It’s a warm day and you want to be out in the sunshine. But there’s a problem: it’s nigh on impossible to get a seat at any of Barcelona’s city centre terraces, thanks to the crowds of tourists and sun-hungry locals guarding their tables with their lives (not to mention the brandishing of cutlery). But don’t worry! Swing by the corner shop, buy a bebida and settle down in one of Gusto’s selection of the best plazas (squares) in Barcelona for shooting the breeze.
Plaza del Diamante (Gràcia)
Gracia has some of the best plazas in Barcelona including the Plaza de la Vila de Grácia, Plaza del Sol and Plaza de la Virreina. But without a doubt, our favourite is the Plaza del Diamante. The gently sloping square in the heart of this traditional neighbourhood is where many of the locals congregate throughout the day to drink coffee with friends and watch their kids play football, and into the night to mingle with friends and neighbours. A novel by Mercè Rodoreda, telling the story of a postwar Barcelona, is based in the square, and if you are lucky you might just be able to visit the subterranean air raid shelter that was discovered in 1992.
Plaza del doctor Letamendi (Eixample)
If we could choose any street in Barcelona to live on, Enric Granados would be among the finalists. This wide, tree-lined street runs downhill towards the older parts of the city until bumping into the Plaza Letamendi, a great square divided in two by the traffic of Calle Aragon. Little-frequented by tourists, the square is bordered by local wine and tapas bars and planted with feathery palm trees and a small play area for children. Plaza Letamendi takes its name from the eponyous 19th century doctor who later fell into disgrace. His problem, according to the famous novelist Pío Baroja? His real talent was more ‘verbal’ than scientific.
Plaza de San Felipe Neri (Barrio Gótico)
It seems incredible that – at the very heart of a city that welcomes 8 million visitors per year – there is a place as peaceful as the Plaza de San Felipe Neri. This quiet corner of Barcelona – built on the site of a Medieval cemetery – takes on an eeie air, especially if you notice the pockmarked walls of the surrounding buildings. This is a reminder of the bomb that was dropped here in January 1938 by Franco’s forces and that killed 42 people, most of them children. Today, the square is home to a beautiful fountain and a chic restaurant, as well as the eponymous church.
Plaza del Duc de Medinacelli (Barrio Gótico)
Just a few metres from Barcelona’s seafront, this palm-lined square might look familiar: this is where Penelope Cruz’s character came to see her father (and dog, let’s not forget the dog) in All About My Mother. The square was built in the 19th century on the site of a former convent. It is also worth noting that the Anarchist collective CNT, a great political power in Barcelona in the first half of the 20th century, still has its headquarters here.
Plaza del Surtidor (Poble Sec)
Poble Sec is a wonderful, unpretentious neighbourhood on the lower slopes of Montjuic that has managed to resist the invasion of ‘cool’ bars and tourist tat that plagues so much of downtown Barcelona. One of the nicest spots in the area is the Plaza del Sortidor, home to the restaurant of the same name. On your way up there, it’s worth checking out the lively terraces of the Calle Blai, a street that has changed little over its 100-year history.
Foto de portada: Flickr / Xose R