The Gothic Quarter is jam-packed with fascinating history and hidden gems. Discover it for yourself on this self-guided walking tour of Barcelona!
Barcelona is the perfect city to explore on foot; even a short stroll can take you through six centuries of architecture. That said, you’ll get the most bang for your buck in the Gothic Quarter. With its medieval alleyways, small squares and hidden corners, this is one area that you simply can’t miss.
It’s easy to get lost among the winding streets of the Barri Gòtic, so we’ve put together a guide to exploring it on your own. You can follow this self-guided walking tour of Barcelona step by step, or just use it as inspiration. Make sure you take note of our local tips for the best bars and restaurants along the way!
5 Essential Stops in the Gothic Quarter
To plan out your day in advance, check out a map of the route we’ve created!
1. Plaça Nova and the Cathedral
No trip through this neighborhood would be complete without a visit to the Cathedral of Barcelona in Plaça Nova. Construction took place between the 13th and 15th centuries, but it got a facelift for the World Expo in 1888. If you walk around the right-hand side, you’ll see that its facade stops abruptly. This is because the city decided to save money by only renovating the parts of the building that would appear in photos!
The cathedral is beautiful inside as well, and if you go early in the morning admission is free. It’s the perfect place to begin your day of exploring.
2. Plaça de Sant Josep Oriol and Plaça del Pi
From Plaça Nova, head down Carrer de la Palla and into the iconic narrow streets of the Gothic Quarter. After a few minutes, you’ll enter Plaça de Sant Josep Oriol. This lovely square is home to the Basilica de Santa María del Pi. It also features a few restaurant terraces and a weekend art market, which is one of our favorite places to shop in Barcelona.
In years past, the wealthy residents of Vila de Gràcia would go to church here. While they worshipped, their drivers would hang out at Bar del Pi. This place has been open since the 1920s, and previously served as a stable in the 18th century.
In the 1930s, the Unified Socialist Party of Catalonia was founded here. It’s also the site of castellers performances during La Mercè. In addition to its colorful history, Bar del Pi is the perfect place to stop for tapas and a glass of vermouth or cava!
As you leave the bar, turn right to enter Plaça del Pi. If you’re lucky, your visit will coincide with the monthly artisanal food market held here! Otherwise, grab something sweet at Granja Dulcinea. Opened in 1941, this is one of the best places for chocolate in Barcelona. After your sugar fix, head to the far side of Plaça de Sant Josep Oriol. Take Carrer de l’Ave Maria, then head down Baixada de Santa Eulàlia.
3. Plaça de Sant Felip Neri
This is a more solemn stop on our tour of Barcelona’s history. Laid bare across this city’s beauty are harrowing reminders of its past, and Sant Felip Neri is the perfect example. At first glance, this square is nice and tranquil, with a small fountain and a baroque church. But if you look deeper, you’ll find pain in every stone.
In 1938, during the Spanish Civil War, Mussolini’s troops dropped bombs on civilian targets here. Several schoolchildren were killed after seeking safety in the shelter below the church, which collapsed. Cracks and chips still cover the facade of the Església de Sant Felip Neri.
Today, the square is a school playground during the day, the terrace for a hotel restaurant in the evening, and a local hangout in the early hours of the morning. The visible damage to the church’s exterior, especially when combined with the sound of children playing, serves as a stark reminder of what can happen when society falls apart.
4. Plaça del Rei
Head down Carrer de Montjuïc del Bisbe, then take Carrer de la Pietat through the General Archive of the Crown of Aragon. Upon exiting the archives you’ll find yourself in Plaça del Rei, home to an interesting story. Legend has it that the steps in the left corner of this square are where Christopher Columbus presented his bounty after discovering America.
Whether or not this story is true, Columbus’ findings had an important impact on Barcelona. Until this point, it was the prosperous capital of the powerful region of Catalonia. But after trade began with the Americas, Andalusia became the peninsula’s trading center. Due to this, along with the Spanish Inquisition and various plagues, Barcelona fell into neglect. It didn’t regain its status until the Industrial Revolution.
However, we have Barcelona’s bad fortune to thank for the Gothic Quarter. If money had continued to flow, the structures you see today would have been knocked down to make room for more modern and fashionable buildings!
5. Plaça de Sant Jaume
From Plaça del Rei, take Carrer del Veguer and pass the MUHBA history museum. Crouch down to look through the low windows at the remainders of Roman Barcelona. You can even explore them under the cathedral!
If you’d rather stay above ground, follow Baixada de la Llibreteria to Plaça de Sant Jaume. This has been the political center of Barcelona for 2,000 years. It’s often a venue for demonstrations and peaceful protests.
We’ll finish this self-guided walking tour of Barcelona with a stroll to the shoreline, and a few final food recommendations. On your way to the water, stop at Bodega La Palma for patatas bravas and croquetas. Today it’s known for tapas, but it used to be a famous Bohemian hangout frequented by Picasso and his contemporaries.
Just five minutes away, you’ll find La Plata: a local institution beloved for its food, atmosphere and staff. The manager, Pepe, is there every day! Grab a table or a spot at the bar and enjoy the fried fish, tomato and onion salad, butifarra and house vermouth.
If you want to dive even deeper into this region’s past, join our new live experience: Taste Catalan History with Hannah. A local expert and Barcelona resident, Hannah will take you through Catalonia’s medieval past, and show you how to cook a traditional recipe from the Middle Ages! It’s the perfect way to transport yourself—and your taste buds—to Barcelona, no matter where you are in the world.
Owen fell in love with Barcelona on a weekend break and vowed to return to live here. He did so 6 years later with his Catalan girlfriend—now wife—and is never happier than when sat at his wife’s favorite market bar—incidentally, a stop on one of Devour Barcelona’s tours!