Hola from Barcelona . Todays post is all about our experience with Free walking tours Barcelona. The walk through the gothic quarters takes you back in time, from the early days of Roman era to the medevial times. Even though these tours are free, you have to reserve a spot in advance by logging into their website freewalkingtoursbarcelona.com. They have tours every single day at two time slots. the first one being 11am and the other being 2:30pm. Its generally quite difficult to find a spot in the weekends so make sure you book them well in advance. Once you have done the reservation , you will get a confirmation mail immediately to your registered email id. Make sure to keep it safe for your tour. On the tour day, depending on what time your tour is, make sure to arrive at least 5 mins before the start time at Plaça Catalunya.The easiest way to identify the tour guides would be by watching out for Purple T-shirts and Purple Umbrellas. They will ask you to show them the email confirmation, and they will check you in their system and then confirm your slot! Done that? Then your ready to go 😀 The tour lasts for approx 2-2.5 hour ( with a 10- 15 mins break somewhere half way through the tour) and once your done, you can pay your guide whatever you think the tour was worth. The places we covered in our tour are the blue shaded portion (Gothic) given in the map below. Make sure to ask your guide for this free map. Its made by an artist and it will be very handy if you want to revisit any place after the tour. The thing with most of these walking tours is that getting a good guide can often be sheer luck because we have been on some previous walking tours in other countries, where we thoroughly enjoyed the view and places of interest we were taken to but we didnt understand a word of what was being told by the guide! What a waste right?Luckily this time, Our tour guide Bryan, spoke good english and we were able to follow his accent quite easily . He was witty , fun and cracked quite a lot of jokes during our tour 🙂 Most importantly, he has great knowledge in world history, Spanish in particular. and was able to brief us on the important political happenings and reforms that took place in Spain. During the tour, he will also introduce you to those great personalities who have shaped this incredible city. In addition, he also spoke about The capital of Catalonia, with over 2000 years of history and an amazing cultural heritage. He gave us a free city map and also cleared all doubts we possibly had with regard to the best places to eat and drink in the city. He suggested places where we could get the best Tapas too .
Now lets see the places we got to explore in this tour!
- Plaça De Catalunya– one of the largest squares in Spain and also a very prominent landmark of Barcelona. The square is surrounded by banks, hotels, shopping malls etc. It is the starting point for this tour too! The square is lively and crowded at all times. You can spot big fountains , several interesting statues, musicians playing on the street and tourists feeding pigeons in the famous square. As soon as one reaches the Placa de Catalunya, one will notice the statue (seen below) of the naked woman seated on a horse with a ship held above her hand. We asked our guide for the significance of this statue but even he was not very sure and seemed quite clueless himself . Nevertheless, it is a statue photographed by many!
- Las Ramblas – Again a very well known place in Barcelona which is popular with the locals and the tourists equally. It is one of the main arteries of Barcelona and stretches upto 1.3 kilometers connecting Plaza de Catalunya with the old port of the city. The street is full of life and has several stalls put up by artists who do paintings, art and craft, jewelry, souveneir shops and so on. You can also spot illegal migrants selling counterfeit goods like shoes, sunglasses, bags etc ! You can buy a Micheal Kors first copy bag for 20 euros! But remember buying from them is illegal and can land you into trouble. The police are always on the lookout for these vendors, so be very careful! There are several restaurants lined up in the street and also a very popular food market called the Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria . The whole market is a delight to see…you will find so much fresh food and drinks! Definitely a place to go and try some fresh fruit juices. We picked up Blueberry with coconut and it was really awesome! 🙂 While u go on this particular walking tour, the guide will simply mention Las Ramblas but will not take you there or to the market ..since the street gets very crowded, the guide often takes narrow and quiet streets avoiding the hustle and bustle of tourists! We explored Ramblas on our own and we really enjoyed the long walk! A must visit! But since its a crowded lane , always watch out for pick pocketing. Be careful with ur belongings!
- Santa Maria Del Pi- yet another marvellous Gothic church. We spent a few minutes outside this stunning place of worship. I do not have photographs of the church instead we took a video of it. Will upload a picture the next time we pass by and photograph.
- The Palau de la Generalitat – located in the historic center of the old town , it is the the seat of the Catalan government.
- The Gothic Quarter– Narrow streets which scream remnants of its glorious past. We enjoyed walking through this street and clicking pictures of the buildings
- The Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Santa Eulalia – A magnificent gothic style church situated at the Pla de la Seu, almost in the centre of the Barri Gòtic, which directly borders the famous Rambla. It is free to visit the cathedral in the mornings between 8AM- 12.30 noon but if you visit after this timing, you ought to pay a donation. Donation for a single person is 7 euros and if you go in a group, then it comes upto 5 euros per person. More information about this amazing gothic church can be found here Cathedral of Barcelona. Your guide will give you enough time to stop and take some photographs here ..so make good use of the opportunity 🙂
- Roman Graveyard at Placa Vila de Madrid was discovered after the Spanish Civil war. The cemetery has been preserved till date and can be visited by anyone willing to pay 2 euros as a fee. If you do not want to walk inside the gallery, then you can have a look at it from the railings above like most of us did for free. Apparently they say that the holes seen on some of the tombs are escape paths for the dead souls!
- Plaça Del Reí ( also known as the King’s square )- a piece of Rome in Barcelona. A very quiet square which has a lot of history and deserves to be photographed.
- Picasso Murals – Bang opposite the Cathedral is the giant mural Pablo Picasso designed for the school of architecture. The piece of art was originally done on a tissue paper by Picasso and later on replicated on the wall
- Steel Castles: This is a modern art sculpture made of stainless steel situated in Plaça de Sant Miquel which is 12m high and represents the Catalan tradition of human castles. Not sure if you know what a human castle is but i have seen several in India. I am attaching a photo of a Catalan human castle just so that you know what it is . Once in two years, there is an annual event held in a city of Spain whereby the best teams come together and compete to build a human tower. The steel structure is a mere representation of this 200 year old tradition.
After about 1.5 hours of walking, our guide stopped at Lupara Bar so that we can have some refreshments . The cafe bar is tucked away in a quiet neighbourhood away from the hustle bustle of the tourists. On our guide’s recommendation , we tried the very refreshing Sangria and it was superb! Also the carrot cake with cream cheese frosting looked too good to resist!
And while we were almost approaching the end of our tour, our guide told us about an interesting Christmas tradition followed in Barcelona. He enlightened us about Caganers. Well i was hearing of it for the first time and i found the whole concept really funny. So what is a Caganer? A caganer is the name given to the statue of a peasant dressed in traditional Catalan clothing with his pants down and buttocks exposed. It is a popular figure of Christmas nativity essential in the births of Catalonia . Apparently gifting one of these ceramic dolls brings people luck . Since these are found only in Spain, tourists always buy a few figurines of their favourite personality to gift people back home. And now, you can find versions of popular characters of well known personalities which include Barrack Obama, Lionel Messi, Nelson Mandela etc. The price of a caganer will range from 8 euros and go higher depending on the size of the figurine!
So these were the places we covered in our free walking tour. We highly recommend you give it a try if you ever visit Barcelona. Its the best way to get a first impression of the whole city.
We tracked our path and saved it on our phone just so that we know which path to repeat next time 🙂
Gracias (thank you ) for reading this post! 🙂