Barcelona may be a bustling and modern city these days, often characterised by the amazing Art Nouveau architecture of the early 1900’s. However, when you look a little deeper, Barcelona also has a rich ancient history; once you know where to look you will start discovering it throughout the ancient streets of the old town.
The city of Barcelona, called Barcino by the Romans, was founded by the Roman empire at the end of the 1st Century and began to grow from there. The colony had around 1000 inhabitants and was bound by a defensive wall. Below is a list of the eight Roman spots in the city that you can’t miss, for an amazing historical tour of this ancient city.
Museu d’Història de Barcelona (MUHBA)
Open since 1943, the Museu d’Història de Barcelona is a great and interactive way to explore the ancient Roman ruins of the city. Spread throughout the city, most of the major historical points of interest are part of this wondrous and free open-air museum.
Below Plaça del Rei square, you will find 4000 m2 of archaeological remains, where you can walk along the ancient Roman streets. Here you also can expect to see intriguing objects found during archeological digs, such as ancient Roman busts and Roman inscribed ceramics, giving you a real taste of what life may have been like back then.
Plaça del Rei, 7-9
MUHBA Temple d’August
Inside a small medieval courtyard, you will be able to find the remains of what was once the Temple d’August; four upright pillars. This was the main temple of the Roman colony, and has been dated back to the 1st Century BC, as a place of worship for the Roman Empire. This building stood at the centre of the Forum and looked down on the city due to its placement on a small podium, at the top of what was formally a small hill known as Mons Taber.
Carrer Paradís, 10
Plaça de Sant Jaume
The centre of all activity, Placa de Sant Jaume used to be the Roman Forum, an arcaded square that was surrounded by the city’s main buildings. Forming a cross, the forum was the axis between two streets of importance, the “cardus maximus” and “decomanus maximus”. The square was also the site of a market, where goods from all over the Mediterranean were bought and sold.
This is the former site of one of Barcelona’s gates and so can be a good look at the ancient remains of the historic Roman city wall and aqueduct. The two towers that can be seen here are clear signs of the way carriages and pedestrians entered in and out of the city.
Casa de l’Ardiaca
Whilst this site doesn’t showcase the original, it’s possible to see a modern replica of one of the city’s aqueducts, which can give you a good idea of how the city used to function. This spot also marked the start of one of the main Roman roads.
Carrer de Santa Llúcia, 1
Plaça Vila de Madrid and Via Sepulcral Romana
Situated outside of the city’s walled precinct, here you will find 70 tombs from the city’s ancient necropolis, revealing just how Roman’s built their cemeteries. You can walk above these tombs, along Via Sepulcral Romana, to get the best view of these ancient relics.
Plaça Ramon Berenguer
Here, among the epic background of the Gothic chapel, you will be able to find a section of ancient Roman wall, dating back to the early 4th century AD. Look closely and you will find that the wall was constructed of materials from other buildings, as a reinforcement for the original wall built in the 1st Century BC.
Museu d’Arqueologia de Catalunya
If you want a true exploration of the old Roman city of Barcino, head to the Museu d’Arqueologia de Catalunya where you will be able to find over a million original pieces that take you on a journey through the history of Barcelona, including the establishment of the Roman Empire. This includes collections of items from the Roman times.
Passeig de Santa Madrona, 39
Once you start walking around Barcelona, you will be able to find these points and get lost in your exploration of the ancient history of the city.