In the Depths of Barcelona's Gothic Quarter: Museu Frederic Mares

Located just off La Rambla, Barcelona’s tourist hotspot, you would think that the city’s Gothic Quarter would be full of tourists and tacky shops. Not so. If you delve into the winding alleyways and cobbled courtyards, you are bound to find a surprise waiting for you around every corner; buskers playing local music, soaring cathedrals, delicious restaurants serving the finest array of tapas dishes and, perhaps most surprisingly, outdoor exhibitions like the Museu Frederic Mares.

I stumbled upon it by chance. In fact, I was very lost and was trying to navigate my way around the labyrinth of narrow streets. During my foray of the Gothic Quarter, I had already paid witness to numerous lively bands performing to an arc of onlookers, a picturesque courtyard complete with a fountain and lush greenery, and numerous cathedrals that popped up without warning. At this point, I thought I had seen it all.

Then I turned a corner. On my left stood a tall cathedral with visitors pouring out and to my right lay a particularly unobtrusive courtyard entrance. Seeing the crocodile-line of tourists at the cathedral mouth, I hedged my bets and went in the opposite direction.

At first the courtyard seemed to be just like the others – pretty, but essentially empty with a few green plants dotted around to break up the monotony of the cobblestones. But the courtyard extended out to the back, with a mish-mash of plinths featuring strange, cartoon-like sculptures.

Exploring further through some archways, I came across yet more of these quirky faces, each placed strategically at the edges of the courtyards.

It seemed strange to have an exhibition so openly available to the public, an exhibition that would otherwise go completely unnoticed; there were no signs directing passersby in, and no informational text at the beginning.

In fact, the poster exclaiming it was the Museu Frederic Mares was positioned near the back of the courtyard, behind all the sculptures. This is one of the things I liked about it, though; the unobtrusive nature of the display plus the lack of information allowed visitors to draw their own conclusions. It was a lovely surprise to stumble on, and I certainly wasn’t the only one to think so. A handful of other tourists wandered slowly through the exhibit, some getting snap-happy with their cameras, others soaking up the relaxing atmosphere on the benches that were provided.

Further research revealed that Frederic Mares was the founder of the museum and was a sculptor, historian, and teacher. The collection on display in this courtyard brings together some of the most important gathering of Hispanic sculpture from Spain between the twelfth and nineteenth centuries.

I was so absorbed in the quirky atmosphere of the museum that I almost forgot I was lost. Almost.

Author's Bio: Since a young age, Beth has been interested in travel and, after being bitten by the travel bug, has been to numerous countries spanning three continents. When she is travelling, Beth likes to immerse herself in local culture and explore the arts and crafts that are unique to each location. You can read more of her stories on her blog World Art & Travel Blog and follow her on Twitter.