This walk takes in part of medieval Barcelona, filled with detours and labyrinths of narrow streets and small squares, easy to get lost in; you’ll need the better part of a day to do it properly.
From Plaça deCatalunya, walk south on (1) Las Ramblas, the long promenade to the port—filled at all hours with strollers, human statues, con artists, fortune tellers, and portrait painters. Carrer de Bonsuccés, the second street on the right, affords a worthwhile detour through (2) El Raval—until recently one of the city’s darker and more dangerous areas, now a funky ethnic mix approaching gentrification—to the (3) Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona, at Plaça dels Àngels 1 (www.macba.es).
Return to Las Ramblas and continue south. Turn left on Carrer de la Portaferrissa, and right on Carrer de Petritxol. This short street lined with galleries, art supply shops, and chocolatiers leads to the 14th-century Gothic church of (4) Santa Maria del Pi (Plaça del Pi), a serenely simple space with a single wide nave and superb stained glass; the adjacent Plaça Sant Josep Oriol has an artists’ market on weekends. Resist—for now—the warren of Barri Gòtic streets behind the church, return to Las Ramblas, and continue south.
Pass the (5) Palau de la Virreina on the right, at Las Ramblas 99—a baroque palace built for the ex-viceroy of Peru, now housing the municipal department of culture. Next door, join the throngs of shoppers and casual noshers in the 167-year-old (6) Mercat de Sant Josep (la Boqueria) produce market, at Las Ramblas 91. A block farther on is the (7) Gran Teatre delLiceu (opera house), opposite the Metro station at Las Ramblas 51-59. Tip: guided tours are in Spanish, but at 11:30 a.m., 12 p.m., 12:30 p.m., and 1 p.m., you can explore the main building on your own. Continue down Las Ramblas to the (8) Palau Güell at Carrer Nou de Las Ramblas 3-5, the grand residence Gaudí designed for his immensely wealthy patron Eusebi Güell.
Cross the promenade and wander into the (9) Plaça Reial, a classical square of mid-19th-century apartments, with towering palm trees, Gaudí street lamps, and a ground-floor arcade of shops and restaurants. On Sundays the square has a coin and stamp market. Leave the Plaça Reial through the arch on the north side, turn right on Carrer de Ferran, and walk up to the (10) Plaça de Sant Jaume, the heart of the Barri Gòtic. On the right side of the square, at Plaça Sant Jaume 1, is the (11) City Hall—the Ajuntamentor Casa de la Ciutat; on the left, at Plaça Sant Jaume 4, is the (12) Palau de la Generalitat, seat of the government of Catalonia.
From the Plaça, take Carrer de Jaume I to the (13) Museu d’Història de la Ciutat (Plaça del Rei 7-9: see "Must-Dos"); allow an hour to discover Roman-era Barcelona. From the (14) Saló del Tinell and (15) Plaça del Rei, where you exit the museum, walk through the lovely courtyard of the (16) Palau del Lloctinent (“viceroy’s palace”), to the back of (17) the Catedralde Santa Eulàlia (Plaça de la Seu). Walk around to the Catedral’s square—where sardanes folk dances take place on Sunday mornings—and explore (if you dare) the narrow streets off the square leading into the Barri Gòtic.
Leave the square by Carrer de Bisbe toward the Avingudadel Portal de l’Angel, with the out-of-place Collegi d’Arquitectes de Catalunya building on your right—a white concrete box with a Picasso-designed frieze, oblivious to its historical surroundings—and stroll up this boutique-lined arcade to the Plaça de Catalunya and the end of the walk. On the way, turn right at the third corner for a quick detour to (18) 4Gats at Carrer de Montsió 3—a turn-of-the-20th century bohemian café and art circle that mounted the first solo exhibition for a promising young hanger-on named Pablo Picasso
2014 Traveler Photo Contest
See all the winning images from the 2014 Traveler Photo Contest.