The Barrio Gotíco (Gothic Quarter) is the heart of the city and historic, political and religious district of Barcelona. Showcasing the origins of the city that it is today, built on ancient Roman colony, and having witnessed the wars and the cultural uprising, the civil unrest and the modern life, there is much to the tales that these carrers (streets) want to tell. The Gothic quarter has many plaças (squares) where time seems to halt. However one of the main attractions, right in the heart of the district is the Cathedral of Barcelona which has a stunning courtyard full of plants and surprisingly, geese.

Catedral de Barcelona

Gothic cathedral and seat of the Archbishop of Barcelona. Built over a period of six centuries, the foundation stone of the Cathedral was laid down in 1298. The building itself is a mosaic of architectural styles and eras, dominated by the Gothic style; its calling card is its neo-Gothic façade, dating back to 1890. Its interior is filled with light and surprises for the visitor. The cathedral is dedicated to Eulàlia, co-patron saint of Barcelona, a young virgin who, according to Catholic tradition, suffered martyrdom during Roman times in the city. The choir stalls, 25 side chapels, the crypt of Santa Eulàlia and the 13 cloister geese; trusted guardians of the cathedral (adage is that 13 geese symbolise the age when Eulàlia was martyred.) are sure to captivate anyone.

Plaça del Rei

Right at the outset of Gothic quarter from Jaume I metro station is Plaça del Rei (the Royal/King's square). This little square is as compact a nexus of history as anything the Barrio Gòtico has to offer. Long held to be the scene of Columbus's triumphal return from his first voyage to the New World—the precise spot where Ferdinand and Isabella received him is purportedly on the stairs fanning out from the corner of the square—the Palau Reial Major was the official royal residence in Barcelona. To the left is the Palau del Lloctinent (Lieutenant's Palace); towering overhead in the corner is the dark 15th-century Torre Mirador del Rei Martí (King Martin's Watchtower, can be seen below). The 14th-century Capilla Reial de Santa Àgueda (Royal Chapel of St. Agatha) is on the right side of the stairway, and behind and to the right as you face the stairs is the Palau Clariana-Padellàs, moved to this spot stone by stone from Carrer Mercaders in the early 20th century and now the entrance to the Museu d'Història de la Ciutat.

Carrers de Bairro Gótico

Strolling through this neighbourhood’s ancient streets is an experience one can never forget. Harmonious and structured in perfect blocks and yet mesmerisingly confusing, these narrow, winding streets create quite a labyrinth and might be an impediment for anyone, even those with strongest sense of direction. I guess the best way to experience this part of the city is to explore it without an agenda. Just be aware of what's above and around you or you might miss something.

Passarela neogótica da Carrer del Bisbe, no Bairro Gótico.

One of the most iconic landmarks and probably the most photographed street in this gothic catalan neighbourhood is Carrer del Bisbe (Bishop's Street) along with the associated bridge. Located in the heart of the old traditional Gothic Quarter of Barcelona., it's a Neogothic-style bridge by architect Joan Rubió over Carrer del Bisbe in Barcelona, linking the Palau de la Generalitat (Catalan Government Seat) with the Casa dels Canonges (residence of the President).

Espíritu y Calidez de Barcelona

Any story about Barcelona cannot be complete without a mention of the street artists and musicians. This kind and glistening spirit of Catalans is heartwarming to say the least. Amongst many such encounters with the street artists, I met with señora Rosalía where she was echoing the carrers (streets) around the cathedral with her melodious voice. It was wonderful to listen to her and then have a conversation where neither of us understood the words of the other person. That however didn't affect the communication in the least.

Plaça de Sant Maria del Pi

Housing the basílica de Santa Maria del Pi, this charming square is one of the musts in the Bairro Gótico (Gothic Quarter district). The Plaça del Pi translated literally is the square of the pine, because when the square was opened (around 14th century) there was a large pine tree in the middle of the square, which no longer can be found (for obvious reasons). Plaça del Pi is located right at the end of Petrítxol street (Local tip you won't find in guide books: If there is one secret that all locals keep in Barcelona is Petrítxol street, is where they go for a hot chocolate and pastries. You can have your chocolate with "xurros" or "melindros", trust me you can't leave this experience off your list), just off Las Ramblas.

Basílica de Santa Maria del Pi

The contrast of several periods of architecture can be seen right here at the basílica of St. Mary. Contrary to the heavily ornamented modern Catalan and Gaudí's architecture, this church is from the Catalan Gothic period and is almost devoid of any ornamentation. Unsubstantiated claims suggest that the history of the church can be related to as far as early 5th century. The basílica in it's present form has existed since mid 14th century. The middle of the main façade boasts a large rose window, very much in keeping with the church's Gothic style. In 1940, the rose window was entirely rebuilt after being destroyed by fire in 1936 during the civil war.

Basílica de Santa Maria del Pi

Interior of the Basílica

Basílica de Santa Maria del Pi

Port de Barcelona

The famous La Rambla ends at the waterfront facing Columbus Monument and the Port of Barcelona. It is the third largest Spanish port, and the ninth largest European container port. The Old Port (Port Vell) is the commercial/industrial port. Following is the front view of the central building of the Port of Barcelona (Port Vell).

Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau

As a stark exception to perfect grid layout of the Eixample, stretches a diagonal semi-pedestrianised street that culminates, on one end, with the the magnificent Hospital de Sant Pau. By the late 19th century, the old Hospital de la Santa Creu in Barcelona's Raval neighbourhood needed to be relocated because it had become obsolete and too small. The result was an ambitious project inspired by the breakthroughs in health and hygiene at the time and designed by Lluís Domènech i Montaner. After being used as a public hospital for a century, its newly refurbished pavilions shine again in all their splendour. A visit to this exceptional architectural ensemble is a unique experience. It was awarded World Heritage status by UNESCO in 1997.

Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família

The other end of diagonal Avinguda Gaudí stretches to one of Gaudí’s most renowned marvels, the Basilica de la Sagrada Familia. The architectural project that started in 1882 is yet to be finished, and is expected to be completely finished (barring some decorative elements) by 2026, the centenary of Antoní Gaudí's death.

It is hard to put in words the expanse of architectural detail this basílica entails, and even harder to not be overwhelmed by the marvel it is. With no government funding, only private support and tickets sales are financing the annual construction budget of 25 million euros.

The building's design itself has been polarizing. Assessments by Gaudí's fellow architects were generally positive; Louis Sullivan greatly admired it, describing Sagrada Família as the "greatest piece of creative architecture in the last twenty-five years. It is spirit symbolised in stone!" Walter Gropius also praised the Sagrada Família, describing the building's walls as "a marvel of technical perfection". Time Magazine called it 'sensual, spiritual, whimsical, exuberant', George Orwell called it "one of the most hideous buildings in the world", James A. Michener called it "one of the strangest-looking serious buildings in the world"and British historian Gerald Brenan stated about the building "Not even in the European architecture of the period can one discover anything so vulgar or pretentious." The building's distinctive silhouette has nevertheless become symbolic of Barcelona itself, drawing an estimated 2.5 million visitors annually.

Like it or hate it, but you sure can't ignore it!

P.S. : It is impossible to capture the basílica in it's entirety with a 35mm lens, following is a reproduction after stitching 3 landscape frames. The total size of the image is 48MB.

Without a doubt, this was one of my most memorable travel experiences. I don't know if it's the charm of the streets of gothic quarter where sunlight finds it hard to seep in, or the magnificence of Gaudí's architecture that knows apparently no bounds, or the flavours of the sumptuous food, not to forget the melodious harmonies on offer. There is something about the simple approachable grandeur of this city that makes it so accessible yet magnanimous.

Adiós Barcelona, muchas gracias por ser amable!

Created By
Avinash Bhardwaj

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