Last Updated on 28th February 2020 by Sophie Nadeau
A foodie delight with plenty of Gaudí architecture and more than its fair share of history, Barcelona tops many a European visitor’s bucket list and with good reason. But what you may be surprised to hear is that the Catalonian capital has its very own Arc de Triomf, which was created during the 19th-century. Here’s a quick history, as well as how to visit.
Barcelona’s Arc de Triomf, a 19th-Century Arch
Situated close to Parc de la Ciutadella, a delightful green space which can easily be enjoyed if you take a free and self-guided Barcelona walking tour like this one, Barcelona’s brick triumphal arch dates all the way back to the 19th-century.
Constructed for when the Catalonian city hosted the Universal Exhibition in 1888 and standing at the entrance to the grand Passeig Lluís Companys (a promenade slicing its way through several city districts), the archway invokes Classical designs and is reminiscent of much older triumphal arches, such as that to be found in Orange, Provence or in the Champagne City of Reims. However, it must be noted that while triumphal arches are traditionally constructed to celebrate military victories and the like, the Barcelona Arc de Triomf is instead a civil monument.
The architect who designed the city landmark was Josep Vilaseca and his idea was to create a piece which sought to convey the City of Barcelona’s respect for all those nations and countries partaking in the Universal Exhibition. However, unlike most classical arches, which are constructed of heavy-duty stone, the decision was made to construct the Arc de Triomf of brick.
On it, there are many neo-Mudejar reliefs in a lighter stone. When the show-stopper was created, the archway would have signalled the entrance to late 19th-century Barcelona. As well as angels, the frieze you can spy when entering the city depicts the city welcoming participants of the Universal Exhibition.
Meanwhile, upon exiting through the arch, and therefore leaving Barcelona’s city limits from the late 1800s, you’ll enjoy a frieze depicting winners being adorned with medals. The crowning jewel of the monument are 49 friezes depicting the provinces of Spain, topped by a motif bearing the Barcelona Coat of Arms.
Today, the arch stands at 30 metres in height and is the entryway to a delightful pedestrian boulevard. Best-seen during good weather (though this is fairly easy to do in the city of Barcelona where the sun shines from the spring through to the late autumn), the nearest metro station is that of ‘Arc de Triomf’. Alternatively, you can walk from the city centre, where Plaza Catalunya is just over a kilometre away on foot.