Barri Gòtic

Telling the story of the Barri Gòtic (the Old Town) is almost the same as telling the story of Barcelona itself. Around the area where the city now stands remains have been found dating back to Neolithic times but the first trace of Barcelona was in the 2nd-3rd century BC when the Laietani, a Thracian-Iberian people, settle in Barkeno. Although there are many myths surrounding the name of the city, including Carthaginian Generals, Hercules and Jason, and the Argonauts, none have any historical proof. The Romans began their conquest of the Iberian peninsula and Barcino became a Roman settlement. Though not as important as Tarraco (Tarragona) and Caesaraugusta (Zaragoza) the settlement was quite wealthy and a temple was built to honor Augustus, columns of which you can still see in the Barri Gòtic today. Barcino was eventually captured by the Visigoths in 415 and later, in 717 by the Arab forces sweeping the peninsula. Barshiluna, as the town was known under Moorish rule, spent less than a century as part of Al-Andalus until it was conquered by Louis the Pious, son of Charlemagne in 801.  The new area of the County of Barcelona was declared in 865 with Counts of Barcelona who over the years gained more importance and power. Most of the Barri Gòtic we see today was built in the Middle Ages with the Cathedral finished in 1420 and was the center of political, juridical and royal life in Barcelona. The area also used to have a thriving Jewish quarter known as El Call until the Jews were expelled from Spain in 1391. Many streets we dedicated to certain crafts and skills and the gremis (guilds) of Barcelona are still mainly found in the Barri Gòtic today.

By the time the city walls were pulled down in the mid 19th century, the Barri Gòtic had become overpopulated and extremely unhygienic with much of the population still living in the same conditions as when the buildings were constructed centuries previously. Many people moved out of the area into the newly built Eixample district and the neighborhood became somewhat forgotten, with money being spent on the expansion of Barcelona. During the 20th Century, buildings started to be rehabilitated and the Barri Gòtic remains the center of the city, where you can walk past Roman relics and a 21st-century sculpture in the same square, showing the mix of old and new which so defines Barcelona.