Square of St Jaume

Plaça Sant Jaume

Square of St Jaume (or Saint James’s Square) has for a long time been the centre of the Gothic Quarter. This square is almost as ancient as the city of Barcelona: it started its life as the Roman forum. Square of St Jaume has always been and still remains the focus of Barcelona’s civic life. Facing each other across the square are Generalitat of Catalonia (the Palau de la Generalitat, seat of Catalonia’s regional government) on the north side, and the town hall (Ajuntament or Casa de la Ciutat) to the south.

Already back in the 13th century Parliament of Catalonia established the permanently functioning Council Generalitat which later was transformed into government. The impressive old façade of Generalitat building, constructed in the 15th century, faces Carrer del Bisbe and is adorned with the bas-relief of St George, the region's patron saint. One of the ceremonial halls is also dedicated to Saint George or Sant Jordi, this is how Catalans call their patron. Major masterpieces of the palace are considered to be the Gothic orangery (Pati dels Tarongers) and the Golden Council Chamber (Sala Daurada i de Sessions), a splendid meeting hall lit up by huge chandeliers. The modern main entrance on Square of St Jaume is a late-Renaissance job of the 16th century with neoclassical leanings.

Generalitat Palace is open on limited occasions only: the second and fourth Sundays of the month, plus 23 April (St George’s Day), 11 and 24 September (Catalonia Day and Our Lady or Mercy Day).

The main 19th-century neoclassical facade of Barcelona Town Hall that faces the square was built in 1847 after being badly damaged in a bombardment in 1843. The original, now disused, entrance of the 15th century on Carrer de la Ciutat that retained its Gothic ornament is hard to notice but really worth seeing. Inside, the Saló de Cent is the hall in which the town council once held its plenary sessions. The broad vaulting is pure Catalan Gothic and the artesonado (wooden ceiling with interlaced beams) demonstrates fine work. The following ceremonial halls are opened for visitors every Sunday without prior booking: Saló de la Reina Regent (the hall of queen the regent) where town hall seats and Saló de les Cròniques (the chronicles hall) with beautiful frescoes devoted to Barcelona challenging supremacy in the Mediterranean. Square of St Jaume is also the place that regularly attracts fans of the Football Club Barcelona, loud victories of the club are usually celebrated at the square.

Address: Plaça Sant Jaume
How to reach: metro Jaume I, Liceu
Coordinates: 41.382766, 2.177031