Arxiu Fotogràfic de Barcelona; Joan Martí
Barcelona as it used to be - history
Take a trip around some of Barcelona's historic neighbourhoods, visit its emblematic buildings from the past and see what the local history museums have on display
Air-raid shelter 307 (Poble Sec)
During the Spanish Civil War, Barcelona became one of the first cities in the world not to be at the frontline of fighting to be targeted for air raids, and in response to this new threat, the citizens reacted by the building of shelters in every neighbourhood. This shelter in Poble Sec, close to Montjuïc, has been restored and opened to the public so that visitors can see how the space under the city was used to save lives during the war. Tours are given (in Castilian or Catalan) on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays (also from Tuesday to Friday to organised groups that book in advance); 11am to 2pm. €3 per person. Closed on January 1st, May 1st, June 24th, December 25th. Refugi 307 official website (in Castilian). Metro: Paral·lel - L2 & L3
Barri Gotíc and Plaça de Rei
Known as the Gothic Quarter or the Old Neighbourhood, the Barri Gotíc is a wealth of fascinating and impressive historical sites, including medieval churches, Roman walls, and architectural wonders from every century all the way back to the 1100’s. The history of Barcelona is around every corner, and the streets follow the lines of the original Roman roads. Restaurants and cafés are plenty, but carry on to Carrer de Montsió to visit the café Els Quatre Gats, where Picasso and other bohemian artists gathered. Another good stop for history lovers is the Placa del Rei, at the end of Carrer Baixada de Santa Clara. It’s the small courtyard of the Palau Reial Major, which is the palace of the Counts of Barcelona and the Kings of Aragon. Legend has it that Ferdinand and Isabel welcomed Columbus here after his first return from the New World. Also available for tours is the Salo del Tinell, the throne hall of the Royal Palace, and the Capella Reial de Santa Agata. The Museu d’Historia de la Ciutat (accessed through the Casa Padellas), is nearby and offers a short but interesting underground walk of excavated Roman ruins. Metro: Jaume 1: L4; Liceu: L3
La Sagrada Familia
Antoni Gaudi’s unfinished cathedral is one of the most famous sites in Barcelona and a landmark of modernist architecture. The cathedral is open for tours, and has a projected completion date beyond 2026. Be sure to visit each side of the cathedral’s façade, as each is vastly different from the next. Tours are also available, including a lift ride to the cathedral spires.
Mallorca 401, Tel. 93 207 3031, www.sagradafamilia.org; Open: Mar-Sept 9am-8pm daily and Oct-Feb 9am-6pm. Admission: general—€12; reductions—€10-€11; free for under-10s; Lift to the spires €2; guided tours—€14-€16. Metro: Sagrada Familia: L2 & L5
Formally titled Casa Milà, this architectural wonder by Gaudí is a must see, even if you skip the tour and just gaze in awe at the soft lines and oceanic like theme of this 1912 building. La Perdrera means ‘stone quarry’, as it was disdainfully nicknamed in its early years. Now it’s a well-known and well-loved symbol of the city and of the daring and imaginative Gaudí. Tours are available for all three floors, including the main floor art gallery and giftshop, as well as the rooftop garden.
Passeig de Gràcia 92, Tel. 93 484 5900, www.caixacatalunya.cat/obrasocial; Open: Dec-Jan 9am-6.30pm daily, Feb-Nov 9am-8pm daily; Admission: €8, free under 12; Metro: Diagonal: L3 & L5
Museu d’Història de Catalunya
An excellent visual and activity-based narration of the region’s history. The museum spans Catalan culture from prehistoric times up until 1980 with temporary exhibits often highlighting more recent developments. Films, reproductions of medieval shops, and hands-on activities like lifting a suit of knight’s armour provide entertainment and education for all ages.
Plaça Pau Vila,Tel.93 225 4700, www.mhcat.net; Open: 10am-7pm Tues, Thurs-Sat; 10am-8pm Wed; 10am-2.30pm Sun. Admission: €5, free under 7 years, free on first Sunday of the month. Metro: Barceloneta—L4
Museum housed in the medieval shipyards celebrates Barcelona’s maritime culture and history. A full-scale model of a galleon as well as exhibits on shipbuilding techniques through the ages are interesting even for those without any knowledge of the subjects. Admission also includes access to a docked schooner built in 1917. Free tours on Sundays with general admission.
Plaça Portal de la Pau, Tel. 93 302 5224, www.museumaritimbarcelona.com. Open: 10am-7pm daily.
Admission: €6.50, free under 7 years. Metro: Drassanes—L3