The Gothic Quarter, or El Barri Gotic, is the old town of Barcelona, saturated in the history, spirit and culture of the city and defined by the merging of the streets Cardo and Decumanus. It is full of significant landmarks, found in between small cobbled streets, and old buildings revealing stories of Spanish past times. The area extends outwards from the seafront into the city, as it has done for hundreds of years, as the core district since Roman and Medieval times.
There is abundant evidence of Barcelona’s history in El Barri Gotic, especially of the Roman civilisation that once occupied the area, such as the ruined temple of Augustus and the old city walls. The Gothic Quarter also includes the medieval Jewish Quarter, El Call, defined by its long narrow streets and decrepit ancient synagogue. The squares of the area are particularly impressive as visitors can find royal residences at the Plaça del Rei, discover the Cathedral at the Plaça de Sant Felip Neri, or relax in the bars of Plaça Reial. Walking the streets of El Barri Gotic is the best way to soak up its history and atmosphere, but for detailed information, visitors can explore the Barcelona City History Museum or tour the City Hall.
El Barri Gotic is the first stop for most visitors in Barcelona, so it is well connected to the rest of the city. Both Lines 3 and 4 of the metro go to nearby stations of Liceu or Jaume I, and there is car parking near La Rambla, although most of the Gothic Quarter itself is pedestrianised. Multiple local buses pass through these tourist areas on their routes and city sightseeing buses always go to the old town of Barcelona.
The beauty of El Barri Gotic has inspired famous Spanish artists and creatives, including Picasso who lived there between 1895 and 1904. However, people began questioning the authenticity of the area during a 2011 controversy claiming that the supposedly old architecture was part of an elaborate restoration project for the 1929 International Exhibition. One thing is sure, the present day energy and atmosphere of El Barri Gotic is genuine, and experiencing the area is essential for any visitor to Barcelona.