Tuesday, April 27, 2010


I'm not sure if that's a word, but Barcelona is full of them - little squares hidden amid the alleys and buildings of the city's older districts. Often lined with bars and restaurants, each one offers something distinct, whether it be a lively atmosphere or a feeling of being transported in time, making them the perfect place to meet friends for drinks and tapas now that spring is here. The problem is, there are so many of these squares littered throughout the city, that it's impossible to name them all but here are a few of my favorites.

Plaça de Sant Pere. Located in the upper El Born, where Carrer de Sant Pere Més Alt and Carrer de Sant Pere Mitja meet, it's sided by a few bars, a La Caixa and a small medieval church, which apparently doesn't exist on any map.  Probably the least crowded of the ones on the list, I'll never forget sitting outside listening to the music of a string quartet coming from inside the centuries old stone walls of the church while tucking into some patatas bravas at a terrace outside.

Plaça del Sortidor in Poble Sec offers a mix of bars and restaurants amid the chaos that is Spanish streets. Sitting at one of the tables that lines the inside perimeter of the square, you can see kids kicking a football around, sometimes chased by a small dog. A honk of a horn and you'll watch as a delivery truck squeezes through the narrow street separating the tables from the bars, producing a shout from the kid behind on the scooter to hurry up. Then, like everyone else who has been observing, you'll return to the conversation you were having with friends about what to do that night as someone in an overlooking apartment hammers away to Queen playing on the stereo.

Plaça del Sol speaks to Barcelona's Bohemian side. Surrounded by bars and restaurants, it's in the heart of Gracia, which had been its own village for much of its history and still maintains a bit of an independence streak. One of the few squares that's popular throughout the year, the crowd, like the neighborhood itself, tends to veer to the more artistic and relaxed compared to the elegance of L'Eixample district that rests below.

Plaça del Rei. Tucked behind the main Cathedral in el Barrio Gotico is a square that can either be bustling with a concert or as quiet as it was centuries ago. Unlike most found throughout the city, it has only one bar, L'Antiquari, which is more like a stone tavern with a basement. Sitting outside at its terrace, looking at the engravings on the stone walls, it's difficult not to be impressed by the sense of history that surrounds you.

Plaça de Vicenç Martorell. Just off Carrer Tallers is a small square that surprisingly also has some greenery in the form of a patch of grass and a playground. Perhaps that's why under the arcade are the tables to some of Barcelona's better fruit, vegetable and sandwich bars.  A great place when you need a break from the crowds of Las Ramblas just two blocks away.

Like I said, Barcelona is full of these little squares or placetes. It's one of the reasons, I think, it's such a fun city to get lost in, so feel free to add to the list and see how many the really are.

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