Spain was once home to one of the largest, thriving Jewish communities in Europe before the 1492 Edict of Expulsion sent Spanish Jews scattering throughout the world. The area we now know as Gothic Quarter in Barcelona, one of Barcelona's most popular tourist attractions, was once the center of the city's Jewish community. Moreover, Barcelona was but one of many prospering Jewish settlements in Spain until the Spanish Inquisition forever altered the course of Spain's Jewish history. Fusing the narrative of Sephardic Jews with Barcelona's current Jewish community, our 3-hour Jewish Barcelona tour will explore the history of Jews in Spain and their impact on Barcelona, focusing on Jewish identity and the remaining sites in El Call, the Jewish neighborhood, in the company of one of Spain's leading specialists in Jewish history and heritage.
Jewish Barcelona Tour
The marriage of Ferdinand II and Isabella I united the kingdoms of Aragon and Castile under similar laws, and brought about drastic changes for Spanish Jews. Initiating the Spanish Inquisition, these Catholic monarchs set out to create religious uniformity in their kingdoms. These actions had the largest impact on Spain's Jewish population. Dating from the 9th century, the Spanish Jews enjoyed a rich, integrated experience in Barcelona until the 1391 pogrom, which eradicated the city's Jewish community. In 1492, however, the monarchy's Alhambra Decree, or Edict of Expulsion, offered the Jews a dramatic choice: convert to Catholicism or leave Spain. While many packed up their homes and departed for Northern Africa where they joined the Mahgreb population or dispersed throughout Europe, others chose to remain and convert. Some of the conversos, or converted, sought ways to continue practicing their religion in hiding.
Want to learn more about Jews in Spain? Try our Girona Tour
, a day trip from Barcelona.
Jewish Presence in El Call
With this history as our base, we will apply our knowledge to the Gothic Quarter. (For a more general tour of this area, try our Gothic Quarter Tour
.) Exploring El Call, the Medieval Jewish neighborhood, we will visit the remains of one of the city's synagogues, Sinagoga Mayor
. Now serving as a small museum dedicated to Jewish heritage, we will discuss its evolution through the centuries. From here, we will make our way to one of the former buildings used by local facilitators of the Spanish Inquisition. Those who continued practicing Judaism in hiding were profoundly affected by the Inquisition. Tackling this difficult history, we will open a dialogue examining the suffering of both the conversos
and the Sephardic Jews. We will also delve into the history of the Ancient Jewish cemetery on Montjuïc, which is still underground, where it was originally envisioned. Making connections between its narrative and the process of establishing it as a historic landmark, we may note the ways in which Spain has begun making amends to its Jewish population.
Together, we may experience the atmosphere of Barcelona's present Jewish population, which has bloomed after centuries of absence. Understanding the Jewish way of life through discussions of traditions and holidays, we will build a stronger understanding of Jewish identity. We may even browse a local Judaica shop. Encapsulating the complex nature of the Jewish experience in Spain, we will show the contrast between the joyous triumphs and bitter sufferings of the Jewish people. As our time together comes to a close, we will leave with an understanding of the ways in which Barcelona's Jewish community life has recovered and rebuilt to form an important part of the city's identity once again.
Will we enter any active synagogues on this walk? We will enter the Major Synagogue—now a museum—during this itinerary, but we will not be able to visit any active synagogues on our walk.
Will we visit Montjuïc on the Jewish Barcelona walk?
The neighborhood of Montjuïc is not included on this walk, but will discuss its relevance in relation to Jewish history. If you have an interest in exploring Montjuïc with a Context docent, you may enjoy our Montjuïc: Conquering the Mountain tour
, which reveals the area's general history including its art and architectural legacy.
Are group tours available all year-round? Due to demand, we only offer Jewish Barcelona group tours from the beginning of April until the end of October. However, private tours are available year-round.