The Gothic Quarter
Barcelona was founded by the Romans in the year 15 BC on a hill called "Mons Taber" and was a typical Fortress style enclosure, will walls running around the main buildings and a crossroads in the middle - the now Plaça Sant Jamue. Many of these walls and other ancient ruins can be seen alongside some of the city's most fantastic Gothic architecture and even works of Barcelona's favourite son, Antoni Gaudi.
The Gothic Quarter, or "El Gotico" - so named as the devil allegedly used to walk the streets in Medieval times - forms part of the city centre, the old town and stretches the windy, mainly pedestrian walkways from Las Ramblas to Via Laietana. These streets have given birth to Carlos Ruiz Zafon's worldwide bestseller "The Shadow of the wind", and it's streets come alive with fire breathing dragons and pyrotecnics during the "correfoc" or "fire-run" of La Mercè festival in September.
The aforementioned central Plaza of "Sant Jaume" houses the city's Town Hall, and the "Plaça Reial" or royal square has Gaudi's first commissioned work - the lamp posts. This square is just off las Ramblas, and is a great place to people watch as most of the establishments have terraces outisde.
The Gothic Quarter also has the beautiful Santa Maria del Mar church (Our Lady of the Sea) - a fine example of Gothic architecture, and others of note are La Iglesia de la Virgen de la Mercé (our lady of Mercy), too. The city's main cathedral is located here, and is a huge imposing Gothic building with a very large "Plaça" in front where the locals dance the "Sardana" dance on weekends. Walking around the Cathedral's walls gives the real feeling of why the Gothic Quarter so coins it's name. This is perhaps most noted in Carrer Bisbe, where the postcard of Barcelona with the "Pont dels Sospirs" or Bridge of Sighs (no comparison to Venice) frames the view and the gargoyles - originally used for drainage - loom overhead.
The Gothic quarter is also home to some famous eateries and cafes - perhaps none more so than Els Quatre Gats (4 cats), frequented by many a bohemian including Picasso. Also worth a mention is "Los Caracoles" (the snails), one of Barcelona's oldest restaurants. This is easily spotted on the corner of Escudillers and Nou de Sant Fransesc with chickens roasting on a spit outside on the corner.
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