Renowned for its bars and clubs, with markets, live music and street lamps designed by Gaudi, Plaça Reial, in the heart of the old city, is the perfect place to meet up with friends before venturing out in Barcelona.
Entering the square directly from Las Ramblas one is immediately drawn to the Font de les Tres Gràcies, the fountain that sits centrally, between two decorative street lamps, designed by Gaudi (his first city commissions), casting a sombre light on the inner square. Surrounded by a plethora of eateries and bars, Barcelona’s Royal Plaça eagerly invites passers-by to sit a while and enjoy a tapa or two.
Restaurants and tapas bars on Plaça Reial
Although prices are far less than on Las Ramblas (patatas bravas can cost as little as €3.50), the limited number of locals that generally choose to eat here is a reasonable indication of quality.
That said, there are some exceptions: Les Quinzes Nits, offers a mixture of contemporary and traditional Catalan fare at very affordable prices (main courses start from around €6.25). Whilst the dishes may not be breath-taking, they are value for money, and along with the smart settings, justify the wait in the normally lengthy queue (never a bad sign).
Next door is Taxidermista, where similarly long queues are found. It is more expensive, expect to pay between €35 and €50 for a 3 course meal. However, the unique restaurant setting makes this a worthwhile visit. It has maintained the look and feel of its previous incarnation: a natural science museum and taxidermists, which was frequented by amongst other notorieties, Dalí and Miró.
Nightlife on Plaça Reial
Perhaps more famous nowadays for its nightlife, there are a variety of clubs each catering to different tastes in music and entertainment. Perhaps the most particular is the “secret” Pipa Club (pipe smoking club). Hidden away up an innocuous stairwell it opens at 11pm and serves drinks with a view of the square until 5 or 6am. Prices for drinks range from around €3 for a beer and €5 for mixed drinks.
The most popular, at least musically, are the Sidecar (pronounced, perhaps appropriately, seedy-car by locals) Factory club and Karma. They are both fun nights out and are frequented by foreigners (expat’s and holidaymakers) and locals all year round. Entrance typically varies from €5-15 depending on the entertainment.
Sala Tarantos and Sala Jamboree are connected internally, both offering particular styles of music. During the week, Jamboree focuses on jazz, where Tarantos targets flamenco, dancing and music. Live shows are performed daily, in easily-accessible shortened formats. With prices starting at €5 they are a brilliant way to experience the passion and style of Latin culture first-hand. At the weekend Jamboree becomes more of a touristic hot-spot, musically moving into more commercial genres like dance and R’n’B. The shift in music is accompanied by an increase in the price of drinks (a mixed drink costs around €9).
Get your tickets for the famous Tarantos flamenco show
Events on Plaça Reial
Although Plaça Reial has undoubtedly lost some of its former sheen, since it was opened in 1848 (to honour King Ferdinand VII, hence the name “Royal Square”), there are still plenty of great events going on.
The most important annual Catalan celebration is La Merçè. And since 1871 La Fiesta de la Virgen Merçè has held parties in Plaça Reial each year on 24th of September. It is a festival of live music, fireworks and gegants i capgrossos (stilted-people with giant papier-mâché heads that parade the streets).
If you will not be in Barcelona at the end of September, then there is no need for you to miss out as every Saturday there is a free open-air musical concert at 12noon. And on Sunday mornings, between 10am and 2.30pm stamp and coin collections from around the world are bought and sold.
As soon as this has been tidied away (and the local police have left to eat their Sunday lunch) an impromptu flea market run by local elderly people takes place. Please beware, pick-pockets love all markets!
Places of interest on Plaça Reial
As the peoples’ panacea since 1823, the Herboristeria del Rei, on Carrer Vidre (just off the square) is said to be one of the oldest shops in Barcelona. What remains of the original Elizabethan style decoration was created by Soler Rovirosa, one of the great theatre scenographers of the 19th century. Boasting a wide range of natural remedies, a visit here is sure to be good for what ails you.
History of Plaça Reial
Originally converted from a convent into a theatre (used as such between 1842–48), before being designed by Francesc Daniel Molina Casamajó as a square to be inhabited by well-to-do families, its demise in class has coincided inversely with its popularity. This evident change in status is noted in popular fiction of today, in The Shadow of the Wind, author Carlos Ruiz Zafón pitches both homeless and aristocratic characters together, as neighbours, living on the square during the post Civil War years (1940s). Following a complete renovation in 1982, the square is more popular than ever, both day and night.
How to get there:
Metro: Liceu or Drassanes.
Buses: 14, 59, 91
Walking: Follow Las Ramblas down towards the sea as far as La Rambla dels Caputxins, then after Teatre del Liceu and on the opposite side of the street take Carrer de Colom, which leads into the square.
Have you visited Barcelona’s Royal Plaça before? What did you think of it? Did you find any hidden gems that we missed? We would love to hear from you below!