I’m sure that if you’re visiting Barcelona you’ve already visited (or you’re planning to) the Cathedral square. The cathedral is a must-see, and you probably would have taken the narrow street that connects this square with another one: Sant Jaume, where the Town Hall and the Generalitat Palace buildings are. But perhaps you missed one of the most beautiful corners in the area, or unless you specifically looked for them you may have missed a couple of details or stories in the area… Do you want to fill in the gaps?
Table of Contents
The aqueduct and the Bishop’s House
We start this tour at the cathedral, just in its corner we’ll take Carrer del Bisbe (Bishop Street), but before that, pay attention to your left. You can see there some remains of the reconstructed aqueduct that provided water to the city in Roman times. In fact this street matches the old Roman Decumanus street, and this was one of the entrances to the city walls. The two towers that you can see at the beginning of the street were originally part of the gate that was here during Roman times. The house to the right was the Bishop’s Palace, hence the name of the street.
Sant Felip Neri square
Continue along Bishop Street until you find a small square: Garriga and Bachs. There, turn right at the second street before going on (Sant Sever street) and from there take the first street to the right. You’ll find Sant Felip Neri, a beautiful and peaceful square with a fountain in the middle and some historical buildings. It’s often a bit busy, but I’m sure you’ll feel as if transported to the middle ages. This square is featured in the film The Perfume and it’s also the location of a video of the band Evanescence (My Immortal). Notice the marks in the façade of the church opposite the fountain. There’s a sad story behind these marks. These are marks of the bombings of the city during the Spanish Civil War. One of the bombs killed more than 40 people (mostly kids) that were sheltering in the church. The other buildings you can see in the square are the old shoemaker’s and the coppersmith’s guilds, originally located in other areas of the old town and moved here during a relocation of historical buildings.
Santa Eulalia’s descent
If you leave the square and go back to Sant Sever street, continue to your right before returning to Bishop Street. You’ll see that the street is narrower and it eventually goes down creating a descent, where it changes its name to Baixada Santa Eulalia (Santa Eulalia’s descent). In a small corner you’ll find a small altar with a sculpture of Santa Eulalia (co-patron saint of the city) and some candles and flowers. The history says that Santa Eulalia was put in a barrel with knives and thrown down this descent by the Romans as part of her 13 tortures for refusing to recant her Christianity.
The Bishop’s bridge
Retrace your steps and go back to Bishop Street, where you’ll see lots of tourists taking photographs at the famous bridge. Many of them may be surprised to find out that the bridge is not that old. It was, in fact, built in 1928 by Joan Rubió i Bellver, one of Gaudi’s disciples, and designed in Gothic style just to fit with the rest of the area. There are several urban legends regarding the bridge and the mysterious skull you can see below, crossed by a dagger. One of them is that you should ask for a wish when walking backwards under the bridge, but you should look at the skull while doing so. According to the second legend, Barcelona will crumble if the dagger is removed from the skull.
Sant Jaume square
Continue under the bridge (any which way you want, that’s your choice) and you will end up in Sant Jaume square, that hosts the Town Hall and the Generalitat Palace (house of the Catalan government), one opposite the other. This square matches the old centre of the Roman city, where the two main streets in any Roman city (Cardo and Decumanus) crossed. The square takes its name from the Sant Jaume Church that was originally here, and that was demolished in the 19th century during the rebuilding of the square and Ferran street. The square, apart from being an important location for demonstrations, is also the venue for castellers. The two buildings are only open to visitors on special occasions, but you can have a look at the magnificent façades from any of the angles of the square. You’ll spot Sant Jordi killing the dragon in the balcony of the façade of the Generalitat Palace, a sculpture made during the 19th century.
And our short tour ends here. From Sant Jaume square you can take Ferran street and go to the Rambla or Jaume I street and go to Via Laietana and the Born area.