Barcelona pays homage to legendary world figures through its streets and squares

Barcelona, divided into ten districts which are then subdivided into 73 neighbourhoods, is rich with streets and squares with historical significance. Many of them honour world-famous figures, such as a square named after George Orwell which can be found in the Gothic Quarter, a square honouring John F. Kennedy in the district of Sarrià-Sant Gervasi, Christopher Columbus Avenue and monument near Les Rambles, John Lennon and Anne Frank squares both located in the Gràcia district, and a garden and a statue dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi in the neighbourhood of Poblenou. However, iconic Catalan figures such as surrealist artist Salvador Dalí do not have a street or square named after them.

The statue of Mahatma Gandhi in Jardinets de Gandhi in Poblenou district (by Neringa Sinkeviciute)
The statue of Mahatma Gandhi in Jardinets de Gandhi in Poblenou district (by Neringa Sinkeviciute) / ACN / Neringa Sinkeviciute

ACN / Neringa Sinkeviciute

March 7, 2014 03:59 PM

Barcelona (CNA).- The capital of Catalonia, divided into ten districts subdivided into 73 neighbourhoods, can offer a guide to legendary figures of history. The streets and squares in Barcelona have their own historical significance and many of them honour world-famous names, such as Christopher Columbus Avenue and monument near Les Rambles, a garden and a statue named after Mahatma Gandhi in the neighbourhood of Poblenou, a square in the Gothic Quarter honouring George Orwell, John F. Kennedy Square in the district of Sarrià-Sant Gervasi, and John Lennon and Anne Frank squares both of which can be found in Gràcia district. However, iconic Catalan figures such as surrealist artist Salvador Dalí do not have a street or square named after them.

The next time you visit the capital of Catalonia, take a stroll through its different neighbourhoods. Barcelona is divided into ten principal districts with their own unique bustling vibe and character, which are perfect for early morning, afternoon or evening walks. Simply get lost in those narrow streets, be surprised by unexpected squares, and see what turns up around the corner. Wander slowly, listen carefully, and you will hear the whisper of vibrant and eloquent streets that will try to tell a story while you pass by, a story about the neighbourhood, its local people and the different squares with historical significance and charm.

The Gothic quarter – home to George Orwell Square

Let’s start in the ‘Barri Gòtic’ (Gothic Quarter) of the ‘Ciutat Vella' (Old Town), the oldest part of the city, overflowing with history and legends waiting to be discovered, where the streets maintain the spirit of the authentic Barcelona. In the heart of the Gothic Quarter, close to the Sant Felip Neri Square, bombed by Mussolini’s air force in 1938 causing the death of 42 people, and which still bears the scars of the Civil War, there is a small triangular square. It is named after the British novelist and journalist George Orwell (pseudonym of Eric Arthur Blair), the author of ‘Homage to Catalonia’, an autobiographical account of his experiences and observations in the turbulent time of the Spanish Civil War in the late 1930s, in which most of the action takes place in and around Les Rambles. World-famous for books such as ‘Animal Farm’ or ‘1984’, Orwell came to Barcelona in 1936 to fight Fascism in Spain and joined the militia of the Workers’ Party of Marxist Unification (POUM). In 1937, after the POUM was suppressed and its members jailed, he escaped to France.

George Orwell Square, which received this name in 1996, hosts a huge metal sculpture created by Catalan surrealist Leandre Cristòfol. Today it is locally known as la ‘Plaça del Tripi’ or ‘Acid Square’, in reference to this odd sculpture. 

A tribute to Christopher Columbus

Continue down les Rambles. Located at the southern end of the famous walkway, we confront a monument honouring Italian explorer and navigator Christopher Columbus, which is a familiar sight to the city residents and foreigners visiting Barcelona. The ‘Monument a Colom’ (Monument to Columbus) is a 60 meter high steel column supporting a bronze statue of Columbus sculpted by famous Catalan sculptor Rafael Atché, and was erected in 1888 for the Barcelona Universal Exposition to remind visitors of Columbus’ return to Barcelona from the Americas after his first trip and the three others that followed.

In May 2013, a team of specialists undertook restoration and cleaning work of the Columbus statue and the supporting structure in order to maintain the monument and its infrastructure in good working order.

Gràcia, where two squares honour John Lennon and Anne Frank

The Gràcia district, one of the oldest neighbourhoods in Barcelona is characterized by an extraordinary blend of artistic, bohemian atmosphere and modern, cosmopolitan flair. Here the past and present exist side by side and the district definitely has its own charm, personality and character, and is the muse of many Catalan artists who were enchanted by this mysterious place and who dedicated their literature, sculptures and paintings to this district.

Close to the Abaceria Central Market in Gràcia, you will find one of the newest squares, called the ‘Plaça de John Lennon’, a cozy square named after the world-famous singer, songwriter and peace activist and which is dedicated to honour the former Beatle’s artistic legacy and his efforts towards world peace and political activism. The square was inaugurated in Barcelona in May 1993, where 30 years earlier, in April 1963, Lennon and the Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein spent a 4-day vacation. Today the ‘Plaça de John Lennon’ is a relaxing leisure spot for local people or tourists to meet.

If you walk around the Gracia district, you may also stop by the ‘Plaça d’Anna Frank’, a small square named after the iconic Jewish girl, who hid with her family in a secret garret to a house in Amsterdam during the German occupation of the Netherlands in World War II and who kept a diary of her experiences which were then published in 1947, several years after her death. After her family was betrayed, Frank, whose ambition was to become a writer, died aged 15, in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, just weeks before the British liberated the camp.

In the square we confront a sculpture of Anne Frank, represented as a bronze figure of the girl lying over the edge of the roof of the ‘Centre Artesá Tradicionàrius’, with her diary in the left hand and a pen in the right hand, created by Catalan sculptress Sara Pons Arnal in 2001.

A tribute to John F. Kennedy

Situated in the north-west of the city, right by the Tibidabo hill, we find Sarrià-Sant Gervasi, the least densely populated but one of the biggest districts of Barcelona and which, until the 19th century, was a separate rural village. While still preserving its village-like character, this district is also famous for a square honouring the 35th US President John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

Poblenou, garden and statue southeast for Gandhi

Coming down again to the city we can visit the Poblenou neighborhood, where it is possible to find a statue of Mahatma Gandhi, created by Nobel Peace Prize winner, Argentinian artist and human rights activist Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, and which was inaugurated in 2000. The statue is located in the ‘Jardinets de Gandhi’ (Garden of Gandhi) and represents Mahatma Gandhi, civil rights and non-violence activist, who fought against discrimination and led India to independence in 1947.

No street dedicated to Salvador Dalí

Curiously enough, world-famous artists such as Salvador Dalí, the iconic Catalan surrealist painter, do not have a street or a square in Barcelona after their names. However, other Spanish cities, such as Madrid, Seville, Valladolid and Guadalajara have dedicated streets and squares in honour of Dalí.

While Barcelona may not honour him, there are three Dalí museums in Catalonia – the ‘Teatre Museu Dalí’ in his birthtown of Figueres, Dalí’s house in Portlligat, in Cadaqués and the artist’s castle in Púbol, in the Costa Brava. A petition for a street or square dedicated to Dalí in Barcelona has been started.