Ciutat Vella – “Old City” in Catalan
Ciudad Vieja – “Old City” in Spanish (not often used anymore)
In English visitors often translate the Ciutat Vella as the “gothic area” which is a fine translation, but actually there are several neighbourhoods in the Ciutat Vella, one of which is called the Gothic Quarter, so it can be confusing.
The best and most accurate translation for all the medieval neighbourhoods of Barcelona is simply the literal translation from Catalan, “the old city”
The Ciutat Vella includes the neighbourhoods of the El Raval, el Born, Barrio Gótico & La Barceloneta
El Raval - Brief history and profile
• El Raval is rapidly becoming Barcelona’s “see you and raise you” answer to other world famous bohemian communities like Greenwich Village in New York and Montmartre in Paris. The Raval is generally considered to be the place to live in Barcelona and Europe if you want to get up close and personal with the meaning of life, especially the bohemian version
• Originally El Raval was an area of markets and gardens outside the city wall of Barcelona. The wall was on the left (south) of what is now La Rambla which used to be a stream outside the old city wall. Later factories and workers tenement blocks started filling up the Raval area, which grew to become one of the most densely populated areas in the world and one of the worst workers ghettos too.
• El Raval in Barcelona is probably the most multicultural neighbourhood in the city, in Spain and probably in all of Europe! We are talking wall-to-wall creative, fun, edgy and artistic activity on all fronts.
• The bottom part of the Raval nearest the port was/is the “worst” area with the most unsavoury characters. This part of El Raval is also sometimes called the Barrio Chino, not because of a large Chinese population but because a journalist in the twenties coined the phrase after seeing a movie about Chinatown in San Francisco. In actual fact there is a sizeable Moslem community, mostly of Moroccan and Pakistani immigrants and a sizeable Filipino community as well as the original Catalan residents and a growing international community.
• Raval restaurants are neo-hippy, ghetto-trendy and many other variations that turn out some of the tastiest food in town. For residents and visitors there is an incessant supply of yoga schools, art galleries, cultural workshops, boutiques and all frequented by wide smiles imported from every corner of the globe.
El Raval - Main tourist attractions and sights
• MACBA Museum of Contemporary Art designed by American architect Richard Meir. Large open square where youngsters congregate to play football and skateboard.
• La Boquiería Market – Largest and most famous fresh meat and produce market in the city. Fringed by Tapas bars taking inspiration from the market.
• CCCB - Centre for contemporary Culture – Next to the MACBA in an 18th century building. Hosts major art festivals.
- Liceu Theatre – Barcelona’s Opera House
• Antic Hospital Sant Creu – Hospital from the 14th century. You can still find several herbal and medicinal shops.
• Palau Güell by Antoní Gaudí (currently being restored)
El Raval - Personal opinions from friends who live here
• Positive: Couldn’t imagine living anywhere else in Barcelona • The food, live music and people here are simply amazing • It's the gothic but without the neon and plastic bits • Great mix of local residents and imports • Not nearly as scary when you live here • when you get to know your neighbourhood and realize that the people who look scary are often the nicest and gentlest people • As safe as anywhere in Barcelona if you heed the advice of your “vecinos” (neighbours) and use your common sense • central, still cheap and drink to eat many places
• Negative: Can be NOISY! • Some areas are a bit shady/dodgy and dirty ....and smelly, but you soon know what to avoid and when.
El Raval - Real estate perspective of buying flats here
• As a long term investment there are many great deals. El Raval is probably the only area in the historic centre of Barcelona where buyers can find a cheaper square meter price and expect a very good return on their money in a few years time.
• Can be a good area for buy-to-let rental apartments, due to its proximity to Las Ramblas and Plaza Cataluña and popularity with young travellers and students. But check with your Ficasso agent for information. Ficasso generally only handles apartments in safe streets and areas of La Raval. It is always a good idea to visit the neighbourhood where you are thinking of living at night and preferably during the weekend.
• There are still many city plans in the works for a cleaner and better future for El Raval. This means that some buildings have “afectaciones” and are referred to as 'afectada.” These properties can be expropriated at lower prices by the city council to make room for local planning changes. Ficasso does not generally offer apartments in Barcelona with afectaciones and we always check with the relevant government office, prior to putting a flat or apartment in Barcelona on our website.
• The city of Barcelona has been working hard on what they call “esponjament” (mopping up) to clean up El Raval’s worst areas. Constant police patrols are helping to combat prostitution, drug dealing and petty theft.
• Signs of gentrification are everywhere. Ambitious new projects: new 5 star hotel on the Rambla de Raval; Barcelona’s Filmoteca (Cinema Foundation) is currently has been build on the Northern side of the Rambla; behind the Boquiería market there will be a new underground parking garage with a new park on top;
• Very attractive neighbourhood for younger generation, artists, musicians, bohemian, etc
Barri Gótic - Brief history and profile
• Called Barri Gótic in Catalan, Barrio Gotico in Spanish.
• Oldest Part of the city – The Romans chose this site during the reign of Augustus (27 BC – AD 14) and called their city Barcino.
• Gothic Period is also called Barcelona’s Golden Age (13th – 15th centuries).
• The city of Barcelona expanded in the medieval age, so much so that it could no longer be contained within the Roman Walls
• The remaining 13th-15th century buildings (or remains of.. Cathedral, churches, government buildings) make up the biggest and most complete Gothic Quarter in Europe
• In medieval times the neighborhood was made up of guilds (gremis), which were a precursor to trade unions. “Many of their shields can be seen on buildings dotted around the the Barri Gótic, which would have denoted the headquarters of each particular trade” (Frommer’s, 2005).
• There were also many small workshops in the area. Many street names are based on the activities that took place there – for example, Escudellers (shield makers), Brocaters (brocade makers), etc.
• Safety in the Gothic Quarter – while certain areas were considered shady in the past there has been vast improvements in the last decade and in no way could the neighborhood be considered unsafe! There are the usual concerns for any large city centre – petty theft and a few funny characters, but no serious or violent crime.
Barri Gótic - Main tourist attractions and sights
• La Seu Cathedral of Barcelona – Begun in 1292 on foundations of Roman temple and Moorish Mosque, Façade & spiral are 19th century additions to original.
• City Hall & Catalonia’s seat of government (Palau de la Generalitat) – Plaza St. Jaume was the old Roman Forum
• Plaza del Rei & Royal Palace - where Columbus was received after returning from the New World
• Scattered remains of the original Roman city wall and ruins from the ancient city.
• Las Ramblas – “Most famous street in Barcelona.” Lined with news stands, domestic animals, flower stalls, street performers and artists. More importantly, you can find the largest open air fresh food market in the city- La Boqueria, Barcelona’s Opera House- El Liceu, and the liveliest square with neo-classic lampposts designed by Gaudí- Plaza Real.
• Situated in front of Barcelona’s Marina – Port Vell
Barri Gótic - Personal opinions from friends who live here
• Positive: Barcelona’s best nightlife • walk out your door and into the narrow streets and plazas for drinks, café con leche or sangria while you marvel at the mishmash of people passing by • fantastic culture and history • you feel like you are stepping from past to present all the time • great public transportation with many metro stations • walking distance to the beach & Plaza Catalunya • limitless possibilities for cool shopping and trendy restaurants • many pedestrian streets where there is no traffic noise • many street corners have live street music ( this can be a pos. or neg. aspect depending on your state of mind) • great mixture of local and foreign neighbours.
• Negative: Many tourists • city noise all day & night (varies by street) • few large grocery stores and those that are in the barri do not exactly have bargain prices
Barri Gótic - Real estate perspective of buying flats here
• The Barri Gotic is the heartbeat of Barcelona both for visitors and locals and . Prices are high, but this area will always be a great long term investment based on location and popularity
• Ideal for “buy-to-let” investments for clients looking to rent their property when they are not using it – lower square meter price than Born and Barceloneta. The location is perfect for short term and long term rentals. The Barri Gotic borders Las Ramblas and is close to Port Vell where cruise ships & tour boats drop off passengers. There will always be visitors/ students/backpackers who want to be in the centre of everything
• Clients looking for old buildings (sturdy construction with character) will not have any difficulty finding property in this area
• Many buildings do not have a lift – clients must be flexible about this when looking here
• Many possibilities to find old buildings that can be renovated and refurbished
• Narrow streets means less natural light and few big balconies and terraces except roof terraces, but that is the trade off of living in a medieval building
• For clients buying a second home they need not worry as much about break-ins with people on the streets and police patrol 24hrs/day
El Born - Brief history and profile
• El Born is a sort of barrio within a barrio. Technically the neighbourhood of El Born is called La Ribera, which is why the name El Born does not appear on most maps of Barcelona.
• Among visitors and residents alike the neighbourhood from Calle Princesa and eastwards towards the sea is better known as El Born orThe Born.
• In the middle ages the Born was the waterfront neighbourhood. The sea came right up to the spectacular Catalan gothic church, Santa Maria del Mar, hence the name Saint Maria of the Sea. Ribera was previously called Vilanova del Mar.
• Today the church is about 1.5 km from the nearest coastline at Barceloneta so perhaps the name should be “Saint Maria near the Sea?” Whatever the name the Maria del Mar church which was built between 1329 and 1383 is considered by many to be the most important and beautiful gothic church in Catalunya
• The square to the east of the church is the Fossar de les Moreres. This is the old site of the church parish cemetery. It was here that many of the Catalan soldiers who died defending Barcelona against Felipe V's French troops in the war of the Spanish Succession 1701-1714 were buried in mass graves. This war ended in defeat for the Catalans after a prolonged siege of Barcelona in 1713-14 and now an eternal flame burns on this spot to commemorate the fallen
• In the last decade El Born has been cleaned up and renovated big time. The new look has made it the most popular and fashionable part of the Ciutat Vella in Barcelona.
• The main artery of the Ribera/born area is the Passeig del Born. Legend has it that this was the site of medieval jousting events, but today the jousting is mostly for space on this short, but wide and welcoming tree lined avenue from the Santa Maria del Mar church to the old Born market, which is being renovated.
• During the renovation workers discovered the extremely well preserved remains of an old section of the Born district dating back to the early eighteenth century which are being excavated.
• Snaking off both sides of the Passeig del Born are many old and narrow medieval streets that house some of the best restaurants and bars in the city. The successful expansion of the Catalan-Aragonese empire across the Mediterranean brought immense fortunes in their wake and is why the street Carrer Montcada in El Born has Barcelona's greatest concentration of Gothic palaces, several of which today house the Picasso Museum, Barcelona’s Textile and Clothing Museum museum and the Barbier-Mueller Museum of pre-Columbian art.
El Born - Main tourist attractions and sights
• Santa Maria del Mar Cathedral
• Passeig del Born
• Mercat de Santa Caterina
• Picasso Museum
• Barcelona’s Textile and Clothing Museum
•The Barbier-Mueller Museum of pre-Columbian art
El Born - Personal opinions from friends who live here
Positive: Amazing atmosphere, shops and nightlife • Close to the marina, the park, the beach and to the city centre • Great people and nice neighbours • great mix of locals and foreigners - often laid back but still buzzing!
Negative: Can be noisy and crowded at times during busy tourist days • Great nightlife, but check where your bedroom windows are!
El Born - Real estate perspective of buying flats here
• El Born is a safe bet for property due to a superb location close to both city, beaches and the best park in Barcelona which makes this one of the best places to live in the old city.
• Wonderful old buildings and palaces define this area.
• Populur nightlife and shopping area.
• Fashionable to live here. This is where the beautiful people of Barcelona hang out and designers, artists, architects and marketing people live and meet here.
• Many foreigners now living here, so the atmosphere is truly international and cosmopolitan
• Prices are high, but investments here are secure
• Flats and apartments can easily be rented out both short term and long term
• In common with the other areas of the Ciutat Vella in Barcelona, balconies and terraces are in short supply and many apartments in the Born do not have much natural light.
La Barceloneta - Brief history and profile
• The small triangular form of La Barceloneta covers just 71 hectares, but this is 71 hectares of the most expensive real estate in the Ciutat Vella due to its prime location near the beach, the Port Vell marina and Barcelona city centre.
• The name Barceloneta means literally “little Barcelona.” It lies on reclaimed land from the sea and there were residents here as early as the 15th century.
• The first real houses were constructed in 1753 by the army. The purpose was to provide new housing for former residents of Ribera who had been displaced by the construction of Cuitadella Garrison, (which later became the Cuitadella Park) Barcelona was still walled at this time and there was no room for new residents within the walls.
• In true military fashion 15 parallel streets were planned, each 7.5 meters wide and crossed by other three cross-sectional streets of 9.3 meters width.
• The original houses, some of which can still be seen, were two floors high and originally intended to house 1 family. They were all the same and built in a grid pattern.
• The earliest residents were mostly mariners, fishermen, shipbuilders. From 1846 they were joined by factories and factory workers as the industrial age started and the city council of Barcelona banned new factories within the city walls. New industrial areas outside old Barcelona sprung up and Barceloneta with it’s close proximity to the port and the emerging railways was the an ideal location for industry. One of the original industries, the gas production industry, still has its head office close to Barceloneta.
• When the walls of Barcelona came down and trams connected the city, Barceloneta began the transformation into the beach and leisure area that it is today. Most of the two storey houses have been long since been built up or replaced, but the street layout is still the same and the “village in a city” atmosphere is still strong.
• Today La Barceloneta is a bustling, vibrant and essential part of Barcelona. Around 16000 inhabitants are adapting to the new Barceloneta which merges the best of old world tradition and customs with fast paced modern tourism. Hundred year old bars and fish restaurants co-exist well with new and trendy cocktail bars, chiriniguitos and hotels.
• Some old timers grumble that the number of tourists living and renting apartments in Barceloneta have turned the neighbourhood into one long vertical "hotel", the roads being corridors and the tiny flats the rooms. They might be right, but most locals and visitors agree that the infusion of visitors has made Barceloneta an even more colourful and lively area of Barcelona than before.
La Barceloneta - Main tourist attractions and sights
• Passeig Joan de Borbó – This picturesque boulevard is a tourist attraction in itself and makes for a lovely stroll down to the Barceloneta beach
• Museum of Catalan History in the Palau de Mar building. Try the roof top cafe terrace for lovely views of the port.
• Museu Marítim – Barcelona Maritime museum
• The IMAX Theatre, Moll d’Espanya in Port Vell
• The Golondrinas – harbour tour boats in Port Vell
• The old lighthouse, now a clock tower, Torre del Reloj on Moll dels Pescadors, which used to be a lighthouse.Built in 1772
• Church of Sant Miquel del Port from 1755 on the Plaça Barceloneta
La Barceloneta - Personal opinions from friends who live here
• Positive: Unbeatable neighbour atmosphere • The streets, the neighbours, the colours of the washing hanging out from every flat makes it feel like a real home with real people • there’s nothing like the smell of the sea and the salt for feeling the joy of life • for walking, biking, skating this is the best place in town • it’s like living in a village by the sea • we have plenty of old world restaurants and cafes in Barceloneta and if we want new and trendy we go to the Born which is just a short walk away.
• Negative: Many tourists in the summer • the close proximity to the sea means that the humidity can make it a bit chilly in the winter • shopping is limited, but it’s close to the city centre • No lifts • finding free parking is hard but there is underground parking nearby
La Barceloneta - Real estate perspective of buying flats here
• The prices per square metre are among the highest in the city, but on the other hand this area will never go out of style. Extremely popular for second-home investments because of great location and because apartments in Barceloneta are very easy to rent out on short term rentals.
• The flats in Barceloneta are generally very small and compact. This is because originally the buildings of the Barceloneta were constructed in rectangular areas of 16,80m xs 8,40m (about 141 m2). Later they were halved into in areas of 8,40 xs 8,40 (about 70 m2) and then halved again into areas of 8,40 xs 4,20 (about 35 m2) called quarter-flats ('cuartos de casa')
• If you subtract the space for walls and the stairs, the quarter size apartments are less than 32 m2 big. 60% of the flats in Barceloneta are quarter size 'cuartos de casa'
• Very few big spacious flats and big balconies and terraces are virtually non-existant.
• Many flats need renovating, but again the investment usually justifies the renovation cost
• Most buildings do not have a lift.