Any self-respecting town in Spain has a main plaza, or square. So too does Barcelona, although nowadays this particular one is no longer considered it’s main square. Nevertheless, Plaça Reial is truly beautiful and unique, and so well deserves a visit, and why not? a post.
When you arrive at this enclosed plaza, you’ll notice it’s full of palm trees, some quite old and standing tall, others, newer and still reaching for the sky. I’ve seen quite a few plazas in Spain, and find this to be quite unique. And as palm trees are my favourite kind of tree, you can probably imagine, that for me this square was love at first sight!
The square sits on the site that once was a convent. But after it was destroyed in 1835, and following plans by local architect Francesc Daniel Molina i Casamajó, Plaça Reial was built during the reign of Fernando VII (and thus obtained its ‘Royal’ name) in Neo classical style.
On the square you can find two elaborate lanterns, among the other less frilly ones. These were designed by Antoni Gaudí, and were among his first projects for the city of Barcelona. Perched on top of the lanterns you’ll see sinuous dragons – Gaudí made use of dragons in most of his work – they represent the heroic medieval conquerors of Catalonia.
The lanterns flank a pretty fountain, which represents the Three Graces. It is often a meeting point and at times so full of visitors taking a rest, sitting on its rim, that it is hardly visible.
Arches surround the square and offer respite when it rains. Housed all round the plaça are bars and restaurants that cater mostly to visiting tourists and tend to be somewhat overpriced. Nevertheless, it is a delight to sit on one of the terraces while you enjoy your favourite beverage and watch life happening all around you… at any time of the day!
In the evenings several clubs also attract locals, and during various festivals, such a La Mercè, live music concerts make the square even livelier than usual.
On Sunday mornings, the local stamp and coin market is held here. Caps of cava corks are also traded, and avid local (and overseas) collectors flock here to see what they can lay their hands on.
My favourite time to be on this square is in the very early morning, when its lovely buildings, arches, palm trees, passages and general quietude are most evocative of long past times…