Ciutat Vella

The history of Barcelona comes to life in the Old City.

The Old City of Barcelona is pretty much synonymous with the city’s history, from its original founding on Monte Taber. Roman settlers chose this small hill located between two river deltas, the Collserola (the site of the modern-day Rambla), and the Junqueras (where Vía Layetana lies). On the chosen site, they founded what was then known as Colonia Iulia Augusta Paterna Fauentia Barcino, or simply Barcino, supplanting an ancient Roman site, today thought to be the location of the Marina del Puerto neighborhood, and later abandoned due to the rising waters of the Llobregat River, whose currents impeded access to the Port.

The very first district of Barcelona, the Ciutat Vella (or Casc Antic), comprises a modest 500 hectares and was, until the 19th century, enclosed by Medieval walls. Of that imposing structure, demolished in 1854, the only remaining fragment was part of the Medieval shipyards (Les Drassanes, the site of today’s Maritime Museum), in what’s known as the Portal de Santa Monica.

The Old City is made up of four different neighborhoods, each of which played a vital role in Barcelona’s development: the Gothic quarter, the oldest urban center of the city, and the place where it all begin; Sant Pere, Santa Caterina, the Born and the Ribera, the Medieval neighborhood; the Raval, the nucleus that sprung up around the rural roads beyond the wall; and Barceloneta, the seaside neighborhood next to the port and built in the middle of the 18th century under the watch of the Ciudadela, the military force established to control city dwellers after the Siege of Barcelona in 1714.

The urban landscape in the Old City is characterized by dark, narrow streets, mysterious alleyways, and enchanting plazas that breathe life, exude diversity, and tell the winding history of the city. The Barcelona of today is cosmopolitan, elegant, modern, and sophisticated, but it hasn’t altogether lost its underlying essence as a port city that’s better described as ancient, debauched, and a little dirty. That side of the story can still be seen and felt in the streets of the Old City, where today’s Barcelona was born.


La Barceloneta, El Gòtic, El Raval & Sant Pere, Santa Caterina i la Ribera.

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