In the 2000 or so years since the Romans settled here, the area around this often-remodelled square, which started life as the forum, has been the focus of Barcelona’s civic life. This is still the central staging area for Barcelona's traditional festivals. Facing each other across the square are the Palau de la Generalitat, seat of Catalonia’s regional government, on the north side and the Ajuntament to the south.
Behind the Ajuntament rise the awful town-hall offices built in the 1970s over Plaça de Sant Miquel. Opposite is a rare 15th-century gem, Palau Centelles, on the corner of Baixada de Sant Miquel. You can wander into the fine Gothic-Renaissance courtyard if the gates are open.