The Gothic Quarter, a unique jewel of Medieval architecture.
The architectural splendour of the Gothic quarter, Barcelona's heart, reveals Catalonia's golden age as a Mediterranean power. Most of the buildings date back to the 14th and 15th centuries, when middle-class prosperity led to a construction boom. Only when Barcelona lost its position to Castile in the 16th century did the decline of the Barri Gòtic begin. Even now, there are many residential buildings in a state of complete dilapidation, and even all-round renovation for the Olympics had little effect, despite refurbished façades, new squares, benches and trees. In very recent times, this area has become popular with urban developers and architects - but they are accompanied by property sharks and speculators who are trying to drive out the longstanding residents from their cheap homes. This area is predominantly inhabited by old people, with a smattering of students, artists, petty criminals, world travellers and immigrants. Now they are being joined by fashion designers, gallery owners, architects and other wealthy individualists. However, the newly opened boutiques and trendy bars have not entirely forced the curious little stores and corner pubs out of business. In this tangle of old, Gothic streets, you can still get an authentic feel for Catalan history and lifestyle. Entry is free.