Steeped in over 2,000 years of history, the Gothic Quarter, otherwise known as Barrio Gotico, is one of the most charming and fascinating areas in Barcelona. Right in the centre of the Old Town in the Ciutat Vella district, you’ll find some of the most authentic tapas restaurants, quaint bars and fascinating sights. Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter is the perfect place to head to without a plan - get lost navigating your way through and stumble across old, medieval gems as you go. While parts of the labyrinthian alleyways, cobbled streets and small, open squares date back to the Roman era, a lot was transformed in the late 19th century and early 20th. Now, it’s a major tourist attraction for it’s restaurants, bars and incredible history.
We’ve put together a guide to the Gothic Quarter in Barcelona, with everything you need to know from it’s Roman history to the best spots for tapas in the area.
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Sights and attractions in the Gothic Quarter
Standing tall in the heart of the Gothic Quarter is the seat of the Archbishop of Barcelona, Barcelona Cathedral. Admire the cathedral’s intricate detail, famous gargoyles and gothic style from the outside, or head inside to explore the interiors and see the notorious 13 resident white geese. It may not be on quite the same level as its more famous near-neighbouring landmark, the Sagrada Familia, but when in the Gothic Quarter it’s certainly worth stopping by. Plus, it’s free to enter during certain times (which the Sagrada Familia is not).
Placa Reial is one of the Gothic Quarters many open squares, this one is just a little bigger and the most elegant of them all. With a name like ‘reial’ meaning ‘royal’, this will come as no surprise! The square has become one of Barcelona’s most prized tourist attractions, for its beauty during the day and its nightlife after dark. The tall, towering palm trees, yellow-painted buildings and charming fountains and sculptures make for the most beautiful photo-opportunity. Then sit back and watch the world go by with a coffee or a cocktail in one of the surrounding bars.
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Placa del Pi
You’ll probably stumble across a lot of open spaces in the Gothic Quarter, all with their own stories and interesting features. Placa del Pi is another of these. The church you’ll see in this square is Santa Maria del Pi which has stood here since the 14th century in true Catalan Gothic style to match the rest of the Barrio Gotico. However, since then in June 1936, the church was destroyed in a tragic fire and was restored in the 60s, retaining its same Gothic style.
Watch out for the local artisan food market that takes place in Placa del Pi on the first and third Friday to Sunday of every month.
Museu d’Història de Barcelona
Right on the edge of what’s considered to be the Gothic Quarter, the Museum of the History of Barcelona (MUHBA) will take you back to life as a Catalan 2,000 years ago. Head underground to the 4000 square foot archaeological site containing a truly impressive collection of original Roman ruins. The history contained in this museum doesn’t stop at the Romans, it takes you all the way up to the present day. Many people see the MUHBA as one of the more underrated museums in Barcelona. Plus it’s free entry after 3pm on a Sunday.
Watch the Sardana
A famous, extravagant Catalan dance, the Sardana became a cultural symbol of Catalonia back in the 19th century during the period of renaissance. This dance is no flamenco… The Flamenco is a form of dance which derives from southern Spain and is performed in pairs, whereas the Sardana is danced in a group.
You can watch the Sardana performed live right in front of Barcelona Cathedral! Swing by between February and July on Saturdays at about 6:30pm to see the competitive in their traditional outfits, and amateur fans of the dance joining in, too.
Plaza de San Felipe Neri
Another must-see square on your Gothic Quarter tour is the Plaza de San Felipe Neri. This one is absolutely packed with history, containing some heartbreaking stories from the Spanish Civil War. From the outside wall of the baroque church in the square, you’ll notice countless clear bullet scars. Plaza de San Felipe Neri is a sad and dark reminder of one of the most brutal attacks on the Eixample district of Barcelona which killed 42 people, including evacuated children who were taking shelter in the church.
Now, being fairly hidden away, the square is one of the most peaceful areas within the Gothic Quarter.
Inside another of Barcelona’s small courtyards, you’ll find 4 ancient Roman columns which somehow managed to survive over 2,000 years of Barcelona’s history. The remnants of the Temple of Augustus can now be seen inside the Carrer Paradis, where when it was first built in the 1st century BC people would worship the Emperor Augustus.
El Call, Barcelona’s Jewish district
While Barcelona wasn’t home to the largest population of Jews in Spain, the community here certainly made their mark on the city throughout history. El Call is right in the middle of the Gothic Quarter and is home to the oldest synagogue in Spain; Sinagoga Major, believed to have existed since way back in the 5th century. See the remains of female Roman public baths in the basement of Cafe Caleum, or the male public baths behind S’Oliver.
Tapas spots in the Gothic Quarter
The Gothic Quarter is home to some of the best tapas spots in Barcelona, including this charming Catalan gem. Bodega Vasconia serves incredible, authentic tapas dishes including all the classics like patatas bravas, croquettes, octopus, prawns and more. But their prized dish comes highly recommended: the oxtail is a must-try! When you eat at Bodega Vasconia you’ll be paying fair prices for some of the tastiest local food in Barcelona. With inviting, rustic interior, friendly service and incredible food, it’s the ideal spot.
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Perhaps not technically the Gothic Quarter, La Xampanyeria is right at the bottom of the district and is one of Barcelona’s busiest places for tapas. All standing with pintxos and homemade cava in all directions, here’s where you’ll eat in true Catalan style. Aside from cheap pintxo (tapas-style open sandwiches), you’ll get the usual mix of cured meats, cheeses, grilled seafood and pickles, and definitely do not miss their homemade red Cava. It’s crowded, but the food is so good that the floor is covered in serviettes (a Catalan way of showing how much they loved the food). Just know that La Xampanyeria shuts at 10pm so make sure you get there in plenty of time.
Don’t expect an enormous choice of tapas at this charming little spot on the edge of the Gothic Quarter, but just know that what IS on the menu is done to perfection! La Plata only serves 6 traditional tapas dishes but the place itself is packed with Catalan character and the food couldn’t be more satisfying. Perfectly fried anchovies, Spanish sausage, tomato salad, tomato bread… Everything they serve is full of flavour and so cheap!
Irati Taverna Basca
Prepare for pintxos after pintxos at this Basque bar in the heart of the Gothic Quarter. Irati Taverna Basca has made its name for its huge variety of delicious pintxos served usually around the €2 mark per piece. Just help yourself to whichever towering toothpicks take your fancy and at the end of your meal the waiter will calculate your bill by the number of sticks left on your plate. Cooked meats, cured meats, pickles, fish, cheese… The toppings will reach and exceed your tastebuds’ expectations!
Want more tapas? Tickle your tastebuds with the Best Places for Affordable Tapas in Barcelona
With a cosy and romantic, Sensi is a great place for a slightly more special meal. The menu isn’t as huge as other places in the Gothic Quarter, however it’s a more modern take on the traditional and absolutely nails it on the flavour front. Choose a selection of classic tapas plates, chef recommendations and oriental-style tapas and indulge in one of the most delicious Catalan restaurants in Barcelona.
La Alcoba Azul
Hidden away in a relatively quiet square, La Alcoba Azul is the quirkier option on the Gothic Quarter’s tapas menu. Once you step inside the intriguing entrance, you’ll feel as though you’re about to dine inside some sort of cave - low lit and chilled. But the food is far from gloomy - the plates burst with colour and flavours of the Meditteranean! Stuffed peppers, grilled octopus, tostadas, cheeses, roast pork… It’s not the cheapest tapas spot on this list but the food is definitely worth the price tag.
Bars in the Gothic Quarter
Being one of the most buzzing cocktail bars in the Gothic Quarter, you know at Sub Rosa you’re in for a great time. There during the week? Make the most of their Happy Hours on Monday and Tuesday all night long. Their cocktail selection is huge and is full of a wide variety of spirits and flavours to suit anyone’s taste.
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Sor Rita Bar
Retro music, leopard print, tin can chandeliers… Can you picture the vibe at Sor Rita yet? There are even high heels covering the entire ceiling. The kitsch styling here is up there with the craziest we’ve ever seen! This paired with some insane cocktails means that people absolutely love it. Head here for a few chilled drinks or a full on night out, or even on a Monday for tarot card reading and see what your future holds…
If you’re more into wine bars than cocktail bars, nowhere beats Zona d’Ombra when it comes to both its selection and its atmosphere. The variety of Italian and Spanish wines and local Catalan Cava is great, and will be sure to satisfy even the pickiest wine connoisseur. The guys that run this place really know their stuff. After sampling a few recommended glasses, you can then even buy your favourite and get started on it in the bar for a small corkage fee, or take it home with you for a special occasion.
Right on the edge of the Gothic Quarter, The Mint has become one of the coolest spots in the area. The red-themed lighting keeps it dark and mysterious, but it’s the cheap yet seriously strong mojitos that are the main draw. If you’re looking for somewhere with good drinks, good music and a good crowd, The Mint is going to be for you.
El Bosc de Les Fades
Feast on sangria in a fairy forest at El Bosc de Les Fades inside Barcelona’s Wax Museum. Situated right in the bottom corner of the Gothic Quarter, this stylish fairy-themed bar is a student favourite for affordable sangria and mojitos before heading out to the nearby clubs.
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