Before arriving to any new destination, researching the place is not only common, but a smart thing to do. Unless you totally want to wing it, which is fun, but when you have kids, winging anything is more of a hassle than the joy of it. So when I started my orientation of Best Barcelona Hop On Hop Off Bus Tours, Barri Gotic, or Gothic Quarter must have been the most popular thing to pop up consistently. And of course, we decided to visit the Gothic Quarter.
And for good reason!
This area of Barcelona is the most historic part of the city. This is where it all began from way before the Romans founded it to today.
It’s the quintessential European city with narrow, winding streets, eclipsed by stone structures and churches. You literally feel you have entered back in time, to the Medieval ages and a CAN.NOT.BE.MISSED area.
With kids, I always feel I am missing out a bit because I LOVE taking tours to give me the full picture of where I’m visiting so I can truly learn all the fun stuff about the place. However, 99% of the walking tours (in this case you can only do a walking tour) being offered are boring, way too much conversation, and adult-geared.
I cannot even tell you how hard it is to find a kid-friendly one that will interest my kids and I can learn as well.
Luckily, I found a relatively new company, Trip4Real, that works with the local guides of different cities and towns supporting the local economy, and the tour they had: Medieval Barcelona: Gothic Quarter Tour for Kids.
Hooray! I was thrilled.
What You Will See and Learn
Living in Guatemala I’ve discovered that this country loves their legends. Until our tour in Barcelona, I didn’t realize that Guatemala’s legends are nothing compared to this historic, incredible city.
We were greeted at the main gate, which is the original entrance to Barcino (the name the Romans gave to Barcelona when first discovered) by a Medieval Princess. Since I have two boys, they weren’t too impressed with the princess thing, but I did see them smile anyway, and she was easy to find and made the tour more authentic and easy to visualize the way things really were back then.
Amalie spoke perfect English (amongst four other languages – the incredible benefits of Europeans), and was a lot of fun to be with. I’m not sure how she did it, but she managed to get two reluctant little boys interacting and learning about the history of this area. My goal was achieved.
Some Fun Historic Facts About Gothic Quarter
- The city was founded by the Romans who set up a colony called Barcino at the end of the 1st century BC.
- The colony was bounded by a defensive wall, the remains of which can still be seen.
- For over 200 years, Barcelona was under Muslim rule.
- After the Christian reconquest, it became a county of the Carolingian Empire. It was one of the main residences of the court of the Crown of Aragon.
- During the medieval period Barcelona became the economic and political center of the Western Mediterranean.
- You can still see buildings from that golden age (13th to 15th centuries) in the city’s Gothic Quarter.
- From the 15th to 18th centuries Barcelona entered a period of decline.
- In 1714 the city fell to the Bourbon troops and Catalonia’s and Catalans’ rights and privileges were suppressed.
Info about Catalonia and Its Independence
- Local counties switched allegiance and became attached to the crown of Aragon.
- The marriage of Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile in 1469 laid the foundations for a unified Crown of Spain.
- For some time Catalonia kept its laws but with the Bourbon dynasty taking the throne in 1714 it all ended.
- Catalonia was made a province of the Castile crown. A unified legislation was imposed in the country.
- People from Catalonia never really accepted being part of a larger kingdom.
- During the civil war (1936-1939) Catalan was even made illegal.
- In 1978 Catalonia voted overwhelmingly for the new democratic Spanish constitution that recognized Catalonia’s autonomy and language.
- In 1979, the statute of autonomy was finally approved delegating more autonomy in matters of education and culture.
- On 23 January 2013, parliament approved a Declaration on the Sovereignty and right to decide of the people of Catalonia asserting that Catalonia is a sovereign entity and calls for a referendum on independence.
- In 2014 the Government of Catalonia organized the independence referendum, in which 80.8% of the cast votes supported the independence option.
- On 9 November 2015, parliament approved a Declaration to start the independence process of Catalonia.
Local Legends and Traditions of Catalan and Barcelona
- This is a small figure of a man in the act of defecation.
- It usually appears in nativity scenes of Catalonia.
- Its name means the crapper.
- The figurine is depicted as a peasant, wearing the traditional Catalan red cap defecating.
- Its origins are unknown but there are stories of it being a local tradition since the 18th century.
- There are many opinions as to what it represents but the most popular one is the one that says that it is a sign of a person fertilizing the earth.
Tió de Nadal
- Its literal meaning in English – Christmas Log.
- It consists of a hollow log of about 30cm long that stands up on four stick legs and a face painted on it and a red sock hat.
- It is a character from the Catalan mythology.
- People that follow this tradition set their log up on December 8 and give it some food each night. They also cover him with a blanket.
- The story goes that in the days preceding Christmas, children must take good care of the log, keeping it warm and feeding it, so that it will poop presents on Christmas Day.
- On Christmas day or Christmas Eve the adults put it near the fire or heat it up while singing a song, asking him to poop.
- During this time the kids are in some other room praying for their presents.
- The presents normally consist of candies, nuts and turrones.