Walk Description

Barcelona’s Barri Gótic, or “Gothic Quarter,” contains all the layers of this city’s deep history, from ancient Roman outpost to capital of the Crown Aragon in the Middle Ages to the making of a modern metropolis in the 19th century. In this three-hour comprehensive tour of this historic core we’ll pull back the layers of Barcelona with a trained scholar and learn how to read the city in all its complexity.

Although a strictly chronological approach is impossible in a such a palimpsest as Barcelona, we’ll start our exploration in the Plaza Nova where one can still see some of the remains—a gate, part of the walls—of the Roman outpost that presaged the city. We discuss the basics of Roman city planning and architecture as well see several other remnants of Rome throughout the walk and discern elements of the Roman plan within the layout of the city today.

From here our course will take us through the heart of the Gothic Quarter, passing undoubtedly by the main Cathedral. We’ll use this late Gothic masterpiece as a backdrop for discussing the medieval evolution of Barcelona when suburbs, or ravals, grew up around the city’s compact Roman footprint housing Barcelona’s specialized guilds, sophisticated professional and merchant classes, and a rich religious life for both Christians and Jews. Our adventure will also take us into the Jewish Call, a neighborhood established by Jews in the middle ages where we’ll discuss the periods of relative religious freedom as well as periods of intolerance and expulsion that have marked Catalan and Spanish history.

Our walk will also take us to the Born, past the Boqueria, Barcelona’s main market, and onto the Ramblas, the main thoroughfare of the city where we’ll look at how modern development re-cast the city in the 18th and 19th centuries. We’ll look for examples of hygienic reform and “surgical” interventions in the heart of the old city that led to massive demolition and reconstruction, and along the way gain tools to help us read Barcelona’s story through the aspect of her built environment. We’ll emerge with a deeper sense of the remains of ancient Barcelona, the city’s medieval splendor, and the modern archaeology and urbanism that uncovered these sites and made them visible.

Note: We can arrange special walks focused on the Jewish Call and history in the Gothic quarter, only on private walks. If you are interested, please indicate this in your trip notes.


Duration: 3 hours
Category: History
Venues: Barcelona Cathedral
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    Sonia Rohter

    Sonia is currently working on her PhD in art history and archaeology at Columbia University. She specializes in Greek art and archaeology, but also has a strong interest in Etruscan art. Sonia is a practicing archaeologist and has conducted archaeological fieldwork in Italy (Sicily and Tuscany) and Spain. She has taught at Barnard College and Columbia, and is writing her dissertation on Ampurias, a Greek settlement in Spain.

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    Biel Heredero

    A native of Barcelona, Biel has recently obtained his degree in art history from the University of Barcelona where he wrote his thesis on Catalan artists. He is active in the Barcelona arts scene, and as a Catalan he has tremendous knowledge of the region's history and culture.

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    Santiago Mercader

    Santiago (Santi) is an art historian who obtained his PhD on Barcelona's cathedral during the Baroque period. He is widely published in Italian, Spanish, and English in a broad range of academic periodicals, and has taught numerous classes on Renaissance and Baroque art history, Spanish painting, urbanism and architecture, and such artists as Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci. He currently works as an associate professor of art history at the University of Barcelona. In addition to teaching and writing, Santi has worked as a researcher for a well-known antiques dealer in Barcelona and as a lecturer on Gaudi, Domenech I Montaner, and other modernists in Barcelona.

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    Celia Marin

    Celia is an architect and PhD candidate in architectural theory and history while she teaches as an associate professor at the Barcelona School of Architecture. She has worked as a freelance researcher and investigator on Catalan art and architecture before the Civil War for various museum exhibitions, including the Picasso Museum in Barcelona and the Reina Sofia in Madrid. She is an enthusiast on architecture and history and loves to discover new and interesting things every day; luckily Barcelona has a lot of secrets and surprise to offer. She was an exchange student at Waseda University in Tokyo, and is a big fan of Japanese culture and architecture.

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    Albert Planas

    A native Catalan, Albert has been a passionate traveler since living abroad with his family as a child. This led him to pursue a career in cultural tourism. He is a licensed local guide, specializing in developing unique experiences in both Barcelona and further afield around Catalonia.

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    Bernat Carrau

    Bernat is a native Catalan architect who specializes in the preservation and rehabilitation of old houses and buildings. He obtained his degree at the Barcelona School of Architecture and was an exchange student at the University of Texas. Possessing a deep understanding of architecture and the cultural forces that drive it, Bernat is a true native and lover of Barcelona and her built environment. He spends his spare time strolling through the offbeat neighborhoods of this amazing city.

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    Oriol Catalan

    Born and raised in Barcelona, Oriol studied tourism and medieval history, eventually obtaining a Ph.D. in medieval christian sermons and preaching in the Crown of Aragon (XIVth-XVth centuries). His Ph.D. research has afforded him a great understanding of the cultural, political, and religious life of Barcelona in the Middle Ages and its relations with other cities and Kingdoms, in addition to the roots of Catalan identity and its evolution over time. He is acutely aware of how Barcelona has changed and adapted to the 21st century while trying to keep its personality and identity. In addition to working as a docent, Oriol teaches secondary school social sciences.

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    Dominique Tomasov Blinder

    Born in New York to an Ashkenazi Jewish family and raised in Buenos Aires, architect Dominique came to Barcelona in 1991 where she quickly became involved in a local Jewish congregation. The involvement had tremendous impact on her work and, since 1999, she has dedicated herself to Jewish Heritage protection and transmission. Dominique currently does research, advocacy, and gives lectures on the Jewish experience in Barcelona and greater Spain.