Just as medieval and modern heritage is significant in large areas of Barcelona, the last vestiges of Roman civilisation are not as well known as they should be in the city. Nicknamed as Barcino, the Catalan capital was a colony that arose in times of the Roman founder Octavio Augusto and slowly gained size in parallel with the construction of various public places. The following are the most interesting of those preserved today.
San Jaime Plaza, which now houses the headquarters of Generalitat de Cataluña and Barcelona City Council, was established as the forum of Barcino. Following the usual urban plan in the imperial era, the forum was located right in the centre of a perfect grid, which today corresponds roughly with Barcelona's Gótico Quarter. Very close to this point, on Paraíso Street, the Temple of Augusto is situated. In fact, only three columns remain of what was probably one of the most important religious buildings of the city.
Photo: Plaça de Sant Jaume / Plaza de San Jaime
Without straying too far, in Plaza de Ramón Berenguer el Grande there is a section of the Roman wall that is still intakt. This is one of the most important monuments of the period. This protected structure is perfectly integrated in the contemporary urban theme of the city and has several terraced buildings. The most striking is undoubtedly the section that corresponds to the old gates to the city, popularly known in Barcelona as Portal del Obispo, because it stands at the end of Obispo Street.
The next stop prompts us to take a few steps towards the Portal del Obispo. The Barcelona City History Museum (El Museo de Historia de Barcelona) (MUHBA) is always a recommended visit but in the case of Barcino, one could say that this is a must-see tour to take. Not surprisingly, besides the notable collections of Roman remains among other civilisations, the basement of the building houses a large archaeological area open to the public. In fact, it is considered Europe's largest Roman underground excavation.
And finally, it is not possible to learn about the Roman Barcelona without visiting the deathly path of Plaza de la Villa de Madrid. This will direct us towards Rambla de Canaletas. Also called the necropolis of Barcelona, this morbid complex was built on the outskirts of Barcino and now virtually defines the western edge of Barcelona's old town. With as many as 85 graves having been discovered, the complex is now practically an open-air museum.