The tourist epi-centre of Barcelona, the Barrio Gotico has the look and feel of medieval times, with narrow streets and crumbling stone mansion blocks. Despite being overrun with visitors almost all year round the Barrio Gotico still retains its charm (just). But look out for waifs, strays and recorder-playing vagrants, as well as a large number of roaming pickpockets.
Alongside the Born, the Barrio Gotico is the main area in Barcelona for bars and restaurants, in fact it almost certainly has more bars and restaurants per street than any other area in the city. This is good and bad. Good if you want to have easy access to a wide variety of places to eat and drink. Bad if you happen to be staying in a hotel or apartment in this area, and don’t want to be woken up by drunken revellers at 3 in the morning.
To orientate yourself, the Barrio Gotico is the area of Barcelona to the right of the Ramblas (looking inland from the sea) and to the left of Via laietana.
Major points of interest include Plaza Real (just off the Rambla), a pretty distinguished-looking palm-filled square which probably counts as the most touristy place in Barcelona. Also of note is Plaza Sant Juame (on Calle Ferran near Via Lietana) which is home to the Ayuntamiento (City Hall) and Generalitat (Catalunya’s regional government). A narrow alley leading off from the plaza takes you to Barcelona’s Gothic Cathedral.
The upmarket version of the Barrio Gotico, with similar architecture and the same maze of narrow alleys, but shops and restaurants here tend to be a bit classier.
Many “cool” fashion boutiques call Born home, G-star and Custo among them. The bigger, better-known shops are just off Passeig Del Born, but there are lots of smaller, independent boutiques hidden away in the surrounding streets.
In the Born, leaving the maps behind and wandering around aimlessly is probably your best bet if you want to find something interesting, both in terms of fashion and in terms of somewhere to eat or a cool place to drink.Take the giant church of Santa Maria del Mar as an orientation point and explore, but go slowly!Discrete, non-descript doorways might hide cosy restaurants or courtyard cafes.
In terms of culture, the most important museum in Born is The Picasso Museum which houses many of his earlier works, as well as his later works.Which is to say, that they don’t have his best stuff!If you’re an art lover, you’ll probably find the gallery an interesting insight into the development of one of Spain’s greatest artists.If you’re not an art lover, you might be left wondering how so much money gets spent on this sort of thing, when 3 seconds with Photoshop gets you the same results.
Still, for more information on the Museum visit their pages on the website of the BarcelonaCity Hall: www.museupicasso.bcn.es/index.htm
The Eixample is the huge grid of wide avenues which forms the centre of the modern city. Built in one go at the turn of the last century, the Eixamples appeal is in the uniformity of its pretty, century-old mansion blocks. A uniformity which is stunningly broken at times by the eccentric works of Anton Gaudi and other iconic architects.
While the Barrio Gotico and Born have long since become areas of tourist-domination, the Eixample, particularly way from Passeig de Gracia, is definitely Barcelona proper, home to wealthier Catalan families who’ve probably lived in the same street for generations.
See our tourist map of Barcelona for the location of classic Eixample buildings such as La Pedrera and Casa Batllo.
The “other” side of the Ramblas, the Raval has been undergoing a transformation of late. While it is still pretty seedy in places, its narrow streets (what else!) are now home to some pretty trendy bars and restaurants, as well as designers trying to do their own thing in clothes, jewellery and what not.One of the principal gentrifying forces was the decision to locate the museum of modern art (MACBA) and Barcelona's museum of culture (CCCB) in the Raval. The exhibitions in the former tend to be obscure to the point of irrelevance, and the standing collection is pretty weak, but the building is worth a visit. You’ll have to fight past the legions of baggy-trousered skateboarders in the plaza though. Watch out for spotty German adolescents trying out stunts you saw on MTV three years ago. Bless.