The heart of the old medieval town lies between the Rambla and the lively Via Laietana. From the north, the area is bordered by Plaza Catalunya, and from the south by Port Vell. This area, known as the Gothic Quarter, was built on the remains of an early Roman settlement, Barcino. At first, the city was locked inside the Roman walls of the 4th century, but over time it spread beyond them.
Walking through the narrow streets of the Gothic Quarter, you can feel the spirit of the city’s history and even see the different eras laid out in layers of stone. Explore the remains of the medieval Jewish quarter – the Jewish community lived here until 1492, when the Jews were expelled from Spain. Today, the area is home to many attractions: explore the government building, linger for coffee in the quiet courtyard, or enjoy the modern city’s cultural events, trendy shops and art galleries. But first of all, it is worth strolling along the narrow streets of the Old Town and looking into the Opened doors of many old mansions.
Placa de la Vila de Madrid
There are residential buildings around the perimeter of this pretty square, while in its center is a Roman cemetery dating back to the early 3rd century. n. NS. At the corner of Carrer de la Canuda, there is an 18th century building. Savassona Palace (Palau Savassona), where the cultural center Ateneu is located (entrance to the center is available only to its members). Check the timetable displayed at the arched entrance for a program of events open to the public.
Placa del Pi
On the way to the square, you will walk along Carrer de Petritxol, a street teeming with overhanging balconies, interesting shops and art galleries, including one of the oldest in the city, Sala Pares. As you enter the square, look out for the spectacular shop windows of the knife shop, Ganiveteria Spit, opened since 1911. The powerful façade of the Church of Santa Maria del Pi dominates the square. Built between 1319 and 1391 the church belongs to pure Catalan Gothic. Jujol, one of Gaudí’s close associates, restored the rose (round window) of the church after it was destroyed during the Spanish Civil War. Buy a tourist ticket (€€) and visit the crypt of the church, where you can see the church treasures. On the Placa del Pi and the adjacent Placa de Sant Josep Oriol, the artists show their work on weekends (the trade fair runs throughout Saturday and Sunday mornings). On the first and third weekends of each month, the market sells farm produce, including cheeses, honey, chocolate and bread.
The Jewish quarter – Call – flourished during the Middle Ages until it was deserted by the pogroms of 1391. In 1492, Spain expelled all Jews from the country. Turn towards Arc de Sant Ramon del Call and follow the route marked with metal signs around the main part of the quarter – Call Major. There is a wall plaque on the Carrer de Marlet with an inscription in Hebrew – it is installed in honor of the rabbi who founded a hospital for the poor here. There is also a small branch of the MUHBA (Museum of the History of Barcelona; Placeta de Manuel Ribe), which tells about the life of the Jewish community. In the narrow streets of the quarter, barely penetrated by the rays of light, you will find artisan shops, tiny cafes and candlelit bars. At La Basilica Galena (Carrer de Sant Sever, you can enjoy unusual goods: from cockroach necklaces to wooden wallets.
Placa de Sant Jaume
After wandering through the labyrinthine alleys of Call, a wide plaza suddenly appears with its bright sunshine and formal lines. Here you can see the work of the government as people in dark suits and in official cars drive up to the Palau de la Generalitat, the center of the Catalan government, guarded by Mossos dEsquadra (Catalan police). On the other side of the square stands the Casa de la Ciutat or Town Hall (Plaga de Sant Jaume, 1, tel. 010; open Sun 10.00-13.30, all day Feb 11 and Apr 23). It houses the city hall (Ajuntament), which is guarded by the less visible Guardia Urbana (city police). Gothic elements can be found on the modern facades of both buildings.
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