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Atipika Guide / Ciutat Vella

Ciutat Vella

The Old Town is the ancient heart of Barcelona, where the famous La Rambla runs down to the sea and is flanked by iconic neighbourhoods where ancient relics dating back 2,000 years sit happily alongside the fast-moving trappings of modern life.

This historic area is widely regarded as the heart of the city, a vibrant place to live and an essential destination on any tourist itinerary. The names of the individual barrios evoke times past – El Barri Gótic, El Raval, El Born, El Casc Antic – and their mysterious narrow winding streets and hidden squares surprise even the most experienced visitor.

This is where you’ll find world-famous landmarks such as the Cathedral and its impressive Roman walls, just a short walk from Plaça del Pi and the bustling Plaça Reial. It is also home to burgeoning designer boutiques, museums and bars that spring to life and give the city its beating heart until the early hours.

Look closer and you’ll find the Fossar de les Moreres, where people pay their respects to the defenders of the city on National Day. The solemnity of this modern monument sits beside the simple beauty of the fisherman’s church of Santa Maria del Mar.

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This beautiful church pays homage to the fishing history of Barceloneta, the intriguing barrio steeped in marine history that forms a triangular island between the sea and El Port Vell, itself home to the newest superyacht port in the Mediterranean as well as the biggest Aquarium in Europe.

Like El Raval on the Montjuïc side of La Rambla, Barceloneta is a changing barrio. Its tiny flats stand proudly cheek-by-jowl, as though determined to use their architectural limitations to retain their character. This is despite the onslaught of tourists enjoying remodeled beaches and a wealth of bars and fish restaurants. The Hotel W stands out as a shiny new addition to the area, dividing opinion but undoubtedly rejuvenating the beaches and facilities leading up to its towering grandeur.

At this end of La Rambla the imposing statue of Colóm looks away from the city over towering cruise liners and the World Trade Centre, pointing hopefully towards new worlds across the Mediterranean.

Leave La Rambla, walk past the stunning ruins on show in the Centre de Cultura i Memòria and just outside the old city walls is the rich green oasis of the Parc de la Cuitadella, one of the city’s largest green spaces. Here you will see people wandering, admiring the glorious Cascada Monumental or perhaps relaxing on the grass or taking a rowing boat out onto the lake. Listen carefully and you can hear the sounds of the zoo, also within the park’s perimeter.

Up past the famous Boqueria Market at the other end of La Rambla is Plaça de Catalunya, the meeting and jumping off point to Barcelona’s impressive shopping culture. This open square also offers extensive transport options within the city and out into Catalonia. This is also the site of one of the most important original entrances to the city, Portal de l’Àngel.

If you head down the main artery of Via Laietana, take the time to find the hidden gem of the Palau de la Música Catalana, an architectural wonder that appears as if by magic.

It’s easy to see why the Barcelona Old Town is such a popular area of Barcelona for living and visiting. It offers the best of urban and beach society, combines ancient history with cutting-edge modern living, offers the best of Barcelona in the day and long into the night, and is endlessly intriguing.

How to get thereNewly refurbished flat in ‘El Gòtic’ 1

Newly refurbished flat in ‘El Gòtic’ 2

The Barcelona Old town´s proximity to the sea makes it uniquely reachable by boat, but within the city most travel is by underground on the L3 or L4 lines. Drassanes and Liceu stations provide direct and easy access to La Rambla and the port, while Jaume I, Urquinaona and Barceloneta add options from the top of Via Laietana down to the sea. Plaça de Catalunya is a spellbinding transport hub, offering city and airport bus connections as well as trains on the underground, RENFE and Catalan Railway (FGC) networks. However, for most people, the best way to move around the area is on foot. If you have time it is compact, fascinating and will reward you with surprises around just about every corner.

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