Highlights of Barcelona’s old town

by Montserrat Cardona

The old town of Barcelona is divided into three neighborhoods: the Gothic, the Raval, and La Ribera. These neighborhoods are both windows into the history of the city and some of the liveliest areas in town.

Today we call the oldest part of the city the Gothic Quarter: Barcelona was founded by the Romans in the first century BC. We can still see the remains of their presence. One of the most important is the underground Museum of History of Barcelona, situated at Plaça del Rei (King’s Square), the spot that gives access to the remains of the roman city of Barcino. The square is surrounded by important medieval buildings, such as the Royal Palace and the chapel of Santa Àgata.

Not too far from Plaça del Rei we will walk down the narrow streets of the Jewish Quarter or El Call. Call, meaning small street, is a word used to designate the area where the Jews resided until the pogrom of 1391. Some members of the community held important positions in the medieval society of Barcelona. One of the streets of the neighborhood is dedicated to the rabbi Solomon ben Adret, a famous Talmudist and a disciple of Nahmanides.

The third highlight of the Gothic Quarter is the Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulàlia. It was built between the 13th and 15th centuries. It has a beautiful cloister, famous for the 13 geese that live there. They represent the 13-year-old girl Eulàlia, who died as a martyr during the early years of Christianity.

Saint Felip Neri Square at the Gothic Quarter in Barcelona
Saint Felip Neri Square in the old town