If somebody asks tell them that Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter is the heart of the old city.
Then tell them it’s also the heart of the new city.
It’s a place where kitschy bars and quality cheap eats jockey for position with medieval ruins and enchanting squares for your tourist dollar.
Just don’t get caught in any tourist traps.
Go in guns blazing with the only combo bar, restaurant, shopping, and attraction guide you’ll ever need: my list of what to see in the Gothic Quarter Barcelona.
Gothic Quarter Map
How to Get to the Gothic Quarter
The neighbourhood is bordered by the Liceu (green line L3), Catalunya (red line L1 or green line L3), and Jaume I (yellow line L4) metro stations. Any of these could be useful depending on the area you stay.
The easiest transport from the airport to El Gotic is to get off the Aerobus or city bus at Plaça de Catalunya, then dip down into the Gothic Quarter at any point by taking a left going downhill on the famous Rambla.
A taxi from the airport should cost about €30.00.
Things to See in the Gothic Quarter
Everything – With a Fun and Informative Walking Tour
There’s no better way to get your hand on the pulse of the history, the current political situation, and the future of Barcelona than with a 2.5 hour Gothic Quarter tour (video here) with a pro.
That pro is one of the best guides in the business: local Texan Alvaro.
Prepare to be ‘edu-tained‘ with secrets of the old city at La Rambla, Boqueria Market, Barcelona Cathedral, Plaça Sant Felipe Neri, Augustus Temple, the Jewish Quarter, and much more.
You’ll also get an old Picasso haunt, one of Barcelona’s sweetest snack stops, and street art galore.
The Barcelona Cathedral
A gargoyle-speckled 13th century Gothic wonder. The Barcelona Cathedral was dedicated to Eulalia of Barcelona: co-patron saint of the city, who according to legend was left naked in a public square only to be covered by a miracle mid-spring snowfall.
Photographers should note that it’s fantastic under the light of dusk. The real highlight is the splendid inner courtyard with its 13 white geese.
Price: free or €7.00 depending on hours (rooftop or choir cost €3.00 each/€6.00 for both)
Hours: various (see Barcelona Cathedral hours)
Address: Pla de la Seu, s/n.
El Bosc de les Fades
One of Barcelona’s most unique bars. You’ll swear you’re drinking in the middle of a forest when the simulated rain showers threaten you and your fairy and gnome drinking buddies. You won’t need an umbrella but try the sangria.
What surprises here are the reasonable prices for being such a sought after location. It’s connected to the Wax Museum but tickets aren’t required to enter.
Prices: €3.00 beer, €12.00 jug of sangria.
Hours: 10:00 am to 1:00 am (Sat until 1:30 am)
Address: Passatge de la Banca, 7.
The Barcelona History Museum
Learn 2000 years of Barcelona history with a visit to the Museu d’Història de la Ciutat (MUHBA). One ticket gets you access to seven different locations. The most popular may be the underground walk of the old Roman streets. See old wine shops, homes, and even a guard tower.
Find out more information at the official MUHBA website.
Price: €7.00 (audio guide included).
Hours: 10:00 am to 7:00 pm (8:00 pm Sun), closed Mon.
Address: Plaça del Rei, s/n.
Watch the Sardana
A symbol of national unity and pride, this traditional Catalan folk dance was actually banned by dictator Francisco Franco until as late as 1975.
The inclusive (no formal clothing is required) circular dance has its participants holding hands carrying out a series of demanding and meticulous steps set to music. Tourists now get to see it for free every Sunday – a cheap alternative to a night out seeing flamenco.
Hours: Sun from 11:15 to 13:00.
Location: Pla de la Seu (in front of the Cathedral).
Gothic Quarter Restaurants
€€€ | Carrer del Caputxins 37 | Metro: Liceu (L3) | Various hours
Louro is probably the only restaurant I’d recommend on the famous La Rambla – but that’s not to say this is a big fish in a small pond. It’s one of my favourite modern Spanish restaurants in the whole city.
Here the seafood-rich Galician fare gets a creative/avant-guard twist with the added bonus of some of the most concise and friendly service in the business.
Some of the highlights here are the smoked sardines, crunchy octopus, scallops gratin, Galician beef filet, and the highly underrated calamari sandwich – not to mention their elite and unique cocktail offerings like the blackberry mojito.
As this place is always PACKED I’ve set up a quick reservation system directly with the restaurant (no money down, with reservation priority via my blog) by clicking the blue button below.
Milk Bar & Bistro
€€-€€€ | Calle Gignas 21 | Metro: Jaume 1 (yellow L4) | 9 am to 2 am
This shabby chic Irish-run cafe and cocktail bar is famous for quality and generous portions. A lot of people say it’s the best brunch in Barcelona and that’s hard to argue.
Scrumptious burgers, smoothies, and eggs benny are the highlights. Serving brunch every day from 10-4.
€€-€€€ | Calle Quintana 5 | Metro: Liceu (green L3) | 1:30 to 4 (Tues-Sun), 9 to 11 (Tues-Sat)
For classic Spanish food go to one of the oldest restaurants in Barcelona. The traditional decor is a throwback to a gentler time. Try the garlic prawns or veal and wild mushrooms then finish with one of the classic local dishes for dessert: crema catalana.
Booking in advance is highly recommended.
Gothic Quarter Barcelona Bars
Pipa Club Plaça Reial
€€ | Plaça Reial 3 | Metro: Liceu (green L3) | 9 am to 2:30 am
Hidden in the heart of El Barri Gotic’s most picturesque square is this classy speakeasy that was once Barcelona’s pipe smoking club. Today it has been refurbished into one of the best cocktail bars in the city. Good live music options and pool table. Hard to find but worth the climb.
€ | Carrer Arai 5 | Metro: Jaume I (yellow L4) | 9 am to 2:30 am
A true neighbourhood bar. Funky and laid back. The best terrace in Plaza George Orwell. A great place to people watch sipping local craft beer. Good value food. Try a crepe, burger, or sandwich. Just as good for orange juice or coffee at 9 am as it is for Jagermeister at 2 am.
€€ | Escudellers Blancs Nº3 Bajos | Metro: Drassanes (green L3) | 5 pm to 2:30 am
A departure from endless tapas bars and Irish pubs. Here it’s about 90’s rock and roll. Grunge. There’s a skate ramp inside. The beer vending machine and free popcorn are highlights. The happy hour here has €1.50 bottles of beer and €9.00 litre cocktails – careful!
Tasca El Corral
€ | Carrer de la Mercè 17 | Metro: Barceloneta (yellow L4) | 1 pm to 2:30 am
An honest, loud, classic Spanish bar. Load up on their €1 homemade vermut and the mysterious bottles of panther milk. This is also a great place for delicious tapas: the manchego cheese and ham platters are top notch and the flaming sausages are uniquely tasty.
€ | Carrer dels Còdols 14 | Metro: Drassanes (green L3) | 12 pm to 2:30 am
Another great local Gothic Quarter bar. A Latin yet international vibe. Owned by eclectic French singer and local legend Manu Chao. He’s been known to perform there. Grab a beer, a vermut, a michelada and a jar of the house special olives. A place for improvised concerts.
€€ | Carrer de la Mercè 27 | Metro: Drassanes (green L3) | 7 pm to 2:30 am
A kooky retro bar with bizarre decorations. Beheaded Barbie doll light fittings and shoes on the ceiling. Lots on offer like cabaret shows, karaoke, free food aperitivo, and even tarot reading. Good cocktails. Really alive on the weekends. Spanish and 80’s pop music.
€€ | Carrer dels Còdols 29 | Metro: Drassanes (green L3) | 7 pm to 2:30 am
A quirky bar for 80’s film and video game nostalgia. VHS tapes and action figures. The retro decorations make this bar truly unique. Projections of cult movies. Free popcorn, cheap beer, friendly people. A good place to go to have some fun without going full party mode.
€€ | Carrer Ample 51 | Metro: Drassanes (green L3) | 1 pm to 4 pm, 7 pm to 12 am
Don’t be thrown off by the name: this is Barcelona’s best pizza. The chewy sourdough crust and top quality ingredients are straight out of Naples. You also can’t go wrong with any of the pasta dishes. A cosy, busy, authentic place. Go early.
TIP: the pan di stelle dessert (a tiramisu made with Nutella and cookies instead of ladyfingers) is out of this world.
€€€€ | D’Obradors 15 Loft | Metro: Drassanes (green L3) | 8 pm to 9 pm (Tues-Sat)
An intimate fine dining experience. Here you’ll eat tasting menus based on whatever is freshest at local markets. A good 100 mile diet spot. The chef’s explanation of each dish is a foodie’s dream come true. €70 for aperitivo, 4 starters, fish, meat, and dessert.
Sushi Ya 2
€€ | Carrer del Cometa 3 | Metro: Jaume 1 (yellow L4) | 1 pm to 12 am
In a world of cheap Chinese imitations it’s hard to find authentic Japanese sushi that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. The combo menus here are good value. All ingredients are sourced from Japan. There are also some interesting Japanese cocktails. Clean and neatly decorated.
€€ | Carrer d’en Gignàs 13 | Metro: Barceloneta (yellow L4) | 12 pm to 12 am
I recently tried this traditional Spanish bodega that has been feeding locals since 1905. Here the authenticity of the dishes really stood out, a rarity in such a touristy area.
Here you can chow down on some typical tapas like albondigas (meatballs), chipirones (fried baby squid), and jamon (Serrano ham).
If you’re looking for a real treat there’s also a very delicious paella.
Careful: it’s closed on Monday.
Clubs in the Gothic Quarter
Plaça Reial 17 | Metro: Liceu (green L3) | 12:00 am to 6:00 am | Website
Just off La Rambla is this combination jazz concert hall and hip hop club.
So few places offer you the opportunity to take in international jazz and blues concerts in a cave-like basement and then gear up for hip hop, funk, and R&B later in the same room. Take in either one or both.
The young crowd here has a distinct local feel though you’ll meet people from everywhere.
Prices: €7.00 advance, €10.00 on the door.
For guest list before 2 am (not Fri, Sat, Sun) click here.
Carrer dels Escudellers 49 | Metro: Liceu (green L3) | 11:00 pm to 5:30 am | Website
This cosy and unpretentious club bangs out the funk and soul with some Latin rhythms thrown in.
If you’re looking to have a dance without pretenses this is the place. The value is great as your €10.00 cover includes a beer or highball of your choice. People having a great time, great vibes, nice bartenders.
The Sunday night funk jam session starts at 11:00 pm and is a highlight.
Prices: €10.00 cover drink included.
Carrer Nou de Sant Francesc 5 | Metro: Drassanes (green L3) | 11:00 pm to 5:00 am | Website
This converted flamenco bar is now a little electronic corner in the heart of Barcelona.
Fans of real clubbing would do well to go here, where the small room is dedicated mostly to dancing and there’s just one bar to serve. A great spot for deep house and electro-house. A cool and underground feel.
Careful, there’s a bit of a dress code and sneakers and jeans may not cut it.
Prices: after 2 am men are €5.00, women free.
Shopping in El Barri Gotic
In and around the Gothic Quarter you’ll find some of the best shopping areas in Barcelona.
Just off Plaça Catalunya is the famous pedestrian only street Portal de l’Angel: Barcelona’s equivalent to Oxford Street. Not only is it full of shops but it connects the square to city’s historic centre.
Here you’ll find all the big names like H&M, Zara, Bershka, Benetton, Mango, Pull and Bear etc.
Running parallel to this you’ll find another street full of big chain shops: Porta Ferrissa.
For more of a vintage and artisan vibe make sure you take a stroll down Calle Avinyó for a look at the many boutique shops there. Picasso’s controversial painting of five nude prostitutes called The Brothel of Avignon was inspired by a brothel found at 44 Calle Avinyó.
Gothic Quarter Squares
The palm trees and Antoni Gaudi-designed lanterns make this bustling square full of restaurants and clubs one of the city’s most beautiful and peculiar.
Have a drink here for the atmosphere but not for your wallet! The clubs Sidecar and Jamboree are flooded with tourists but they’re good places to let your hair down and not take yourself too seriously.
Don’t go in ‘cold’ though, flag down one of the promoters for the best deals.
If you absolutely have to eat here then Les Quinze Nits is your best bet.
Plaça del Pi
It’s hard to believe this laid-back square is just a stone’s throw from the chaos of La Rambla. The antique shops and uniquely decorated facades are great but the highlights here are the artisan market and the beautiful Santa Maria del Pi church.
Plaça Sant Felip Neri
On one side is the former home of the city’s coppersmith and shoemaker guilds – the former now hosting Barcelona’s footwear museum, sporting a relief in the shape of a lion, representing the patron saint of shoemakers Saint Mark. On the opposite side, a primary school suitably called the school of San Felip Neri.
The centre-piece of the square is the baroque church of Sant Felip Neri and its notable façade, heavily scarred with bullet holes from the Spanish Civil War. Unfortunately the story only begins here.
The square was the site of summary executions carried out by Franco’s fascist regime… which explains the bullet holes in the facade, but the story of Plaça Sant Felip Neri is the story of a heavy 1938 bombardment that would change the face of the square forever.
A plaque commemorates the 42 people, mostly school-children seeking refuge in the air-raid shelter below the church, who lost their lives that fateful day.
Some call Placa Sant Felip Neri eerily quiet. They say time stops. Though this may be true especially at night, the square is an important social hub for locals and wandering tourists alike. People just love to sit and chat by the fountain. You’ll even find schoolchildren playing there in the early afternoon.
Go there in the evening if you’re looking for tranquility.
Especially along La Rambla the Gothic Quarter is one of the city’s pickpocket hotspots.
In the interest of not letting fear win however, I’ll remind you that you should be fine using some very basic common sense. Pay particular attention while through the neighbourhood at night.
For more help read my tips on avoiding pickpockets in Barcelona.
Gothic Quarter General Information
Born from the ashes of Barcino, the old Roman settlement of the area dating back to 15 BC, the Gothic Quarter still shows off some classic urban structures associated with the Roman Empire.
It’s not only Barcelona’s historic center but the heart and soul of the Catalan capital and the centre of political and religious life in Barcelona since medieval times.
When you walk around the area it’s easy to come across massive Gothic churches and Roman walls from the first century AD.
Today the Gothic Quarter is a (mostly) car-free pedestrian playground and the beating heart of the city and tourism industry. It’s completely walk-able but if you need a rest simply duck into one of the many bars.
When night falls it becomes slightly mysterious: the light play of its locales creates shadows that’ll make you feel like you’re the lead actor in a horror film, only this is much more realistic.
Get at Me in the Comments Now
There you have it.
You’ve finally got a list of things to do in the Gothic Quarter but the quest never ends does it? If I’ve blatantly missed something incredible don’t hesitate to drop me a line below.
Also – any questions you have about your Barcelona holiday will be answered ASAP.
Don’t be shy 🙂