Ciutat Vella is the part of the city that everyone who has been to Barcelona probably knows better. Meaning “Old City”, it is the historical centre, house of many of the landmarks of the Catalan city.
Ciutat Vella is the original core of Barcelona. Born as Barcino, it was surrounded by the Roman Walls, now almost completely disappeared.
The district includes four barrios: Gotico, Santa-Caterina/Born, Raval, and Barceloneta.
The Gothic Quarter
The Barrio Gotico is the oldest part of the historical city centre. Its oldest areas, on a small hill, were settled during the reign of Roman emperor Augustus two thousand years ago.
Those days, the Forum Romanum was at the actual location of Plaça de Sant Jaume. It marked the centre of the Roman colony of Barcino. Today, Barcelona’s most powerful institutions are still residing on the same square: the city hall of Barcelona (in the Ayuntamiento de Barcelona palace) and the government of Catalonia (in the Palau de la Generalitat).
The Barrio Gotico stretches from Plaza de Catalunya to Port Vell (the old port). It contains some of the main landmarks of Barcelona: the wonderful Gothic Cathedral, Las Ramblas, Barcelona’s most famous boulevard, and several museums. What remains from the old Roman Walls can still be seen in the Barrio Gotico side of Via Laietana, large avenue that separates the Gothic Quarter from the area of El Born.
A lot of picturesque plazas can be found around the charming narrow lanes of the Barrio Gotico, including the beautiful Plaza Reial, only square in real “Spanish” style.
Plaza de Catalunya, Paseo de Gracia, and any other part of the old city are at short walking distance.
The sea and the beach at Barceloneta are also close.
Transport links are excellent with several underground lines (L1, L2, L3, L4 all stop in several locations), train lines, buses, and the shuttle to/from the international airport that stops in Plaza Catalunya.
The area offers countless restaurants, bars, and cafes, often with outdoor terraces where it is possible to enjoy a drink or a meal all year long. There are many small boutiques, and all kind of souvenir shops.
It is, however, more difficult to find grocery stores and large supermarkets, or services such as gyms and schools, cannibalised by the huge number of shops dedicated to tourists.
The Properties in the Barrio Gotico
Buying a property in the Barrio Gotico and in all the other old areas of the city (but especially Gotico and Borne), means buying not just a flat but a piece of the history of Barcelona. Indeed, several of the buildings are listed as part of the patrimony of the city.
Barcelona takes very good care of its heritage and by law each single building has to undergo regular technical inspections. Do not forget to check this during the purchase process.
This care for the original architecture and the fact that the Barrio Gotico was the first of the areas of the historical centre to be restored, makes it easy to find old buildings already renovated and in general good conditions.
The typical Barrio Gotico property has wooden beams on the vaulted ceiling (what is called Catalan vaulted ceiling), small balconies to the street (French balconies), and many small rooms that can possibly be rearranged into wider spaces with a good renovation. Often the Catalan vaulted ceiling is hidden behind a fake ceiling added at some point in the past. It is usually possible to recover the original beams, and if you like a property with a lot of character, this is something else you should check while visiting the property.
It is sometimes possible to find, behind the paint, the original bricks or stones, which are particularly appealing to foreign investors and add a lot of character to the property.
In buildings created between the XIX and the XX Century we can also sometimes find the original hydraulic floor, which, when in good condition or recovered, represents one of the most valuable and attractive original features of a flat.
Some beautifully renovated properties are offered for sale and often represent great opportunities. If you are not ready to embark in a renovation process that can be very satisfying but also quite long due to all the authorisations needed and the obvious challenges of working in such old buildings, a newly renovated property is the best solution. Some flats offer a mix of modern design and classic features that make them unique and very valuable. Be careful to check the quality of the renovation though! It is not rare to be offered flats that have been “cosmetically updated” but not entirely and well refurbished. This may result in problems that come up a few months after the purchase and require to redo parts of the flat (electric system, kitchen, pipes, etc.). It happened to some of my clients who did not purchase with me and were sold a “fully renovated flat”… We can help you assess the quality of the renovation before you commit to the purchase.
Back to the features of the properties in this area, it is hard to find buildings with lifts (although easier than in other areas such as Barceloneta and the Raval), or terraces. Additionally, many streets are narrow and the flats on the lowest floors do not enjoy much light, which is part of the character of the old city.
Often flats in the Barrio Gotico have no heating or air conditioning, but this is easy to sort out. There are different possibilities to add heating or a/c depending on the flat and the type of building.
Some buildings may have a communal terrace on top, which, in the vast majority of the cases, no one uses except the foreigners. Having a communal terrace is a nice plus as it offers an outdoor space to relax during the day or the hot summer nights, often with a nice view on the roofs of the old city centre. Check that the terrace is accessible, though, as some communities forbid its use.
As far as the rental potential is concerned, a property in the Barrio Gotico would rent out very easily. It may take longer if it is a high floor without lift (5th floor) or if the building is in not in good conditions, but usually renting out properties in this area is never a problem.
Prices in Ciutat Vella
The average price per m2 in the district of Ciutat Vella has decreased slightly over the past year but it is now back to the values of Q3 2018 (source Habitaclia, October 2019).
The current price per m2 of 4.969,97 € is the average of the prices in the four quarters, which includes lower prices in Barceloneta and the Raval, and higher prices in the Barrio Gotico and the Born.
In the Gothic, the price per m2 of a nicely renovated flat can easily reach 7.000 € to 8.000 €. It is more than this if the building itself is refurbished or if the flat is in a particularly good location, or has a terrace, or unique historical or artistic features. In this case do not be surprised to see apartments offered at 9.000 € or 10.000 € per m2 or even more.
It is, however, still possible to find more affordable properties between 3.500 € and 4.500 € per m2 although they may need work and cannot be comparable in terms of quality, location and unique features.
You can have a look at the Barrio Gotico at this link.