When you are a college student studying aboard, you are generally poor. You have some money but you want to use it for traveling to different places around the country (or Europe) so the weekdays, when you have classes, you try to keep your costs to a minimum. I was a typical broke college student, but I was lucky enough to have classes only in the morning. So after lunch, I got the opportunity to wander, and wander I did. My favorite location was Barrio Gotico (The Gothic Quarter).
Growing up in suburban New Jersey and going to school in rural New Hampshire, the narrow, winding alleys of the old district were new and exciting. It was like nothing I had ever experienced before. I loved to wander and look at the old architecture, see the iron work on the windows and balconies, look at the plants above, and at the store fronts below.
My favorite parts of Barrio Gotico are the stores – buried deep in the tight alleyways are tons of small, independent shops. They sell cool contemporary fashion, shoes, ceramics, make-up, candy, etc. You could find most anything, and it was almost always sold by small shopkeepers. It’s been almost 20 years since I’d been there, but it largely remains the same. I was however, lamenting with my mom that at 19 I could fit in the fun fashion but didn’t have the money. Now I have the money but can’t fit in the small European sizes…
In El Barrio Gotico is the famous Los Caracoles. It’s a restaurant that opened in 1835. My father ate there whenever his ship was in port when he was in the Navy and encouraged me to eat there when I lived in Barcelona. It is now a fancy place and was pricey for me at that time, but I still managed to do it once. I was excited to take my mom to this famous place she had heard about. While there, the waiter showed us pictures of ships whose crews used to come to call and all the American Navy memorabilia in the restaurant. It was awesome to see the juxtaposition of the old, ancient European décor, and the very American Navy photos. Plus the food was as outstanding as I remembered.
In this area you will also find the beautiful Catedral de Barcelona and Basilica de Santa Maria Del Mar. Both are classic Gothic architecture that opens to a wide plaza. Here you can find cafes to sit and watch the people go by, or just find a spare piece of street to watch and wonder at these buildings
Spending time in Barcelona is what inspired me to discover a city by walking and getting lost. And el Barrio Gotico in Barcelona is a place where you can really feel the soul of this city. If you want to feel Barcelona, the old Barcelona, walk the alleys of el Barrio Gotico. You will not be disappointed.