The opening of the Gran Teatre del Liceu in 1847 was a decisive factor in the construction, the following year, of a square mainly for the wealthy bourgeois families living in the area. It was designed by the architect Francesc Daniel Molina on the site previously occupied by the old Capuchin convent and is one of very few porticoed squares in Barcelona.
From a convent to bohemia
Like so many other convents in Barcelona, for example, Sant Josep and Santa Caterina, which once stood on sites today occupied by markets that have adopted their names, the Capuchin convent was destroyed during the confiscation and sale of Church lands in the 19th century. A large, rectangular porticoed square, surrounded by Neoclassical buildings, was built on the vacant site between 1848 and 1859. Following the design of the Plaza Mayor in Madrid the architect, Molina, conceived a neat, elegant square that would have a portico with a Catalan vault, supported by a semicircular arch, and Isabelline facades with Corinthian pilasters and balconies.
Plaça Reial is just a stone's throw from the Liceu opera house, the ultimate symbol of bourgeois Barcelona, and for many years it was the nerve centre of the city's business powers.
Today the haughty character of times gone by has given way to a more popular feel and the square has become one of the busiest in Barcelona. Its terraces offer locals and tourists who pass through the chance to take a pleasant break for a drink or a bite to eat, while the archways shelter bars, clubs and concert halls.
The square conceals a few other treasures too: the two street lamps with six arms are the work of a young Antoni Gaudí, while the cast-iron Fountain of the Three Graces is by Antoni Rovira i Trias and dates from 1876. And last but not least, on Carrer del Vidre is the oldest herbalist's in Barcelona and probably in the whole of Catalonia: the Herboristeria del Rei, a shop that has remained immune to the passage of time for almost two centuries.
- Plaça Reial