Whoever said a famous city like Barcelona can’t have a secret side?
I know it could look like a contradiction to talk about something unknown in a well known city; and it seems just a catch phrase to attract tourists as well. For sure it does exist a hidden part of the city people -both tourists and inhabitants- don’t know anything about : underground Romanesque houses, maze of tunnels and old caves where Jewish used to hide during persecutions. Let’s find it out together!
Once Barcelona was just a castrum, an encampment where a part of the ancient roman army resided. Its name was exactly Barcino and during the years it became so important that it gained a fundamental role in the maritime trades of the Roman Empire. Right in the underground part of the Ciutat Vella, the historic core of the city, you can still see the ruins of the old town : just looking at these you can have an idea about the everyday life during the roman empire. While walking through these ruins you can come into contact with a civilization that contributed to create Barcelona as it is nowadays.
Spanish Civil War Refuges
In1937 Barcelona was bombed for the first time, during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), by Franco’s army. In that period, to face the unfavourable conditions, people created the “Junta de Defensa Pasiva”, that Is to say a sort of council whose aim was to protect civilians’ life. They started to use the underground parts of palaces and the subway network to take shelter, then, when the bombing increased, they started to build actual refuges thanks to the collaboration of the majority of the citizens. Some of these refuges can still be visited like the Air-raid shelter no.202 and Refuge no.307 in Poble Sec.
The former is located in Plaça del Diamant, one of the most attractive squares in Gracia district. By visiting this place you can really feel the drama of one of the worst events in the Spanish history. The latter is made by a series of labyrinths and tunnels dug into the ground and testify how people were forced to live, defenceless, during civil war bombings.
These bunkers were equipped with anything people could need during everyday life, in order to allow them to take shelter for long periods : toilettes, rooms for children, an infirmary and a water spring directly supplied from Montjuïc Mountain.
A visit to the Sewage Pipe could appear something not really interesting. Undoubtedly, it is a basic structure for a city to operate and if you know how it works, maybe, you can get to know better the place in which you live -or you are visiting-. Whether you are interested in architecture, city planning, engineering or just to satisfy your curiosity, you should enjoy this visit!
This is the most hidden secret among all those Barcelona guards below the grounds. Along the subway network you can find these ghost stations, whose main characteristic is that no train has ever stopped there and no passenger has ever passed through.
Created to cut the distances between the still existing stops, unfortunately they can’t be visited; but if you pay close attention you could get to see them through the windows while travelling by underground.
Clearly, you can appreciate Barcelona visiting its main highlights; you can join a tour to Sagrada Familia, to Park Güell, to Casa Milá or Casa Battló, and everything interesting you can find around Barcelona. Or you can just have a tapas tour to taste this characteristic way of eating. After all like every other city in the world Barcelona offers so many things to do.
But here, my only goal was to suggest you something unusual and peculiar you would have never discovered without a hint! Walking through the past can make you feel a little bit closer to the authentic culture thanks to which, the civilization, developed as we know it. Still hesitating?