Three city squares for a peaceful Sunday
Sundays are the best day to stop focusing on the city and turn your attention to the local residents who are the true stars of the show. It's also a good excuse to take it easy, particularly if you stayed out late on Saturday night, or because the sun is shining too brightly o porque el sol ilumina la ciudad, or because your children have got up before they were supposed to. For these, and many other reasons, spending a Sunday exploring the city's squares can be a great way to discover the city.
City squares, particularly in Barcelona, are a meeting point, the focus of city life that gauge the mood of its residents. We'll have breakfast in Gràcia, lunch in the Born and dinner in the Gothic Quarter so you can see this yourself. Of course, you're also free to seek out, discover and explore the many squares dotted around the city during our tour.
Breakfast in Plaça de la Virreina
Located in the Gràcia neighbourhood, this busy square has the church of Sant Joan as its focal point The square takes its name from the mansion the Viceroy of Peru, Manuel Amat, gave to his wife María Francesca de Fivaller i de Brúa before building her a palace on La Rambla, which bears the vicereine's name (Palau de la Virreina).
The fountain of Ruth is one of the most iconic details in the square. It was dedicated in 1949 and is surmounted by a beautiful bronze sculpture by Josep M. Camps Arnau. The most curious thing about this sculpture is that every morning, for years, somebody has placed a bouquet of flowers in the girl's arms which are removed before they wilt. The most intriguing thing is that nobody knows who replaces the flowers. A mystery only Columbo or Agatha Christie could solve.
We recommend you start the morning having breakfast at La Virreina, La Cafetera or Terra Bar. From any of these terraces, you'll be able to see the children blowing up balloons in the water fountain or watch the impromptu swing dance classes held on certain Sundays.
Lunch in Plaça de les Olles
You can catch the metro at Joanic (L4) or walk down Passeig de Gràcia or Rambla de Catalunya as far as the Born. There's no better way to help your breakfast go down and prepare yourself for a nice lunch than wandering through one of Barcelona's most historic neighbourhoods. Here are some great ideas: you can walk round Santa Maria del Mar, lose yourself in the adjacent maze of streets, visit the Museu Picasso and, when you're feeling hungry, head to the Plaça de les Olles.
The square takes its idiosyncratic name from the large number of shops selling cooking pots, frying pans and kitchenware that once stood here ("olla" is Catalan for "cooking pot"). This is undoubtedly one of the most authentic places in La Ribera because it combines the buildings and façades from different eras and in different styles. We recommend you eat at Cal Pep, which is famous for its Catalan cuisine. After lunch you can relax in the Parc de la Ciutadella.
Dinner in Plaça Reial
The cast-iron Fountain of the Three Graces, by Antonio Durenne, stands in the centre of this majestic square. It was erected in the late 19th century and epitomises Barcelona's desire at the time to be a modern city looking towards Europe. The street lamps with their arms set at different heights, which are one of Antoni Gaudí's earliest works in the city, and the palm trees, form the iconic landscape of the Plaça Reial.
Barcelona City Council commissioned Gaudí to design the prototype for a gas streetlamp that would be installed throughout the city. The project proved too ambitious and only five streetlamps were made: two in Plaça Reial and three in Pla de Palau. They have a dark-marble plinth and the central part of the column is surmounted by two snakes entwined around a stick, and a winged helmet. They symbolise Mercury, the protector of trade, which was one of the city's main activities. The column also bears the Barcelona coat of arms. The square was remodelled between 1982 and 1984 by the architects Frederic de Correa and Alfons Milà.
It's the perfect place to have a drink, a cocktail or a quiet dinner at the many bars and restaurants that bring this magical square to life. And if you don't want the party to stop, you'll find all kinds of clubs… you just have to let the music take you.
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