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Plaza Catalunya

 

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The largest square in the cityPlaza Cataluña is the heart of Barcelona; some of the most important roads such as Passeig de Gracia, Rambla de Cataluña, el Portal de l´Angel and Las Ramblas all converge here.Built as part of Ildefons Cerdás´s expansion of Barcelona in the second half of the 19th century, the square divides the old Barcelona of the Barrio Gótico´s winding streets to the rationalist grid layout of the Eixample.

A vital transport hub, it is unlikely any visitor will pass through Barcelona without crossing it at some point.In fact it is many tourists´ first and last stop as the Aerobus drops and collects passengers here in front of the vast El Corte Inglés department store which occupies one entire side of the square.Aside from the many buses that run from here, it is also well connected to the metro (Linea 1 and 3), plus FCG and local RENFE trains.If the queue for the Aerobus looks too daunting in the busy summer months, it is also possible to get to the airport by train from here

Each side of the square is dominated by large branches of internationally famous stores, including El Corte Inglés (Spain´s largest department store chain), FNAC (music, computers and books) and Habitat (furniture and home wares).These last two form part of a shopping centre known as El Triangle, where you can find popular clothes brands, shoes, ice cream and a tea shop.It is worth noting that as well as selling regular department stores items such as clothes, perfumes, household goods and so forth, in the basement is a wonderfully extensive food hall selling products from around the world.The pedestrian street Portal de l´Angel runs off Plaza Cataluña just by El Corte Inglés and is a great place to start a shopping expedition; leading down into the Barrio Gótico towards the sea there are plenty of shops to explore.Heading in the opposite direction away from the sea is Passeig de Gracia, one of the city’s most elegant streets, where visits to high end stores such as Armani, Gucci and Vogue can do significant damage to your wallet

The centre of the square has a number of statues but aside from enough pigeons to make Trafalgar Square jealous is essentially empty of a permanent focal point.Instead various different events take place there throughout the year and it is no rare sight to see the entire centre occupied by a giant tent celebrating some aspect of Catalan culture.It is here that vast crowds spontaneously gathered to celebrate Barcelona´s winning bid to host the 1992 Olympics and where hundreds of revellers gather every New Year´s Eve to make merry.

Underneath the square is the headquarters of the main tourist information office, just look for the big red signs with an ´i´ in white to find the entrances.Aside from information there is also a money exchange, souvenir shop, a hotel booking service and internet access.