Are you interested in the Jewish Heritage of Barcelona? Are you fascinated by history and love using your imagination to visualized the old times even when there’s little left to be seen from that past? Are you looking forward to going off the beaten path rather than seeing the big sites?
In the Middle Ages, the Jewish community of Barcelona was the most important in the Crown of Aragon and we have evidences that there were already Jewish families in our land during the Roman times. They were an important part of our society until the pogroms in 1391, after which the community was dissolved. The Jewish only started coming back to Spain in the mid-20th century, and nowadays they are only a very small part of our local population.
Unfortunately, there’s little left to be seen from the medieval splendor of our Jewish society, and even if you are willing to make a lot of research and navigate the maze of alleys of the Gothic Quarter on your own, you are likely to miss out many of those signs of the local Jewish past that only a trained guide can point out. Come with us on a trip back in time!
This tour is highly customizable: it can be a Jewish walking tour or a chauffeured tour. The core of it are the Call and the medieval Sinagogue, but the rest of the tour will be tailored to your interests.
These two sites always make part of our Jewish Tours:
Meet your guide and head to the Old Town of Barcelona, where the first part of your tour takes place: a Barcelona Jewish Quarter tour. You’ll stroll around the alleys and backstreets of the Gothic Quarter and the Call, the medieval Barcelona Jewish Quarter. Unfortunately, not many elements where left after the quarter was attacked in 1391, but you can still feel there the atmosphere of the Middle Ages.
You will walk around and learn about its history: the major and the minor Calls, the possible location of the Mikhva… You will also see Hebrew tombstones embedded in the walls of various buildings, discover where a Faith Debate took place, and where the Inquisition Headquarters were located in 1493.
In the 1980’s, the research of a local historian and an Argentinian Jewish immigrant led to the discovery of what is possibly the oldest documented synagogue in Europe (at least 3 years older than the one in Prague!): the Sinagoga Major de Barcelona.
In the middle ages no synagogue as allowed to be bigger than the smallest church in town, which is why the place consists only of two small rooms. Besides, part of it was also lost during some refurbishments of the building a couple of centuries ago.
The synagogue is now open as a museum, and their staff explains you its history for a small fee. It is also occasionally used as a synagogue for private celebrations, but since it isn’t an active temple they need to borrow a rabbi from one of the city modern synagogues.
The second part of your tour is flexible and tailored to your interests. Below are the sites that can be included. Each requires different transportation means and visiting them lasts a different time: let us know which ones are you interested in visiting so we can create a custom itinerary and suggest a tour length (4 hour or more) and transportation options.
The home of a Jewish merchant houses now El Centre d’Interpretació del Call, run by the Museum of History of the City. Here you’ll learn about the history of the local Jewish community in the middle ages, how they were organized, and who were prominent characters of the time such as Salomon ben Adret, Abraham bar Hiyya and Hasday Cresques.
Within walking distance from the Call and the medieval synagogue.
30 minutes to 2 hours
The Museum of History of the City is famous for its Roman ruins. However, not many people know that here you can see Jewish inscriptions embedded in the ruins. The basement of the Royal Palace also features an interesting collection of medieval objects, and one of the cabinets is dedicated to Jewish artifacts. Finally, you’ll be able to enter the throne hall of the Palace (now either empty or used for temporary history exhibits), where the infamous Disputation of Barcelona between friar Paul the Christian (a converso) and the rabbi Moshe Ben Nachman took place.
While a complete visit of the Roman ruins and the rest of the medieval enclosure takes around 2 hours, a tour of the museum focusing solely on its Jewish elements can be done in about half an hour.
Within walking distance from the Call and the medieval synagogue.
1 to 2 hours
The name of the hill that marks the limit of Barcelona could mean the Mountain of the Jews, as the medieval community used to have their cemetery on top of the hill.
Unfortunately, little is left out of it, as decades ago an amusement park was built on most of its ground (now the rides are gone and it remains a public garden). Only a section under a popular vantage point is left untouched and closed to the public, but only weeds are now to be seen as the tombs got gradually covered and buried through the centuries. We’ll however be glad to take you there so you can pay them your respects and learn more about it.
Instead, in the bottom of the Hill of Montjuic expands one of the largest modern cemeteries of the city, and while there isn’t a specific area for modern Jewish tombs there, in a secluded area stand two humble Jewish memorials: one for the Jewish that died in the Spanish Civil war, and another for those who perished in Second World War.
Don’t expect them to be grand, spectacular or even beautiful, though. They are rather humble memorials and the purpose of the visit should just be to hear about this modern part of the local Jewish history in a soul-stirring setting.
If you are booking a chauffeured tour, both sites can be seen in one to two hours (including the rides from the city center), depending on how many questions you have and how long your explanations need to be.
If you are booking a walking / taxi tour, in order to keep the cab costs under control we recommend to skip the field on top of the hill and stick to the modern cemetery.
20 minutes + rides
The cemetery of the district of Les Corts is nowadays chosen by many Jews to bury their loved ones, as it features a dedicated area for them. If you are curious about it, we can show you around respectfully. It’s also a good location to discuss the modern Jewish community and its most prominent members, some of them involved in the management of the FC Barcelona team, which stadium is just across the street.
This is located in the other end of the city, so a longish taxi ride is needed. If you are planning to combine it with the Hill of Montjuic, a chauffeured tour might be a good idea.
1 hour or more
Drive (on request only)
There are 4 active synagogues in Barcelona: 2 orthodox and 2 reform. For safety reasons it is not possible to visit them unannounced: it is necessary to contact them in advance and present documents that back you up.
If you have a strong preference for one of them, it’s best if you ask your rabbi at home to contact them with a recommendation letter. Otherwise, we can organize a visit with one of the local reform synagogues (that also needs to be arranged ahead of time and identification might be requested).
This tour is designed for people with a strong interest in the local Jewish History, who don’t mind if most sites are gone or are pretty small: learning is their main goal.
If you’d rather get an overview of the medieval Jewish Section but also see some top city sights, most of our Sightseeing Tours include the Jewish Section, and the tour of the Gothic Quarter allows for a more detailed visit while still seeing other non-Jewish sites.
If you are traveling with children, this tour is probably too academic for them and they are likely to get bored. We strongly suggest booking the tour of the Gothic Quarter instead and ask for a stronger focus on the Jewish heritage.
If you have walking issues or use a wheelchair, please note that the Old Town is fully pedestrian and there aren’t too many opportunities to seat. The area is relatively wheelchair-friendly, though, and the museums are adapted except the medieval synagogue which as half a dozen steps at the entrance.
If you have an extra day and would like to go on a Jewish day trip out of town, don’t miss our Girona and Besalú excursion.
DURATION: 4 hours
Taxi rides, if any, not included.
Mercedes car or minivan upto 6 of you + guide & dedicated driver
PAID ON SITE skipping lines:
* Fees given as an orientation only. Sites might decide to change them without notice. Discounts might apply for students and/or seniors.
We can only secure a guide for you after full payment has been received. Don’t wait until last-minute: we often book out in high season, and Park Guell & Sagrada Familia tickets sell out, too.
This Jewish Tour is:
|AVAILABLE||Monday through Sunday|
|SABBATH||We will be glad to organize a 100% walking tour that day (Call, Interpretation Center and Museum of History), and our guide will handle the money for you.|
|Some sites closed||Monday: The Museum of History and Interpretation Center are closed|
Tuesday: The Interpretation Center is closed.
Thursday: The Interpretation Center is closed.
Saturday: The Medieval Synagogue is closed.
Tour starting time:
|Morning tours||9:30 or 10AM: The Synagogue doesn't open until 10:30AM in the Summer and 11AM in the Winter.|
|Afternoon tours||1 to 4PM: The Interpretation Center closes at 2PM on Wednesdays and Fridays.|
We explored Jewish Barcelona with this company and loved it!