Plaça de Sant Jaume, a thousand-year-old icon of Catalan political power
Plaça de Sant Jaume is located in the heart of the Gothic Quarter and represents the political and social centre of Barcelona, as it is home to two of the most important institutional buildings in Catalonia: the Barcelona City Council and the Palau de la Generalitat. Visited daily by many tourists, the square serves—due to its central location—as a link with other iconic spaces of the Catalan capital, such as the Cathedral, the Rambla, the Mercat de la Boqueria and El Born, among many others.
In addition, its diaphanous esplanade is used throughout the year as a venue for numerous events, including concerts and activities during La Mercè festival, Festes de Santa Eulàlia, traditional Christmas nativity scenes, citizen demonstrations and football victory celebrations. Of course, it is also the location for the legendary castells: human towers rising several floors high that date back at least two centuries, and which have been recognised in 2006 by UNESCO as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
The orings of the plaça de Sant Jaume
It is surprising to discover that the Plaça de Sant Jaume carries out the same political function today that it did more than two thousand years ago. This is because its territory covers the Palau and the City Council, and an equivalent institution was located there in Roman times: the forum, the quintessential political centre of Barcino—the Roman name for Barcelona. Furthermore, if we take a look at the map of Barcelona’s historic centre, we can see that the square is located in the traditional cardus maximus meeting point (current intersection between Llibreteria and Call streets) and the decumanus maximus (now Carrer de la Ciutat and Carrer del Bisbe), the main access roads to the old Roman camp. Although almost all the material of that time has been lost, today we can still see the remains of the Augustus temple that presided over the area. It consists of four Roman columns housed in No. 10 of the nearby Carrer del Paradís, today converted into a subsidiary of the Museu d’Història de Barcelona (MUHBA).
Another interesting story is the number of names that this square has been called. Its current name comes from a former church—Esglèsia de Sant Jaume—erected in its esplanade during the Middle Ages, and whose demolition in 1823 caused by a fire led to the remodelling and inauguration of the square that we know today. However, before that it had other names, such as Plaça de la Constitució, its first, and Plaça de la República, during the brief period of the Second Spanish Republic.
In any case, what nobody can doubt is the strong Catalan symbolism that this square has preserved since time immemorial. To name only some historical events that occurred here, a Catalan State was proclaimed here in 1931. Josep Tarradellas was received here in 1977, following his exile. And, of course, the multitudinous celebrations of FC Barcelona victories have often taken place in this square.
The two most important buidings in the plaça
As we mentioned, the main protagonists of this square are, today, the City Council and the Palau de la Generalitat de Catalunya buildings.
The first, also known as the Casa de la Ciutat, is closest to the sea, and its historical origins can be found in the Consell de Cent, the autonomous governmental institution of Barcelona, in force during the thirteenth to seventeenth centuries. That is why its structure dates from 1369, despite the many subsequent renovations that it has undergone over the centuries. Its main façade—where the clock hangs—is of Neo-classical style, from the renovations it received in 1847, during the general remodelling of the square. On the other hand, the façade that faces Carrer de la Ciutat, has fortunately been able to retain its original appearance, and is a fantastic example of Barcelona’s Gothic style at that time.
For its part, the Palau de la Generalitat, seat of the Presidency of the Government of Catalonia, also dates from the fourteenth century. So much so, that nowadays it is considered one of the few medieval buildings in Europe that still retains the seat of the government that ordered it to be built. One hundred and twenty-eight Catalan presidents have sat here, from Berenguer de Cruïlles in 1359. Its main façade, built in Renaissance style, dates all the way back to 1596 and many similarities can be found and traced to the Campidoglio of Rome, taken as a model during its construction.
And the two columns of Trojan origin that support the main balcony, brought from Tarragona in medieval times to decorate the palace, are a marvel. As is the iconic sculpture of Sant Jordi, placed here in 1872, representing the moment the Roman soldier became a saint, fighting a fearsome dragon.
Activities around the plaça
Finally, it should be noted that a visit to the Plaça de Sant Jaume means also visiting many other important spaces in the Catalan capital. Its location in the heart of the old town allows you to connect with other emblematic neighbourhoods such as the Jewish Quarter El Call, among whose narrow and winding streets lies one of the oldest synagogues in Europe, the Sinagoga Major de Barcelona [the Ancient Synagogue of Barcelona].
Similarly, the nearby Plaça del Rei, less than five minutes’ walk from the Plaça de Sant Jaume, offers the opportunity to visit an impressive Roman site. 4,000 square metres of archaeological remains that allow the visitor to experience the streets of Roman Barcelona, almost touch the ancient city walls and enter a launderette from the second century AD.
Carrer del Bisbe, one of the legendary streets that overlaps the Roman decumanus, connects the Plaça de Sant Jaume with the Catedral de la Santa Creu i Santa Eulàlia, and leads towards a beautiful Gothic bridge that is very representative of the neighbourhood in which it is located.
St. James Square (Plaça de Sant Jaume) – What To Know BEFORE You Go
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Top activities in Barcelona
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Find the Palau de la Generalitat on the north side of St. James Square and the Barcelona City Hall on the south side. Both buildings can be visited at designated times on a guided tour. The square is also a popular staging area for festivals, protests, demonstrations, and celebrations.
St. James Square features on many sightseeing tours of Barcelona, including tours of the Gothic Quarter, walking tours, and tours by bike, e-bike, Segway, car, and hop-on hop-off bus. Combine a stop here with other popular city attractions, such as La Sagrada Familia or Park Güell. And consider popular add-ons such as a cable car ride up Montjuic, a cog-wheel train ride on Montserrat, or a wine, jamon, or tapas tasting.
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Things to Know Before You Go
The square is ideal for history buffs and architecture fans.
Wear comfortable shoes to navigate the cobblestone plaza.
A tourism office is located on the ground floor of Barcelona City Hall.
St. James Square and some of the surrounding buildings are wheelchair-accessible.
How to Get There
St. James Square is located at the center of the Gothic Quarter. By metro, take line 4 to Jaume I or line 3 to Liceu. A number of buses also stop nearby, including the 45, 59, 91, 120, and the hop-on hop-off bus.
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When to Get There
St. James Square can be visited at any time. Stop by on Sundays to see the Sardana, a traditional Catalan dance. Visit during the Christmas period to view the Nativity Scene, a Barcelona tradition. Barcelona City Hall is open for tours on Sundays, February 12, April 23, and June 4. The Palau de la Generalitat is open for tours on the second and fourth weekend of every month (except August), April 23, September 11, and September 24.
Historical Events at Plaça Sant Jaume
The square has been the site of some of the most important events in recent Catalan history. It was here that the Catalan State declared its independence in 1931, and that former President Josep Tarradellas announced his return from exile in 1977.
Frequently Asked Questions
The answers provided below are based on answers previously given by the tour provider to customers’ questions.
What are the nearest attractions to St. James Square (Plaça de Sant Jaume)?
Attractions near St. James Square (Plaça de Sant Jaume):
- Catalan Regional Government Building (Palau de la Generalitat de Catalunya)
- Gothic Quarter (Barri Gotic)
- Barcelona City Hall (Casa de la Ciutat)
What else should I know about attractions in Barcelona?
As well as visiting the St. James Square (Plaça de Sant Jaume), check out these trip ideas to make the most of your visit:
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Saint James Square (Sant Jaume) – The main sights of Barcelona
Saint James Square in Barcelona. Address of Saint James Square in Barcelona. How to get to Saint James Square in Barcelona.
Saint James’s Square (Plaça de Sant Jaume/Saint James’s Square) is the central square of the capital of Catalonia. This old square has retained the status of the heart of Barcelona since the founding of Barcelona.
The square is located in the historical part of the city in a Gothic-style quarter, not far from the apse of the main cathedral.
In former times, Barcino Square (the original name of Barcelona) was a small area formed by the intersection of Carrer de la Ciutat / Carrer del Bisbe (Decumanus and) and Carrer de la Llibreteria / Carrer del Call (Cardus) streets.
But in 1823, Sant Jaume was significantly expanded due to the transfer of the church of St. James along with the church cemetery to Carrer de Ferran street and the demolition of some buildings. As a result, the square acquired a modern look, which we can admire today.
During its centuries-old history, Sant Jaume has changed its name more than once, as evidenced by a commemorative plaque on the Barcelona administration building.
Today, St. James’s Square has become the center of national holidays and major national events. It is here that you can watch an amazing sight – the so-called towers of people who build castellers on holidays.
There are many interesting sights around the square, for example: the building of the city hall, the magnificent government palace, the cathedral, the Basilica of St. Pastor and St. Justus, the church of St. Felip Neri, the Diocesan Museum, the museum of the sculptor Frederic Mares, the royal palace, the shoe museum.
You can get to the square by metro (station Jaume). A comfortable bus touristic bus (ruta vermella line) will take you to the final destination.
- Plaça St Jaume n/n Barcelona, Spain
To visually see the location of the square on the map, you must enter the following coordinates in the Google Map search box:
- 41.382686, 2.177008.
You can get there by private transport thanks to
- GPS navigator: 41°22′57.67″N 2°10′37.23″E.
Saint James Square is open to the public around the clock.
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Barcelona, Sant Jaume square – Excursions in Barcelona guides prices
Barcelona – travel guide
14th enero 2021
Barcelona, Sant Jaume (Saint James Square). Sights of Barcelona, Gothic Quarter. Sights of Barcelona. History of Sant Jaume Square. Notes from your guide. Gothic quarter around the Cathedral.
You can find Sant Jaume Square in Barcelona empty and deserted. Or maybe it will be filled to the maximum with crowds of people. Because Saint James Square is the nerve center of Barcelona. And it has been going on for more than two thousand years. Of course, these places were inhabited so long ago that
hard to imagine.
But in 218 BC, the Romans came here. And it was they who planned the place of the future settlement so that the current square of Sant Jaume became the center. Because there are two intersecting
direct main streets: Decumanus and Cardus. The Temple of Augustus was placed at the intersection.
Barcelona Gothic QuarterBarcelona, Plaza Sant Jaume
Only four columns remained from the Temple of Augustus. You can find them near Sant Jaume Square and Barcelona Cathedral. Address:
Paradis street N10.
The highest point of Taber Hill is also located here. The Romans chose it as the starting point for the planning of the city of Colonia Julia Augusta Favensia Patena Barcino. However, such a long name
suggests that the Roman settlement of Barcino was an absolute hole.
But over time, Barcelona – a former Roman settlement – managed to overtake many other cities, flourished and became the capital of Catalonia. And also one of the most touristic cities in the world. But the larger the city, the greater the passions seething in it. Therefore, historically, the area has become the hottest
point of Barcelona.
Gothic Quarter of Barcelona
But the larger the city, the greater the passions seething in it. Therefore, historically, the square has become the hottest spot in Barcelona. Moreover, over time, two important buildings appeared here. This is the House
Governments (Generalitat) and City Hall of Barcelona (Ayuntamento).
The way “Plaça Sant Jaume” looks like today, the inhabitants of Barcelona could see only since 1823. It was then that it was rebuilt and received the name Constitution Square. At the same time
widened Rue Ferrand. After the houses and monastery were demolished and the church of Sant Jaume moved to Rue Ferran, a new political heart of Barcelona was born. By the way, small
the cemetery remained under the masonry of the square.
The Generalitat de Catalunya is the building of the Government of Catalonia. The president and parliament sit here. But the first Cortes – church, military and people’s chambers – have existed since the 13th century. They
exercised legislative and council functions. You can read more about the building of the Generalitat here.
At the moment, 2020-2021, a police van with riot police is constantly on duty near the building of the Generalitat. The entrance itself is cordoned off with protective partitions. Because they often come here
protesters. The fact is that government decisions and corruption have long bothered ordinary residents.
The next interesting building is located opposite the Generalitat. This is the City Hall of Barcelona. But, like the previous one, the Town Hall building is much more interesting inside than outside. Also, often in the internal
courtyard, exhibitions are organized. You will recognize the city hall by the presence of a clock on the facade and two sculptures: Jaime I and the councilor Joan Fiveller.
The town hall has its origins in 1369 when the Salo de Sainte was built to equip it for the members of the council. On Carrer de la Ciutat, the Gothic façade has been preserved. Main façade completed
in the neoclassical style of 1847.
Barcelona City Hall
It is interesting that the first meetings of the city council, for lack of a building, were held on the semicircular steps of the Royal Palace, on the King’s Square.
Castels are held several times a year in Piazza Sant Jaume. Building “towers of people” – castels, is an old Catalan tradition. In 2006, UNESCO recognized castels
intangible heritage of mankind.
The skill of castellers in the square can be seen on the holidays of Sant Joan (June 23), Merce (September 24, but the holidays last a week) and Diada (September 11). But that doesn’t mean that
in other places in Barcelona and Catalonia you will not be able to watch the performances of the castellers.
Both men and women, and even children, participate in castels. Because people closing the very top should be very light. And these are children about 5-6 years old. Moreover, castellers are ordinary people, and
not gymnasts. They are so passionate about their hobby that they perform with their whole families. Each team has its own uniform color. But at the bottom of the tower all the teams always line up. This is done in order to
to make a protective field with their bodies if the tower suddenly collapses.