Top Barcelona Old Town Sites you must see

This post contains affiliate or sponsored links. We might be paid for posting them or if you click on them or buy through them. 
If the affiliate link would increase your costs, we wouldn’t use it. Your trust is more important than any commission. More about our links policy here.

The Bridge in Carrer del Bisbe, one of the top things to do in the Gothic Quarter

Top things to do in the Gothic Quarter (Barcelona)


The narrow alleys of the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona are fascinating, so many secrets and stories are hidden behind it… but when you are walking on your own, you can miss so much! You are walking around, and you like what you see that you don’t understand it fully. One option is taking a Gothic Quarter walking tour. But if you still prefer to be free to walk where your feet want to take you, we have some ideas for you.Would you like to know the places you shouldn’t miss?

Here is what to see in Gothic Quarter:​


Plaça del Rei​

Let’s start this list with a center of power of the Gothic Quarter. In this plaza stands the medieval Palace of the Catalan Dynasty from the Middle Ages, and in its underground have been excavated the Roman ruins of our city. It is a very scenic spot, with the staircase that takes to the entrance of the Palace (legend says that you can still see in the steps the drops of blood of King Ferdinand, how was stabbed and injured here by an enraged farmer. To the right stands the Chapel of Saint Agatha, the Royal chapel of the Palace, built on top of the Roman Walls. And to the left the Palau del Lloctinent with a pretty courtyard. Opposite to the Palace stands the Clariana Padellas mansion, now entrance to the Museum of History of the City, transported stone by stone from its original location in what now is Via Laietana, and rebuilt here.

Things to do here:

  • Visit the Museum of History of the City). The ticket includes the underground Roman ruins, the inside of the Chapel of Saint Agata and the inside of the Salo del Tinell (medieval throne hall, nowadays mostly used for temporary shows).
  • On Friday nights of Autumn and Spring, join the locals gathering here to dance traditional folk social dances.
  • Have a drink at the iconic L’Anticuari bar.


Cathedral of Saint Eulalia​

From the religious point of view, this is the most important church in Barcelona because it’s the headquarters of the Barcelona Bishopric (yes, I know: even if Sagrada Familia is bigger… but this one is older!). Visit are allowed unless there’s a mass going on in the main altar (and that happens on Sundays, Saturday afternoons and special religious festivities). Other than that you can go inside after paying an admission that helps preserving the building, in need of frequent restoration works. Learn more about the Cathedral.

What to see there:

  • The Choir room, with its coats of arms and carved mercy chairs.
  • The many profusely decorated side chapels.
  • The crypt where Saint Eulalia, patron saint of Barcelona, is buried.
  • The rooftop (you can take the elevator there from a side chapel to the left of the altar)
  • The tombs of Count Ramon Berenguer and his wife Almodis, wooden coffins on a wall, with an interesting story.
  • The cloister, where 13 geese live. Pay attention to find tombstones of local guilds: tailors, bakers, row makers, doctors…
  • In front of the Cathedral, on Saturday afternoon and Sunday around noon, come to see old locals dancing the traditional Sardana.


Square of St. Philip Neri​

A twisted alley takes you to this charming little square, that has a very sad past. The walls of the church that presides the plaza show the damage caused by the bomb that fell here during the Spanish Civil War killing over 20 orphans that where sheltered in a basement. It's never been repaired so we can always remember how bad wars are. Another sad details of the history of this church of the Gothic Quarter is that it was Antoni Gaudi's favorite church, and he was walking here to listen to mass the day he was run over by a tram. He died a few days later as a result of the injuries.

What to do here:

  • Pay your respects to the people that perished during the Spanish Civil War.
  • Have a drink (or a fancy meal) at the bar of the Hotel Neri, in the corner.
  • If you are visiting in the month of June be mesmerized at the by yellow flowers fallen off the trees that carpet the pavement of the square.
  • Check out the soap factory on one of the alleys that leads to the square.


Roman Temple of Augustus​

Hidden in a backstreet behind the Cathedral, and sheltered inside the building of the oldest Catalan hiking club, still four columns remain of this temple from 2 millenniums ago. It’s a bit off the beaten path, and that’s why even many locals that even know it exists… Love the Roman times? Here are some more Roman sites in Barcelona.

Things to see here:

  • Next to the columns there’s a block of stone that used to be the base of a sculpture. According to the inscription, he was the owner of a horse carriage that participated in the Olympics in Athens and won a race! But at some point, the block of stone was used as a board game instead. See if you can find a tick-tack-tock grid carved on it!


Plaça Reial

This attractive plaza surrounded by an arcade and dotted with palm trees is technically within the Gothic Quarter, even if to me it’s always felt like a spin off of La Rambla. This place has two different faces: the relaxed rhythm of day time, and the wildness of the Barcelona nightlife. Pick your favorite time to visit, and stick to it, as they are totally different worlds. But it’s worth checking it out even if it’s only once to scratch it from your list.

Things to do here:

  • Find the two lampposts designed by a very young Antoni Gaudi. Hint: he topped them with a winged helmet, the symbol of the god Hermes – god of trade and commerce, chosen because Barcelona has always been a very commercial city.
  • Eat a lovely meal at Les Quinze Nits or some tapas at Ocaña.
  • On Sunday morning, check out the numismatic market that is set up there.
  • In the evenings, have a drink at Glaciar, and dance the night away at Sidecar, Karma and Jamboree.
  • Attend a flamenco show at Los Tarantos.


Els Quatre Gats

This café in the Gothic District has kept its bohemian atmosphere from the early 1900’s when a young and still unknown Picasso, who lived in the Gothic Quarter, use to hang out there to hear the news arriving from France. Here he also celebrated one of his first art exhibits and even designed the decoration of the restaurant menu. A great place to travel back in time and enjoy a lovely dinner with live music. Outside of meal times it's a lovely place for a cup of coffee or hot chocolate.


Plaça Sant Jaume

2000 years ago, the Romans already had a plaza in this particular spot: the Forum. Here stood all the most important public buildings of the town, constituting the center of the local political power. 1000 years ago, it continue to be so, with the creation of one of the oldest democratic parlaments in the world still functioning: the Council of the One Hundred – the origin of the Barcelona City Council, still located on the same spot. Not much later, across the plaza settled another political institution: the Generalitat, which to our days continues to be the name of the Government of Catalonia.

What to do here:

  • Take picture of the outside of both buildings. I’m afraid they are rarely open to the public for visits as they are active political headquarters.
  • Or if you are very committed to your relationship and have the time to wait, you can get married in the Hall of the One Hundred… after a 2 years waiting list!
  • Enjoy the pitturesque noise and yelling of people gathering here for protests and demonstrations. It happens often enough to hit one while you are here, and don’t worry, most of the times the demonstrators are totally harmless and their only goal is to annoy the politicians inside the buildings.
  • Eat a sandwich at the iconic Conesa bar in the corner. They make their own sausages and burgers and have lots of vegetarian options as well. On Friday and Saturday nights the line gets all the way to the middle of the plaza. 
  • If you are coming during the Christmas season, that’s where you can usually see a life-size nativity and a big Christmas tree.
  • If you are coming during La Mercè festival in September, this is where they do Human Castles and Sardana dancing.
  • Enjoy a glass of wine at one of the two wine bars of the district, a cup of tea in one of the two tea rooms, or a strong coffee in Satan’s Coffe Shop.


Carrer del Bisbe

This atmospheric street is located in one side of the Cathedral. It's starts by the Northern entrance of the Barcelona Roman walls, goes past the Bishop Palace, then the gate of the Cloister of the Cathedral, the alleys taking to Plaça Sant Felip Neri and the Jewish Section, it goes under a beautiful neo-gothic bridge and ends in Plaça Sant Jaume. By the way, despite what other blogs written (obviously) by non-locals say, the bridge is called "Pont del Bisbe" (Bishop's bridge), not "Porta del Bisbe ("Bishop's gate... what gate?).

Things to do here:

  • If the door is open, it’s OK to take a picture of the medieval patio of the Palace of the Bishop from the door frame.
  • When you go under the bridge, look up to see a sculpture of a skull crossed by a blade. It’s supposed to be the skull of the architect of the bridge, that was killed by someone and if ever the killer or his heirs go under the bridge, the blade will fall and kill them as well. Or… the architect just added it there to make the bridge more exciting!
  • Go shopping. We love the (expensive) trinkets of 2 Bis, and the espadrilles shop located in what used to be one of the oldest candle shops in Barcelona.


Jewish Section

The first Jewish families arrived to Barcelona in the Roman times, as high end slaves captured after Jerusalem was destroyed, and settled in a corner of the Gothic Quarter. That’s how started a cohabitation that lasted for almost 13 centuries. In the Middle Ages the Jewish community, that lived in the “Call” (Catalan name for the Jewish Section) was considered private property of the king, who was the only one allowed to tax them – as opposed to the Christians, that were also paying taxes to the Church. In exchange they got protection and played influential roles in the Court. Unfortunately, everything was over in 1391 (That’s already 100 years before the Spanish Inquisition!), when the King couldn’t stop in time the attacks of an enraged population. Over 300 people were killed, the lucky ones run away, and the rest converted out of fear. The neighborhood bares testimonial of what the local Jewish past used to be.

Things to do here:

  • Try to spot the small elements that continue to tell us about the medieval Jewish Heritage of Barcelona.
  • Visit the oldest documented synagogue in Europe.  According to the records kept in the old archives, it would be the oldest documented synagogue in Europe. The structure is now visitable and there you can learn here the history of our Medieval Jewish community, that disappeared after the attacks suffered in 1391.
  • Take our private Jewish Tour.
  • Enjoy a glass of wine at one of the two wine bars of the district, a cup of tea in one of the two tea rooms, or a strong coffee in Satan’s Coffe Shop.


Santa Maria del Pi

Considered one of the most important Gothic Churches of the Barcelona Old Town, together with the Cathedral and Santa Maria del Mar in the Born District, this church is also famous to have one of the largest rose windows in Barcelona. It is possible to go inside for a small fee to admire the colors of the stained glasses as well as to climb the steps to the belltower for some spectacular views. Besides, the three plazas around the church are lovely and usually not crowded considering the closeness of La Rambla.

Things to do here:

  • Visit the church of Santa Maria del Pi. Tickets here.
  • Attend a Spanish guitar concert at night.
  • Check out the artisan food market, on the first and third Friday, Saturday and Sunday of each month.


Petritxol Street

This narrow but lively alley is one of my favorite spots in the Barri Gotic, and I often use it as an alternative when I want to avoid the crowds in La Rambla. It’s packed with fun little businesses that make you want to stop and shop.

Things to do here:

  • Eat chocolate and churros at La Pallaresa or Dulcinea.
  • Get artsy at the oldest art gallery in Spain, Sala Parés. Picasso, Miro and Dali exhibited here when they were young! There’s other fun and more affordable art galleries in the street as well.
  • Have fun finding the ceramic plates that commemorate a variety of or that reproduce the “Auca del Senyor Esteve”, a literature piece from the Modernist times.


Support businesses that have been open for many decades, even more than one century

These unique shops and cafes are part of the soul of the city and are worth discovering. And many of them are in the Gothic Quarter! From eating at the oldest restaurant in Barcelona (second oldest in Spain) - Can Culleretes, to getting a candle from a shop that's been open since 1741 - Cereria Subira. There's bars such as La Pineda and La Plata, there's globes stores (Casa Alonso), hat shops (Sombrereria Obach), knife shops (Ganiveteria Roca), bakeries (La Colmena)...


Go shopping

I’ve mentioned a few places already, but here are some other top ideas:

  • For European affordable brands such as Zara, Mango, H&M… go to Portal de l’Angel.
  • For smaller clothing shops, mostly for kids and young adults, check out Portaferrissa, Canuda and Santa Anna streets.
  • For vintage and underground stuff, head to Avinyo street.
  • For quality souvenirs, explore the backstreets behind the Cathedral: Llibreteria, Freneria, Brocaters, Dagueria…
  • For cute local design, check out Banys Nous.
  • For antique shops, go to Carrer de la Palla.
  • For quirky stores that remind you of London’s Candem, check out Galeries Malda and their fandom shops: Harry Potter, GOT, Star Wars and more.


Find cool street art everywere

The Gothic Quarter if full of street art. Some of it is "institutionally approved", like the Everything Starts With A Kiss collage. Some of the best artists concentrate near the specialty art galleries on Carrer del Palau. But you'll be hitting more and less famous artists everywhere you look, although mostly on closed shutters, gates, electric cabinet doors... If you are really into graffiti and street art, use my Barcelona Street Art guide to learn more about them and where to find them.


More fun things to do in the Gothic Quarter (Barcelona, Spain)


BONUS: Best Things to do nearby

I hope you enjoyed our list of best things to do in Gothic Quarter, Barcelona!


Author Marta Laurent Veciana


Marta is the founder of ForeverBarcelona. She is a passionate tour guide that loves Barcelona and loves writing too. She is the main author of our Blog, and is committed to sharing her knowledge about Barcelona and her best tips with our readers.

Need more inspiration?

Our 100% FREE Barcelona Collection will give you everything you need to organize the trip of your lifetime to Barcelona.


Scroll to Top