Barcelona’s City Hall, also called ‘Casa de la Ciutat’ (in English ‘the House of the City’) is situated in the Plaça de Sant Jaume, one of the most central points of the city so it’s therefore frequented by tourists and locals alike. Directly opposite the City Hall you will find another institutional building of great relevance, the Palau de la Generalitat de Catalunya (the Catalan government’s headquarters).
On the ground floor of the City Hall you’ll find a tourist information office, which you can access from the Carrer de la Ciutat, and which could help you greatly to find out all sorts of information about the city.
History and highlights of the City Hall
From the start of the 1st century BC leaders of what was then called Barcino met up here to discuss various issues relating to the city’s future. The current City Hall building started with the construction of the Saló de Cent in the mid-14th century. Soon afterwards the current lateral façade was built, whilst over the period of several centuries the building was gradually extended. Not taking into account the most recent annexe, which was completed in 1970, the last major reforms were those implemented by the architects Joaquim Vilaseca, Antoni Falguera and Adolf Florens in 1929, in which significant reconstructions of much of the building were carried out.
The function rooms
The gothic façade
The gothic façade of the city hall can be found at the side of the building, on Calle de la Ciutat. It dates back to 1399, when the well-known architect and foreman Arnau Bargués was charged with managing the project that the Consell de Cent (literally meaning ‘Council of One Hundred’, this was Barcelona’s municipal government at the time) commissioned. You can still see the gothic stained glass windows, as well as the coats of arms of the city, and of King Peter IV of Aragon (Pere el Cerimoniós).A CURIOSITY
It’s curious to see the old main entrance to the city hall cut off at one side; when the renovations to the current main entrance were carried out, the works that were needed on the old door were essentially botched, leaving a chunk taken out of the doorway which now forms part of history.
The neoclassic façade
During the major reform of the Plaça de Sant Jaume the neoclassic façade was constructed, which is now the main façade of the city hall. It’s very similar to that of the Palau de la Generalitat, which can be found right opposite. On each side of the entrance there are two sculptures, one of Rei Jaume I and the other of his adviser Joan Fiveller. If you look carefully, you’ll see a plaque on the façade that reads ‘Plaza de la Constitución’, a lasting memory of the former name of the square.
The City Hall’s courtyard is adorned with various sculptures by artists who were either born in Barcelona or had a long-standing relationship with the city. Amongst them, highlights include works by Antoni Miró, Josep Llimona, Pablo Gargallo, Manolo Hugué and Josep Maria Subirachs. On the right hand side, walking in through the main entrance on Plaza de Sant Jaume, you’ll see part of the former Trentenario Market (Llotja del Trentenari).
The Black Staircase
You will immediately realise why this staircase was given its name; it is made of black marble, which runs from the courtyard to the first floor, where a sculpture of Josep Viladomat and an imposing mural of the artist Miquel Valdrich can be found.
The staircase of honour
This is the other staircase that connects the courtyard with the first floor, specifically with the Gothic Gallery. Your attention will be drawn to the two tapestries and a stone shield, which used to stand in the Portal de Sant Antoni, which connected the current district of Sants with the walled city.
The Gothic Gallery
Situated on the first floor, the Gothic Gallery is visible from the courtyard as soon as you walk into the building. The gallery, crowned with various gargoyles from the 16th century, has a series of sustained arches and on one of the columns you can actually see the date etched in roman numerals, MDLXXVII (1577).
The Room of the Chronicles
This area was reformed in 1929, and highlights include the paintings on the walls and ceilings by the Catalan artist Josep Maria Sert. He wanted to represent an allegory of Catalunya, using the exploits of the Almogàvares who fought under the command of Roger de Flor.A CURIOSITY
In this room Josep Maria Sert wanted to depict a sort of magic box of optical illusions, and we can reassure you that he did indeed achieve it. To check, we recommend that when you enter the room you look at the base of the leaning tower that is painted on the roof, and while you keep looking, cross the room lengthways. You’ll see how the base of the tower straightens up bit by bit, until it finally starts to lean again, but this time in the opposite direction.
The Room of the Regent Queen
This is currently used as the plenary room of the City Hall. The origin of the construction of this room is quite interesting, because it was designed so that Queen Maria Cristina could have a space where she could drink tea with her friends, and so she went there from the hotel on La Rambla where she used to stay. The roof painting is a highlight – it’s completely original and represents Virtue, Industry and Energy. Other original elements include the candelabras, brought from Versailles by the Queen herself, and the fireplaces. The arch and the sculptures of Santa Eulàlia and Sant Jordi at the two sides were added later, as well as the wooden chairs that the City Hall’s councillors use during the plenary sessions.
El Saló de Cent (The Room of One Hundred)
Originally known as the Saló del Trentenari, the Saló de Cent was used for the meetings of the so-called Consell de Cent. Nowadays its use is reserved for the celebration of weddings and other special occasions. The original room dates back to 1639 and was the work of Pere Llobet, but few elements from this remain, as it has undergone many reforms over its 7-year history. Most of the room’s current elements were brought in by Lluís Domènech i Muntaner, who was enlisted to re-design and enlarge the room with the help of Josep Puig i Cadafalch, who was responsible for the large lights that hang from the ceiling. As an interesting aside, we should point out that Antoni Gaudí also entered the competition to carry out this work but his design wasn’t chosen.
The side door, dating back to the 17th century, was originally the main entrance to the room. When it was decided, centuries later, to turn it into a side door it was also turned round, so that the part that you now see inside the room used to be outside.
When can you visit Barcelona’s City Hall?
You can visit Barcelona’s City Hall every Sunday of the year, except when significant public holidays such as 25th December, 1st or 6th January fall on a Sunday. Although it’s not necessary to book your visit in advance, we do recommend contacting the City Hall before you go, just to check that it will be open.
You can choose to visit the building at your leisure, with the help of an informative leaflet, or you can go on one of the guided tours that are organised, something that we really do recommend so that you don’t miss out on any of the architectural details of the City Hall, and so that you find out as much as possible about the history of the building and a few anecdotes about it too. Entry to the City Hall is free of charge whichever way you choose to visit, and although you will usually be able to access the function rooms, you may find that one of them is closed for a private event when you visit.
Visits at your leisure
Opening hours: every Sunday from 10:00 to 13:30.
Leaflets: available in Spanish, Catalan and English.
In Spanish: Sundays at 10:30 and 12:00.
In Catalan: Sundays at 11:00, 11:30 and 12:30.
In English: Sundays at 10:00.
We recommend making a reservation in advance for group visits, by calling the following telephone numbers: (0034) 934.02.73.64 and (0034) 934.02.73.00.
12th February (Santa Eulàlia)
23rd April (Sant Jordi)
The open days usually run from 10:00 to 20:00, but if you can, we recommend going on one of the Sunday mornings and avoiding the open days, as you would probably have to queue to enter and you won’t enjoy the visit as much due to the large quantity of people who are likely to be there.
Plaça de Sant Jaume, Barcelona.
The detailed information can be found above.
On the days on which you can visit the City Hall, entry is free of charge.
How to get there?
Metro: Jaume I (línea 4) y Liceu (línea 3).
Autobuses: líneas 45, 120, V15, V17 y autobús turístico.
On foot: Located in one of the most central areas of the city, you can walk to the City Hall from anywhere in the centre of Barcelona.