10 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions of Barcelona's Gothic Quarter
Brimming with old-world charm, the Barri Gòtic of Barcelona captures the ambience of centuries ago. This medieval quarter is a quaint, traffic-free world where almost every architectural detail seems frozen in the Middle Ages. Imposing Gothic buildings with magnificent facades have stood the test of time, and amazingly narrow pedestrian streets show the wear on their smoothed-down cobblestones.
Anywhere one wanders, hidden surprises abound, from tiny arcaded alleyways to inviting patios with peaceful fountains. Street musicians find quiet courtyards where the acoustics are perfect for playing melodies of classical Spanish guitar. Many of the quarter's little squares have pleasant outdoor cafés, and children often use the uncrowded plazas for impromptu football games.
As if the atmosphere itself is not enough of a draw, the Gothic Quarter is packed with cultural attractions and fun things to do. Begin with the cathedral and then continue on a leisurely tour of the churches and museums, soaking up the history along the way. For more sightseeing ideas, see our list of the top attractions in Barcelona's Gothic Quarter.
1. Catedral de Santa Eulalia
This splendid Gothic cathedral stands on the highest point in the Gothic Quarter, surrounded by a delightful maze of narrow medieval lanes. The cathedral was constructed during the Romanesque period (13th century), but it was finished in the medieval era, and the exterior was renovated in the late 19th to early 20th centuries.
Admire the grandiose facade, adorned with an arched doorway and an abundance of spires and vertical buttresses. Step inside to be inspired by the bright and spacious sanctuary. The layout of the interior is unusual for a Gothic cathedral because it was built on the site of a Paleo-Christian basilica. Be sure to see the crypt with its ancient tombs and the museum in the Sala Capitular that displays paintings by Spanish masters from the 15th and 16th centuries. Other highlights include the cloister's entrance door and the Chapel of Santa Lucía.
Address: Plaza de la Seu, Barcelona
2. Plaça del Rei
The Plaça del Rei is one of the most beautiful squares in Barcelona's old town. It is surrounded by impressive medieval buildings and opens up to the quarter's narrow streets on its southern side. On the Plaça del Rei stands the Palau Reial Major (Royal Palace), a typical medieval urban palace that exemplifies the medieval architecture of the Gothic Quarter. Important remains of the old Roman town were discovered when excavating for the foundations for rebuilding the palace.
In another corner of the square is the Casa Clariana Padellás which houses the Museu d'Història de Barcelona (Historical Museum of Barcelona). The basement of the museum reveals the archaeological site. Visitors will see fascinating Roman ruins, including parts of a heating system, mosaic floors, remnants of surrounding walls, and the water and drainage systems.
3. Cappella di Santa Agata
Built in the 14th century on the site of the old Roman town wall, this Gothic chapel was once the chapel of the Royal Palace. The chapel is renowned for the Altare del Connestabile (altarpiece) by Jaume Huguet, which is considered among the finest works of Catalan painting. Also notice the windows in the choir and gallery, which show the various coats-of-arms of the counts of Barcelona. The sacristy contains an interesting iron mechanical clock dating from 1576. A small room in the chapel leads up to the 17th-century tower of Martín el Humano (Martin the Humanist).
The chapel is no longer used for religious services, but the monument may be visited (it is part of the Historical Museum of Barcelona).
Address: Plaza del Rey, Barcelona
4. Museu Picasso
The Picasso Museum is on one of the most atmospheric streets in the Gothic Quarter. The museum occupies several medieval palaces, built in the Catalan Gothic style between the 13th and 15th centuries. This extensive collection includes paintings and drawings, as well as prints (lithographs and etchings) from all of Picasso's artistic periods, and is the most important collection anywhere of his early works.
Exhibits are arranged in chronological order, showing the different phases of Pablo Picasso's artistic development. Highlights of the museum include the Cubist paintings, the enormous painting of Ciéncia y Caridad (Science and Charity); Los Pichones (The Doves); El Passeig de Colom (depicting the balcony of a street in Barcelona); and Las Meninas (Infanta Margarita María), an interesting portrait of the five-year-old heir to the Spanish throne.
Address: 15 - 23 Carrer Montcada, Barcelona
Official site: http://www.museupicasso.bcn.cat/en
5. Iglesia de Santa Maria del Mar
Near the Picasso Museum, the 14th-century Iglesia de Santa Maria del Mar is a stunning Gothic church. Take time to admire the richly decorated facade, especially the main doorway. Illuminated by a splendid rose window and other stained-glass windows, the sumptuous interior gives a harmonious impression of space. After the cathedral, this church is considered the most important religious building in the city. A precious icon of a Black Madonna is found in the chapel near the left side door.
Address: Plaza de Santa María, Barcelona
6. Iglesia de Santa Maria del Pí
The striking Gothic church of Santa Maria del Pí (Blessed Lady of the Pine Tree) features an austere fortress-like facade. The only adornment on the exterior is the pointed-arch doorway featuring a statue of the Madonna and a large rose window. The simple single-aisled interior is flanked by chapels and illuminated by 15th- to 18th-century stained-glass windows. Near the door to the sacristy is the 14th-century tomb of Arnau Ferre, who died at the Siege of Catania in Sicily. The treasury contains a noteworthy collection of sacred art as well as goldsmith and silversmith work.
Address: Plaza del Pí, Barcelona
7. Museu Frederic Marès
Tucked away in a quiet square of the Gothic Quarter, this museum is a hidden treasure. The museum occupies a beautiful space in the marvelous Salò del Tinell reception hall that was part of the 12th-century Palau Reial Major (Royal Palace). On display is the private collection donated by sculptor Frederic Marès Deulovol to the city. The collection includes ancient Roman sculptures as well as Romanesque and Gothic religious art and Baroque decorative objects.
To arrive at the museum, walk from Plaça de Sant Iu (next to the cathedral) through the archway on the Carrer dels Comtes de Barcelona, which leads into a picturesque inner courtyard garden. During summertime, this idyllic patio area serves as outdoor seating space for the Cafè d'Estiu.
Address: 5 Plaça de Sant Iu, Barcelona
Official site: http://w110.bcn.cat/museufredericmares/eng
8. Museu de la Xocolata
The Barcelona Confectioners' Guild created the Museum of Chocolate in the year 2000. This delightful museum is housed in the former Convent of Sant Agustí, an exquisite historic building with a lovely Gothic cloister. The museum discusses the history and art of chocolate. Visitors learn about the discovery of the cocoa bean by New World explorers, the commerce of chocolate, and chocolate as an art form.
One of tourists' favorite things to do in the Gothic Quarter is visiting the museum's coffee shop. The chocolate-focused selection of refreshments and treats is arranged in cafeteria style, so that visitors may browse the delicious samplings. The enticing offerings include hot chocolate, cold chocolate beverages, and fresh-baked pastries made with chocolate.
Address: 36 Carrer del Comerç, Barcelona
9. Palau Episcopal
Adjoining the cathedral on the west side, the Episcopal Palace was founded in the 10th century. The present building dates from the 12th and 13th centuries but incorporates architectural elements from Roman times - the two round towers on the Portal del Bisbe. In the 15th century, the building was enhanced, and in the 19th century, it was renovated. The inner features a Romanesque arcaded gallery and contains a modern statue of Our Lady of Montserrat.
Address: 5 Calle del Bisbe, Barcelona
10. Palau de la Generalitat
On the northwestern side of the Plaça de Sant Jaume, the Palau de la Generalitat is a relatively modern building for the Gothic Quarter. Built between the 15th and 17th century, this medieval palace was once the seat of the provincial representatives. Today, the building houses the Generalitat de Catalunya, the regional government of Catalonia.
Address: 4 Plaza de Sant Jaume, Barcelona
Where to Stay in Barcelona's Gothic Quarter for Sightseeing
Because of its enchanting old-world ambience and wealth of cultural attractions, the Gothic Quarter is one of the best places to stay in Barcelona. Many accommodations in the Gothic Quarter fall into the high-end category because of their central location and opulent historic buildings such as medieval palaces. However, there are still plenty of choices for all budgets. We recommend these highly rated hotels in Barcelona's Gothic Quarter:
- Luxury Hotels: On an atmospheric street near the cathedral, the Mercer Barcelona offers the distinguished style of a five-star boutique hotel. Surprisingly modern in contrast to the Gothic Quarter's ancient buildings, the hotel blends original architectural elements with contemporary decor details. Minimalistic in design, the guest rooms feature fine Egyptian-cotton bed linens and rain-effect showers. Amenities include a gastronomic restaurant, casual restaurant, rooftop terrace, and swimming pool. Another five-star boutique hotel, the trendy Hotel the Serras is well situated near the Port Vell marina and a short walk to the cathedral and the Picasso Museum. A rooftop terrace (with swimming pool) overlooks the harbor. The bright, spacious guest rooms have spectacular views of the medieval landmarks or the marina and Mediterranean Sea. The five-star Hotel Neri Relais & Chateaux delivers historic charm along with modern amenities. Housed in two former aristocratic palaces just steps away from the cathedral, the accommodations are sophisticated and sumptuous. Guest rooms feature Nespresso coffee machines and sleek updated bathrooms; some have balconies or terraces.
- Mid-Range Hotels: In the heart of the Gothic Quarter, the Hotel Catalonia Avinyo is within a short walk of the cathedral. This three-star hotel features sleek modern decor, soundproofed guest rooms, a fitness center, and swimming pool. The four-star boutique Hotel Barcelona Catedral provides stylish modern accommodations. Amenities include a fitness center, swimming pool, cooking classes, and Mediterranean restaurant featuring a pleasant outdoor terrace. Near the cathedral, the four-star Hotel Gotico offers affordable accommodations, with amenities including 24-hour front desk and concierge services. From the hotel's rooftop terrace, guests can enjoy sensational views of the Gothic Quarter's winding streets and ancient monuments.
Tips and Tours: How to Make the Most of Your Visit to Barcelona's Gothic Quarter
- Walking Tour: A good way to get your bearings in the tangle of narrow streets is to join a Barcelona Gothic Quarter Morning Walking Tour that takes you to the highlights with a knowledgeable local guide who will also point out favorite places for tapas and shopping.
- Segway Tour: You can easily see the old harbor (Port Vell) and the old fishing port (La Barceloneta) on the Barcelona Segway Tour. As you and no more than five others follow a local guide through the winding streets on your self-balancing electric wheels, you'll learn about the monuments and about Barcelona's fascinating history.
- Keep Comfort in Mind: The streets of this medieval neighborhood are paved with stones that are often worn and uneven, so wear sturdy low-heeled shoes with good treads.
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Exploring Barcelona and its Surroundings: The Gothic Quarter is one of the best places to visit in Barcelona for soaking up the charming medieval atmosphere and for admiring elegant historic architecture. For travelers who appreciate the old-world character of the Gothic Quarter, there are other fascinating historic towns nearby. Among the favorite day trips from Barcelona are the medieval towns of Girona and Vic. If you're looking for a great place to stay, see our article on Where to Stay in Barcelona: Best Areas & Hotels.