We started our day fuelling up on cheap coffee and croissants from a small chain store that looked like a Spanish McDonalds. We then headed to the tourist office at the Plaça de Sant Jaume where we were suitably impressed by the imposing Barcelona City Hall and Palau de la Generalitat de Catalunya buildings. It was here that we started our walking tour of Barcelona’s famous Gothic Quarter.
Our guide was a small, bubbly woman who was thankfully both informative and friendly, though unfortunately her sense of humour was a little lost on most of the audience. We had the pleasure of being connected to her via a small radio receiver with possibly the world’s worst pair of headphones wired into to the other end. Were it not for the safety risk of fifteen to twenty adults stumbling about and causing chaos I was convinced that a combination of tin cans and string would have served a better job. Our group was 90% American, 90% much older and 100% more stopping off on a cruise than we were. Despite this everyone got on well apart from the one poor lamb to the slaughter who was unsurprisingly robbed of her iPhone despite the multiple warnings of persistent pick-pocketing in the area.
Our tour started with a brief history of Barcelona from its origins to the present. The first part of our walk took us past the photo famous, neo-Gothic Pont del Bisbe Bridge and the Monument to the Martyrs of Independence who rebelled against the French and were executed for their uprising in 1809. We then filed into the Plaça de Sant Felip Neri with it’s pockmarked church walls a stark reminder of the bombing to the area during the Spanish civil war. On the opposite side of the square was the now vacant Museu del Calçat or shoe museum. This square was also interesting as many of the buildings on it were moved brick by brick from their original city locations during the early Twentieth Century to make way for urban redevelopment. Although it looked somewhat unremarkable it certainly felt like it summed up the last few hundred years of this city in its four corners!
After a few hours of rambling through the back streets past numerous churches and houses we made our way to the stunning Barcelona Cathedral which is dedicated to Eulalia of Barcelona the co-patron saint of the city. Legend dictates that she was a young virgin who suffered martyrdom during Roman times in the city. Found exposed naked in the public square, a miraculous mid-spring snowfall covered her nudity leading the enraged Romans to place her into a barrel with knives embedded into it. That barrel was then rolled down the street to seal her unfortunate fate. The body of Saint Eulalia is now entombed in the cathedral’s crypt. The cathedral also contains a famous Gothic cloister which encloses the Well of the Geese, whose members have always numbered thirteen birds to represent Eulalia being aged thirteen when she was martyred.
For the last part of our tour we viewed the Roman elements of Barclelona’s Gothic Quarter which included the Temple of Augustus. We finished our tour at The Gothic Plaça del Rei or King’s Square which houses the Palau Reial Major or Royal Palace. There was just time for us to thank our guide who had managed to maintain our interest for the full duration of the tour.
Our walk was not entirely aimless as there was a small stopping off point marked down that I had been looking forward to, Granja La Pallaresa. The café itself looked like somewhere that hadn’t changed its style in about fifty years but that only added to the charm. We enjoyed a late second breakfast of churros, pastries, chocolate and coffee. It was here I learnt my lesson that they make a fine cup of coffee in Barcelona which as I found across our trip was typically a slightly sweeter roast then you’d usually find in France or Italy.
With our second breakfast out the way it was soon time for lunch and following a recommendation from our friend N we arrived at Elisabets. At first glance the low cost of the menu took Anne-So’s interest but I have to say, the food wasn’t bad either. Named after the street it is located on, Elisabets’ cuisine was a German/Catalan hybrid which although odd sounding and not exactly visually appealing was actually pretty tasty, especially when washed down with an icy cold beer.
After lunch we were ready and re-charged and went off for some more walking.
We then moved towards the amazing looking Catalan Art Nouveau Palau de la Musica Catalana. We did contemplate knocking on Agrado’s door across the street but in all honesty calling on a fictional character is probably not the best idea in your own country, let alone in foreign lands!
That afternoon we walked with a simple rule, as soon as a street became crowded with tourists we would turn off at the first available opportunity, doing our best impression of Cristina going through her photography phase.
This turned out to be a really rewarding plan as we passed lots of small artisan shops, cafes and bars whilst making our way slowly towards the park.
Arriving at Parc de la Ciutadella, we followed the walking itinerary from our guide book.
It was somewhat reminiscent of Regents Park in London, if the designers had taken a tab or two of acid that is…
For our final stop of the day we took in the Santa Maria del Mar, another beautiful Gothic church. It is remarkable to think that this building was completed over six hundred years ago in 1383. The building was memorable for the contrast between how it felt heavily enclosed from the outside due to it being hemmed in by narrow streets but then upon entering, the grand interior was both open and spacious. Likewise, the un-decorated exterior did not prepare us for the wonderful stained glass windows within.
We were pretty worn out and quite thirsty at this point so we settled for a cold drink at a small chain restaurant where we also ended up later that evening for dinner. After much walking we shelved our original dinner plans as the tapas place I’d originally picked out looked a little too trendy for our tastes and the wait seemed a little too long. So instead we wandered back to Taller de Tapas for some good old fashioned tourist trapas which actually wasn’t too bad at all. Our guidebook stated that, “At its best, Taller de Tapas is an easy multilingual environment, with plentiful outdoor seating and a good selection of tapas.” but “At busy periods, however, the service can be a little hurried and unhelpful with dishes prepared in haste and orders confused, so it pays to avoid the lunchtime and evening rush hours.” I think we caught them at the tight time as after thinking we’d spend loads and leave half empty we did the opposite and departed with full stomachs and without a single hole in our pockets. We settled up and stepped out into the warm evening air to return to our hotel, ready for the following days upcoming modernist masterclass.
Coffee In Catalonia
- Part 1: A Sanity Saving Getaway
- Part 2: The Barri Gotic Quarter, The Born & Sant Pere
- Part 3: Gaudi’s Modernisme Paradise
- Part 4: The Englishman That Went Up A Hill Then Got On Some Fast Trains