Barri Gótic, the old town district known as the Gothic Quarter for the treasure house of Gothic monuments found there, occupies what was formerly an ancient fortified Roman village. Walk down any lanes and you’re in the middle ages.
While it’s possible to get lost in this history, it seems that all paths eventually lead to the Cathedral de la Seu. Built from 1298 to 1450, the Gothic cathedral has very imposing front and a soaring interior, lit only by votive candles and streaks of sun when it passes overhead. The cloister, the ribbed vaults, the pulpit and choir stalls are the most remarkable artistic features.
The Cathedral complex also comprises three medieval palaces: Cases dels Canonges, Casa del Degà, with a restored Renaissance façade, and Casa de l'Ardiaca (Archdeacon's house), the most interesting of the three with its flamboyant Gothic architecture.
Sunday mornings at 11, people gather in the Pla de St. Jaume in front of the cathedral to perform a folkdance – Catalan dance of the sardana. They join hands and step out a rhythmic ritual, accompanied by ``cobla,'' a musical ensemble of stringed and wind instruments.
We came across many historical sites on our walks – the Plaça de Ramon Berenguer el Gran, one of the most spectacular places in Old Barcelona, with its Roman walls and broken section of the old Palau Reial Major wall with a 40 meter bell tower.
Beyond the square, is Plaça del Rei. Designed as a complete unit, considered the noblest square in Old Barcelona (we loved the Gaudi lampposts). Facing the square are the Palau Reial Major (Royal Palace, 11-14th century), Chapel of Santa Ágata, and the Museu d'Història de la Ciutat (City's History Museum). Our favorite -- the great hall called the Saló del Tinell, especially the six stone semi-circular arches. In the patio there are four Corinthian columns belonging to the old Roman temple of Emperor Augustus.
A walk down C. Banys Nous and C. Palla, led us to the old Jewish Quarter, or Call. In this sector there are several ancient houses, the lovely, peaceful square Plaça Sant Felip Neri, and the Church of Sant Sever with its priceless Baroque altarpiece.
Nearby are 2 squares -- Plaça de Sant Josep Oriol and the beautiful and harmonious square of Plaça del Pi. Here we find the solemn church of the same name with a rose window noted for being the largest in the world. In the two squares there are weekly art and antique markets, and nearby are various antique shops which we were enchanted by – more like being in a museum – only you could touch the items of history.
While here, be sure to stop at the famous "granjas" café’s -- we savored their coffee, hot chocolate and cream filled bakery delights.
A wonderful walk in the Barri, near Parc du Citudella, is to The Picasso Museum -- a must! – see my write up in the next chapter.