Discover some of the city's best-kept secrets. From an ancient canal to picturesque squares and leafy cloisters.
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The Torre Baró-Vallbona neighbourhood is where you will find the only open-air stretch of the old Rec Comtal, an irrigation canal built in the 10th century that made use of the route followed by a Roman aqueduct in disuse. It covered 12 kilometres, started in Montcada i Reixac, and supplied water to the walled city and the orchards on the Barcelona plain. A real walk through the city's medieval past.
2Aragó 299, 08009 Barcelona
The Església de la Puríssima Concepció, on Carrer d’Aragó, was built in the 13th century as a convent for nuns on what is now Via Laietana. But when the city was redeveloped in the 19th century, the church and the cloister had to be dismantled and taken to their new site, block by block. The 14th century cloister has two levels with galleries, and a garden that invites meditation.
3Plaça d’Osca, 08014 Barcelona
In times gone by, Plaça d’Osca was the site of the bustling Sants neighbourhood market. Probably that is why it retains its lively, popular spirit: it is a neighbourhood meeting place strongly admired by the locals. The square, closed to traffic and lined with trees, is surrounded by all kinds of bars. Its terraces are in heavy demand for pre-lunch drinks and on summer evenings when there is a breeze blowing across it.
4Comerç 36, 08003 Barcelona
The Gothic cloister and part of the building are all that remain of the old Sant Agustí Convent, which dates from the 14th century. It was demolished to make way for a military barracks, following the siege of 1714. Now restored, it is a very active civic centre and, hidden under the cloister arches, there is a bar with a magnificent terrace for having a drink.
5Plaça de la Concòrdia, 08014 Barcelona
Anyone who lands in Plaça de la Concòrdia immediately recognises Les Corts used to be a town and this was its main square. Closed to traffic, it is surrounded by 18th and 19th century buildings, and there are even some period shops, such as a chemist's and a cake shop. The gem of this little enclave is the Modernista mansion, Can Deu, now a civic centre with a fantastic, landscaped interior courtyard.
6Plaça de Sant Gaietà, 08034 Barcelona
If it weren't for the fact that there's no fence preventing access, anyone would think that Plaça de Sant Gaietà was a private patio. But this is a tiny public square, covered in red tiles and surrounded by flowers and bougainvillea. The people who live in the ten little houses around it are a privileged lot. This romantic spot is known locally as el raconet, the little corner.
7Plaça de les Santes Creus, Barcelona
In the 16th century the urban centre of the small town of Horta developed around this square. At the beginning of the 20th century, when Horta was annexed by Barcelona, the big city gave it a fountain, an exact replica of the Font de Canaletes on the Rambla that still spurts out water today in Plaça de les Santes Creus. Surrounded by low houses and with plenty of shade under its trees, this is a great spot to relax on a sunny afternoon.
8Plaça de Masadas, Barcelona
Plaça de Masadas, at the heart of La Sagrera, was built at the end of the 19th century and is one of the few porticoed squares still left in the city. For much of the last century there was a covered market there but it was pulled down in the 1990s and the square was opened up again to the public, as it is today. On the first Sunday of every month there is a lovely market selling old toys.
9Plaça de Prim, Barcelona
Plaça de Prim has the oldest houses you can find in Poblenou, a neighbourhood with a seafaring past. In years gone by they were inhabited be fishermen. The square is simple but charming, with three ombu trees, a fountain and just one restaurant which, needless to say, cooks seafood. The area round it is a must too, with low white houses and quiet streets. A peaceful haven in the middle of the city.
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