Ciutat Vella is the oldest part of Barcelona and includes Barri Gotic, Raval, El Born and La Ribera. It also includes the old fishing district Barceloneta. Each area within the district has its own character. The Barrio Gotic is the area tourists become most familiar with as it contains many of the great sights of Barcelona – the Barcelona Cathedral, Plaza Reial and Las Ramblas.
La Rambla is the most famous street in the city, a 1.2km long avenue that stretches from Plaça Catalunya to Port Vell with many attractions such as La Boqueria market. When it was laid out in 1766 the locals were delighted as it was a change from the small narrow streets of the Old Town. Today it is famous for its flower stalls and street performers.
The Gothic Quarter
The best way to discover the Barri Gotic is on foot, walking down the narrow streets that open onto large squares where you can stop for a coffee in any number of small cafes.
Most of the streets in the old Gothic Quarter are pedestrians. This gives visitors more opportunities to discover what the area has to offer. There are remains of the Roman temple of Augustus near Carrer del Bisbe. But also the seat of Catalan Parliament and the Barcelona City Council in Plaza Sant Jaume. And finally the gothic cathedrals of Santa Maria del Mar and Barcelona Cathedral. There is also the old Jewish settlement of Call Jueu with some remain of the ancient synagogue.
El Raval was an area occupied mostly by fields until the nineteenth century when a number of textile factories and workers´ houses were established. Because of this, and its close proximity to the port, the Raval developed a strong immigrant population.
Since 1990s the Barcelona City Council carried out a number of redevelopment projects. Those included building the Rambla del Raval and locating important institution there. Amongst them for example MACBA and CCCB. The bohemian and artist atmosphere in the area has led to many trendy cafes and bars opening in the area. This is also where you need to head if you are looking for great vintage clothes.
Past Via Laetiana you find La Ribera. This area was established in the thirteenth century. It was the time when the wealthier members of society moved outside the city walls. Mainly because Barcelona was becoming increasingly crowded. They settled here in La Ribera. The names of the streets remind us of the large artisan population that lived here: Argenters (silversmiths), Mirallers (mirror makers) and Sombrerers (hat makers). The southern section of La Ribera is El Born. It is now a great place to socialise in as there are many trendy tapas and cocktail bars.
The southern area of Ciutat Vella bordering the sea is Barceloneta. This residential area was established to re-house the people who were displaced when King Philip V ordered much of La Ribera to be razed to the ground to allow the construction of a large fortress where Parc de la Ciutadella is now.
This occurred in the wake of the fall of Barcelona in 1714 to Philip´s forces in the War of Spanish Succession. But more recently, the 1992 Olympics altered the face of Barceloneta by removing the old beach-front restaurants and public baths. Finally, the area was renovated to include the sea and beach in the city´s life much more.
Map of Ciutat Vella
Photo credit: thetravelhack.com, barcelonando.com, hoteles.com, thebarcelonian.com, estrelladam.com, barcelonaphotoblog.com, flickr.com, barcelonaconnect.com
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