Barcelona's main bus-and-metro hub is the frontier between the Old City and the post-1860 Eixample. Fountains and statuary, along with pigeons and backpackers in roughly equal numbers, make the Plaça de Catalunya an open space to scurry across on your way to somewhere quieter, shadier, and gentler on the senses. Across the street on the west side is Café Zurich, the classic Barcelona rendezvous point at the top of La Rambla, by the steps down to the metro. The
block behind the Zurich, known as El Triangle, houses a collection of megastores, including FNAC (for electronics, books, and music) and Habitat (for designer furniture and household fixtures). Corte Inglés, the department store on the northeast side of the square, offers quality Spanish goods at decent prices—if you can get the attention of one of their famously indifferent salespeople.
The works of sculpture ringing the square provide a study in contrasts. Marvel first at the eyesore prize, in the corner nearest the top of La Rambla: the monumentally banal stone stepladder by Josep Maria Subirachs, offered up as a monument to Francesc Macià, president of the Generalitat (the autonomous Catalan government) from 1934 to 1936. In the center of the reflecting pool is Josep Clarà's stunning marble Déesse (Goddess), kneeling gracefully in water. (The figure is actually a copy of the original, moved to the Generalitat building in Pl. Sant Jaume to protect it from the elements.) At the northwest corner is Pau Gargallo's heroic bronze rendition of the grape harvest, an allegorical reference to Girona, one of the provinces of Catalunya celebrated for its agriculture. And at the northeast corner, across from the Corte Inglés, is the Federic Marès bronze of a buxom maiden on horseback holding a model of the ship Columbus used in his historic voyage.
The underground Tourist Information Office on the northeast corner is the place to pick up maps and brochures, download free apps for exploring the city to your mobile device, and check on walking tours, some in English, that originate there.
Plaça de Catalunya, Barcelona, Catalonia, 08002, Spain