The oldest district of Barcelona is Barri Gotic (the gothic quarter). Its oldest parts on a small hill have already been settled during the reign of Roman emperor Augustus two thousand years ago.
Those days, the Forum Romanum was at the actual location of Plaça de Sant Jaume. It marked the centre of the Roman colony of Barcino. Today, Barcelona’s most powerful institutions are still residing on the same square in Barri Gotic: the municipality of Barcelona (in the Ajuntament de Barcelona) and the government of Catalonia (in the Palau de la Generalitat).
Most buildings in Barri Gotic date back to the 13th and 14th century. The prevalent gothic style gave the district its name. Those days were Catalonia’s golden age as a maritime power with territories along the Spanish coast up to Valencia, the Balearic islands and parts of Sardinia.
Being the capital of this Catalonian empire, Barcelona developed to the most important harbour in the western Mediterranean. The gothic cathedral of La Seu is the greatest example for the architecture of that era.
The actual Barri Gotic stretches from Placa Catalunya to Port Vell (the old port).
Its most famous boulevard is La Rambla, which also marks the border to the neighbouring district of El Raval. Until 1858, Barcelona was enclosed by strong city walls, which then had to be broken down to allow an extension of the city towards Eixample. The remainders of these impressive walls can still be seen today on the Barri Gotic side of Via Laietana, which separates the gothic quarter from the district of El Born.
Wandering through the narrow lanes of Barri Gotic you will find a lot of picturesque plazas that offer some shade and rest. Probably the most beautiful of these is Placa Reial.
Like all over the Barri Gotic there are little cafes and bars which invite you to take a rest from sightseeing and shopping in Barcelona’s oldest district.