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at Port Vell
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Zoo in the Ciutadella Park

Casc Antic- Old City - Ciutat Vella in Barcelona

We divided the Casc Antic or Old Barcelona in these pages:

Ciutat Vella - The Old Town
The Gothic Quarter
Ramblas & Raval
Borne and Ciutadella Park

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This is the oldest part of the city and represents one of the largest and most successfully integrated medieval urban centres in Spain. The Casc Antic is divided by the Ramblas, the busiest and liveliest avenue in the city. Because of the large number of interesting sites in this zone, we have broken the Casc Antic into five smaller sections, the Rambla itself, 'El Raval y el Barri Xinés' to the west and the 'Barri Gotic', 'La Ribera y el Port Vell' and 'Ciutadella' to the east.

1. La Rambla
Metro: Catalunya (Línea 3)
FGC: Catalunya

2. El Raval y el Barri Xinés

3. Barri Gòtic
Metro: Liceu

4. La Ribera y el Port Vell
Jaume I

5. Ciutadella
Ciutadella Vila Olímpica

La Rambla

The name Rambla is of Arab origin meaning 'bed of a seasonal river'. We describe the Rambla along five sections going from the Plaça de Catalunya to the Port Vell (old port):

Rambla de Canaletas, with its famous XIX century fountain.
Rambla dels Estudis, with the Reial Acadèmia de Ciències i Arts (Royal academy of Science and Art) on the east side of the street
Rambla de Sant Josep , from the Palace of the Virreina and containing the ‘Mercat of Sant Josep’, known as Boquería Market, famous for the beauty of the building as well as for the quality and variety of food that is sold there. On this part of the Rambla there is a Joan Miró work on the pavement dating from 1976.
Rambla dels Caputxins, housing the Great 'Teatre of the Liceu' (Liceu theatre and opera house), completely rebuilt after a devastating fire in 1994. It has retained its original splendour and is host to some of the best musical programs in the city. On one of the perpendicular streets you will one of Antoni Gaudí's best know buildings, the Palau Güell, built for the patron Eusebi Güell, who also commissioned the well-known park Güell.
The Rambla de Santa Mónica contains the Centre d'Art Santa Mónica. Nearby is the the 'Colom Monument', (Columbus Monument) built for the for the 1888 EXPO, at the place where Christopher Columbus disembarked when he first returned from America. There, one can take an elevator to a platform with good views of the city and port.

    Colom Monument (J-2)
    Plaça del Portal de la Pau, 1
    08002 Barcelona
    93 302 52 24
    Metro: Drassanes
    Admission: 1.50 euro

Raval and Barri Xinés (Barrio Chino)

To the East of the Rambla are the neighbourhoods of Raval and Barri Xinés (chinatown), (J-4). At one time these were marginal areas but they now home to buildings like the Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA) (J-7) by Richard Meier, in the Plaça dels Angels and the Center of Contemporary Culture of Barcelona (J-7) in the restored Caritat House. There are still a few buildings in poor shape but they are quickly disappearing as the entire area is being rehabilitated. It's a neighbourhood of vibrant street life and cultural wealth.

Barri Gòtic

Immediately to the west of the Ramblas is the Barri Gòtic or Gothic quarter, formerly known as the Cathedral Quarter. Its area extends roughly from the Rambla to the Plaça Nova(L-5). This is where the Roman Barcino colony was founded in the first century and whose roman wall dates back to the third century. Perhaps the period of the city's greatest splendour was from the XIII-XV centuries, in which most of this Gothic Quarter was built and today contains many of the city's most emblematic buildings.

From the Rambla one can enter the Barri Gòtic via the XIX century Plaça Reial (K-4) lit by Gaudí's neoclassical streetlamps. Following any of the side streets and crossing the carrers 'Ferrán' and 'Boquería' brings you to the Plaça del Pi (K-5)), a church from 1453 with an enormous stained glass rosette on its main facade. From this square via Banys Nous you arrive to the pleasant Plaça de Sant Felip Neri, whose only original building is a XVIII century church. Also on this square is the Museu of Calçat, (Old Footwear Museum). Following the carrer de Palla, so named because this is where hay was weighed and sold, bring you to the Plaça Nova. Here there are two semicircular towers, which form what is known as the Portal de Bisbe, and the Palacio Episcopal (Bishop's Palace). In a small niche in one of the towers there is an image of Sant Roc, to whom the faithful pray to request protection from pests.

On the carrer Santa Llúcia, the Casa de l'Arcadia (house of the Archdeacon of the Cathedral ) is found next to the Roman wall. In one of its floors is the historical Archive of Barcelona, 'Arxiu Històric of the Ciutat'. The marble mailbox, is by Domènech i Muntaner.

Casa de l'Arcadia (L-5)
Carrer de Santa Llúcia, 1
08002 Barcelona
93 318 11 95
Metro: Jaume I
M-F 9.00-20.30 S 9.00-13.00
Closed: Sun & H

The Casa de l'Arcadia forms part of the cathedral enclosure. The Chapel of Santa Llúcia, on the corner with carrer Bisbe, was built thirty years earlier, but was later incorporated into the cathedral, itself begun in 1298. This grandiose gothic Cathedral was built over remains of a Romanesque church, which in turn replaced a Visigothic church. It wasn't finished until the beginning of the XX century, when the central spire of the main facade was finished.

Highlights inside the cathedral are the chorus with its ornamentation and some best sculptural works from its time, the entrance to the sepulchre of Santa Eulàlia, saint of the city, and above all the cloister, accessible by the Porta de Santa Eulàlia.

Catedral de Barcelona (L-5)
Plaça de la Seu
08002 Barcelona
93 315 15 54
Metro: Jaume I
8.00-13.30 / 17.00-19.30
Admission: paying

Continuing on along the carrer Bisbe brings you to the Plaça de Sant Jaume I, and the Palau de la Generalitat, the Catalan government's headquarters since 1403. Opposite is the Casa de la Ciutat, or City Hall of Barcelona. Both are open to visitors. The president of the Generalitat resides in the Casa dels Canonges, joined to the Palau by a bridge over the Carrer of the Bisbe, which was inspired by the Sighs Bridge in Venice.

Palau de la Generalitat (M-5)
Plaça de Sant Jaume,
08002 Barcelona
93 402 46 00
Metro: Jaume I
10.30-13.30, 2nd and 4th Sun every month.
Closed: Agost

Casa de la Ciutat (L-4)
Plaça de Sant Jaume,
08002 Barcelona
93 402 70 00
Metro: Jaume I
10.30-13.30, S & Sun

To the west and east of the square are the Carrer de Ferrán and the Carrer de Jaume I. Following Ferrán up to Sant Domènech del Call brings you to the the medieval Jewish quarter know as barri del Call. It was a prosperous and rich neighbourhood, both economically and culturally, until the Jews were expelled. The oldest houses in the city are in this area, dating as far back as the XII century and although there are only remains of the synagogues, at number 1 of carrer of Marlet, one can find a tablet with a Rabbi's inscription "Jewish Sacred Foundation Samuel Hassardi, for whom life never ends."

Taking Jaume I you get to Llibretería, a street with artisan shops, which you can follow to reach the Plaça del Rei. The Museu d'Història of the Ciutat (Museum of the city's history) (M-4) is located in the Clariana-Padellàs house on the carrer Veguer. This Catalan-Gothic style building was transported stone by stone from its original location on the carrer Mercaders.

The Plaça del Rei is enclosed by the lateral facade of the Capilla de Santa Agata (Chapel of Santa Agate) whose steeple is supported by Roman wall; the Palau Reial Maior, residence of the Count of Barcelona in which the Catolics Kings received Columbus after his return from America; The Palau del Lloctinent, XVI, site of the Aragon Crown archive, and the mirador del rey Martí. From the square you can go into the Santa Agata Chapel up a semicircular stairway. The square is pleasant, and the off-center sculpture by Eduardo Chillida, proposes alternate visions of the environment.

Palau Reial Maior
Plaça del Rei,
08002 Barcelona
93 315 11 11
Metro: Jaume I
Jun.-Sept:T-S 10.00-20.00,Sun 10.00-14.00; Oct.-May: T-S 10.00-14.00 / 16.00-20.00, Sun 10.00-14.00
Closed: M, 25, 26 Dec, 1 Jan, easter

Walking south towards the Port Vell (Old Port), will take you past the Iglesia de la Mercé, near the carrer d'Avinyó (L-3), which is supposed to have been the inspiration of Picasso's 'Las Señoritas'.

La Ribera y el Port Vell

The Vía Laietana (M-4) separates the Barri Gòtic from the Ribera. This road was built in 1907 to communicate the Eixample district with the port area, following a route used by the city's inhabitants before the arrival of the Romans.

The Ribera neighborhood has its origin in the tenth century, initially populated by Arabs and later Jewish merchants, aristocrats and sailors. Life in this area was centered around the carrer Montcada (N-4). This street is prominent for both its history and monuments. Its origins are believed to be in the XII C, and its apex in the XIV and XVII C, lined with rich palaces and aristocrats' houses, all with an interior courtyard. After many years of abandonment the government has restored these palaces and today many of them are used for museums and art galleries. There are several medieval palaces, the Casa Dalmases, the Casa Cervelló, with a Renaissance facade. Number 23, the oldest home from the XIV C is the Palau dels Marquesos de Llió, or Palau Mora. Today it is the Museu Tèxtil i d'Indumentària (Textile museum). Located at number 15 is the Palau Aguilar which, since 1963 is the Museu Picasso.

The Basílica de Santa Maria del Mar (1329), one of our favorites, was built in only 55 years. For this reason both the interior and the exterior of the church are very pure Catalan-Gothic style. The spacious naves, the excellent acoustics, and the XV C. windows that sift the light, are all in perfect balance inside this temple. Unfortunately, during the civil war, a fire destroyed the choir and the furniture. Outside, in the square, a Gothic fountain with three spouts helps preserve the medieval character of this area. Along the Passeig of the Born, the Mercat del Born (O-4), an old market of supplies, has examples of iron architecture from the second half of the XIX C. , is now home to some of the citys most avant-garde art galleries.

Santa María del Mar (N-3)
Carrer Montcada, 1
93 310 23 90
Metro: Jaume I
9.00-13.30 / 16.30-20.00

Further along toward the sea is the old fish market, the Llotja, which is currently a government building, but was formerly the office for the union of merchant marines, before that served as the academy of fine arts where Picasso and Joan Miró studied. Facing the Llotja is the Casa de Xifré, dating from 1840. The ground floor of this building was used for the famous Café de las Siete Puertas, which today is the Set Portes restaurant.

La Llotja (M-3)
Carrer del Consolat del Mar, 2
93 423 40 16
Metro: Jaume I
Abril-Oct: 10.00-20.00 Nov-Marz: 10.00-18.00
Admission: 1.80 euro

The walled enclosure of the Reales Atarazanas - Royal Shipyard, that today harbors the Museu Marítim is also in the Ribera quarter. This whole area is the part of the Port Vell (M-3), that you can visit in the golondrinas (swallows), the two-story boats that leave the Portal de la Pau, next to Colom.

See the web page of the Port of Barcelona:

The Moll de la Fusta (K-2) offers terrific views from its bars and restaurants. From there you can walk across the revolving wooden bridge to the Moll de Espanya, to the leisure and commercial complex of the Maremàgnum (K-1). Here you will find the Aquarium, the Imax cinema, and a large selection of restaurants, bars, and shops. In the evening this area fills with people out to have a good time. One should not loose site of the details here: from the Roy Litchenstein sculptures to the Gambrinus restaurant designed by Javier Mariscal.


Further east is the Parc de la Ciutadella (O-2), located on an old military complex, some of which is still conserved. The old arsenal is headquarters of the Catalan Parliament and the Museu d'Art Modern. The governor's palace is a school; and the old chapel occasionally hosts event. The area was designated as a green space under the dictatorship of the general Prim, and in 1888 the EXPO took place here. The Arc del Triomf (O-6) was built for this fair, in a neomudéjar style (mudéjar are muslims who live in reconquered-christian Spain). Next to the arch is the Castell dels Tres Dragons, by Lluís Domènech i Muntaner that today is the Zoology Museum. Next to this are the Geology Museum (O-4) and the greenhouse. The Jardines de la Plaça de Armes are in the superior part of the park, organized around a waterfall inspired by the Fontana di Trevi of Rome. The fountain was designed by Josep Fontseré and Antoni Gaudí, who was still a student at that time. The Zoológico de Barcelona (zoo) is in the interior part of the park, since 1940, and whose emblem is the only albino gorilla in the world, the famous Snowflake. At the entrance it is the romantic statue the Dona of the Paragües.

Parc Zoològic
Parc de la Ciutadella, 1
93 225 67 80
Metro: Ciutadella-Vila Olímpic
May-Agost: 9.30-19.30 Sept: 10.00-19.00 Oct-Mar: 10.00-17.30
Admission: 9 euro, under 12 years: 6 euro, over 65: 5 euro

Also of interest is the sculpture by Tàpies, a homage to Picasso that you can see outside the park, in the Passeig Picasso (O-4).