Text: Sophia Keller
People often say that you get to know a city by its people, its buildings, its weather and its food. I’m pretty sure that everyone that has taken our Barcelona day tours can agree that you get immediately drawn to its complex beauty in every street, alley or corner. How not to fall in love with such a beautiful city with such wonders? Barcelona is creative, eclectic and full of surprises.
The most delightful thing about Barcelona, though, is that you can always – believe me, always – discover something new to appreciate. The best surprises are waiting out of the ordinary and will teach you a lot about the city, but you gotta have your eyes wide open and pay attention to everything. In this case, to the floor! We are talking about Barcelona’s tiles.
If you want to see it, you’ll have to find it!
Barcelona has a different type of tile for each region of the city, but how many are there, and what do they look like? Going for long walks to hunting them down while admiring the city in warm autumn weather sounds like a sacrifice, I know, but someone had to do it… So I went for it, and here I am to share my discovered treasures with you.
Once I realized what I was going for, stepping out into the streets felt like walking on a piece of art – which is true! There are at least 13 different tiles around the city, and every one of them was designed by different and important Catalan architects such as Antoni Gaudí and Josep Puig i Cadafalch. Those and so many other architects have worked with Casa Escofet, a construction company that won a bid held by the City Hall back in 1916. They’ve been paving Barcelona ever since.
The Catalan word for it is ‘panot’, and Catalans consider it as an icon and part of their identity. One of the most popular panots – and the one you’ll probably notice the most – is the “Flor de Barcelona”, as it has become an urban symbol around the city.
This panot was introduced in 1926 and it’s known for being the main tile in L’Eixample.
The Pedrera Tile
The second most famous panot in the city is the one you find in Passeig de Gràcia. Designed by Antoni Gaudí (yes, the one and only), it was meant to be only for the Pedrera.Not all of the panots are easy to find. It takes effort and attention to get to see all of them. Have in mind that every design can take you to different places, wonder about its own story behind it and connect a bit more with the city itself.
Aaaaaand, here they are!
In Catalan, rajola (tile) is used to denominate the chocolate bar panot. You can find it in two different designs: Every panot around the city is the same size, measuring 20 x 20 cm and 4 cm thick, each.
Widely used in Barcelona. It also has a similar design to one called Mataró tile, which you can no longer find in the city.
This one is also scarce today. It was one of the first designs of panots for the city.
TIP: you can find it in Villarroel street.
The hardest panot to find, the one below is called “The Rose” and is one of the older ones around the city. It was discontinued in 1916.
Tip: you can find it in London Street in between tiles and hidden in corners. Be very aware of the floor if you want to find it!
The panot below is called “B de Barcelona”, and you’ll see it in a little area right in front of Espacio Cultural Pere Pruna, at Ganduxer Street. It was part of a failed project, as apparently, people found it way too harsh for an entire street.
The newest addition to the city streets
This new panot was introduced last summer (2014) and is called “Diagonal”, because of its location. It was designed by Terradas Arquitectes and manufactured by Casa Escofet. The tile represents a banana leaf composed of four pieces, and it’s expected to pave part of Diagonal Avenue.
Very unusual. They were placed onto the streets to let Barcelonians know in which street they were on. In Via Laietana close to the Hotel Suizo.
You’ll be able to find it all around the city, especially in L’Eixample (close to Muntaner St and London St).
This one can be found in the city center, paving the beginning and end of the Ramblas.
This one, called “el vibrazo”, was designed by Adolf Florense and it paves the entire boulevard of Las Ramblas.
La Ruta del Modernisme (The Modernism Rout)
If you ever run into a red, round-shaped Flor de Barcelona tile, be sure to stop and look around. Those tiles belong to the Modernism Route and are strategically located in front of important modernist buildings or symbols of Barcelonean architecture. There are 115 marked around the city, all of which show the Art Nouveau that keeps Barcelona alive.
You can probably get a bunch of souvenirs with their various designs in different stores around the city; it’d be like taking a piece of Barcelona into your own home. And if you’re truly drawn to these panots as much as I am, you can even buy a restored one, “rescued” from the street. Couldn’t get more original than this, could you?