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4  Port_Vell,_Barcelona,_Spain_-_Jan_200


Barcelona is the busiest cruise port in the Mediterranean.

Barcelona is in Spain, but a lot of the population

want to live in Catalonia. 

Almost everyone In Barcelona speaks Castilian Spanish, but more than half of the population use the Catalan language in their daily lives. This language did not evolve from Spanish or French - but mainly from Latin, with Spanish and French influences. This area has two official languages. For centuries the people who live in the north-east of Spain have had their own language and culture. Recently there have been referendums for the independence of Catalonia - which came out almost 50-50, and the province has its own regional government, while part of Spain.


As you walk around Barcelona, you will see flags on balconies. Beside - the first is the flag of Spain, the second the flag of Catalonia, and the third the flag for an independent Catalonia. There is a second flag for independence, with a yellow triangle and a red star.

The cruise port is just off the city center, and there are frequent shuttle  buses that take you there. The last time I was in Barcelona the cruise buses parked on a pier with palm trees in front of the round building of the World Trade Centre. The tall tower for the gondolas to the top of the mountain is at the end of this area as well. At the entrance to the parking is a large sculpture with stainless steel tubes called 'The Waves'. On-line it says the buses stop at the Christopher Columbus statue - but these two places are different, but close together, separated by the magnificent Customs Building (right). One end of this building is the Trade Center parking, and the other end is the circle with Columbus.

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Step 1 - La Rambla (Las Ramblas)

First, find Christopher Columbus - this is easy - he stands on top of a very high pedestal. In many of his statues he can be found pointing to the new world - however, in this case he is pointing towards Algeria.

The center of Las Ramblas is for pedestrians, and as you begin to walk the street, the concrete tiling is deceptive. It feels as if the street surface isn't flat, as if it is in waves. It can play tricks on your mind!

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There are lots of street performers - many standing still like statues - another optical illusion.

Walking up the street you will see a widening on the right hand side, with a big white statue of a playwright - and on the left the Teatre Principal.

Walk one more block and turn left - just down this street (Carrer Nou de la Rambla) is a Palace, the Palau Güell, designed and built by Antoni Gaudi for a rich merchant in 1888. You will see much more of Gaudi's Catalan Modernisme style in Barcelona.

The mansion has huge doors in front, and carriages could drive through to the stables in the lower floor. 

Go back to Las Ramblas, and cross it to the right hand side. In a few short steps

turn right into Plaça Reial, or Royal Plaza. This square is lovely, and is a popular night spot in Barcelona with restaurants and night-clubs. In the center is the 'Fountain of Three Graces', which refers to the statue of the three women, supposed to be the daughters of Zeus; Euphrsyne, Aglaea, and Thalia, representing beauty, charm, and joy.  

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There are two lampposts in the square, one of the very first items designed by Gaudi (left).


I left the Plaça Reial through the arches on the north-west end, and captured the delightful little square with arches that frame the views.

Go back to Las Ramblas to continue the walk.


Step 2 - Plaça Reial to Plaça Nova

It may be obvious, but plaça means plaza or square, and carrer means street....

As you continue to walk up Las Ramblas, admire the lovely architecture. Watch for the Teatre del Liceu on your left, a very large beautiful theatre. The entrance on Las Ramblas is narrow, but in the map beside the curved grey roof is the actual theatre.

Just past the theatre, you will walk over the colorful circular mosaic by the famous artist Joan Miró. It is close to the place where one of the gates in the ancient city wall used to be.

I love Mediterranean markets! They are noisy, crowded, colourful, sometimes smell strongly of fish, and there are many goodies from which to choose. Local people go to the market every morning to get the freshest fish and meats and vegetables. The famous La Boqueria is just ahead on your left.

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Walking up Las Ramblas past La Boqueria, turn right on the first street, Carrer de la Portaferrissa. Literally, two steps around the corner, look to your right - there is a wonderful medieval fountain in ceramics showing the city gate (beside). I wish I could translate the words! 

There is a tiny street on your right just past the fountain, but continue up La Portaferrissa to the second street, and turn right here onto Carrer de Petritxol. This street has had this odd name for 500 years, and was the first pedestrian street in Barcelona with stones placed at the entrances to prevent carriages from driving down it. 

One reason this little street is interesting is because of the ceramic panels on all the buildings - showing things that have happened in the street, everyday happenings or the families who lived there.

There are wonderful quirky stores, and two of the best chocolate stores in Barcelona. Drop into Granja La Pallaresa at # 11 for hot chocolate and the best churros in the world... (so they say) or #2 Granja Dulcinea for a hot drink of swiss chocolate topped with whipped cream - and xurros (local spelling), of course. Don't be put off by the queues, they go quickly. Evidently the treats are also inexpensive!

Ahead in the narrow street you can get a photo of the bell tower.

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You are now in Placa del Pi, and the Church of Santa Maria of the Pine, another name for the Virgin Mary. It was built in the 1300's outside the city wall in a pine forest, and there has been a pine tree in the square since 1568, the tree being replaced several times. The church is 14th century Catalan Gothic in design, and the large rose window is an exact copy of the 14th-century original.

There are several other lovely buildings in the square.

Go around the left side of the church, and you are now in another square - Placa Sant Josep Oriel. Here there are some tapa restaurants, and you can sit outdoors under the big trees. 


Continuing your walk from Placa Oriel, stand with your back to the side of the church and go to the far left corner of the square, and you will see an angled building making a skinny corner. Walk on the narrow street to the right of this - Carrer de la Palla. Apparently this street is a "Mecca for sweet-toothed marzipan fans". Find Caelum at #8. Much of the baking has been made in convents and monasteries, so eating the wonderful goodies can't be a sin!

Of course, if you wish - continue the walk up Las Ramblas to see the Placa Cataluyna, the big square and the hub of the city. (the dotted line)

Step 3 - The Cathedral area

Carrer de la Palla takes you to Plaça Nova, a space filled with the history and art of Barcelona. Here are parts of the Roman wall, and parts of the 13th century medieval wall and the gate into the Gothic Quarter (below). Sticking out from the side of the wall is a small portion of the Roman aquaduct, bringing water to the old city.

The Roman name for the city was Barcino, and you can see the name in sculptured letters.

Behind you is a modern building, with sand friezes on the face from designs by Picasso.

This square has antique markets every Thursday and Christmas markets in December.


Visit the beautiful Barcelona Cathedral, the Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia, also known as La Seu Cathedral. It is a beautiful example of Gothic architecture with soaring bell towers and detailed stonework. The cathedral was constructed from the thirteenth to fifteenth centuries, mostly in the 1300's. The inside is worth viewing, and some of the side chapels are very lovely. Apparently it is free to visit in the mornings and evenings. (There are charges in the afternoon.)

There is an elevator to the spires to the right of the altar, for a small fee. Pictures of the gardens in the cloisters look lovely - I think they are open to the public.

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Now we will take a short walk through ancient and recent history.... Facing the cathedral door, go to your right and turn left before the arch. In a few steps you are in a small square called Placa de Garriga I Bachs. The sculpture portrays five martyrs who were executed in 1808. They were accused of attempting to free Barcelona from the French forces of occupation during the War of the Spanish Succession. An alabaster relief of angels was added in 1941 after the Spanish Civil War.

On either side there are ceramic benches which portray the entrance of the Napoleonic army.

Walk down a crooked little lane on the right side of the sculpture, and through an arch into Plaça Sant Felip Neri, and the Church of Sant Felip Neri. Beside the church is a school of the same name.  In 1938 during the Spanish Civil War Franco laid siege to the city of Barcelona. On January 30 of that year, one of Franco's bombs fell on the square killing 30 people, most of whom were school children who were playing in the square. As people pulled survivors from the rubble, a second bomb hit the square, killing 12 more bringing the death toll to 42. The pock marks on the church and other walls are from the shrapnel. The school is still there, and children still play in the square.

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Leave the square by the street directly opposite the church door, and at the end of the street, turn left. You can see an entrance to the cathedral cloisters ahead and the Placa de Garriga I Bachs on your left. Just before the square is the Church of Saint Sever - you have to look up, as the street is narrow and this is easy to miss. If it is open, go inside - this has an amazing high altarpiece. If you are a bit confused with my directions - the side of the Church of Saint Sever forms the background for the statues in Placa de Garriga.



Turn right coming out of the square,and you will see the Bishop's Bridge (El Pont del Bisbe) ahead - yes, it looks even more Gothic than its surroundings, especially the skull and dagger on the underside - but it was built in 1929. It is still one of the most photographed sights in Barcelona.


After taking your photograph, walk back to the corner and continue to follow the walls of the cloisters and  soon you will see the buttresses of the cathedral.

Ahead of you is a street called Carrer del Paradis (who can resist Paradise Street?) - and at #10 is one of the hidden treasures of Barcelona. Let's keep it secret, and I will let you discover it yourself!

Go back to the cathedral buttresses and turn right - go straight past the back of the church and continue on the street ahead of you into an ancient square called Plaça del Rei, or King's Square. Here Fernando and Isabel supposedly received Columbus following his first voyage to the Americas. The square is very Gothic! You can imagine knights riding in on their horses.

At the back of the square is the Royal Palace, with the King's Watchtower to the left. The Lieutenant's Palace is on the left side, and the King's Chapel with the round bell-tower on the right - built on part of the ancient city wall. There is an interesting museum in the palace, with an elevator that takes you down to Roman ruins under the square.

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Step 4 - To the Waterfront

Leave Placa del Rei by the widest street, and turn left at the first corner - then walk to the busy street passing the Metro station. Turn left on the busy street. One block takes you to the back of the King's Chapel. The tower is interesting, as well as the layers of history in the chapel and city wall, and the contrasts with the modern city around it. 

At the middle of the square there is a crosswalk - cross the busy street and walk back the way you came. In two short blocks you will see you a modern building faced with glass and gold-looking stripes between floors.

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Follow the wavy front of the glass and gold building to go up a street - Carrer L'Argenteria - that angles off the street behind you. This is a pleasant street with trees, and soon you will see a church in front of you.

The church is Santa Maria del Mar (St. Mary of the Sea). It was built in the 1300's, a 'pure' Catalan church without other influences. It was mostly destroyed in 1428 by a severe earthquake, and was set on fire in 1938 by anarchists chasing Franco supporters who were hiding inside. You can still see the black on the ceilings from the fire.

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Walk up the left side of the church (when facing the door) to see a wonderful store called Casa Gispert. This store has been roasting nuts since 1851. It is run exactly as it was when its doors first opened, so when you enter you go back in time. They sell nuts, dried fruits, tea, coffee, cocoa - and spices such as vanilla, wonderful saffron and cinnamon. They also have extra virgin olive oils, vinegars, chocolates, nougats, honeys, jams and sweet wines. An on-line favourite - "Catànies. A sweet delicacy, typical in Catalunya, made from marcono almonds. The nuts are candied, covered in white chocolate and dusted in cocoa." Casa Gispert has been recognized as one of Europe’s 10 best food artisans. This is a great place to buy really special delicious bags of goodies to take home as gifts. If they aren't too busy in the store, they may give you samples to taste!

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When you leave Casa Gispert, continue walking around the back of the church. On the other side of the church is a square called Fossar de les Moreres, a memorial square. It used to be a cemetery, now below the surface of the space. Defenders of the city were buried here following the Siege of Barcelona at the end of the War of the Spanish Succession in 1714. At this time Catalan customs, institutions and the Catalan language was outlawed and the people lost their autonomy to the power of the central government of Spain. The Fossar de les Moreres is an important place of remembrance every year during the National Day of Catalonia.

Go through the tiny street at the back center of the square, and in two blocks you will come out into sunshine. Walk one more block beside the trees and you will be in a traffic circle with a sculpture in the center. From Wikipedia.... "The monument to the Marquis of Campo Sagrado , known as the Source of the Catalan Genius, is a monumental fountain of neoclassical style , with sculptures, located in the Plaza del Palau in Barcelona . It is dedicated to ... {him} ... for having brought the waters of the Sierra de Moncada to the city in 1826 , when he was Captain General of Catalonia."

Step 5 - Choices!

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You now have several choices. To actually see the waterfront area - have another look at the photo that was at the top of the page.....

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This photo was taken from the top of the Columbus statue, I think..... so you are looking down the street area outlined in yellow on the map. There are several streets of traffic and several ways to walk.

Choice 1 - in yellow... To walk back to the shuttle bus from Placa del Palau (Palace Square) you can walk by the buildings, walk in the central strip and another that is raised over a street, or walk by the water. Make your choice as you come out into the open area, as there are no ways to choose later on except for two overhead walkways from the central walkway to the water area (you can see one in a pinkish colour in the photo above, if you look closely).

Choice 3 - Rambla del Mar in green....  Cross 'kitty-corner' from the opening into the port area to a pier. 

Walk up the pink brick path - it goes up to go over a street  and angles across the area. The last building on the pier is a lovely mall, and at the end of the pier it is connected to the mainland by a curved bridge called Rambla del Mar (Sea Walk).... and then you are near the Columbus monument.

Choice 3 - Barceloneta in blue... In the mid-1700's the city wanted a big park to be built - but thousands of people lived in the area that was needed for the project. Barceloneta was the answer to the problem - what was once an almost deserted island was planned to house the population. This area of long apartment buildings was built  - you can see the tops of these buildings against the sea in the center right of the photo, considered 'modern' in this old city. It was built with orderly streets, a market, and other necessary community buildings. The beaches on the far side of the area are often very crowded as the people of Barcelona flock there to swim and sit in the sun.

Barcelona is one of my favourite ports! I hope you enjoy your walk in this wonderful city.....

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