Gothic ambience at Barri Gòtic. And plenty of delicious Iberian ham, too!
Barri Gòtic is at the centre of the old city of Barcelona. It stretches from La Rambla to Via Laietana, and from the Mediterranean seafront to Ronda de Sant Pere – and is well-known as something of a pickpocket haunt. I learned before I arrived that I should be wary of my belongings in this area of the city, and I made sure nobody swiped my wallet or camera. Yet despite this fear, it shouldn’t district you from the what the Barri Gòtic is really all about: history and food!
Despite several changes undergone in the 19th and early 20th century, many of the buildings here in Barri Gòtic date from Medieval times, some from as far back as the Roman settlement of Barcelona. Remains of the squared Roman Wall can be seen around Tapineria and Sots-Tinent Navarro to the north, Avinguda de la Catedral and Plaça Nova to the west and Carrer de la Palla to the south. El Call, the medieval Jewish quarter, is located within this area too.
The Barri Gòtic retains a labyrinthine street plan, with many small streets opening out into squares. Most of the quarter is closed to regular traffic although open to service vehicles and taxis. I have not seen anything quite like this in Asia, and even in Europe it is very hard to think of something so…so gothic! Even the smell was dark and dirty! It feels as though you are walking around in a theme park of some kind.
Food is quite omnipresent in Barri Gòtic, including in butchers shops that sell jamon. Jamon is Spanish ham, and it is usually carved off the bone and ready to order. Until then, the meat hangs outside the shops, and it is yet again another atmospheric addition to this part of Barcelona. All over Spain, jamon is popular, but here in Barcelona it seems that everybody eats it, especially the variety known as Jamon Iberico!
As I was hungry, I decided to purchase a bocadillo from a local café. This is very much like a baguette from neighbouring France, and as you can imagine I had a jamon bocadillo – and what a sumptuous taste of Spain it was! In fact, it was one of the finest lunches I ate in Barcelona; so simple yet so effective. It made a nice (and much healthier) change from the churros and Pinchitos that I had been eating up until that point! I also made my first ever attempt to enjoy blood sausage. While this is not typically Spanish (it is eaten all over Europe), I still hadn’t tried any up until this point, so why not try it now? It was nicer than it looked, and had a very deep and meaty aftertaste – although I would have preferred another bocadillo (or maybe a chorizo sausage) instead!
Within the Gothic Quarter is a renowned cathedral known as La Seu. It is one of the main tourist attractions in Barcelona apparently, though thankfully there wasn’t a big queue at any stage. It is good to know that within this ancient enclave there are still great religious monuments – and unlike the rest of Barcelona there aren’t too many signs of Gaudi!
You can get to Barri Gòtic by alighting at the Metro Line 4 station at Juame I. I think the area is also well served by the typical touristy open-top buses. Barri Gòtic is certainly one of the most interesting places in Barcelona, with some incredible local eateries and the finest Spanish ham that I know of – but it’s just a shame the area has became a little neglected, hence the notorious pickpockets. So keep your wits about you.