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Secret Barcelona

Discover the hidden corners of Barcelona with Fairmont Rey Juan Carlos I's guide to Secret Barcelona. 

 Plaça de Sant Felip Neri

Hidden away in the Gothic Quarter, nestled between the Cathedral and the old Jewish Quarter is Plaça de Sant Felip Neri. Despite its close proximity to Barcelona Cathedral, most visitors never stumble upon this gothic square and it provides a calm respite from the hustle and bustle of the city. This square complete with fountain, church and school has been used to shoot films and perfume adverts. The walls of the square also show signs of history; they still bear the scars of a Civil War bomb.

Columns Temple of Augustus

Two thousand years ago Barcelona was a Roman fort by the name of Barcino, which stood on a same portion of what is now the Gothic Quarter. In the center of this stronghold stood the Temple of Augustus, later lost and almost forgotten in the centuries which followed. During the 19th Century areas of the city were excavated and three of the columns which held up the temple were found. These two millennia old columns are now on display at the MUHBA Temple d'August.

Hospital Sant Pau i la Santa Creu

Until 1929 Barcelona was using the same main city hospital in the Raval neighbourhood it had done since the 13th Century. Due to rising population levels and a greater concern about public health, plans were drawn up for a new, state of the art hospital in the Eixample area, the Hospital Sant Pau i la Santa Creu. The architect chosen was the well-known Lluís Domènech i Muntaner and the hospital created was not only cutting edge for its time but also beautifully designed in the Catalan Moderist style, replete with hand painted tiles and stained glass windows. The hospital was transferred to a new building in 2009 and the complex has recently been refurbished and opened to the public.

Casa Vincens

One of Gaudí’s earliest works has recently been opened to the public for the first time following an expansive restoration. Built between 1883 and 1885 as a summer house for the influential Vincens family, the colourful Casa Vincens shows influences of Asian and Islamic architecture as well as nature motifs that would be central to Gaudí’s later work. 

Jewish Barcelona

Nestled behind the Cathedral in the area known as El Call are the last vestiges of the Jewish population of Barcelona. The Jewish community in Barcelona is believed to date from early Christian times and was first recorded in the 7th Century. The neighbourhood flourished in trade, science, philosophy and religious education. However, the community was targeted and the Jewish population was expelled from Spain in 1492. Wandering around the streets of El Call you can still find Jewish inscriptions on the walls and spaces where people kept parts of their torah. The site of the original synagogue was reopened in 2002 and although not used for prayers it continues to tell the Jewish story in Barcelona. The neighbourhood is also home to the oldest house in the city built in 1428 at no. 6 Carrer Sant Domènech del Call.

City of Dragons 

The patron saint of Catalonia, Saint George, is the knight that battled a dragon to save a princess from her tower and if you look closely, in Barcelona there are many reminders of the legend. Dragons made of stone, iron and mosaic pepper the buildings of the city, mostly in the Eixample neighbourhood which was built in the 19th and early 20th Century during a period known as the Renaixença, a time of renewed interest in Catalan tradition, legend and culture. The most famous to spot are hidden on the façade of Casa Lleó i Morera, the rooftop of Casa Batlló, and on the Casa de Paraigues on La Rambla, where the dragon takes on a Far East style. 

Catalan Manchester

Known as the Catalan Manchester the Poblenou neighbourhood has a rich industrial history still visible in its architecture and can do attitude. This area of the city, well away from the centre and genteel Eixample neighbourhood became the hub of textile production and other industries during the industrial revolution in Catalonia. Links with their English counterpart are cemented in the Catalan Square found in the Ancoats area of Manchester and their common story of heavy industrialization, decline and cultural revitalization. One thing is different though; in Poblenou the sun shines over 2524 hours per year.

The door to nowhere: Barcelona Cathedral

Barcelona Cathedral is breathtaking in its architecture but look closer and you’ll find a door, three stories high in the façade. The question is, where does this door lead and why was it built? The door was originally part of a suspended passageway built from the Royal Palace to the cathedral so the King could attend services without having to take to the streets below. The passageway was built at the turn of the 15th Century and was used until the 18th when it was demolished by Philip V after his conquest of the city. Now, all that remains is a mysterious door.

17th Century graffiti

Although we may think of graffiti as modern and contemporary, evidence shows us that it has been around for centuries. At the former Hospital de la Santa Creu in Raval, now home to the National Library, you can glimpse into the past with the 17th Century found on its walls. The Catalan people left their mark to complain about the Duke who had stationed troops in the city which led to the discontent that ended in the Reaper’s war. This particular graffiti tells the Duke to ‘get out’ and has remained there for over 350 years.