamentable history. In the 16th century when King Philip V of Spain took control over Barcelona, he ordered La Ciutadella to be built to keep watch over the city. It eventually became a political prison and was later on turned into a park in the late 1800s.
2. Arc de Triomf was built in 1888 as a portal to the Universal Exhibition. It’s about 300 metres away from Parc de la Ciutadella where the 1888 World Fair was held.
3. Castell dels Tres Dragons or Castle of The Three Dragons was built in 1887. It houses the Zoological Museum.
4. Museu de la Xocolata only opened in 2000. Here you’ll find lots and lots of decorative chocolates. If you have a penchant for everything sweet, this is the place for you.
5. Museu Picasso is located in Barri Gòtic. The museum that houses Pablo Picasso’s prized collection used to be an old city palace built in the 15th century known as the Palacio de Berenguer d’Aguilar.
I wasn’t surprised when I saw Pablo Picasso’s works, as I have been able to see some of his paintings at an exhibition in Sydney. Nevertheless, I was still in awe at how great he really was at painting. Seeing his masterpieces in an equally awe-inspiring location seemed to be a lot different than when it was in Sydney. Some of his notable paintings and worth seeing are the series of “Las Meninas” which can be found towards the end of the exhibit galleries. Ticket price €14.00
6. As Sean and I were about to continue our walk, we passed by a shop called “All You Knit is Love.” It’s literally just a few steps away from the museum and I was so overjoyed to have found it. History, castles and yarns are just some of my favourite things and they are part of this walk. What could be better?
7. Església de Santa Maria del Mar or Church of St Mary of the Sea was built between 1329 and 1384 on what used to be the seashore of Barcelona. Its elegant foundation clearly shows the wealth and power of the settlement that once lived here. The church suffered wars, once by Bourbon troops in 1714 and twice during the Spanish Civil War resulting the lack of furnishings. Ornate chandeliers and beautiful stained glass windows however remained.
8. Muralla Romana I Torres De Defensa (Roman Wall and Defence Towers) also known as Barcino was built during the 4th century AD as a defense against invading tribes. It is 16 metres high and originally had 74 towers. If this still looks intimidating and high today, just imagine how it was during those ancient times.
9. La Catedral. Built between the late 13th century and the middle of 15th century is one of the finest cathedrals in Spain. Beneath the high altar is the crypt and tomb of Santa Eulàlia martyr, patron saint of Barcelona.
Just outside the courtyard, there is a fountain and a flock of geese swimming gracefully in the small pond, which symbolizes St Eulàlia’s purity and to signal against approaching intruders and thieves. The most beautiful part of the cathedral is the ornate choir. Its very intricate details will leave your eyes glued just staring at it.
10. Plaça de Sant Josep Oriol. Just a few walks away from La Catedral is a small plaza made lively by artists and pretty small cafés.
11. Plaça Reial, which means Royal Plaza, is a popular square in Barcelona built in 19th century. In the middle of the square is a fountain surrounded by lampposts that was designed by Antoni Gaudi. There are plenty of restaurants and cafés around. Just the perfect place to sit for coffee and relax after a lengthy walk.
12. Las Ramblas is perhaps the busiest area in Barcelona. Every day, this place is flooded with humans from all walks of life from sun up ‘til sun down. One place worthy of a pit stop is the Mercat de la Boqueria right in the heart of La Rambla. Have a taste of the freshest and authentic Mediterranean flavours sold in the stalls of the market.
So what makes La Rambla so busy? It’s not only because of the many restaurants and shops that stretch along the 1.2km tree-lined walkway, but perhaps it’s the best way to feel and experience Barcelona.