Discover the Ciutat Vella District of Barcelona

The initial human settlements in Barcelona probably date back to the Neolithic era, with the ruins of ancient settlers excavated more than 5,000 years ago in the area of El Raval. Barcelona was founded around the end of the 1st century BC by the Romans under the original name of Barcino. Due to its strategic position in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea and the Colcerola ridge, Barcelona has been a city of great importance from the very starting until today.

Ciutat Vella, which means old town in English, was the initial district of Barcelona that emerged from the fortified area surrounding the ancient city. Since it is the oldest part of the city, it is usually considered the center of the city and remains a popular choice for both residents and tourists. Despite being the oldest district, it is one of the busiest and most diverse areas of Barcelona, thanks to the contrast of its winding streets and impressive Gothic architecture with lively and modern restaurants, shops and bars.

There are four districts that include the Ciutat Vella district: Barceloneta, the Gothic Quarter, El Raval and San Pere, Santa Caterina and La Ribera. Let’s explore each of these diverse neighborhoods to discover this fascinating area of Barcelona…

Barceloneta in Barcelona

This area of Ciutat Vella is a seaside area of the city bordering the Mediterranean Sea, the Spanish Gulf of Port Vell and the El Born area. Barceloneta was built in the eighteenth century for the residents of the La Ribera area, who were expelled because of the creation of the Citadel Park. Previously, it was almost uninhabited, during the work it was visited only by fishermen.

Today it is known as the relaxing beach of Barcelona with three beautiful beaches: Barceloneta, San Sebastia and Somorrostro. Thanks to Barcelona’s heat Mediterranean climate, living in Barceloneta in summer offers you an enviable location where you will be the initial to arrive and the last to leave the Golden Sands of the city. There are always a lot of people who train here from sunrise to sunset, walk with dogs or just relax on the beach. Another popular aspect of the area is “Chiringuitos”, that is, beach bars that serve a variety of traditional Catalan and international dishes and drinks.

Despite the relatively young design, there is no shortage of history and culture in this area. The church of San Miguel del Puerto was built in 1753 in the classical Baroque style together with the Palau de Mar in 1880, where the Historical Museum of Catalonia is located.


Gothic Quarter

The historic center of the city, the Gothic Quarter, stretches from the Rambla to Via Lajetana and from the coast to the Ronda de San Pere. Some of the oldest buildings in the city are located in this area, but most of the architecture you see today originated in the nineteenth and twentieth years siècles.au During this period, many of the existing buildings were restored, while others were created with Neo-Gothic elements and structures, which lasted until the 1960s.

There are many attractions and buildings important to the Gothic quarter, including the Cathedral of Santa Eulalia, the Church of Santa Maria del Pi and the bridge over the Carrer Bisbe. The area is also home to some of the city’s most famous squares, including Plaza del Rey Square, Sant Jaume Square and Reial Square. Here you will find many excellent restaurants and bars where you can try tapas and drinks with friends. Next to Sant Jaume Square is the Generalitat of Catalonia, which makes this place very important for the entire Catalan region. Festivals and events are held here, and traditional Castellers (human towers) gather here even during the holidays!


Le Raval

El Raval, formerly known as Barriques, meaning Chinatown, is the second district of Barcelona’s old city bordering the Rambla Boulevard. The district got its name not because of the large Chinese population, but because the creators imagined a Chinese city that way. It is home to about 50,000 people and is located on the western side of the Ciutat Vella street, which stretches from Plaza Catalunya at the top to the port in the south.


There are many notable attractions in El Raval, one of the most famous for tourists is the Boqueria Market on Las Ramblas. La Boqueria is a great food market full of fresh fruits, vegetables, spices, meat and much more. There is also the Palace of Guell, one of the initial monuments of architecture by Antoni Gaudi, built in 1888, now listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and open to the public. There are two prestigious museums worth visiting, MACBA (Museum of Modern Art) and CCCB (Center for Contemporary Culture of Barcelona), which call El Raval their home.

El Raval has always had a negative reputation as an endangered area of Barcelona, but since then local authorities have invested in the area to rejuvenate and restore its image. Today it is considered one of the most dynamic and diverse areas of the city, attracting both foreign and local residents.

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