Plaça Reial (Royal Square), honoring King Ferdinand VII, is situated in the heart of the Gothic Quarter, next to La Rambla. It was completed in 1848 and was formerly the site of a convent. Confiscated in 1835, the convent was one of several destroyed along La Rambla as a result of laws that forced the Church to give up property.
Architect Francesc Daniel Molina i Casamajó won the job urbanize the space in 1841 through a competition organized by the City Council. His project was inspired by neoclassical architecture and the planned residential squares of Napoleonic France. The arcaded square has uniform facades with arches on the ground floor and pilasters with Corinthian capitals spanning the two main floors, above which there is an attic.
Initially the plan included a statue of King Ferdinand VII on horseback in the center of the square, but the monument was never added. In its place stands an iron fountain named “Tres Gràcies” (Three Graces), which was installed in 1876 by the architect Antoni Rovira i Trias.
The two six torch streetlamps on either side of the central fountain were designed by Antoni Gaudí, his first known works in the city. The design incorporates symbols of Hermes – a winged helmet and a caduceus (two serpents twined around a staff) and were put in place in 1879, when Gaudí was only 27.
The elegant apartments with fifteen foot ceilings did not have lasting success with the affluent people for whom they had been designed. After 1880 many of the wealthy residents left the square for other neighborhoods such as Eixample.
During the 1960’s and 70’s Plaça Reial became notorious as a center of vice, but in 1982 it saw a revival after being renovated by architects Federico Correa and Alfonso Milan.
Famous residents are said to have included Nobel Prize winning novelist Gabriel García Márquez and Pasqual Maragall, the 127th President of the Generalitat de Catalunya, who played an important role in Barcelona’s successful Olympic bid.
The square is famous for its lively nightlife and is home to some of the best restaurants and nightclubs in the city, including Ocaña and Jamboree. On September 24th during the annual La Mercè festival, Plaça Reial hosts open-air concerts and it is also a popular destination on New Years Eve.