Barcelona: Secrets of the Gothic Quarter

Most visitors to Barcelona visit the Gothic Quarter. But few learn the secrets held in the medieval streets.  Fewer still capture themselves experiencing it.

That’s where Trip4Real comes in. Tours are created and led by locals, and in this case our tour guide was Joan, a professional photographer who not only shares the secrets of the Gothic Quarter, but snaps pictures of you while doing it.

Laurel Robbins in Barcelona's Gothic Quarter
Me writing down all the juicy secrets so that I can share them with you. Photo courtesy of Joan Figueras.

Our tour started in Placa de Sant Just.  Here you’ll find Barcelona’s first fountain that dates back to the 14th century. What’s easy to miss is the sculpture on the side of the building of a hawk hunting a partridge.

Barcelona's first fountain dates back to the 14th century
Barcelona’s first fountain.

Next up is Plaça del Rei, otherwise known as King’s Square.  It’s not exactly a secret in itself since it’s where the who’s who of Spanish society is received, including Christopher Columbus when he returned. What you may not know though is that King Martin’s Watchtower was believed to be the tallest building in the world at the time.  It may not seem all that impressive by today’s skyscraper standards but in the 15th century it was shockingly tall.

Related Reading: Gaudi’s Barcelona: Architectural Marvels You Must See For Yourself.

King's Watch Tower in Barcelona's Gothic Quarter
King’s Watch Tower

Now make your way to Carrer de la Pietat.  Here you’ll want to look up. On the right side of the street you’ll see a variety of strange-looking figures guarding the Cathedral.  The left side is adorned with wizards and witches petrified forever for their bad behavior. You’ve been warned!

Related Reading: Self-Guided Coastal Hiking Tour from Catalonia, Spain to France.

Strange figures that line the cathedral wall in Barcelona's Gothic Quarter
Look up to see the strange figures that line the cathedral wall.
Petrified wizard on Bisbe Street in Barcelona's Gothic Quarter.
Petrified wizard on Bisbe Street in Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter.

Next, make your way to the Museu d’Història. Hidden away are the remains of a Roman temple that dates back to the first century. According to our local guide Joan from Trip4Real, the Roman ruins are something a lot of locals don’t even know about.  Except for the ones whose apartment looks out onto the ruins.

Hidden Roman ruins in Barcelona's gothic quarter
Hidden Roman ruins in Barcelona’s gothic quarter

Take a look at the photo of the bridge below.  How old do you think it is? It might look old, but here’s a secret, it only dates back to 1928.  Here’s another secret:  it’s not Gothic, but actually Flamboyant-style. And one more secret, perhaps the most important one:  you have to walk backwards underneath the bridge and make a wish. Do so and your wish will come true.  I did it and I’ll keep you posted as to how well it works.  Three days later and no luck so far, but alas these things can take time.

Bridge in Barcelona's Gothic Quarter
Our group of bloggers in front of the bridge, before we all walked backwards underneath it. Photo courtesy of Joan Figueras.

Sant Felip Neri Square is also not a secret in itself, but many visitors snap a quick shot without understanding the tragic history that occurred there.  Look at the lower part of the church, see all the indentations? A reminder that in this square on January 30th, 1938 a bomb fell that caused the collapse of the underground part of the church of Sant Felip Neri. 42 civilians were killed, including 20 children, all who were taking refuge here. Gives the square a different, more somber meaning doesn’t it?

Sant Felip Church in Barcelona's Gothic Quarter
Sant Felip Church

Next up is Casa de l’Ardiaca, the Archdeacon’s house. It dates back to the 12th century, but what I found most impressive and would have walked right by was the mailbox. Yep, the mailbox. At one point in the building’s long history it held the city’s justice office.  To honor that history a Art-Noveau Mailbox was designed to represent justice.

The sword on the top left corner represents justice.

The swallows on the top right corner represent how justice should be – free of bias.

While the ivy on the lower left corner represent the obstacles with justice and within the justice system.

Finally, the turtle on the lower right corner represents how justice actually is – slow.

Art nouveau mailbox on the Archdeacon's house in the gothic quarter.
Art nouveau mailbox on the Archdeacon’s house.
Art nouveau mailbox in Barcelona's Gothic Quarter
Me rubbing the turtle for good luck – another secret that some locals don’t even know about. Photo courtesy of Joan Figueras.

Barcelona Cathedral is no doubt a highlight of the Gothic Quarter. Built over six centuries , it’s not only the scale of the building that impresses me so much, it’s  also the little details. Like the 250 purposely ugly gargoyles that surround the cathedral to protect it.  On the left side of the Cathedral (if you are facing it) the representation of good vs evil represented by a Griffin (eagle head with lion feet) versus man. It’s easy to miss the little things when you’re looking at something as huge as the cathedral, but it’s these little things that bring the cathedral to life.

Barcelona Cathedral in the Gothic Quarter
Barcelona Cathedral. Photo by Joan Figueras.
Gargoyles and other art line the cathedral's walls
Gargoyles and other art line the cathedral’s walls

This particular Trip4Real tour I did was led by Joan Figueras, a photographer who takes pictures of you at these iconic locations, while revealing the secrets of the Gothic Quarter.  The tour I did costs €35/person, lasts 90 minutes.  It’s a fantastic way to not only learn the secrets of the Gothic Quarter but to capture yourself doing it.  Finally I have a few photos of me – taken by a professional photographer.  You can book it here.


Thank you to the Catalunya Tourism Board for making my visit possible.  As always all opinions expressed are my own.  P.S. You shouldn’t tell me secrets about Barcelona that you don’t want revealed on my blog.  

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11 thoughts on “Barcelona: Secrets of the Gothic Quarter”

  1. It’s always good to get local knowledge of a place as you can find the real gems that are often hidden from the big tours! It looks great and has so much interesting history from all eras definitely seem a good choice when in Barcelona!

  2. Pingback: Bi-weekly Travel Inspiration -
  3. Barcelona is a city with a lot of interesting little secrets that few find when they visit. That, I think, is the beauty of it. Thanks for sharing, some cool stuff.

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