Europe, History & Culture

Secrets of the Gothic Quarter

June 3, 2015

Secrets of the Gothic Quarter

As I walked through the crowd gathered around one of the most photographed sights in Barcelona, Spain, I wondered if they knew the true story.

The Bridge of Sighs joins to buildings over a pedestrian zone in Barcelona

Although the Pont dels Sospirs or Bridge of Sighs looks like it has been around forever, it isn’t even a 100 years old.

Gargoyles and decorative carving under the Bridge of Sighs, Barcelona

The history of the bridge, constructed as part of a beautification process in advance of the 1929 World Fair, is one of many secrets I discovered when I toured the Gothic Quarter with Context Travel. I will let you in on a few more.

If you look under the Bridge of Sighs, you will see several decorative figures. Legend has it that if you look into the eyes of the skull, you will die in Barcelona unless you head over to the Archdeacon’s House and touch the stone turtle.

A skull and other designs under the arch at the Bridge of Sighs, Barcelona

Touching the turtle on the mailbox located near the entrance to the Archdeacon’s House or Cara de l’Ardiaca brings good luck. Although I’m not superstitious, I touched the turtle – just in case!

A hand touching the stone turtle on the mailbox at the Archdeacon's House in Barcelona

Tranquil Plaça de Sant Felip Neri bears the scars of a horrific event. In 1938, a bomb fell killing 42 people, most of whom were children.

A fountain and a boy eating lunch in Placa de Sant Philip Neri, Barcelona

The exterior wall of the church Sant Philip Neri showing damage from a bomb blast in 1938

The copper-covered hole on the exterior of the Museu Frederic Marès may look like a medieval air vent, but according to our knowledgeable Context Travel docent, Biel, the hole had a much darker and different purpose. During the Spanish Inquisition, people would use this opening as a covert means to report on individuals who weren’t following the rules of their new religion.

A circular copper hole in a stone wall in the Gothic Quarter, Barcelona

If you study the exterior of the Palau del Lloctinent on Carrer dels Comtes, you will notice Hebrew inscriptions in some of the stones. Construction material for this building included headstones taken from the Jewish cemetery at Montjuïc during a tumultuous time in Barcelona’s history.

A stone wall and circular turret on Palau del Lloctinent, Barcelona

Hebrew inscription of a headstone used to construct Palau del Lloctinent, Barcelona

In the popular Plaça Nova, the picturesque archway isn’t as old as it looks either. This arch is a reconstruction showing where the historic Roman aqueduct entered the city of Barcino, the Roman name for Barcelona.

A stone arch and a tree in Plaça Nova, Barcelona

Plaça Nova

One final secret about the Gothic Quarter includes Gaudí, one of my favourite architects and artists. Rumour has it that Gaudí thought the neo-Gothic design of the Cathedral Santa Eulàlia was hideous, so he refused to enter through the main door, and instead used the cloister entrance.

Gothic inspired Santa Eulalia Cathedral in Barcelona

The Gothic Quarter is a beautiful neighborhood in the capital of Catalonia with fascinating buildings, beautiful plazas and enticing secrets.

Do you have a favorite neighborhood that harbors a few secrets? I would love to hear about it.

Booking a Context Travel tour:
  • The 3-hour group walk through the Gothic Quarter is offered on a regular basis and may be booked online through Context Travel. The cost is €80 per person.
  • Context Travel tours are offered in more than 24 cities in North America, Europe and Asia.
  • Context Travel limits the tour group size to six people to ensure a conversational atmosphere. The experience is like a roving outdoor classroom with a knowledgeable professor.

I was happy to be hosted by Context Travel, but the opinions are my own. If I don’t love an experience, I won’t recommend it!

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  • Reply Context Travel June 4, 2015 at 8:35 am

    Beautiful photographs, Nancy. We’re delighted we were able to share so many unknown secrets about the Gothic Quarter. Thanks for joining us!

    • Reply LuxeTravelFamily June 4, 2015 at 9:12 am

      Thank you so much! The tour was wonderful. Through Context Travel, I rediscovered my favorite neighbourhood in Barcelona.

  • Reply Mary Anne Been June 5, 2015 at 6:35 am

    What a fun “little” tour. It would be good to go and get the whole thing. Thank you for such a fun jaunt through the Gothic Quarter.

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