By bus: Regular lines stop at Aragon square’s bus station.
By car: Arriving via motorway or the N-240 road, take the “Barbastro-centre” exit. The best option is to park close to the exit, at a free parking area which is close to the graveyard, in front of the tourist office.
You can walk all over the way. There’s a bus service, but there is no point in using it for a tourist point of view.
San Julián gate. This is an ancient gate, which the travellers from Zaragoza used to use to enter the town centuries ago. This gate belonged to Barbastro’s fourth exterior wall. This wall was built in the 17th century, and according to historical documents, it was the weakest of all the walls surrounding Barbastro and had a lot of towers. Today this gate stands as a reminder of the original one that was used to support the hospital floors.
The bullfighting ring, with its tiny museum is to the left of the gate. There’s only one bullfight a year (in September), but it is also used for concerts during the Somontano music festival in August.
Walking down the steep street outside the bullfighting ring, you will realise why Barbastro is known as “the small ravine”. It ends at Aragon square, known as “los Jardinetes” (the “small garden”) and the Coso avenue.
The north side of the square makes up the second wall of Barbastro built in 918 by the Muslims to protect the early city of Barbastro, which today is the Entremuro district. Nowadays the wall is hidden behind the buildings, but its ‘look’ still remains. The street continues next to the bus station and it does not offer any entrances, apart from “las escaleretas” (“the small steps”), a small flight of steps that was opened in the 17th century. Inside these buildings there are the remains of at least three defensive towers. The wall surrounded the city by the street next to the bus station, and it continued up the north side of the Coso Avenue. Buildings on the north side of Coso Avenue are still leaning against the ancient wall.
In front of the square lies the cathedral. To arrive at its gate inside the wall, centuries ago people crossed the “Abbot Ducha” gate, southbound entry to Barbastro.
During Muslim rule, there were eight (!!) mosques in Barbastro, and the Cathedral was the greatest of them all. This seems like a big number of Mosques, but this only serves to highlight how important the city was back then.
Before entering the cathedral, take a look at the base of the right side of the entrance: it’s made of large stone blocks, very different from the cathedral brickwork. This was one of the ancient defensive towers of Barbastro’s wall. In the 18th century, neighbors of the Entremuro district asked for permission to use the tower ruins to build a chapel for their beloved Santo Cristo de los Milagros (saint Christ of the Miracles).
You can visit the cathedral by yourself or you can arrange a guided tour at the museum that is next to the bishop’s palace. You can use the door at the left side of the shrine to arrive there without going around the cathedral.
The cathedral is magnificent and it would take up too much space to write about it in full in this brief guide , but it’s interesting to note that, on its north side, behind the organ, there is a strange arrangement of chapels. This is due to the fact that centuries ago there was a cloister and half of it was transformed to chapels inside the cathedral and the other half was left outside and later destroyed.
The bishop’s palace was built in the 17th century and restored in the early 21st. Before that, bishops lived in a house built upon a cliff over the river, next to an ancient church that no longer exists. Today, this palace hosts not only the bishop and his office, but a museum of sacred objects.
When visitors see the cathedral tower, they will feel that there is something special about it. If they study it, they will notice that the tower is not next to the cathedral, but some meters away. This is because the cathedral once was a mosque, and the tower was its minaret. The lower part is thicker, and the upper narrower. If you take a closer look, you will realize that it is actually a tower inside of another tower This is because the original narrow Muslim minaret remains inside the Christian hexagonal tower. In 1366, the French warlord Bertrand du Guesclin, famous for fighting side-by-side with Joan of Arc, led his troops to fight for the Spanish king Pedro IV. He passed through Barbastro and plundered the city. 306 people tried to take refuge inside the tower with their belongings, but the soldiers set fire to the tower and they were all killed. The original tower was heavily damaged due to this and the inside tower remains scorched until today. In 1610, the outer hexagonal tower was built, also adding a spire to the old tower.
Throughout its history, the tower has been a Muslim minaret, a Christian tower, the home of the bell-ringer (he had to stay at the tower at all times), a jail in the 17th century, hideout of a secret society (the “Commoner Knights”) in 1824 and an air defence gun emplacement during the Spanish civil war. Even nowadays, the old air raid alarm sounds at noon.