A fortification with more than 2,000 years of history
Barcelona has preserved towers, gates and fragments of the city walls that the Romans erected in the 3rd century to ward off invaders. In the Gothic Quarter you can see the entrance to the Roman Decumanus Maximus and two impressive defensive towers, in addition to a section of Roman wall to which Gothic vaults were added in the Middle Ages.
Why visit the Roman wall?
The new wall or second wall of Barcino, to which the remains you can now see belonged, was built over the first one, which had been erected in the 1st century BC. The first incursions made by the Franks and the Alemanni in the middle of the 3rd century made it necessary to reinforce the walls, and further improvements to Barcino’s fortifications were implemented at the behest of Emperor Claudius II.
At the turn of the 4th century, Barcelona erected a double wall that was up to 8 metres thick at some points and had 70 to 80 two-storey watch towers that were some 18 metres tall, the majority of which had a rectangular base while the ten located at the portals had a semi-circular base. These gateways had three openings: the wider central one was for carriages and the two smaller side doors were for pedestrians. The top floor of the towers had Roman arch windows to protect the settlement from potential invaders. This large number of towers in a relatively small perimeter wall, measuring 1,220 to 1,350 metres, led to Barcelona being known as ‘The Crowned City’.
One of the places where you can contemplate the gates of the wall, which were flanked by towers at a distance of up to 10 metres, is Plaça Nova, next to Barcelona Cathedral. There you can see the Porta Praetoria, known as the Portal del Bisbe or Bishop’s Gate in the middle ages, which provided access to the city when it was a Roman colony known as "Iulia Augusta Faventia Paterna Barcino via the Decumanus Maximus". The height of the two cylindrical towers from the Roman wall that flank the gate was increased in the 12th century.
For a unique view of the second Roman wall go to Plaça de Ramon Berenguer el Gran, which is the confluence of the Gothic, medieval and Roman cities, where there is a stretch of the wall from the early 4th century. This fragment is particularly interesting because you can see the superposition of medieval vaults over the Roman wall. In this square you can also find an equestrian statue by Josep Llimona of Ramon Berenguer III, known as the Great, who was the Count of Barcelona from 1096 to 1131. During the reign of Peter the Ceremonious, in the 14th century, a royal chapel dedicated to Saint Agatha was built in the Gothic style using the Roman wall as its foundations.
How do you get to the Roman Wall?
From the Barri Gòtic stop on the Red Route of Barcelona Bus Turístic you can reach Plaça de Ramon Berenguer el Gran from Via Laietana.
For the most curious of you
- Did you know? You can trace the path of the Roman wall, which is sometimes visible and sometimes hidden, by following this route: Plaça Nova, Avinguda de la Catedral, Carrer de la Tapineria, Plaça de l’Àngel, Carrer del Sots Tinent Navarro, Plaça dels Traginers, Carrer del Correu Vell, Carrer de l’Hostal d’en Sol, Carrer del Regomir, Carrer d’en Gignàs, Carrer d’Avinyó, Carrer dels Banys Nous and Carrer de la Palla.
- Local’s tip: If you want to discover the least well-known fragments of the wall, visit the City Historic Archives on Carrer de Santa Llúcia. If you cross the courtyard, you will run into the internal part of the wall. The courtyard of the Pati Llimona old people’s centre at Carrer del Correu Vell, 5 contains an imposing section of the wall and if you enter the Hall of Ruins in the Terme building of the Pati Llimona civic centre, you can see some 17 metres of wall, including one of the pedestrian entrances, which is known as Porta del Regomir.
- A must: To take a trip back in time to the origins of the city of Barcelona.
Discover other places of interest
Barcelona Bus Turístic takes you to Barcelona's most essential attractions. These are just a few of the places you simply must see.