In seeming contrast to Barcelona’s progressive urban energy, the Gothic Quarter graces the city with an aura of ancient civility and genteel sophistication. Museums, cathedrals and Gothic architecture define the district by day, while artistic eateries and classy music clubs captivate visitors well into the evening hours. El Call, Barcelona’s Jewish Quarter, offers a rare glimpse into medieval Jewish legacy on the Iberian Peninsula.
Labyrinthine street designs in the Gothic Quarter open into very walkable squares, making it easy to stroll through Barcelona’s past, including a stop at the 11th century Gothic-designed Diocesan Museum stocked with religious sculptures, chalices and paintings. Catedral de la Seu stands out for its intricately carved choir stalls of the Knights of the Golden Fleece, and the 14th century Placa del Rei houses the Museum of History of Barcelona. Plaça Reial is where to go for clubs and cafes, and the legendary Harlem jazz club, tucked into a small sloping street, overflows with live music and easy camaraderie.
As the centre of Barcelona’s old city in the Ciutat Vella district, the Gothic Quarter meets the Mediterranean seafront and runs roughly from the pedestrian promenade of La Rambla to Via Laietana. Metro lines service the quarter with several stops on Las Ramblas. After arriving, the best choice is to explore the winding streets, colourful plazas and quaint shopping districts on foot.
Although magnificent buildings from the 13th and 14th centuries grace the Gothic Quarter, others with a re-created Gothic style appeared as late as the early 20th century. They co-habit the district with ancient Roman ruins such as the Temple of Augustus, creating a striking dichotomy of structure and style.