For many years, travellers to Barcelona would make straight for the Gothic Quarter (El Gòtic), one of the city’s most central and best-known neighbourhoods. So full of character (and local characters), its labyrinthine streets weave warren-like past medieval facades set along-side shop-fronts, erupting into sun-lit squares where locals gossip around fountains while someone strums a guitar.
While it could be salubrious and shady at times (you’d be as likely to stumble across an iconic tapas bar as a master-mind pick-pocket) it was a discoverer’s trove, one of those places where you never knew what you’d find around the next bend. Yet as Barcelona smartened its act up, spurred by the 1992 Olympics - and more recently - a resurgent economy, the Gothic Quarter has slowly, quietly got trendy.
Brimming with history and pockets of beauty, it still carries the same scent of adventure, ancient awe-inspiring basilicas and iconic local tapas haunts (it’s here you’ll find Cal Pep, the inspiration behind London’s best loved tapas bar Barrafina); but now, alongside the artisan leather-workers and hand-crafted sweet-shops, you’ll find hip boutiques and a smattering of the city’s hottest new restaurants. Testament to its new kudos of cool, it was here that the trend-setting hospitality group Soho House chose to open their first Spanish outpost of their private member’s club in 2016.
Originally settled by the Romans as a village, the Gothic Quarter thrived during medieval times as a merchant's trading spot due to its proximity to the harbour, before falling on harder luck as the city’s elite moved towards Eixample in the 19th century. Thanks to its enthralling history, fantastic central location and an influx of new energy, in recent years the Gothic Quarter has evolved back into one of the most sought after places in town.
Stroll through cobbled streets, past buzzing bars and nightclubs, and you’ll find yourself at the water’s edge, with Barceloneta beach and the chic super yachts that nestle along Port Vell just moments away. Hop across La Ramblas, a sloping 1.2km central avenue that borders El Gòtic, and join locals shopping for fantastic fresh produce at La Boquería market, where delectable tapas can prove a constant distraction. While the Gothic Quarter's streets are too narrow to accommodate its own metro stop, its periphery is ringed with stations, making it an excellent hub from which to access the rest of the city.