Given how much attention Barcelona gives to the works of Antoni Gaudí (I wrote about his works in the last blog), it is a fair question to ask if the city was new (by European terms) and only came around in the 1700’s or not. The answer is yes, it is old. In fact, the Romans formed a colony here in 15 BC, making it over 2000 years old.
The problem is that whenever a new group took over the city or a new period in history happened the town was renovated and it seems to be hard to find the historical side of the city. The heart of the old town is between the street of La Rambla and Parc de la Ciutadella (Citadel Park) from west to east and the harbor up to Placa de Catalunya (Catlunya Square) and St Pere Road behind it.
We spent a day walking around this area (and boy did we get hungry) by starting on the north end of Via Laietana (which is a major road and runs parallel to La Rambla) and heading towards the harbor. We saw many things that I want to share and they are in the order we saw them:
Palau de la Música Catalana – This concert hall was built in 1905 in the modernist style. I liked this building over most of the Gaudi buildings and it is another World Heritage Site along with the Santa Crue Hospital. The outside is amzing, but in order to get inside you have to attend one of events.
Cathedral of Santa Eulàlia – This is the cathedral of Barcelona and was started in 1298 on the foundation of formal churches. In fact, a church in one form or another has been her since the 4th century.
Museu d’Història de la Ciutat de Barcelona – This is the history museum and by far our favorite thing to see this day. What makes this museum so great is that after checking out some exhibits you take a time machine (elevator with the date going backwards) down to the basement. Here there are extensive ruins from the Roman time (1st century) up to the Visigoths (7th century). It was fascinating to see how the city was built on top of itself time and time again. Plus, the Roman parts showed everyday life with a laundromat, fish factory, and wine making. At the end you come back up and see a 14th century royal palace and chapel.
Picasso Museum – This is popular, but since we visited the one in his hometown of Malaga we only poked our heads into this one. I did like the homes on this street and they are some of the best examples of gothic houses.
Basilica of Santa Maria del Mar – We spent very little time at the cathedral and instead chose to visit this church instead. They are both from the same time period and style, but this one was for the sailing merchants. The best part was taking the tour of the roof and towers. It was so cool seeing the architecture from that prospective. A little hint for you, if you only want to see the church you can get in for free after 5pm.
Harbor – Up to this point we have been working our way down Via Laietana by hop scotching from one side to the next. Once we hit the harbor we strolled around for a bit. There is not a lot of history here, since this was all redone for the Olympics in 1992, but it is a great stroll along the swing bridge. On the far side is where all the nightclubs are and the beaches begin.
Columbus Monument & Maritime Museum – Coming out of the harbor and working our way back north we came across a 200-foot-tall monument to Columbus. This is the beginning of La Rambla, which is how we went back. Nearby is the Maritime Museum, which is housed in the 14th century gothic shipyard.
La Rambla – Now it is time to walk up La Rambla which is a famous road with a park in the middle of it. This is kind of the heartbeat of the touristy area and you will find many bars, restaurants, street performers, flower shops, etc. This road runs all the way to Placa de Catalunya, which is a huge square and has a couple great fountains. About halfway up La Rambla on the east side you will find Plaça Reial, which is a nice little square surrounded by an old monk’s cloister. A little later on the opposite side of La Rambla you will come across Palau Güell, which is Antoni Gaudí’s only work in the older part of town. Go back to the last blog and you can read more about the buildings he designed.
All in all this was a very tiring day, but we had such a great walk up and down the old city. The History Museum was the best part of the day, but hanging out on La Rambla and people watching was pretty fascinating also.