Experience and impressions

Sant Pere de les Puelles, Barcelona, Spain
Sant Pere de Puelles
Many of Barcelona’s squares in Ciutat Vella contain astonishing Romanesque landmarks. Time seems to have stood still in the heart of the neighbourhood of Sant Pere, where the church of the ancient convent of Sant Pere de les Puelles still stands. A history dating back centuries marked by renovations which haven’t taken away any of the charm of the original building. The history of the ancient monastery of Sant Pere de Puelles dates back to 945 AD, the year of its consecration. At that time, it became Barcelona’s first convent of Benedictine nuns. Throughout its history, Sant Pere de les Puelles has experienced many changes in fortune that have transformed the Romanesque building, which was built outside the city walls. The attacks by Arab troops, fires, and the expulsion of its religious community in the 19th century sealed its fate and the nuns moved to a new, permanent site in Sarrià-Sant Gervasi in 1879. The church has been remodelled and undergone successive changes, and now, all that remains of the original monastery – where the nuns, most of whom were the daughters of the city’s noble families, once lived – is a heavily restored Romanesque church which preserves some relics of the original one. They can be seen in the chapel of the Holy Sacrament. Only one of the two original bell towers survives. It is octagonal in shape and has six bells which can be heard pealing throughout the neighbourhood. The Plaça de Sant Pere of Barcelona, with the imposing presence of the ancient monastery, is one of the most charming spots in the old town, the Ciutat Vella neighbourhood.

Mercado de Santa Caterina, Barcelona, Spain
Santa Caterina Market
From the Barcelona Cathedral, an undulating, brightly coloured roof catches our eye. Attracted like insects to a colourful flower, we approach to discover a food market below the roof: the Santa Caterina Market. The original design of the building, as well as the treasure trove of produce displayed on its stalls, won’t disappoint visitors to the neighbourhood of Santa Caterina. The refurbishment of Barcelona’s first covered food market by the architectural practice of Enric Miralles and Benedetta Tagliabue was completed in 2005. The old Santa Caterina food market revealed a gleaming, undulating and brightly coloured roof designed to be seen from the air. The roof is attached to the building by a wooden structure, and a vast mosaic of coloured ceramic pieces, representing fruit and vegetables, boldly breaks with the traditional look of a market. The market has always been characterised by a desire to innovate. Santa Caterina Market was built in 1845 to provide the neighbourhood’s blue-collar community with foodstuffs. The spacious, modern market building was constructed on the former site of the Convent of Santa Caterina, from which it takes its name. During the post-Civil War period, Santa Caterina became the main food supplier to the towns on the outskirts of Barcelona. People from Sant Adrià, Santa Coloma and Mataró came on the tram to buy food in this market in times of shortage. Today, the market is still worth a visit: the modern exterior ushers us into a traditional market with food stalls and restaurants which serve outstanding-quality produce. by

Gran Teatre del Liceu, Barcelona, Spain
Gran Teatre del Liceu
The Gran Teatre del Liceu was built in 1847 and is a unique cultural facility in Barcelona and one of Europe’s leading opera houses. Located on the Rambla, every year it hosts major opera and ballet productions and symphony concerts. The building was destroyed by fire in 1994 and reopened in 1999 after a magnificent reconstruction. The Gran Teatre del Liceu was built on the Rambla by Barcelona’s affluent classes on the site of a former convent. It was designed to house the Music Conservatory and with the main purpose of creating a venue where high society could go to see opera, the star cultural attraction of the time. The Liceu soon became a Barcelona landmark, to such an extent that its destruction by the fire in 1994 sent shockwaves through Catalan society. The reconstruction project provided the Liceu building with highly advanced technical facilities and stage equipment, and faithfully restored the original splendour of one of the most well-known opera houses. The five-tier auditorium seats 2,292, making the Gran Teatre del Liceu on Barcelona’s Rambla one of the world’s biggest opera houses. The season of opera, dance and music runs from September to July. There are also guided tours of the main areas of the theatre, allowing visitors to enjoy every detail and the magnificence of its architecture. Highlights include the main auditorium, the foyer and hall of mirrors, as well as the Cercle del Liceu, a private club which is a superb example of Catalan art nouveau, or modernisme. It contains period furniture and original works by the painter Ramon Casas by

Canaletes Fountain, Barcelona, Spain
Canaletes Fountain
The fountain is one of the symbols of Barcelona, a meeting place for locals and visitors alike where people also flock to celebrate the victories of the Catalan team, Futbol Club Barcelona, Barça. The Canaletes Fountain has become one of Barcelona’s most visited landmarks. It also conceals a history that is closely associated with the old town’s water supply. The popular name Canaletes has direct associations with the sporting victories of the local team, Fútbol Club Barcelona. The followers of Barça have gathered here since the early 20th century. As long ago as the 1930s Barça fans, known as “culers”, flocked to La Rambla to find out their team’s scores. These would be written on a blackboard right in front of the offices of the newspaper La Rambla, which stood on this spot. However, the name Canaletes dates back to the 14th century, and refers to the water channels that brought water down from the Collserola Ridge to Barcelona. Later on, in the 18th century, a university known as the Estudis Generals was built on this site and the water jet was used to create a fountain. The demolition of the university at the end of the 19th century resulted in the construction of the Canaletes fountain in its present form: an iron monument comprising four water spouts which are surmounted by the shield of Barcelona. The fountain is crowned by a streetlamp with four arms. A symbol of the city and a meeting place where many visitors stop every day for a drink of water. Legend says that anyone who drinks from the fountain will fall in love with Barcelona and return to the city time and time again. by

Casa Bruno Cuadros, Barcelona, Spain
Casa Bruno Cuadros
La Rambla is an endless box of surprises. A box that opens and allows us to glimpse jewels, including this allegory to Orientalism, the Casa Bruno Cuadros, which used to be an umbrella shop of Barcelona in its time. Its style, similar to modernisme with its use of colour and the delicacy of its decorations, have made the Casa Bruno Cuadros a worthy addition to the photograph albums of many of Barcelona’s visitors. It was 1883 when the architect Josep Vilaseca undertook the refurbishment of the Casa Bruno Cuadros and the umbrella shop on the ground floor. It was just a few years before the 1888 Universal Exhibition and Barcelona was in the throes of expansion, with interesting buildings being built all over the city. The Catalan home-grown art-nouveau movement, modernisme, was gaining momentum and, with it, the taste for Oriental decorations. The Casa Bruno Cuadros of Barcelona, known by locals as the Casa dels Paraigües (House of Umbrellas) is an example. Vilaseca combined the prior style of modernisme with all kinds of architectural elements inspired by other cultures in an eclectic building which amazes everyone who walks along La Rambla. The Casa Bruno Cuadros’s balconies and the top-floor gallery are replete with Egyptian imagery. The façade features elaborate sgraffito work and stained-glass windows as well as reliefs of umbrellas and fans made of cast-iron. Orientalist motifs impregnate the outer walls which features intricate carpentry, enamelled glass and paintings of people taken from Japanese prints. The Casa Bruno Cuadros’s most opulent decorative element is the ornate Chinese dragon on the corner of the façade. It was used to advertise the shop, together with the umbrella below it. The building was refurbished in 1980, and a bank now has its premises in the stunning umbrella shop of Barcelona. by

Parc Diagonal Mar, Barcelona, Spain
Parc Diagonal Mar
The Parc de la Diagonal Mar is a must-see for visitors because it epitomises the new Barcelona and is quite unlike any other city park. This ambitious contemporary work encapsulates Barcelona’s desire to become a city at the forefront of originality and sustainable architecture. The architectural practice of the husband and wife team of Enric Miralles and Benedetta Tagliabue reached the pinnacle of innovative and sustainable architecture with their design of the Parc de la Diagonal Mar in 2002. Located in the new Forum Barcelona, on a disused factory site, this 14-hectare park is divided into seven large areas. Each area was designed to evoke different sensations. A large children’s play area, a raised walkway over water, the lake with sculptures which spray out water, the curved tubular structures, the giant central plaza, etc, are clearly defined areas which are linked by a common element: water Water that flows through the raised tubular structure that spiders its way through the park. This moving line occasionally coils around suspended plant pots which are reminiscent of Gaudí's organic architecture. In addition to being the linking element of the jigsaw puzzle of the park, the tubes also convey groundwater which irrigates the gardens. A technological and decorative wonder which fits in with the sustainability criteria that formed the basis of the design of the Parc de Diagonal Mar, full of ecosystems and where nature is controlled by man. by

Parc del Clot, Barcelona, Spain
Parc del Clot
This park is one of the “green lungs” in the district of Sant Martí and is located in the centre of the Clot district. It was laid out in the 1980s on land occupied by factories and workshops, and is used by the local community, incorporating architectural elements from the past in a modern setting. The Parc del Clot covers an area of 3.5 hectares, and stands on a site between the district council building and the market. High bridges connect both sides of the park enabling pedestrians to get from one part of the district to another. As you cross the bridges you’ll see several elements which bear witness to the mechanics’ workshops which once stood on this site: the chimney, arches and walls which were incorporated into the Clot’s new green area in 1986, the year the park opened. The remnants of factories are the linking motifs throughout the park and have become architectural elements that blend perfectly with the surroundings. The stone arches that were once part of the façade of the old railway workshops, RENFE, survive intact. They have been turned into a narrow aqueduct which stands 25 metres high with cascades of water flowing down from the channel at the top. The abundant Mediterranean vegetation includes pines, poplars, palm trees and holm oaks, and in the centre a hillock provides views of the entire zone of Sant Martí. The park also includes a square with a football pitch, a basketball court, and stands for spectators. In the middle there is an irregularly shaped pond with goldfish, and a children’s play area. by

Parc de l'Oreneta, Barcelona, Spain
Parc de l’Oreneta
For grown-ups, the Parc de l’Oreneta is an area of urban woodland between Collserola and the city, a place where they can lose themselves and observe the wide variety of Mediterranean vegetation. For the little ones, it represents a world of excitement where they can travel on a miniature steam train or ride a pony. The Parc de l’Oreneta opened in 1978, in Sarrià-Sant Gervasi, where the Collserola ridge meets the city, on a site once occupied by two rural estates, Can Bonavia and Oreneta Castle, from which the park takes its name. The castle was built in the higher part of the estate, and today only a few walls remain. This green area, in the high part of Barcelona, features characteristic Mediterranean woodland species that had encroached on the abandoned farmland and includes pines, evergreen oaks and northern red oaks, fruit trees, as well as undergrowth rich in shrubs, and a wide variety of aromatic herbs. A network of paths makes it possible to explore this compact wooded area and lie in the shade of some of the trees that have been classified as listed species, such as the enormous eucalyptus and the Santa Llúcia cherry. The higher areas of the park, where there is an imposing carob tree, offer exceptional panoramic views of Barcelona and its surrounding towns. The Parc de l’Oreneta is the perfect place to go for a day out with the kids. There are pony rides, and, since 1981, there has been a miniature railway, which covers a route of 635m. The railway has its own main station and crew, and its rolling stock includes 11 locomotive engines and three carriages. It is without a doubt the Parc de l’Oreneta’s star attraction. by

Parc de l'Estació del Nord, Barcelona, Spain
Parc de l'Estació del Nord
A small, delightful park, sunny but with shady areas, simple yet complex, is located in Barcelona’s Eixample. An artistic gem which combines the contours of the land with art, creating a park of extreme delicacy, where decorative forms make a walk through the large grassy areas a pleasure for the senses. . The architects Andreu Arriola, Carme Fiol and Enric Pericas used the land freed up around the former railway station, the Estació del Nord, which closed in 1972, as the site for a 5-hectare park, where there would be enough room for large grassy areas and trees. The North-American sculptor, Beverly Pepper, gave decorative form and personality to a green area which eventually opened in 1988 and was expanded in 1999. Art with its sculptures and street lamps follow and blend in naturally with the natural lines of the park. On the shady side of the park, a series of graduated sloping rings runs parallel to a descending spiral of trees; on the sunny side, the grassy area features volumetric earth mounds which follow the contours of the land, representing a fallen sky covered with small shards of sky-blue ceramic tiles. This sculptural ensemble by Beverly Pepper is indeed entitled Cel Caigut (Fallen Sky), and is clearly inspired by the style of Gaudí. It consists of a succession of open, transparent lines where the green of the grass contrasts with the blue of the mosaic, inviting us to engage in full and active contemplation. The park is also a connecting space amongst Barcelona’s buildings such as L’Auditori, the TNC and the Arxiu de la Corona d’Aragó, the historic archive containing documents about the Aragonese monarchs. by

Parque de la España Industrial, Barcelona, Spain
Parc de l'Espanya Industrial
At the Parc de l'Espanya Industrial you’ll find a small boating lake, a giant sculpture of a dragon (which doubles up as a slide for kids), grassy areas, Mediterranean trees and sports fields. This is the perfect spot for a peaceful family picnic far from the noise and bustle of the city. A vast textile mill known as La España Industrial stood on the site now occupied by the park until well into the 20th century. The existence of the park today is proof of the strength of the community movements of the 1970s when the owners of the mill, which had moved to new premises, wanted to build new housing on the site. The City Council gave the green light to using the site as a public space for the neighbourhood and, in 1985, the Parc de l'Espanya Industrial opened, designed by the Basque architect Luis Peña Ganchegui. The giant metal dragon by the sculptor Andrés Nagel, who also hails from the Basque Country, was added two years later. It is 32 metres wide and 12 metres high. A number of sculptures created for the 1929 International Exhibition were taken out of storage in the municipal warehouses and displayed in the park. These include Neptune, by Manuel Fuxà, Venus by José Pérez Peresejo, and the Oxen of Plenty, by Antoni Alsina. The nine tall towers, like monumental lighthouses, stand at the top of the white steps which lead down to the water, and give the park its characteristic feel. If you go down to the boating lake or hire a boat, you’ll find birds such as grey herons, tufted ducks, ferruginous ducks and red-crested pochards. by



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