Plaça de Sant Jaume | Barcelona Bus Turístic

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Plaça de Sant Jaume

The old Roman forum is still the administrative centre of Barcelona

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Located at the crossroads of the Cardo Maximus and Decumanus Maximus, the main streets of Roman Barcelona, Plaça de Sant Jaume is home to the Government of Catalonia and Barcelona City Council. The former is located in a Gothic palace with a Renaissance facade flanked by four Doric columns from the 2nd century and the latter has two different facades, the main one in the Neoclassical style and the secondary one in the Gothic style.

What to see at Plaça de Sant Jaume?

Plaça de Sant Jaume is the result of an urban renovation undertaken in 1823, which demolished various houses in addition to the parish church of Sant Jaume and its cemetery to create a large square. It was home from the 15th century to Casa de la Ciutat (City Hall) and the seat of the Catalan Courts, the body that preceded the present-day Generalitat de Catalunya (Government of Catalonia). This space has therefore been the centre of power in Barcelona and the Catalan court since the Middle Ages.

The Gothic building of the Palau de la Generalitat started to be built around 1410, when the Catalan Courts, founded in 1283 to represent the country’s three political powers (the nobility, the church, and the good men who represented the people), acquired two houses on Carrer de Sant Honorat to build a palace to meet with the king to write laws. The two houses, Casa del Consell (House of the Council) and Casa dels Oïdors (House of the Judges), were united by a garden on Carrer del Bisbe, closed by a beautiful facade, constructed in 1416 by the architect Marc Safont.

In the 16th century the building was expanded several times and it was then when the Gothic gallery, the Sant Honorat structure and the Chapel of Sant Jordi, an excellent example of flamboyant Gothic architecture, which subsequently became the Saló de Sant Jordi, were built. Further expansions were undertaken after 1526: the Pati dels Tarongers (a courtyard named for its orange trees), the Cambra Daurada (a room decorated with a golden theme), the bell tower, and the facade, whose construction started in 1597 and was inspired by the Palazzo Farnese in Rome.

The Palau de la Generalitat did not change much until the 20th century, when new facilities were opened and commissions for various paintings and sculptures were given to renowned artists like Joaquin Torres García and Antoni Tàpies, one of whose works presides over the government’s conference room.

The city council building, located on the south side of the square, was also constructed over several centuries. Its origins date back to the second half of the 14th century, when the Consell de Cent (Council of One Hundred), the city’s government body founded by James I in 1274, commissioned the architect Pere Llobet to undertake the work. The building included the imposing Saló de Cent, where the council met, and a Gothic courtyard, dating from 1391. In the 16th century its first modifications were made, like the addition of an exchange in 1559, but the biggest change was the construction of the Neoclassical facade, which was completed in 1847, forever altering the original idea, as from then the entrance was on Plaça de Sant Jaume. Over time, City Hall has grown to include the Saló de Cròniques, a room housing the city’s annals, featuring drawings by Josep Lluís Sert; a grand staircase from the vestibule to the Gothic gallery; the interior ‘black staircase’; and the Saló de la Reina Regent (Hall of the Queen Regent) (1860), where the plenary sessions of the city council are held.

 

How do you get to Plaça de Sant Jaume?

The Barri Gòtic stop on the Red Route of Barcelona Bus Turístic is a good starting point to explore the district. If you continue along Via Laietana and turn onto Carrer de Jaume I, you will reach the square.

 

For the most curious of you

  • Did you know? On Carrer del Bisbe there is a skybridge that joins the Palau de la Generalitat to the Casa dels Canonges, the official residence of the President of the Government of Catalonia. It is one of the elements most photographed by visitors, many of whom do not know that it is in actual fact a neo-Gothic addition from 1928.

  • Local’s tip: The Palau de la Generalitat can be seen on the second and fourth weekends of each month on a free guided visit that you need to book online via the website. City Hall is open on Sundays from 10 am to 2 pm. and a number of open days are also held throughout the year.

  • A must: To stand in the true centre of Barcelona, where the Roman forum was located.