Due to the running of the Bike Festival on Sunday 15 April, the Barcelona Bus Turístic will start operating from 10:00 onwards.

Plaça Reial

Porticoed, elegant and lively

Just off La Rambla is one of the city’s few porticoed squares, which still conserves the elegance and liveliness of the 19th century. It is Plaça Reial, the site of a large convent that was transformed into an open space, surrounded by porticoed buildings and with streetlights designed by Antoni Gaudí.

Why visit Plaça Reial?

The square was built in the middle of the 19th century on a plot left empty when the Capuchin Convent of Saint Matrona was demolished as a result of the Spanish confiscation in 1835. One of the strongest options considered for the plot was a theatre, but the opening of the Gran Teatre del Liceu in 1847 meant that this idea was abandoned in favour of commissioning the architect and city planner Francesc Daniel Molina i Casamajó to build a square.

Molina i Casamajó conceived a luxurious square with the aim of exalting the monarchy and more specifically King Ferdinand VII, which explains its name, which translates to Royal Square. The king was to have been immortalised in the centre of the square as an equestrian statue, but this space was finally occupied by the Three Graces, an iron fountain designed by Antoni Rovira i Trias, the architect who built the Sant Antoni, Concepció and Hostafrancs markets, among others.

The square’s lampposts, with arms at different heights as if they were the branches of a tree, were designed by a young Antoni Gaudí as part of a project by which Barcelona City Council commissioned him to install gaslights throughout the city. Of this ambitious commission only the two lampposts in Plaça Real and the three in Pla de Palau were made. They have a dark marble base and the central part of the column is crowned by two snakes coiled around a staff and a winged helmet, the symbols of Mercury, the Roman god of commerce, one of the city’s characteristic activities. The coat-of-arms of Barcelona can also be seen on the column.

Around the square you can see uniform, porticoed buildings decorated with terracotta motifs, busts of American sailors and explorers and shields held by Indian children. From 1982 to 1984 the square was remodelled by the architects Frederic de Correa and Alfons Milà, cutting it off from traffic and adding the palm trees that surround it.

 

How do you get to Plaça Reial?

Hop off at the Colom – Museum Marítim stop on the Red Route of Barcelona Bus Turístic to get to Plaça Reial by simply walking up La Rambla and turning right onto Carrer de Colom.

 

For the most curious of you

  • Did you know? Until 1991, Plaça Reial was home to the ‘Pedagogical Museum of Natural Sciences’, which was actually a taxidermy shop founded in 1909 by the naturalist and taxidermist Lluís Soler i Pujol. His customers included Salvador Dalí, who once asked him to mount 100,000 ants. The taxidermist clearly said no, not because it could not be done, but because it was just too many specimens!

  • Local’s tip: On Carrer del Vidre, which runs from Plaça Reial to Carrer de Ferran, there is still a herbalist’s shop from the 19th century, Herboristeria del Rei, which is Catalonia’s oldest and appears in the film Perfume: The Story of a Murderer. In the middle of the shop there is a fountain where the leeches that were used for bloodletting were kept. Moreover, the marble column in the centre of the fountain is crowned with a bust of Linnaeus, the 18th-century Swedish doctor and botanist.

  • A must: To experience the city centre’s nightlife, given that the square is surrounded by bars, restaurants and nightclubs.