If you’re looking at a city and wondering how on earth you can cover it in the short time that you have, the first thing you should do is look for the FREE city walking tour! These usually run a few times a week (if not every day) and you will learn HEAPS. This one was run by ‘Next: Barcelona Tours’. Check them out here: www.nextcitytours.eu.
Disclaimer: I’m giving you some highlights and things I found memorable but in no way is this 5-minute read a substitute for a 3 hour walk around – you’ll have to do it yourself! ☺️
Cathedral of Barcelona
Built in the 13th - 15th centuries, this is the gothic cathedral and seat of the Archbishop of Barcelona. It’s the Cathedral of Saint Eulalia, a thirteen-year-old virgin who was subjected to 13 tortures for being a bad Christian. She was put into a barrel with broken glass and knives and rolled down a hill before being decapitated. It is said that no blood came from her neck; only doves. The façade of this Cathedral looks old, but it’s actually newer than you think – the front was reformed in 1913. The back of the Cathedral is the same 15th Century building.
Picasso’s Art on Barcelona’s ‘Ugliest’ Building
Barcelona voted on their city’s ugliest building… and it was this one, ironically a School of Architecture: Collegi d'Arquitectes de Catalunya. Some Picasso-styled art was then created on the side of it, depicting the Catalonian 'human tower' phenomenon, and Spanish dancing which happens in the square every Sunday around 6pm.
Roman Times & Wall
Barcelona was a walled city originally, and you can see part of the wall next to the Cathedral. Stepping between two close buildings and walking up the ramp marks entering the old Roman city where the streets are more cobbled and narrower.
Placa de Sant Felip Neri
This square was bombed in the Spanish Civil War and 42 people died, mostly children, as it is next to a school. The destroyed building was restored. The great architect Antoni Gaudí (who designed Sagrada Familia) came here every day, and one day he was hit by a tram. He was not recognised at first, with his injuries and tatty clothes, and was treated in a poor hospital. By the time it was known who he was, he was offered better care for ‘rich’ people, but he had already deteriorated. He declined and died 2 days later. He is fondly remembered in Barcelona.
Some famous movies have scenes in this square, like Perfume, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, and Evanescence.
Perfumery & Hidden Dragons
A perfumery sits next to the Baixada de Santa Eulalia shrine, located at the top of the street that she was pushed down in the barrel. There are hidden dragons all over the city and this is an example of one of them (see, at the top of the sign?). The legend has it that there was a huge evil dragon living in Europe and sitting on the water supply. For people to get fresh water, they had to sacrifice a virgin to the dragon. Soon, the city ran out of virgins and there was just one Princess left. St George slayed the dragon and saved the Princess, and it is said that red roses bled from his neck, and St George gave one to the Princess. Now, the 23rd April marks a day of love in Barcelona, and lovers exchange red roses.
Carrer del Bisbe
Barcelona is notoriously tricky with it’s facades; although this archway in Carrer del Bisbe looks ancient, it was actually built in 1931. If you walk under it slowly and look up at the bottom, you can make a wish. We all did this individually.
Wealth in your tiles
Back in the times of the walled cities, the people of Barcelona were proving their worth to one another. Without being invited into someone’s home, you could tell how wealthy they were by standing out on the street looking up – under their balconies! It became fashionable to tile the underneath of the balconies, and the more elaborate your pattern, the richer you were believed to be. It wasn’t always representative of what was inside, but it was considered worthy to spend this money for appearance’s sake.
Divided by the Crowns
In 1469, Spain was divided by the Crowns. A marriage between them unified Barcelona and Madrid, and the King used to stay here on his visits to Barcelona. The way to tell whether a Church is for the monarchy or for the people is to look up at the top of the tower and see whether the tips resemble a Crown. This Gothic palace was built stone by stone and is still standing today.
Spanish Inquisition and their Killer of a Balcony
The accused stood beneath this structure (right where we stood, gaping up) and their fate was decided by the intimidating powers-that-be that stood up above in the enormous indoor, in-the-roof balcony. It’s said that the accused were set on scales opposite a bible, and if they weighed more than the book, they were guilty. As you can imagine, there weren’t too many different outcomes from that.
El temple d’ August & it’s 4 Pillars
This is a Roman temple built during the Imperial period and was at some point demolished. The pillars were recovered, and three stood together. The fourth pillar was brought in later, it actually stood at the King’s Palace Plaça del Rei for many years before. Can you guess which one it is? I won a lollipop for the right answer (thanks Fiore!)
Plaza de San Jaime
This square is situated between the City Hall (with the clock) and the building of the Government of Catalonia (with St George). On the 23rd April this is decorated delightfully, and couples fill the square. The three flags on the City Hall are the Spanish flag, the Catalonia flag, and the Barcelona flag. The yellow ribbon sash is adorned throughout the city as Catalonians fight for their independence from Spain.
Barcelona Craft Beer
We stopped at Craft Barcelona for a cheeky drink and tapas… because what’s a walking tour without a bit of day drinking 🤣
Cathedral of Santa Maria del Mar
This is a church resembling Catalan gothic style, and it was on fire for 11 days in 1379. It encountered an earthquake, and yet another fire in the centuries afterwards too.
Developing with the World
For the 1992 Olympic Games, Barcelona built new things as a city, especially around Barceloneta and the beach. The sand on the beach was imported from Australia and New Zealand! On the big hill next to the port, a statue was erected that ‘points to America’, it’s arm extended out over the sea. This is geographically wrong, but it wouldn’t have looked as good to have it point back inland. This is a photo of the statue of the ‘Face of Barcelona’ and is iconic by the waterfront in the city.
Thanks to Fiore!
Fiore was a brilliant tour guide and was passionate in her stories of Barcelona… there is so much history here and small detail that can be easily missed unless you seek to learn it. I absolutely recommend that you set aside a few hours to do this walking tour and you’ll walk away more enriched by the city than otherwise.
If you learned something new by reading this, please like and share with your friends! 😁