The Ciutat Vella district, or old city, is defined by the perimeter of the former city walls, and is the area once occupied by the historic city centre of Barcelona.
Ciutat Vella is the original district of Barcelona, the core of the city. So when we talk about Ciutat Vella, we’re talking about the history of the city, from its very beginning. The district is bordered to the west by L’Eixample, to the east by the Mediterranean Sea, to the north by Sant Martí, and to the south by Sants-Montjuïc. Ciutat Vella consists of four neighbourhoods, each with its own unique personality. In the south, Barceloneta; to the west, Raval; in the centre, Gòtic; and to the east, Sant Pere, Santa Caterina i la Ribera.
Ciutat Vella is a district which has everything: culture, heritage, history, community and entertainment.
Pakistani groceries, Indian textiles, Italian street food … Raval can practically be defined by interculturalism, given that 56% of its residents came here from other parts of the world. The largest national communities, after Spanish, are from Pakistan, most of whom live and work in the southern Raval neighbourhood, and the Philippines, mainly in the northern Raval.
The neighbourhood of winding streets known as El Raval, which stretches from La Rambla to Paral·lel, is the past and future of Barcelona. A densely populated, different neighbourhood which has always welcomed newcomers and has its own unique cultural life.
Raval is authentic, with personality, and is such a fun area to walk around that a new Catalan word has been invented for it: ravalejar. It’s time to ravalejar and take a stroll through this authentic neighbourhood.
The Gòtic or Gothic quarter is notable for heritage and history. This area includes some of the city’s biggest attractions, such as Plaça Reial, the Cathedral and El Call. Although this makes it one of Barcelona’s busiest tourist areas, the local residents do the impossible to maintain the community feeling of a neighbourhood they love and value.
As you venture further into the Gothic quarter you get closer to the origins of Barcelona, in the place where 2000 years ago the Romans founded Barcino. Today we can still find the traces of the Roman town in the remaining fragments of its city walls.
The narrow streets and little squares of this neighbourhood invite you to wander at will and absorb its charm and atmosphere. There are plenty of fascinating spots to discover.
As its name suggests, Sant Pere, Santa Caterina i la Ribera is made up of three small parishes. This group of historic neighbourhoods, also known as the Casc Antic or old town centre, is bounded by Passeig de Lluís Companys, the Ciutadella park, Via Laietana, and larger areas like Barceloneta and L’Eixample.
Wandering around the squares and streets of the Casc Antic evokes the medieval era, when this was one of the most important neighbourhoods in the city, full of the palaces and mansions of the rich merchant class.
The Casc Antic is also fortunate enough to include Barcelona’s largest park, La Ciutadella, the art galleries of the Born area, the Picasso Museum, Barcelona Zoo, the Catalan Parliament and the impressive Palau de la Música.
Barceloneta is the quintessential seaside neighbourhood. Its narrow streets and family-oriented community shelter it from the hustle and bustle of the big city. Its façades faded by the salty air, the boats returning to the docks at sunset, and the unmistakable scent of the sea all attest to its Mediterranean character, much like the traditional fishing villages of the Catalan coast.
Its history goes back to the 18th century, when it was created as a brand new neighbourhood with a typical Baroque period grid layout which remains almost completely intact. At that time, it was a sandy area outside the original walled city.
At the start of the 20th century, Barcelona began to open up towards the sea. Bathing areas began to appear along the coastline, and were especially popular in the Barceloneta neighbourhood, which began to specialise in an exciting new business: fine dining. Bars, inns and restaurants sprang up to feed the thousands of bathers who came to the beaches.