From Grand Choral Synagogue to the Palace Square:
Main attractions: Grand Choral Synagogue, St. Nicholas Naval Cathedral, Mariinsky Theatre, Theatre Square, Potseluyev Bridge, Khrapovitsky Bridge, New Holland Island, Nikolayevsky Palace, Neva river, Blagoveshchenskiy bridge, the English Embankment, Senate Square, The Admirality, The Senate and Synod Building, The Bronze Horseman Monument, Alexander Garden, St. Isaac's Cathedral, Saint Isaac's Square, Tsar Carpenter statue, Palace Square, Winter Palace, The General Staff Building, Museum of Guards. Alexander Column.
The monumental Neoclassical building was designed by Carlo Rossi in the Empire style and built in 1819-1829. It consists of two wings, which are separated by a tripartite triumphal arch adorned by sculptors Stepan Pimenov and Vasily Demuth-Malinovsky and commemorating the Russian victory over Napoleonic France in the Patriotic War of 1812. The arch links Palace Square through Bolshaya Morskaya St. to Nevsky Prospekt.
Until the capital was transferred to Moscow in 1918, the building served as the headquarters of the General Staff (western wing), Foreign Ministry and Finance Ministry (eastern wing).
The western wing now hosts the headquarters of the Western Military District. The eastern wing was given to the Hermitage Museum in 1993 and was extensively remodeled inside.
Tip 1: From Grand Choral Synagogue to Alexander Garden.
Tip 2: St. Isaac's Cathedral and Square.
Tip 3: From St. Issac Square to Palace Square.
Start: Grand Choral Synagogue. Trolleybuses 3, 22, buses 27, 181. Alight at the Teatralnaya Square. Cross the canal towards Marinsky Theatre 2 (the new building) on your left. Or take bus 181 along Sadovaya and ask the bus driver or the conductor to stop at LERMONTOVSKIY. Walk northward along Lermontovsky (crossing Griboyedov Canal from south to north) until its northern most end.
End: the Winter Palace and the Hermitage Museum. Plenty of buses, trolleybuses and Metro stations in Nevsky Prospekt - behind (south) to the palace Square. Leave the Palace Square through its southern side, the triumphal arch of the General Staff building, and walk 200 m. along Bolshaya Morskaya St and you arrive to Nevsky Prospekt avenue.
Orientation: this route brings you, slowly, gradually and safely to several highlights of the grand past-capital. the general direction is from south to north, from the periphery to the centre. The whole itinerary is along water - along St. Petersburg marvelous canals, bridges, palaces, religious buildings and anchorages.
Weather: ONLY in bright (also half-cloudy) days. No rain please. Avoid windy days (especially in the New Holland area).
Distance: 10 km. Duration: 1 day.
The Grand Choral Synagogue, Lermontovsky 2, stands in the intersection of Ulitsa Dekabristov, and Lermontovskiy Prospekt. It now stands as a symbol to the perseverance of the Jewish community in St Petersburg - after hundreds years of endurance and disasters. In 1893 the Jewish community, first, felt socially and financially secure enough to build a synagogue and cultural centre, It was designed (by Vasily Stasov) and built in an oriental/Moorish style - and the result is marvelous. From 1884 to 1888 the main construction took place and in 1888 the cupola of the Grand Choral Synagogue was decorated and the process of interior design began. On December 8, 1893 the Grand Choral Synagogue was officially opened and consecrated during a most lavish ceremony. The door was opened with a specially designed silver key and 7 Torah scrolls were brought into the hall. It had taken so many years to be accepted into society and over 24 years to raise money, plan and receive permission, but finally the Jewish community of St Petersburg had their Grand Choral Synagogue. During WW2 a 100-bed hospital for the wounded was organized by the Jewish community, on the premises of the synagogue. And the Synagogue was bombed by the Nazi army during the Siege of Leningrad between 1941 and 1943. However, the hospital remained in operation. During the Soviet Era the Jewish community had a rocky relationship with the authorities and the Grand Choral Synagogue was closed several times and the activities inside the Synagogue were watched closely by the authorities and KGB secret police. In the mid to late 1980’s there was a youth movement and the Synagogue started to fill up again with those wishing to worship. Cultural organisations were formed during Perestroika and concerts were held in the Grand Choral Synagogue. Hard to believe how this building persevered amongst the turbulent rulers of the past hundred years. It is the 2nd largest synagogue in Europe (after the Budapest Neologic Synagogue).
This place is a must to see whether you are a Jew or not. It is particularly notable in its wonderful 47m-high cupola. The interior is breath-taking ! The Synagogue has a magnificent prayer hall, with its stucco friezes and stalactite moldings. The magnificent chandeliers that greet you upon entry into the sanctuary make a wonderful first impression. The Synagogue is praised for its wonderful acoustics and it is said that by placing ones ear in the right place, one can hear the minutest of whispers from way across the opposite end of the hall. Special room for marriage ceremonies, with big windows decorated with geometric shapes. At the end of the room, under a "roof" of cloth, tied to carved wooden poles, stands a bride's chair.
Adjacent to the synagogue are: a Jewish restaurant Lechaim and a Kosher catering shop. In summer, the synagogue also hosts performances with a Jewish cantor and other musicians performing Jewish, traditional and Klezmer music. The synagogue conducts English-language tours of the building, as well as longer tours of ‘Jewish St Petersburg’, all of which need to be booked in advance – see the Synagogue website: http://en.jeps.ru/
Concerts and tourist events (400-500 RUB): http://en.jeps.ru/excursions-and-tourist-services/jewish-concerts-saint-petersburg.html
Opening hours: open everyday except on Saturdays (Shabbat) and other holy days: 08.00 - 18.00 (OCT - APR: 17.00). Services: 10.00 - `12.00 SAT only. Men and women should cover their heads upon entering. Free entrance. On Saturdays and Jewish holidays it is forbidden to take videos or photos on the Synagogue premises. Expect a security detection in the entrance.
Now we walk along Lermontovskiy Avenue (Лермонтовский пр.) from north to south (crossong: Pechatnikov, Rimskogo-Korsakova roads) and meet the Griboyedov Canal. This is a quaint and pastoral of the canal:
We keep walking southward, arriving to Sadovaya street - where we turn to the left (north-east) side of this long and wide street. We continue along Sadovaya, crossing over the Kryucov Canal (links the Moika and Fontanka rivers just south of Teatralnaya Ploschad) and turning LEFT (north) on a small bridge the Griboyedov Canal again (now, from south to north):
We see, in front of us (north), the striking blue, white & gold Baroque St. Nicholas Naval Cathedral with ornate decor which is closely linked to the navy. The beautiful belfry of the cathedral is reflectrd in the motionless water of the Kryukov canal. Here, the two canals (Kryukov and Griboyedov) join the Fontanka River. Standing near the belfry you can see 8 beautiful bridges that create a great symphony combining water, parklands and architecture. St. Nicholas Naval Cathedral (Nikolo-Bogoyavlenskiy Morskoy sobor) (Никольский морской собор), Nikolskaya pl., 1/3 was serving as the Russian Navy main shrine until the Russian Revolution. St. Nicholas Naval Cathedral consists, actually, of two separate churches. The lower Saint Nicholas Church is located on the first floor, while the upper church is on the second floor. The upper floor is even more beautiful than the lower one - and open, only, to worshipers. The altar of the upper church was consecrated in the presence of Catherine the Great. The main shrine of the cathedral - a Greek icon of St. Nicholas made in the 17th century with a portion of his relics—is located in the lower church. It has the shape of a cross and crowned by five gilded domes. The church can accommodate up to 5,000 people. It is decorated by Corinthian columns. The walls of the cathedral are decorated with scenes from the history of the Russian Navy. In 1907, two marble plaques were hung on the south wall of the upper church in honor of sailors who died in the Russian-Japanese War in 1904-5. At the same time, in the square next to the cathedral a memorial was erected to all the sailors of the battleship Alexander III who lost their lives in 1905. Its dominating exterior colors are: blue and white. Today, it is one of the best - and last remaining - examples of Baroque architecture. The cathedral is surrounded by a green space in front of it and, both, are located in a bend of Kanal Griboedova in an especially picturesque part of the SPB city. The area was originally settled by sailors in the time of Peter the Great, and the first, wooden chapel was built for them and bore the name of St. Nicholas the Miracle-Worker. As the area grew along with the new capital, Empress Elizabeth issued a decree to build a stone church for the regiments living here:
The church's beautiful bell tower looms over Kryukov Canal. It is a clear change that the bell tower is separate from the main building:
Unlike many other churches and cathedrals in St Petersburg this cathedral is not a museum but a fully working cathedral for local Russians. It is very peaceful inside. This is still an active church and maintains a sense of respectful worship. Note: it is expected for women to cover their head with a scarf. The cathedral houses 10 spectacular icons in gold frame that were a gift from Catherine the Great. The icons portray saints who are celebrated at Russian Navy celebrations. One of the most revered places in the cathedral is the image of Nicholas the Miracle-Worker, given to the church by Greek sailors, which was taken from Russia by the French in 1812, and returned to Nicholas I by the Prussians in 1835:
We continue NORTHWARD along Kryukov Canal (Kryukova Kanala), along the western side of St. Nicholas park:
On our right there is a black-colored building adorned with interesting decorations and friezes:
After crossing Soyuza pechtnikov road (on our right and left) - we see, on our right (east) the green-white colored building Mariinsky Theatre, (Мариинский театр, Mariinskiy Teatr). www.mariinsky.ru.
THere are, actually, TWO Mariinsky theatres and a bridge connects between them: the Mariinsky I, 1 Theatre Square. Box-office working hours: Daily from 11:00 to 19:00. The Mariinsky II, 34 Dekabristov Street. Box-office working hours: Monday – Friday from 11:00 to 19:00, closed from 14:00 to 15:00; on Saturdays and Sundays box-offices are open from 11:00 to 18:00, closed from 14:00 to 15:00.
The theatre is named after Empress Maria Alexandrovna, wife of Tsar Alexander II. There is a bust of the Empress in the main entrance foyer. The theatre's name has changed throughout its history, reflecting the political climate of the time. The Imperial Mariinsky Theatre and its predecessor, the Bolshoi Kamenny Theatre, hosted the premieres of many of the operas of Mikhail Glinka, Modest Mussorgsky, and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. At the behest of the theatre director Ivan Vsevolozhsky, both the Imperial Ballet (ballet arrived at the Mariinsky theater in 1870) and the Imperial Opera were relocated to the Mariinsky Theatre in 1886. It was there that the genius choreographer Marius Petipa presented many of his masterpieces, including such staples of the ballet repertory as The Sleeping Beauty in 1890, The Nutcracker in 1892, Raymonda in 1898, and the definitive revival of Swan Lake in 1895. When the theatre was designated as principal venue of the Imperial Ballet and Opera in 1886, the theatre was extensively renovated. A lavish inauguration celebration was given at the behest of Emperor Alexander III, in which the first original ballet to be produced at the Mariinsky was given - Petipa's Les Pilules magiques, to the music of Ludwig Minkus. Other world premieres performed at the Mariinsky building included Mussorgsky's opera Boris Godunov in 1874, Tchaikovsky's operas The Queen of Spades in 1890 and Iolanta in 1892, the revised version of Prokofiev's ballet Romeo and Juliet in 1940, and Khachaturian's ballet Spartacus in 1956. Other notable productions included Rimsky-Korsakov's opera The Golden Cockerel in 1909 and Prokofiev's ballet Cinderella in 1946. Under Yuri Temirkanov, Principal Conductor from 1976 to 1988, the Opera Company continued to stage innovative productions of both modern and classic Russian operas. Although functioning separately from the Theatre’s Ballet Company, since 1988 both companies have been under the artistic leadership of Valery Gergiev as Artistic Director of the entire Theatre.
The Imperial Ballet and Opera Theatre had existed since 1783, performing on a variety of stages including the Maly ("Small") Theatre, a wooden building that used to stand near the Church of Our Saviour on the Spilled Blood, the private Hermitage Theatre, and from 1783 Antonio Rinaldi's Bolshoy Kamenniy ("Big Stone") Theatre on the site now occupied by the Rimsky-Korsakov State Conservatory, opposite the modern Mariinsky Theatre on Teatralnaya Ploshchad ("Theatre Square"). Rinaldi's building was enlarged and adapted by Thomas de Thomon 1802-1803, and further modified 1826-1836 by Alberto Cavos, the son of composer and conductor of opera Catarino Cavos, to allow the use of modern stage machinery.
The complex is equipped with a splendid cable-bridge and a giant poster of the theatre. Opened in 1860, it became the preeminent music theatre of late 19th century Russia, where many of the stage masterpieces of Tchaikovsky, Mussorgsky, and Rimsky-Korsakov received their premieres. Through most of the Soviet era, it was known as the Kirov Theatre. Today, the Mariinsky Theatre is home to the Mariinsky Ballet, Mariinsky Opera and Mariinsky Orchestra. Since Yuri Temirkanov's retirement in 1988, the conductor Valery Gergiev has served as the theatre's general director.
All kinds of photo, audio and video recording of performances or parts are strictly forbidden. During performances all communication devices must be switched to silent mode. It is forbidden to enter the theatre performances with casual clothing, with beverages and/or food, with flowers and with (or under the influence of) alcohol.
Getting there: The Mariinsky Theatre is some distance from the metro. To walk from Sadovaya, Sennaya Ploshchad or Spasskaya metro stations takes around 20 minutes. Walk south from Sennaya Ploshchad down Sadovaya Ulitsa, and take the second turning after the square on the right onto Prospekt Rimskogo-Korsakova. Follow the avenue over the Griboyedov Canal and take the first turning on the right onto Ulitsa Glinki (opposite the St. Nicholas Cathedral). It is then about 150m to Teatralnaya Ploshchad and the Mariinsky Theatre.
If you are coming from Nevsky Prospekt, it is easier to take a bus (27) or trolleybus (3 or 22), from the north side of the street (odd numbers).
Official online tickets are usually your best alternative. All seats available at the box office are available online. Buying online is good because it enables the buyer to directly compare the available seats and choose his/her seats. Registration on the Mariinsky website is required and payment is made by credit card. PayPal is not accepted as of March 2015.
In the process of buying, you will be prompted to choose either Full Rate or Special Rate. The latter doesn’t apply to you unless you are a Russian citizen, living permanently in Russia, officially working there or have a Russian student card. Basically this means that foreign tourists must pay the Full Rate. You can either print your own tickets or get them from the tickets office. You may be required to show your passport if you go to the tickets office:
Northern facade of Mariinsky Theatre (Theatre Square):
The New Mariinsky Theatre (Mariinsky II): In May 2013, conductor Valery Gergiev marked his 25th year at the helm of St Petersburg's historic ballet and opera company by unveiling a brand new theatre, the Mariinsky II. The Canadian firm, Diamond and Schmitt Architects, along with its local partner KB ViPS Architects designed a new building, to be named The Second Stage, with 2,000 seats, which complements the existing, old Mariinsky. Construction began in 2003. Technical difficulties connected with sub-soil problems led to a slowing down of its progress. Construction was completed in May 2013. Blue and gold colors differ the Mariinsky theatre (the old one, Stage I) (about Stage II - see below) from other great theatres of the world. Five-tier Main Hall of the Mariinsky Theatre is kept unchanged after the Cavos rebuilding in 1859:
THe adjacent concert hall (still, part of the Mariinsky Theatre complex) holds 1000 spectators. Address: 20 Pisareva street (entry from Dekabristov, 37). Opening hours of tickets office: Daily from 11:00 to 19:00, closed between 14:00 and 15:00:
The Mariinsky Theatres stand at the west side of the Theatre Square. This is one of the oldest squares of St.Petersburg. As its name indicates, Theatre Square is the site of two theatre institutions in St. Petersburg: the Mariinsky Theatre and the Rimsky-Korsakov Conservatory. The modern Theater square was, originally, named Carousel square because of the round amphitheaters, built for equestrian shows. It was a square of a variety entertainments for the citizens. In 1775 – 1783 the largest theater in Europe by that time was mounted on the square by the architect A. Rinaldi. The Stone (Kamenny) theater (see above) gave the name to the square, but it was called Theater Square officially only in 1810s. After several reconstructions the building of the Kamenny theater was enlarged and renovated for the purpose of St.Petersburg Concervatory - the oldest Russian higher educational musical institute, founded in 1862. During the times of Emperor Nicholas I reign, on the opposite side of the square, was created a Theater – Circus, but after the fire of 1859 the theater was restored to the Mariinsky theater - named after the empress Maria Alexandrovna. The whole square is under heavy reconstructions (as of Summer 2015).
St. Petersburg Conservatory named after N.A. Rimsky-Korsakov, Theatre Square, 3 stands more in the eastern side of the square. THE BUILDING IS UNDER RECONSTRUCTIONS. The St. Petersburg Conservatory which is the oldest music school in Russia was founded in 1862. Its foundation was made possible due to the efforts of a group of famous Russian musicians, including Anton Rubinstein - pianist, composer and the first director of that school. Outstanding musicians from Russia and Western Europe were invited as Conservatory lecturers. The present building of the Conservatory was constructed by architect Vladimir Nicholas in 1896 on the grounds of the Grand Stone Theatre (in Russian: Bolshoy Kamenni) and still has a main staircase and landing of this historic theater. Bolshoy Kamenni Theatre was founded on the order of the Empress Catherine II in 1783 and was the first musical theater in Russia. In this theater in 1836 the premiere of the first Russian opera "Life for the Tsar" by Glinka took place. Among the graduates of the St. Petersburg Conservatory were such prominent musicians and composers as Pyotr Tchaikovsky, Sergei Prokofiev, Anatoli Liadov, Dmitri Shostakovich. From 1944 the Conservatory was named after the famous Russian composer Rimsky-Korsakov who was one of its most prominent professors. Picture below from 2008:
The interior of the St. Petersburg Conservatory:
A prominent statue of Rimsky-Korsakov stands in a small garden, between the Mariiensky Theater and the St. Petersburg Conservatory:
In the center of the square is mounted the monument to composer M. Glinka (1906, sculptor Robert Bach, architect Alexander Bach). Mikhail Ivanovich Glinka (Михаи́л Ива́нович Гли́нка; 1804 – 1857, was the first Russian composer to gain wide recognition within his own country, and is often regarded as the fountainhead of Russian classical music. Glinka's compositions were an important influence on future Russian composers:
We continue northward from the Theatre Square along ul. Glinki and arrive to a wonderful sight spot: Potseluyev Bridge (Potseluyev most), 1808–16, by William Heste). The bridge was named after merchant Potseluev who kept a tavern near the bridge. Entrance to the bridge features four granite obelisk with lanterns. The panoramic view of Saint Isaac's Cathedral that opens from the bridge makes it a popular subject of artists paintings. DO NOT MISS THIS SPOT (especially, in the afternoon hours when St. Isac Cathedral is lit by the sunset rays:
We head now to the New Holland Island. We do not choose the shortest route - but opt for walking around the island. Avoid coming to this area in a windy or rainy day. Chances to find a shelter or, even, a restroom are very poor. In a sunny day this round itinerary would be very rewarding. Head west on nab. Reki moyki (наб. реки Мойки) toward наб. Крюкова канала
550 m. Turn right to Khrapovitsky Bridge (мост. Храповицкий), 58 m. Khrapovitsky Bridge (Храповицкий мост) is named after Catherine the Great's personal secretary, Alexander Vasilievich Khrapovitsky, who is best-known to posterity for his popular memoirs of the empress. The current bridge was built between 1965-67 on the site of a wooden bridge that had remained intact for nearly two centuries (1737-1935). A 43-meter, single-span bridge of concrete, the Khrapovitsky Bridge is typical of the 1960s, and unremarkable (except the fine view you gain - while standing on this bridge):
Turn right onto nab. Admiralteyskogo Kanala (наб. Адмиралтейского канала)
Note the old, gorgeous buildings/palaces on your left (north) side:
New Holland Island had been hidden away from the world for long periods of time. The hidden-away, austere grandeur of its dockyards and warehouses have constituted the architectural identity of the entire isolated island. We found New Holland as a romantic corner of St. Petersburg. It is still, mostly, unaccessible due to heavy reconstruction works carried out onto its territory. From the moment of its founding, New Holland has been under naval control. Originally built on the orders of Peter the Great, the island of New Holland in St Petersburg got its name from the Dutch shipbuilders brought in by the Russian ruler to help create his model city from reclaimed swamps. The sizable territory has been used for maintenance of the Russian fleet: in one spot they stored lumber for ship-building, in another they constructed rows of warehouses, a water tank for testing ships and submarines, a naval prison and one of the first radio stations in the country. The island's buildings are still examples of early Russian Classicism. At the turn of the twenty-first century, the island has been given over to the SPB city:
Continue along nab. Admiralteyskogo Kanala (наб. Адмиралтейского канала) until its most eastern end. Cross nab. Kryukova kanala and turn LEFT (north) to Nikolayevsky Palace, pl. Truda, 4. Nikolayevsky Palace in Truda Square is home of famous folk shows. The Nikolaevsky Palace was constructed in 1853-1861 by famous architect Andrey Stakenshneider. It is a great way to end your tour day in St. Petersburg. Traditional costumes make the folk performance exciting and interesting. The performances are approximately 1.5 hours with an intermission that includes drinks and snacks. The palace itself is designed in a classic style with a beautiful garden in the front that is always full of flowers. When entering the palace you will see a grand stairway, which is one of the best places for a photo opportunity. The Nikolaevsky Palace was built in the mid 1800's. Originally the palace served as the residence to the son of Czar Nicholas I. His name ,was Grand Duke Nickoli. At one point is was called the "Palace of Labour" due to the demands of Lenin, but has since had its name restored. the Folklore show take place EVERYDAY at 19.00, 4900 RUB. Come early to secure better seats. THe show-hall is is not a large one. Seats are nor numbered. The stage may be obstructed, from several seats, by two large pillars in front of the stage. Online tickets: http://folkshow.ru/online-reserv#.VgzyLfAas_o
Keep walking north-east along Pl. Truda, in the direction of ul. Glaernaya (ул. Галерная). After 200 m. you arrive to the Neva river, to the Blagoveshchenskiy bridge (Благовещенский мост). The Neva River is an essential part of St. Petersburg's charm. Many generations of locals and visitors to the city have been completely enraptured by long, evening walks along the banks of the Neva during the city's famous White Nights. Very few things can be more romantic than strolling along the Neva's granite-clad embankments and admiring the city's open bridges, the marvelous architecture and the large ships as they pass by:
The Blagoveshchensky (Annunciation) Bridge (Благовещенский мост) is the first permanent bridge built across the Neva River in Saint Petersburg, Russia. It connects Vasilievsky Island and the central part of the city (Admiralteysky raion). The bridge's length is 331 meters and the width was 24 meters. The original name of the bridge was Nevsky Bridge. It was later renamed Blagoveshchensky Bridge. After the death of Tsar Nicholas I, it was named Nikolaevsky Bridge in his honor. The bridge was built in 1843-1850. It was designed by Stanisław Kierbedź, a Polish engineer working in Russia. The architect Alexander Brullov participated in the decoration. The design was a cast iron bridge with twin parallel swing sections at its northern end. At the time, it was the longest bridge in Europe. According to the legend, the Russian Tsar, Nicholas I promised to Kierbedź to give him a promotion for every completed span. After the bridge was completed with eight spans total in it, Kierbedź was promoted to the rank of General, but actually when he started the construction he already had a rank of Podpolkovnik (i.e. lieutenant colonel). The bridge was formally opened on November 12, 1850. Since it was close to Blagoveshchenskaya (Annunciation) Square, it was called Blagoveshchensky Bridge:
The Neva river provides pleasant sights, especially, in a sunny day far away to its northern bank. Walking along its southern bank will discover the various attractions spread over the northern bank on the Vasilevsky Island - The Menshikov Palace:
The Academy of Arts and the University Embankment -
We shall walk 1 km. eastward along the English Embankment, along the southern bank of the Neva river - heading to the Senate Square and Aleksandrovsky Garden. In other words - we turn RIGHT (east) from Pl. Truda to the English Embankment. I recommend browsing the mansions and palaces along the English Embankment ALSO LEFT (WEST) to the turning from Pl. Truda.
The English Embankment (Англи́йская на́бережная or Angliyskaya Naberezhnaya) is a street along the southern bank of the Bolshaya Neva river. The English Embankment was renamed Red Navy Embankment in 1919. The historical name was restored after the fall of Communism in the early 1990s. It has been historically one of the most fashionable streets in Saint Petersburg, and in the 19th century was called by the French term, Promenade des Anglais. The English Embankment runs perpendicular to the south end of the Annunciation Bridge and spans between the Novo-Admiralteysky Canal and the Decembrists Square, where it becomes the Admiralty Embankment (see below). Today, the Angliyskaya Embankment is one of the most prestigious locations in St. Petersburg and is mostly home to corporate offices located in former palatial houses of imperial Russian nobility and pre-revolutionary foreign embassies. It is very a popular sightseeing destination among tourists because of the wonderful view of the Neva and palaces across the river. The Menshikov Palace and the Academy of Arts building on the Vasilevsky Island across the river. Many boat tours start at the embankment, taking tourists on a journey about canals and bridges of St. Petersburg. The Constitutional Court of Russia moved to the former Senate and Synod buildings at the Decembrists Square and English Embankment in St. Petersburg in 2008. The move, partially, restored Saint Petersburg's historic status, making the city the second judicial capital.
# 60 English Embankment:
The English Embankment was built between 1763 and 1767. It is named after the former British Embassy and the English church that was located at # 56, the building is now occupied by the Travel and Sightseeing Bureau. The English church was built in 1814 and 1815 to a design by Giacomo Quarenghi, it is preserved as architectural landmark. The interior of the English church is highlighted with marble, historic paintings, and boasts a large pipe organ - the only English organ existing in Russia. The last British Ambassador left in 1918, after the Russian Revolution.
Note at # 54 the Palace of Grand Duke Mikhail Alexandrovich. This austerely elegant mansion belonged to Grand Duke Mikhail Alexandrovich (1878-1918), younger brother of the last Russian Emperor, Nicholas II. In March 1917, Nicholas II abdicated the throne in favor of his brother Mikhail. However, within a year Mikhail had been shot by the Bolsheviks in Perm. Mikhail Alexandrovich rarely stayed in his palace. From 1914, he commanded the Caucasian Native Cavalry Division, comprised of Muslim volunteers who, under Russian law, were not subject to conscription for military service. When he was on leave he preferred to rest at his residence in Gatchina, and it was there he was arrested by the Bolsheviks. In Soviet times and until very recently, the palace was occupied the All-Russian Society of the Deaf. The premises are currently being leased as office space. It is possible to tour the palace, where some of Meltzer's and Rachau's interiors have survived, including the marble staircase and fireplaces, fine wooden panelling and doors, and an ancient elevator:
Kazalet Mansion – 6 English Embankment:
After walking 1 km eastward along the English Embankment grandiose mansions and past-glamour buildings - we arrive, first, to the Senate Square and, later, to the Alexander Garden (Aleksandrovskiy Sad) (Адмиралтейский пр-кт) - just behind the Senate Square.The Senate Square (Senatskaya Ploshchad), (Сенатская площадь), formerly known as Decembrists' Square in 1925-2008, and Peter's Square, before 1925. On July 29, 2008, the square was renamed back to Senate Square. It is situated on the left bank of the Bolshaya Neva, in front of Saint Isaac's Cathedral. Getting here: from the Admiralteyskaya metro station, turn left and left again down Malaya Morskaya Ulitsa. Follow the road down to St. Isaac's Cathedral and turn right past the Cathedral onto Prospekt Dekabristov. It is around 200 m. along the street to Senatskaya Ploshchad, with the Senate and Synod Building on your left.
The square is bounded by the Admiralty building to the east. The original Admiralty was one of the first structures to be built in St Petersburg. It was designed to be a dockyard, where some of the first ships of Russia's Baltic fleet were built (some with the participation of Tsar Peter himself who, was an expert in shipbuilding). The Admiralty experienced many fires, especially since it was constructed with wood. Anna Ioannovna, the Empress of Russia from 1730 to 1740, decided to rebuild the Admiralty with stone. This stonework lasted until 1805. The present Admiralty building was built between 1806 and 1823 by the architect Adrian Zakharov. He turned it into a marvelous example of the Russian Empire style, with rows of white columns, wonderful relief detail and numerous statues. Because the naval officers and wealthy merchants near the former Admiralty became the aristocracy of St. Petersburg, Admiralty Square became the social area for them. Alexander I was not fond of so much upper class influence in this area and gave Admiralty Square more administrative buildings. More changes were made in 1844 when the shipbuilding base was filled in at Admiralty Square and moved downstream (Navigating St. Petersburg). Rows of white columns and numerous statues, such as those of great military leaders, are part of the design plan. A frieze portrays Neptune handing his mighty triton to Peter. Other decorative features bore naval themes as well. The gilded spire of the Admiralty ( "the little ship") is another of St. Petersburg's famous icons and landmarks. The weathervane, a replica of Peter's personal ship, is now a reproduction. The original is housed in the Naval Museum. The Admiralty tower, topped with its golden spire, is the focal point of three of the city's main streets; Nevsky Propect, Gorokhovaia Street and Voznesensky Prospekt, and can be seen along the entire length of each one. The Admiralty was Russia's Naval Headquarters until 1917, and now serves as a naval college. The complex also suffered much damage during the blockade of Leningrad and was continually bombarded by the Germans during World War II. Despite that it is quite iconic, this place is not open to public. Though you can takes photos from the outside:
On the west is the Senate and Synod Building (now headquarters of the Constitutional Court of Russia). This immense building in high neoclassical style was built for the two most important administrative organs of the Imperial Russian government, the Senate and the Synod. The former was the highest legislative and administrative power, while the later was the highest body in the Russian Orthodox Church, introduced by Peter the Great to replace the Patriarchy. Carlo Rossi designed the building with an arch "in the fashion and image of the General Staff Building". Construction of the building took five years, from 1829 to 1834, and it turned out to be the last major project of Rossi's glittering career. From 1925, the building was used to store the Russian State Historical Archive. During the Second World War, the building was badly damaged from shelling, and it was not fully restored until the 2000s. The archive was moved from the building in 2006, and in 2007 a complete and careful restoration of the building was undertaken. It is now home to the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation, and to the Boris Yeltsin Presidential Library. The building also contains apartments designed specifically for meetings between the Russian President and the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church. The building consists of two 100-meter-long blocks joined by a triumphal arch, which leads through from Senatskaya Ploshchad to Galernaya Ulitsa. Rows of Corinthian columns affirm the building's ceremonial character:
The Bronze Horseman Monument adorns the square. This is an impressive, equestrian Statue of Peter the Great in Senate Square. It was commissioned by Catherine the Great, and is now considered to be one of the most famous symbols of St. Petersburg (just like the Statue of Liberty is to NYC). That massive granite slab was found in Finland in 1765, and originally weighed 1500 tons. To help facilitate the move it to its current location, master stone cutters continuously shaped the enormous monolith during shipment, and carved and shaved the weight down to 1250 tons. It is the largest stone ever moved by man, without the use of any animals. It took 400 men nine months to transport the stone across frozen ground to a barge on the Neva River. That effort is considered to be a historic feat of engineering. It then took 12 years from 1770 to 1782 to create the bronze mold of Peter on his horse on top of that colossal piece of granite. There is a carving on the sides of the stone that is in both Latin and Russian that means “Catherine the Second to Peter the First, 1782”. This is obviously an expression of her admiration for Peter the Great -- who is the founder of St. Petersburg, and is considered to be one of Russia’s greatest rulers. An exceptional and mesmerizing work. The blending of the Neva River and St. Isaac's Cathedral, and the "Bronze Horseman" is astonishing. The atmosphere around is always festive. The pedestal on which it stands is called “Thunder Stone” which got its name from the local legend that thunder and lightning split off a piece of the stone giving it its odd shape:
The Alexander Garden lies along the south and west façades of the Russian Admiralty, parallel to the Neva River and the Admiralty Quay, extending from St. Isaac's Cathedral in the west to the Palace Square in the east. It joins together the former Admiralty Square and the Senate (formerly: Decembrists) Square. Alexander Garden was immediately immortalized in Alexander Pushkin’s description in his novel Evgeny Onegin. However, Alexander Garden received its name from another Alexander, Alexander II. Interestingly, the park was built in honor of Peter the Great’s 200th birthday. Because he chose 52 different types of tree species to be planted there, Alexander II earned his name on the plaque (Alexander Garden [Saint Petersburg]). Many historians enjoy reminding tourists and residents alike that Alexander Garden used to be fortification against the Swedes. The English-style garden was designed by Luigi Rusca. Initially, a large part of the Alexander Park was occupied by woody vegetation. Old trees have survived here until now, but new buildings have been added over time. It was formerly known as the Admiralty Boulevard, the Admiralty Gardens, and the Workers’ Garden.
This lovely park is facing St Isaacs cathedral and offers a great fresh air breath before the cathedral visit (see Tip 2 below). Here, in contrary to other Russian parks, you can relax, sitting on the soft grass or on the bench, if the weather allows. The garden is full with activities and has enough shady and sunny places. From the park you get beautiful views of the Neva river and embankments, the solid governmental and of the past-royal mansions around, of which there are many around. The old trees protect from the sun or inclement weather. From Alexander Garden you can see the main monuments of the city from the Winter Palace to St. Isaac's Cathedral. It is a favorite place for walks by locals and guests of St. Petersburg. THe garden or park is equipped with sculptures, busts, fountains, and, of course, the memorable monument of the Bronze Horseman in the nearby Senate Square:
The Admirality - a view from Alexander Garden:
Cross the Senate Square and the adjacent section of Alexander Garden from north-west to south-east and you can't miss the mighty St. Isaac's Cathedral (see Tip 2 below).
Main Attractions: Halte Routière de l'Ara, Vence Tourist Office, Porte (Place) du Peyra, Rue du Marché, Place Clemenceau, Porte du Signadour, Boulevard Paul André, Place Frederic Mistral (Chapelle des Pénitents Blancs), Chapelle du Rosaire de Vence (Chapel of the Rosary).
Duration: 1/2 day. Weather: avoid rainy or windy days. In this hilly area of the Riviera - you may expect a sudden pour of rain even during sunny days. Distance: 6 km.
Introduction: Vence is an hilly market town with a strong sense of community, which you can feel at the market in the Place du Grand Jardin square. Standing alongside the few bigger markets - you can see the smaller shops there which are still thriving. The big markets are:
There is also a sense of exotic grandeur with the huge and exciting walls running around the town. The main attractions are: the historic city with its ramparts dating from the 13th century, the Cathedral “Notre Dame de la Nativité”, the numerous chapels built over the centuries (The chapel of the Penitent Blancs, rue Isnard, the Chapel Sainte Anne, on the boulevard Emmanuel Maurel) and the fountains and especially many many unique medieval houses. Vence is also a town of special light. It had become the city of past famous painters: Matisse, Soutine, Chagall, Dufy - to name few. In the footsteps of these artists, several cultural places contribute in making Vence a renowned artistic city (The Rosary Chapel, The Museum of Vence - Fondation Emile Hugues, The “Chapelle des Pénitents Blancs”, The Blue gallery - The “Galerie Bleue”). These places invite you to come and discover their heritage and exhibitions.
The #400 bus (see below) lands in Vence new town. Vence is a real town and outside of its ancient central core, the new town can have a slightly gritty feel compared to the fairytale sights of St Paul. Consequently, we recommend a short visit in the old town core. Vence’s pedestrian and circular old town is a treasure trove of beautiful streets with nice views over the hills surrounded by medieval walls. Unlike Saint Paul, it is a bit more functional, with outdoor meat and fish markets every morning but also plenty of beautiful squares, small alleyways, fountains and old streets with beautiful facades to get lost in. It also houses France’s smallest Cathedral, Notre Dame de la Nativité, located on Place Clémenceau with a beautiful golden Virgin Mary on the façade.
Access to Vence:
By Bus: Bus no. 400 goes between Nice and Vence via Saint-Paul de Vence. The bus departs from rue Verdun/Albert 1ere bus stop, opposite Hotel Meridian. The ticket costs just 1.50€ and you can buy it from the driver as you board. If you are using a Nice day pass/week pass/or ten-trip card, it will work for going to Vence, but not to Foundation Maeght or Saint-Paul-de-Vence. Nice - Vence ride takes 75 minutes. If you want to make a free transfer within 2 1/2 hours, you can drop by the Lignes d’Azur boutique (across from train station or just off Place Garibaldi) and buy a Ticket Azur for the same price. This could be useful if you take a tram or bus in Nice before catching the bus # 400, or if you want to see the Foundation Maeght and/or stop at Saint-Paul-de-Vence - before / after visiting Vence. Bus #94 departs from the same place, goes to Vence and DOES NOT STOP at Saint-Paul de Vence. For complete, up-to-date time table of line 400 (Nice-Vence- Nice) (in French): https://www.departement06.fr/documents/A-votre-service/Deplacements/transports-en-commun/dpt06-cadredevie_lignes_400.pdf
The last bus #400 leaves Vence at 19.15 on weekdays, and 19.30 on weekends and holidays (picking up in Saint-Paul-de-Vence 5-7 minutes later). If you miss the last bus, the least expensive way to get back is to take a taxi (or Uber) down to the Cagnes-sur-mer train station and then take the train back (last one around 23.00).
We start at the #400 bus stop at Halte Routière de l'Ara: the Place du Marechal Juin - a square in the new town where Avenue de la Resistance meets Avenue Emile Hagues. This is a wonderful square on its own:
Cross the square from west to east and walk along Avenue de la Résistance eastward. We walk 350 m. along Avenue de la Résistance until we arrive to the Place du Grand Jardin. Here resides (on your left) the The Tourist Office (amid the row of shops). Opening hours: from MON to SAT : 9.00 to 19.00, SUN 10.00 to 18.00. Pick up the free self-guided walking tour of Vence. It marks the main attractions and tells you what they are.
Place du Grand Jardin:
We continue eastward. With your face to the Tourist Office - continue walking to your right (east) and we arrive to Porte du Peyra (The Gate and Fountain Peyra). The name ‘Peyra’ comes from the ‘pierre’ (stone) used for executions. In its current form, the door of Peyra dates only from 1810. The fountain was refurbished in 1822 instead of another fountain, which dated from 1578. From here we shall wander round the circular streets through the main squares: Place du Peyra, Place Clémenceau, Place Godeau and Place Surian.
The Peyra Gate leads to the Place du Peyra (Peyra Square). Here were traditionally the market place and the speakers' stand. People gathered there to discuss the business of the town. In 2005 the site has been fully restored. Here stands Musee de Vence - Chateau de Villeneuve (or: Fondation Emile-Hugues) with its adjoining 12th century watch-tower (which was for long the home of the Lords of Villeneuve). Entirely renovated, the Castle of Villeneuve/ Fondation Emile Hugues is today a leading centre for modern and contemporary art. The buildings were beautifully and tastefully restored. The Chateau functions as an art gallery / museum. The entrance fee is 7€, no concessions. The exhibitions change every few months but seem to be themed around art done in Cote d'Azure. Opening hours: TUE to SUN from 10.00 - 12.30, 14.00 - 18.00. Closed: Mondays, 01.01, 01.05 and 25.12. The west face of the watch-tower retains its original appearance with its arrow-slits indicating an internal staircase:
If you go down the rue du Portail-Levis from the Place du Peyra, you will notice the Place Vieille, mentioned in the Guinness Book of Records, 1996, as the one of the smallest square in France.
in the north side of the square - there is a viewpoint overlooking the Alpes-Maritimes and the villages - north-east to Vence:
From Place du Peyra - we turn right(south-east) along Rue du Marché. Today this is a commercial street typical of a Provençal village. At the beginning of the 20th century, however, it had almost no shops. The ground floors were used for stables or kitchens for the houses:
We head southeast on Rue du Marché toward Ruelle du Marché, 60 m. Turn left onto Rue Alsace Lorraine, 15 m. We turn right onto Place Clemenceau. On our right - there is an arch (and behind it - the town hall or Hotel de Ville) and on our left - a cathedral and a statue. Initially named Place Mirabeau, it later became the Georges Clemenceau Square. Of the former Bishopric remains only the oldest part of the building that closes the northern arcades square, and the Tour (Tower) Saint Lambert. Over the centuries various buildings of the Bishopric were joined at the Cathédrale Notre Dame de la Nativité (see below).
The 12th century Cathédrale Notre Dame de la Nativité is a tiny cathedral, quaint and cute and comparing to other cathedrals there is a sense of humbleness about it. Built in the fourth century on the site of a Roman temple. The cathedral took its final shape in the eleventh or twelfth century. Inside: inscriptions dated to the early third century AND a, tucked away in a corner wall - wonderful mosaic of “Moses saved from the waters” by Marc Chagall. This mosaic radiates a special glow, with side light streaming onto these colorful stones vividly illustrating flowers, fruits, the sun, a rainbow, angels and a newborn Moses being baptized. Next to it is is a charming bulletin board of photographs of babies that have been baptized in the cathedral, showing this is still very much an active church. This is the smallest cathedral in France:
The Tity Hall is next to the Cathedral in the usual pattern forming the main square of a typical European town, with church, civic building, shops and open space, clustered in the center of town. There was a castle here in the 13th century for the Lords of Vence:
From Cathédrale Notre Dame de la Nativité head south on Place Clemenceau toward Place Surian, 40 m. Exit this plaza on the south end, turning left into a small market square, Place Surian, with a few restaurants, cafes, food stores and bars, nice for browsing or a snack. On far end of the plaza continue left at the fork along Rue de l'Hôtel-de-Ville for two short blocks, passing more nice shops, to Porte du Signadour, a watchman’s tower dating to the 13th century. Until the French Revolution, it was topped by a watchtower that allowed lookouts to watch the horizon. Exit the Old Town through the stone gateway onto bustling Avenue Marcellin Maurel.
Paintings in a gallery opposite Porte du Signadour:
You walk along Avenue Marcellin Maure 150 m. eastward and you have arrived at a lovely square, Place Antony Mars (former Mayor of Town, author of comedies and vaudeville), with a fountain, pizzeria and art gallery. This square was first laid out in 1431, with a fountain built in 1439 for those residents outside the walls.
From here you get a revealing look at the outside curve of the Old Town, where you see houses that used the town wall for foundations or are themselves remnants of the wall, but before 1840 was a solid fortified wall. From the 15th century the inhabitants were allowed to build their homes against the wall, on condition they had an iron grill on their windows.
We continue surrounding the Old Town along Chemin de Sainte-Colombe - passing: Avenue Général Leclerc (on our right), Rue Saint-Veran (on our left), We slight left (west) to Boulevard Paul André and pass narrow, old roads from the 17-18th centuries (Impasse de Cimitiere Vieux, Rue Saint Elisabeth, Rue Pisani) until we arrive to Rue Saint Luce:
On our right (north) - stunning sights of mountains and houses out of the walls, north of the city:
Boulevard Paul André ends in a fork and four roads diverge from it. We continue westward, in the same direction along Rue Fontaine Vieille. Continue and head west on Rue Fontaine Vieille toward Chemin Saint-Pierre, 55 m. Turn left to stay on Rue Fontaine Vieille, 75 m. Turn right onto Avenue Henri Isnard, 140 m and you arrive to Place Frederic Mistral. On your left the Chapelle des Pénitents Blancs dedicated to Sainte Agathe and Saint Bernardin. It was built in the 17th century by the friary of the same name. It can be seen from the avenue de la Resistance thanks to its varnished polychromatic tiled dome, and can be entirely discovered from Rue Isnard and Place Frederic Mistral. Classified as a "Historic Monument" in 1944, it is today a place of temporary exhibitions of mostly local artists. Free entrance:
The street continues west as Avenue des Poilus and we walk until its end in a bustling roundabout. Take the turn to the right - Avenue Henri Matisse. Follow the signs of "Chapelle du Rosaire Matisse". We start our walk in the long Avenue Henri Matisse - actually on a BRIDGE OVER A DEEP CHASM. Unbelievable, breathtaking sights on both of the sides.
Over the bridge - on your right the mountains around Vence:
On your left (south) Old Vence:
It is 15 min. walk to the Rosart Chapel.In the fort - we turn left and after 2-3 min. walk we arrive to the Maison Lacordaire, Dominican-run rest home (former girls' school), near the Rosary Chapel:
The Chapelle du Rosaire de Vence (Chapel of the Rosary) (Rosary Chapel) designed by Henri Matisse is located 466 Avenue Henri Matisse in Vence. It is a good walk from the bridge above. Be sure it fits your taste and check hours it is open before hiking out there (see below). When you arrive it’s easy to believe you’re in the wrong place. Could this simple white building really be “one of the great religious structures of the 20th century”? May we remark now, before you walk - that WE WERE TOTALLY disappointed. First, we introduce the information concerned - and' later, we'll detail, in brief, why we had been so upset with this church...
From the years 1948 to 1951, legendary French artist Henri Matisse worked tirelessly on plans for the Chapelle du Rosaire de Vence, (the Chapel of the Rosary), designing every element if the building, from the exterior to the details of decoration. This may sound strange, given that Matisse devoted most of his career to painting, and considered himself an atheist. A culmination of his long artistic trajectory, it was the first time that a painter had entirely designed every detail of a Chapel in such a comprehensive way, and remains a potent manifestation of Matisse’s artistic sensibility in his mature years. Matisse drew up the plans for the edifice and every detail of the decoration — from the ceramics, stained glass windows, ornaments, and paintings, which Matisse created specifically for the chapel. Matisse was involved in every part of the work. He chose the warm brown stone of the altar because of its resemblance to the colour of bread. He designed the bronze crucifix on the altar, the candlesticks on the altar, the confessional door, the three holy-water stoups, and the blazing patterns adorning the priest’s chasublesthe candle holders, the small tabernacle and even the priests’ vestments. In 1941, Matisse developed cancer and underwent extensive surgery, which he almost didn’t survive. The artist lived for most of the year in Nice in the south of France, and during his long recovery there, he sought help from a lady named Monique Bourgeois who responded to his advertisement seeking ‘a young and pretty nurse’. Bourgeois tenderly took care of the ailing Matisse, and took great interest in his work. Matisse built the chapel for this nurse who had cared for him during the latter years of his life in which his health was compromised: a celebration of human relationship. This huge undertaking of Matisse's final decade, which he made so feverishly, was no less intense and no less important than his early paintings.The Chapel of Our Lady of the Rosary was inaugurated on June 25th, 1951.By the summer of 1951, when the chapel was finished, Matisse was so frail that his physician forbade him to attend its consecration. The Chapelle du Rosaire de Vence is a unique building which was designed and constructed by Henri Matisse, as a monument to the gratitude he felt towards his nurse Monique Bourgeois. The history of the chapel and the purpose behind its construction are proof of a labour and love, rather than a purely religious undertaking. It has a simple white exterior measuring 15 by six metres, with a roof of blue and white tiles. The white chapel is famed for its stained glass windows that reflect a myriad of exquisite colours onto the white marble floors. The completed chapel contains three sets of stained glass windows — making use of a THREE COLOURS: green (nature), dominant yellow (sun) and deep ultramarine blue (sea) - reflecting the Mediterranean surroundings. The two windows beside the altar depict abstract theme, entitled the ‘The Tree of Life’. The opposition between the richly coloured stained-glass windows and the monochrome murals dominates the chapel. On the wall behind the altar is a large image of St. Dominic, founder of the Order of Dominicans. Adorning the side walls are abstract images of flowers and an image of the Madonna and Child, all created in black outlines on white tiles. The child is supported by nothing. On the back wall of the chapel: the Via Dolorosa: the traditional fourteen stations of the cross. Matisse chose to incorporate all of them on one wall in a single cohesive composition.
The Rosary Chapel is open: MON, ,WED, SAT - 14.00 – 17.30. TUE, THU 10.00 – 11.30, 14.00 – 17.30. Mass on SUN at 10.00. Closed from 15 NOV to 15 DEC and holidays. Admission entry: 6 euros (!). NO PHOTOS ALLOWED INSIDE.
We found that regional French Riviera museums associated with Matisse, Picasso and other famed painters (in Nice, Antibes, Vence, St. Tropez) need to upscale their site or attraction and are, basically, tourists' expensive traps ! The Matisse Museum in Nice presents 3rd league pictures and the Rosary Chapel in Vence is, more or less, the same. Totally commercial, uninspiring, uninviting, the stained glasses are very basic. You hardly see the chapel from the entrance or from the street outside. The "gallery" that one enters after the chapel is no more than a corridor with "works" displayed which are unattractive sketches. The garden at end of the 'corridor' is inaccessible. And, you are charged with €6 for almost nothing. There were two frustrating experiences in our trip to the French Riviera - and the two of them concerned with Matisse...
'Tree of Life' Stained glass behind the Altar:
The Rosary Church is built on a terrace with a panoramic view south towards the ancient town of Vence, View of Old Vence from the Rosary Chapel:
We walk 750 m. (15 minutes) back from the Rosary Church to Vence Bus station (Halte Routière de l'Ara). Head west on Avenue Henri Matisse toward Chemin du Claoux Supérieur, 250 m. Slight left to stay on Avenue Henri Matisse, 300 m. Turn left onto Avenue Victor Tuby, 160 m. Sharp left onto Avenue Emile Hugues, 50 m and we face the Halte Routière de l'Ara.
Oxford Centre - Part 1- circular route around Carfax Square.
Main Attractions: Carfax Square, Carfax Tower, Town Hall, Blue Boar Street, Christ Church College, Christ Church Meadow, War Memorial Gardens, Broad Walk, Poplar Walk, Thames river bank, Bate Collection of Musical Instruments, Martyrs' Memorial, Macdonald Randolph Hotel.
Duration: 1/2 day. The other half of the day can be devoted to the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford Centre. This 1/2 day route ends, exactly, in the Ashmolean Museum gates (see our blog "Oxford - Day 1 - The Ashmolean Museum".
Start and Finish: Carfax Square. Weather: This route is suitable for any type of weather. Distance: 3-4 km.
Accommodation: I stayed in a private apartment (through AirBnb) in the north of Oxford - a few metres from the Oxford Canal. Walking along the canal is beautiful and peaceful. The place is surrounded by the green and the enchanting song of the birds. Not too many people, but just enough to make you feel safe, plus lovely boats anchored alongside and a view of nature. The lovely river is framed by the very old houses and some boats which bring an atmosphere of simplicity and joy. It took 10-15 minutes walking to the town centre. To catch the bus to the Blenheim Palace Blenheim Castle) - it is a 5 minutes walk to the Woodstock Road - where you catch the S3 bus line, direct to the palace gates. It's just wonderful to be walking outside along the canal and countryside. The paths along the canal (you can walk only along one side of the canal) are asphalted or are tramac ones. No mud and no problem to carry your trolley as well with you...)
Introduction: Oxford was a center for learning as early as the 12th century. Today, its namesake university is a centralized collective of 38 self-governing and financially independent colleges.
We start at the Carfax Square. It is the ancient heart of the City, where the four roads from the north, south, east and west gates met: St Aldate's (south), Cornmarket Street (north), Queen Street (west) and the High Street (east). It is considered to be the centre of the city. The name "Carfax" derives from the French "carrefour", or "crossroads".
Carfax Square (south-west corner) - St. Aldate's x Queen Streets:
Carfax Square (south-west corner) - Cornmarket x Queen Streets:
Carfax Square (east corner)- High Street:
Dominating the Carfax square scene is Carfax Tower. Carfax Tower is located at the north-west corner of Carfax. It is all that remains of the 12th-century St. Martin's Church. It is now owned by the Oxford City Council. It was the official City Church of Oxford. In 1896 the main part of the church was demolished to make more room for road traffic. You will notice the impressive clock and quarterboys (the 16th century originals are in the Museum of Oxford, adjacent to the Town Hall on St Aldate’s). The tower still has a ring of six bells. There is also a clock that chimes the quarter hours:
You can climb to the top of the tower for a view of the Oxford skyline. The tower is open: Daily. APR - OCT 10.00 - 17.30 (16.30 in October). NOV-MAR 10.00 - 15.00 (16.00 in March). Adults, Seniors, Students: £2.20, Children £1.10. You only need a few minutes at the top of the tower, but the view is worth the climb. Keep in mind that the climb is restricted to very few visitors. There is no much place on top of the tower and it takes several minutes to stay there. There are, approx., 100 narrow, tight winding stairs to climb up. You have to be patient and polite and allow people to pass you either going up or coming down. Worthwhile. Alternatively, climb the University Church of St Mary the Virgin, to get a panoramic view of Oxford roofs (see our "Oxford - Day 2" blog).
Cross the road at the lights to the Cashmere Wool Shop at the top of St Aldate’s (nothing interesting to see there) and proceed down to St Aldate’s Town Hall (on your left) (there are accessible toilets in the Town Hall). It is a centre of local government in the city and also houses the municipal Museum of Oxford. Oxford's Town Hall or Guildhall was built on this site in 1292. It was replaced by the first Town Hall in 1752. The building was demolished in 1893 and the current building was completed in 1897. The new building originally housed the public library and police station as well as the city council. During the First World War, the building was converted into an hospital. From 1916, it specialized in treating soldiers suffering from malaria. In 1936 Oxford City Police moved to a new police station further down St Aldate's. The central public library is now in the Westgate Centre in Queen Street. Not much to see inside, but it is worth to take some 10-15 minutes there...:
Its door is surmounted by the City’s coat of arms. ; enter by the level entrance at the top of St Aldate's). If time allows the Town Hall is mostly accessible and there is a computer terminal in reception where you can take a look at virtual tours of the views from the top of Carfax Tower, parts of the Town Hall and the Museum of Oxford:
The Assembly Rooms, Oxford Town Hall with its ornate stone fireplace decorated with William Morris tiles and oak-paneled walls. This room, the Main Hall and a number of other areas in the Town Hall became hospital wards which contained a total of 205 beds. In the Town Hall today, there is a certificate recording the appreciation of the Army Council for the use of the building as a military hospital 1914-19:
I recommend of visiting the small gallery inside the town hall ground floor (free entrance) with exhibits of local Oxford artists like Yvone Mebs Francis:
Immediately, beyond the Town Hall, on your left (along St. Aldate stree) - turn left to the Blue Boar Street. In the corner is the Museum of Oxford. Open: MON-SAT 10.00 - 17.00, SUN 11.00 - 15.00. It tells the history of Oxford, and show the results of recent excavations (Oxford was a walled town...). Very small. Two rooms only. Free:
Continue along the Blue Boar Street until it meets the Alfred Street. It is one of the oldest pubs in Oxford, England, dating back to 1242. Do not miss the Bear Inn with its fascinating collection of ancient ties. There are over 4,500 snippets of club ties placed in glass showcases that cover the walls and the ceiling. The collection started in 1952 by the landlord, Alan Course, who has worked as cartoonist at the Oxford Mail. Tie ends were clipped with a pair of scissors in exchange for half a pint of beer. The ties mostly indicate membership of clubs, sports teams, schools and colleges, etc'. THe pub is closed in the mornings and the place is humming with conversation (more of the upper class...) from the early evenings:
Return to St. Aldate Street and continue down to the main entrance of Christ Church College. Impressive but expensive and busy. The space for tourists to walk around is very limited. Open: MON-SAT: 10.00 - 17.00, SUN: 14.00 - 17.00. Last entry: 16.15. The Hall is frequently closed between 12.00 and 14.00 (students (in term) or resident guests (in vacation periods) have lunch). Last entry into the Hall or Cathedral will be 15-30 minutes prior to the closure time detailed above. Note: July and August (particularly ,weekends) are very busy. Expect queuing up for entry into Christ Church. Tickets sold either in the online shop www.visitoxfordandoxfordshire.com or in the Oxford Visitor Information Centre. Prices (standard Rates, (Hall and Cathedral Open): 1 April - 30 June: adult - £8, concessions - £7. 1 July - 31 August: adult - £9, concessions - £8. 1 September - 31 December: June: adult - £7, concessions - £6. The self-guided tour takes you through the Cathedral and through the Dining Hall. Many other parts are closed to most of the visitors. No need for maps. You easily flow with herds of visitors along well-signed route along two floors of the main complex building. The entrance is quite expensive, but, nevertheless, both the Grand Dining Hall (the inspiration for Hogwarts) and the Cathedral are sights to behold. Staff was always polite, friendly and efficient.
Christ Church is Oxford’s grandest and largest historic college. It's easily the most visited college in Oxford. It is formally, called 'Christ Church' only, or informally, ‘The House’. No other college has produced more British prime ministers than Christ College. 13 PMs had emerged from this college ! It is considered to be the most aristocratic college of the University of Oxford in England. It is the second wealthiest Oxford college by financial means. The college got, recently, worldwide reputation for being the main site for filming of the movies of J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter series. With fans of the teenage wizard flocking to see film locations, visitor numbers at the CCC Cathedral have risen to 350,000 a year. The Christ Church's high-ceiling Dining Hall was a model for the one scene throughout the films (with the weightless candles and flaming braziers)...but the actual filming happened on a set at the Leavesden studios. The city of Christchurch in New Zealand is named after Christ Church College in Oxford. Lewis Carroll, author of the Alice in Wonderland books. He wrote "Alice" for Alice Liddell, daughter of the Dean of Christ Church. His real name was Charles Dodgson, and he, was also a student and then a lecturer at Christ College. Although he is most famous as a novelist, he was also an exceptional mathematician. Dodgson was a student in Mathematics at Christ Church for 48 years. The New Library of Christ Church houses the best collection of Lewis Carroll's work anywhere in the world.
The Meadow Building (main building entrance):
No entry from Tom Gate:
Christ Church College Meadows - opposite the main entrance:
The famous ‘Tom Tower’, over the entrance to the college, was designed by the architect and ex-student of the college, Sir Christopher Wren in 1681. Wren completed the structure, dubbed Tom Tower, in 1682. It is now one of the most famous of Oxford's "dreaming spires". The 7 ton bell in the tower is known as ‘Great Tom’, and it chimes 101 times every evening at 21.05, once for each of the original 101 students of Christ Church. This is nine o’clock Oxford time, the City being five minutes west of Greenwich. People in wheelchairs are permitted to enter the college here, passing under Tom Tower:
Take a turn around Tom Quad, the largest quadrangle in Oxford, at the centre of which is a pond, originally created partly as a reservoir for the college. The present statue of Mercury replaces an earlier one, damaged in 1817. The inner court is, most of the time, closed. Please DO NOT interrupt the silence of the students and other dwellers:
Inside a inner courtyard of Christ Church:
It is the only college in the world which is also a cathedral. The Cathedral can be entered by a ramp built with the entrance lobby. It is the smallest cathedral in England and contains the Shrine of St Frideswide. The Cathedral was built in the 12th and 13th centuries, before the college was founded, and has Romanesque and Gothic architecture. This shrine was built in 1289, and it houses the relics of the 8th century nun, Frideswide, the patron saint of Oxford. The college was founded in 1525 by the powerful Cardinal Thomas Wolsey and was originally called ‘Cardinal College’. Wolsey was himself a former member of Magdalen College. He became Master of Magdalen in 1500, but that was merely a brief stopover on his meteoric rise to power as chief advisor and chaplain to Henry VIII. In 1525 Wolsey, also founder of Hampton Court Palace near London, acquired the Augustinian priory on the site of St. Frideswide's abbey. Wolsey had the site cleared, and began construction of a grandiose complex of buildings around a green quadrangle (now known as Tom Quad - see below). However, Wolsey lost favor with King Henry VIII, because he refused to support the King’s plan to marry his second wife, Anne Boleyn. By the time of Wolsey's death in 1529 the college was still incomplete - not surprising considering the scope of Wolsey's project. King Henry VIII re-founded the college in 1532 as ‘King Henry VIII’s College’ and then renamed it ‘Christ Church’ in 1546. This was after he had separated from the Church of Rome and created the Church of England. The royal connection with Christ Church continued during the English Civil War (1642-1646). King Charles chose Christ Church as his residence (his army kept their cattle in the Great Quad and kept hay for the cattle in the Cathedral), while his wife, Henrietta Maria, with her court or household lived in the nearby Merton College. Charles I court sat in the Deanery, and the royalist "Parliament" convened in the Great Hall. The king attended service in the church daily, sitting in the Vice-Chancellor's stall:
Nave of Christ Church Cathedral looking to the altar:
Choir and organ of Christ Church Cathedral. The organ is a 43-rank, four-manual and pedal instrument built in 1979 by Austrian firm Rieger Orgelbau:
Stained-glass windows inside the Cathedral. The St. Frideswide Window - St. Frideswide Shrine (the most ancient chapel in the Cathedral):
A large rose window of the ten-part:
The Nowers Monument - statue of giant knight, 2m. height from the 14th century:
The finest surviving section of Christ Church original foundation is The Hall (the Dining Hall). It is this Renaissance splendor of the Grand Hall that attracted the makers of the Harry Potter films to build a replica of the Hall in their London studios. Actual scenes from the movies were filmed here, and on the grand stairs leading to the Hall. The dining halls at the University of Chicago and Cornell University are both reproductions of the splendid dining hall at Christ Church. It shows the Renaissance magnificence of the original Cardinal College, and suggests the scale it might have reached had it not been for Wolsey’s fall. Until the 1870s this was the largest Hall in Oxford, but then the newly-founded Keble College ensured that their hall was slightly larger (legend has it by only a single metre). Built in the mid-1500s, the hall itself was not used during Harry Potter filming.
Stairs leading to the 2nd floor, to the famous Dining Hall (on which Professor McGonagall welcomes the first-year students in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone):
Be sure to admire the ceiling of the Dining Hall, a wonderful example of sixteenth-century built by Humphrey Coke, Henry VIII’s chief carpenter. The walls are adorned with a number of portraits, each celebrating famous members of the college from Queen Elizabeth to W. H. Auden. At the far end, the founder of Christ Church, Henry VIII, is portrayed above a bust of the current queen, Elizabeth II. The table at the far end of the Hall is known as High Table and it is here that senior members of the college dine. Academic fellows or Deans of the college are known as Students, always with a capital S to distinguish them from undergraduate students:
On your immediate right upon entering the Hall, is a portrait of Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll - famed author of Alice in Wonderland - see above). It was painted by Hubert von Herkomer, based on photographs. Upon exiting the Dining Hall, keep your eyes on this portrait - he'll surely be keeping his eyes on you:
Look for the large stained glass window, featuring characters from Alice above the fireplace as well as brass characters in the fireplace itself.
The Christ Church Picture Gallery contains a modest collection of Renaissance art, the most notable of which features the bibilical Judith holding the severed head of Holofernes. For visitors who wish to see the entire college, the entrance is at Meadow Gate. If you start from there, the Picture Gallery is located in the last quadrangle, known as Canterbury Quad, designed by the British architect James Wyatt (1746 - 1813). To visit the Picture Gallery without visiting the rest of the college, enter through Canterbury Gate off Oriel Square (from King Edward Street), only a couple of minutes walk from the High Street. The staff member(s) at the gate will direct you to the Picture Gallery. Open: JUL-SEP, daily, MON - SAT: 10.30 - 17.00, SUN: 14.00 - 17.00. OCT - MAY, closed Tuesdays, MON, WED - SAT: 10.30 - 13.00, 14.00 - 16.30, SUN: 14.00 - 16.30, JUN, closed Tuesdays, MON, WED - SAT: 10.30 - 17.00, SUN: 14.00 - 17.00. Prices: Adults - £4.00 Concessions - £2.00. The Picture Gallery is independent of the admission charge to the rest of the Christ Church College. Visitors who have bought a ticket to visit Christ Church are entitled to a 50% reduction of the Gallery ticket. Every Monday at 14.30 visitors can join a tour through the Gallery with tour guides. The Picture Gallery is especially strong on Italian art from the 14th to 18th centuries. The collection includes paintings by Annibale Carracci (The Butcher's Shop), Duccio, Fra Angelico, Hugo van der Goes, Giovanni di Paolo, Filippino Lippi (The Wounded Centaur), Sano di Pietro, Frans Hals, Salvator Rosa, Tintoretto, Anthony van Dyck and Paolo Veronese, and drawings by Leonardo de's Vinci, Raphael, Michelangelo, Albrecht Dürer and Peter Paul Rubens and a great range of other artists, especially Italians:
Filippino Lippi's - The Wounded Centaur:
The Butcher's Shop by Annibale Carracci, c. 1580-1590:
Leonardo da Vinci - Grotesque Head:
Generally spoken, I think the Christ Church College is a VERY beautiful site and immaculately kept. Lovely British History and a wonderful sense of going back in time and seeing how it was once used in the past. Excellent experience with much to see and enjoy plus many photo opportunities.
If you have time a visit to the grounds is pleasant and is possible to as far as the river on accessible paths. The landscaped areas, actually, The Meadow (at the south of the Central Building), the War Memorial garden (at the west of the Central Building) - are an experience in its own. The exceptional conservation area (Grade 1 registration) extends to the east bank of the Cherwell river. The only disabled access is from St Aldate's, through the war memorial garden. Christ Church Meadow is a rare open space at the heart of Oxford, open to the public all year round. Though seemingly tranquil, the meadow is highly used as a site for sport, entertainment and recreation. During the Civil War it proved invaluable as a defense against the Parliamentarian forces. It was the location for some of the earliest balloon flights in England: in 1784 James Sadler, ‘the first English aeronaut’ rose from Christ Church meadow, landing six miles away after a half-hour flight. In May 1785 Sadler again ascended from the meadow, this time with the statesman William Windham as a passenger. The meadow is enclosed by the rivers Cherwell and Thames. The Thames is known as the Isis whilst flowing through the city. The Isis is home to the college boathouses where rowing teams gather to train and compete. Every summer the major intercollegiate regatta takes place (better known as Summer VIIIs) as it has done since the competition’s inauguration in 1815. Crews from across the university descend annually on the Cherwell to compete in a four-day competition. Fittingly, Christ Church has been the most successful men’s crew, with 32 victories:
The War Memorial Gardens, in memory of members of Christ Church, Oxford, is located east off St Aldate's at the western end of Broad Walk, which leads along the northern edge of Christ Church Meadows.
We leave the CCC and continue walking along the tarmac, the Broad Walk path, which separates the Christ Church College from The Meadow. Broad Walk is wide walkway running east-west on the north side of Christ Church Meadow and south of Merton Field. The walkway starts at St Aldate's Street though the Christ Church War Memorial Garden at the western end of the College premises. The River Cherwell is to the east at the southern end of the University of Oxford Botanic Gardens (see below):
You'll pass, on your left - the entrance way to Merton College. The tower of Merton College Chapel dominates the view north from Broad Walk across Merton Field, beyond Dead Man's Walk and the old city wall which run parallel to Broad Walk, connected via Merton Walk. Along the Broad Walk - there are fantastic views of Christ Church and the Cathedral. You can follow the Broad Walk over toward Merton College and head up the Merton Walk up to Merton Street, or remain on the Broad Walk all the way to the Oxford Botanic Gardens (if the route is not blocked):
Your way to the east might be blocked (due to reconstruction works). So, we return to the Christ Church College main entrance and start walking southward along a tarmac path which leads from the CCC southern gate to the Thames river. Opposite to the main entrance, the tree-lined Poplar Walk, (or New Walk) laid out in 1872 by Henry Liddell, Dean of Christ Church, leads down (south) to the River Thames. It is a very pleasant walk until we reach the Thames river:
The Poplar Walk is, approx. 5-10 minutes walk from the north to the south. The large path meets the Thames river near Folly Bridge to the south. At this point, the river is known as "The Isis" and is the location of the end of rowing races for Oxford University events such as Eights Week in the summer and Torpids in the spring. Now, there are boathouses a little further down (more to the west) the Thames river meets with the River Cherwell.
The Poplar (New) Walk ends in the Thames river:
With our back to the Poplar Walk and our face to the Thames River (south) - we turn RIGHT (west) and walk along a (muddy) path (Christ Church Meadow Walk), on the Thames river bank, leading, back east to St. Aldate Street. After 5 minutes walk west along the Thames - we arrive to the Salters' family basin and boats' letting business and the 'Head of the River' pub and cafe':
From 'The Head of the River' pub - return to St. Aldate's Street and turn RIGHT, heading along the St. Aldate's back to the Carfax Square. You'll pass, on your right, the Bate Collection of Musical Instruments. Open: MON - FRI afternoons from 14.00 - 17.00 throughout the year. Closed: SAT-SUN and during the dates 19-31 AUG 2016. One of the largest collections of musical instruments in the world. The Bate has over 1000 instruments (mainly for Western classical music), on display, from the Renaissance, through the Baroque, Classical, Romantic and up to modern times. The collection is named after Philip Bate, who gave his collection of musical instruments to the University of Oxford in 1968 for teaching and academic uses only:
We continue walking northward, crossing the Carfax and continuing along the Cornmarket Street which starts as a pedestrians-only road. On our left the Mcdonald's restaurant. We cross the Broad Street (on our right) and George Street (on our left) and Cornmarket street continues as Magdalen Street with Hotel Randolph on our left. The Martyrs' Memorial, on our right, is a stone monument positioned at the intersection of St Giles', Magdalen Street and Beaumont Street, just outside Balliol College. It commemorates the 16th-century Oxford Martyrs - three Anglican bishops who were burned at the stake under Queen Mary in the 1550s: Thomas Cranmer, Nicholas Ridley, and Hugh Latimer. The actual site of the execution is close by in Broad Street, just outside the line of the old city walls. The site is marked by a cross sunk in the road. Designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott, the monument was completed in 1843. The inscription on the base of the Martyrs' Memorial reads: "To the Glory of God, and in grateful commemoration of His servants, Thomas Cranmer, Nicholas Ridley, Hugh Latimer, Prelates of the Church of England, who near this spot yielded their bodies to be burned, bearing witness to the sacred truths which they had affirmed and maintained against the errors of the Church of Rome, and rejoicing that to them it was given not only to believe in Christ, but also to suffer for His sake; this monument was erected by public subscription in the year of our Lord God, MDCCCXLI".
Behind the Memorial Monument is the Balliol College. Opposite, on our left is the Ashmolean Museum:
We turn left to Beaumont Street. We can visit the leading 5-star hotel in Oxford: the Macdonald Randolph Hotel. Hotel is full of old English charm. It is a landmark building with elegance and charm. The hotel has played host to prime ministers and presidents, and its renowned Morse Bar (just inside the front door) is instantly recognizable as the watering hole of the famous detective, Inspector Morse:
Now, turn to the next route for the rest of day (at least 3-4 hours) - the "Oxford - Day 1 - The Ashmolean Museum" blog.
El Ravel: Tip 2: from La Boqueria to Palau Güell:
Start: La Boquria End: Palau Güell.
Main Attractions: Parroquia Sant Pau del Camp, Teatre Tantarantana, Plaça del Pedró, El Gato de Botero, Filmoteca de Catalunya, Carrer d'en Robador, Església de Sant Agustí, Mosaic de Joan Miró o del Pla de l'Os, Palau Güell.
Our first destination (after leaving Mercado La Boqueria) is Parroquia Sant Pau del Camp in Carrer Sant Pau, 101. It is approx. 1 km. walk from La Boqueria. Turn right onto La Rambla. Continue to follow La Rambla 250 m and turn right (on the 4th road to the right) onto Carrer de Sant Pau. Go through 1 roundabout, 650 m. The Sant Pau del Camp is on your left. This small Romanesque church along the Carrer de Sant Pau is a haven of peace, away from the noise and bustle of Barcelona's Raval quarter. Its thick stone walls display the mysteries and wonders of a primitive architectural style steeped in symbolism which tells us about the past when convents dotted the Barcelona landscape. Sant Pau del Camp, commonly known as Saint Paul of the Countryside comprises an old church and an attached monastery. The ancient Romanesque church of Sant Pau del Camp usually holds claim to being the oldest standing church in the city of Barcelona, a title for which it competes with the Chapel of En Marcus and Sant Pere de les Puelles. The first documentary evidence of Sant Pau del Camp occurs in the 4th century, when a church dedicated to St. Paul is described as having coming within the newly expanded city walls. The term “camp” means “field”, indicating the fact that the site was originally set outside the city; a similar building title recording the original site of a congregation can be found in the example of London’s famous church of St.Martin-in-the-Fields. Something reasonably substantial was probably built on the site, since column capitals and other sculptural items from the Visigothic period (7th and 8th centuries) can be found in the facade and in odd corners of the present structure. OPening hours: MON - SAT: 10.00 - 13.30, 16.00 - 19.30. Prices: 3 euros, concessions (pensioners): 2 euros, student - 1 euro. Guided tours in Catalan (with reservations in advance) - Sundays - 12.45, FREE (no guided tours in the 2nd and 3rd Sundays of August):
In 1096 Catalan nobles Geribert Guitard and his wife Rotlendis offered the site to the Benedictine monks of the Monastery of Sant Cugat, in the northern suburbs of Barcelona. They, in turn, offered the site to the Pope, and in 1117 the monastery was re-founded as a dependent of Sant Cugat, as documented in a bull of Pope Urban II. Although the Pope ordered that the Bishop of Barcelona and members of the City Council look after the monks, in practice they were largely administered by the Benedictines in Sant Cugat. The cloister was completed about 100 years later, and outbuildings continued to be added as needed. By 1098, a local noble family of the Bell-Lloc region had completed the restoration of the church, and it was a Benedictine monastery by 1117. For many years the Catalan noble family of Bell-Lloc were the protectors of the monks, and their names appear in a number of the graves on the site. Construction on the new church probably began around 1127 and continued until the end of the 1200’s. In 1577 Pope Gregory XIII issued a bull ceding control over Sant Pau del Camp to the Benedictine Abbey of Montserrat. This move proved to be unpopular with the resident monks, and so in 1593 this union was terminated. In 1616 the Monastery was united with the Monastery of Sant Pere de la Portella, which lay close to the Pyrenees, and apparently most of the Benedictines from Portella decided to leave the mountains and move down to better accommodations at Sant Pau del Camp. The 19th century essentially killed off the monastic community here, as it did in many other places in the city. In 1808 during the Napoleonic wars, Sant Pau del Camp was occupied and turned into a hospital, and later a barracks, which it remained until 1814. The monks returned briefly, but in 1820 the monastery was closed and the chapel became a parish church. Sant Pau del Camp continued to be simply a parish until 1828 when the monks again returned, only to be finally expelled in 1835. The chapel became a parish church again, and the rest of the complex was sold off as public property, with most of the buildings eventually being torn down. Fortunately, in 1896 the cloister was saved and re-integrated to the building. Like many others, the church was burned by the Socialists in 1905 and in 1936, but was subsequently restored and parish life restored.
Indeed, the monastery's church and cloister are in an extremely good state of repair. The simple structure, with its cross-shaped ground plan and three apses, has simple decorations along the top of the row of blind arches around the outside, which are underpinned by head-shaped reliefs. The main doorway of Sant Pau's church, with its round arch, beckons us inside this peaceful building. The principal door to the church is reached from the Carrer de Sant Pau. The door is flanked by two columns supporting the round arch. The decoration of the door complex is in the Visigothic tradition: two marble Visigothic capitals, presumably recovered from the older building, carry imposts with geometrical motifs. The facade carries the symbols of the four evangelists: at the base of the arch we find a lion (St Mark, on the left), an ox (St Luke) and above the arch, on the wall, a winged man (St Matthew) and an eagle (St John):
The monastery itself is so old that there are no accurate historical records that can confirm exactly when it was established, but experts are of the opinion that the monastery was formed in the 9th century. The first complex stood in its original form till the year 985, when the edifice was attacked and almost destroyed by Muslim soldiers, forcing the monks to abandon it. Several years later, in 1096, the structure underwent restoration and new monks arrived to take control of the order. Once again, it was attacked in 1114. In 1117, the monastery became the priory of Sant Cugat after which it underwent a second round of restorations. The building, as seen today, is adorned with scenes from the Bible, along with those of animal life, vegetable motifs, monsters and various scenes from life. if you look at the capitals you'll discover all kinds of geometrical, plant-like and fantastic motifs. Two of them are particularly eye-catching: Adam and Eve, standing next to the tree with the serpent, and a women being tormented by two toads which are devouring her breasts. The tympanum of the church has an image of Christ with Saint Paul and Saint Peter. The building has been declared a National Monument:
Hand of God:
Adam and Eve tempted by the Serpent (picture below, left side):
This small and intimate space in Barcelona's Raval takes us back to the past of Barcelona city's convent neighbourhood and, from the church, we come out into the Sant Pau del Camp's monastery splendid cloister with its polylobulate arches. Like a game of I-Spy, if you look at the capitals you'll discover all kinds of geometrical, plant-like and fantastic motifs. Two of them are particularly eye-catching: Adam and Eve, standing next to the tree with the serpent, and a women being tormented by two toads which are devouring her breasts. Time has certainly stood still at Sant Pau del Camp's church and monastery.
we come out into the Sant Pau del Camp's monastery splendid cloister with its polylobulate arches. Like a game of I-Spy, The cloister’s arches, unique throughout Europe, reflect a strong Muslim influence, playing with volumes and depths in Arabic style
The tombstone of the second count of Barcelona, Wifred II (897-911), son of Wifred the Hairy, was discovered in the monastery during sixteenth century restorations:
From Sant Pau del Camp head southwest on Carrer de Sant Pau toward Carrer de les Carretes, 180 m. Turn right onto Ronda de Sant Pau, 550 m. This is a pleasant tree-lined avenue.Here, you can make a short detour to the Teatre Tantarantana. From Ronda de Sant Pau turn right to Carrer de les Flors, 22 where the Teatre Tantarantana resides. A place of contemporary and alternative theatre productions. It is a rather small theatre in Barcelona. The Tantarantana Theatre now consists of more seats as well as a larger stage capacity for 125 spectators. The theatre basically displays experimental plays and contemporary works. The plays performed here are well appreciated and usually sold out. Other attractions include entertainment for children in the form of puppet shows and pantomimes. These shows are usually scheduled for early evenings in order to accommodate children and their parents. Tickets can be booked in advance, and one may be able to purchase them by contacting the theatre:
Turn right onto Carrer de Sant. Note the building #8 (on your left) in Carrer Antoni Abat:
Walking 110 m. further eastward along Carrer de Sant Antoni Abat will bring us to Plaça del Pedró. Two roads converge into Plaça del Pedró: Carrer del Carme, that leads to the Barcelona Cathedral and Betlehem Church and Carrer de l'Hospital that down to the medieval Sant Pau hospital and La Boqueria market: a clear choice between soul and body. Named for a stone pillar (pedró) marking the fork in the road, the square became a cherished landmark for Barcelona Christians after Santa Eulàlia, co-patron of Barcelona, was crucified here in the 4th century. As the story goes, an overnight snowfall covered her nakedness with snow. The present version of Eulàlia and the cross was sculpted by Barcelona artist Frederic Marès and erected in 1951:
The grandiose Sant Pau hospital is nearby. We ignore it at the moment and devote a whole blog (allow, at least, half a day) for this wonderful attraction.Our next destination is the most southern end of Rambla del Raval. This is the newest of Barcelona's Ramblas. It runs from Carrer Sant Pau to Carrer Hospital, and has become one of the meeting points for the communities of immigrants who live in this part of Barcelona. The construction of the avenue led to the demolition of a number of streets and insalubrious buildings. The street collaborates in the social integration of disadvantaged groups, and has also become a perfect public space for all kinds of cultural events. a broad avenue which attracts people from diverse social, cultural and geographical backgrounds. The inauguration of the Barcelo Raval new hotel in 2008, the opening of modern restaurants and the new Cinematheque (the Filmoteca) transformed the Rambla del Raval into one of the favourite streets among young locals and visitors who see how the district is changing day after day. Our stop is at the end of the avenue, the El Gato de Botero: an enormous Cat statue by Fernando Botero which looks on impassively with a smile on its face. It feels right at home here. Head northeast on Plaça del Pedró toward Carrer d'Erasme de Janer, 20 m. Turn right to stay on Plaça del Pedró, 30 m. Turn left onto Carrer de l'Hospital, 150 m. At the roundabout, take the 1st exit onto Rambla del Raval and walk down further for 230 m. The El Gato de Botero is on the left. Fernando Botero's Cat was purchased by Barcelona City Council in 1987. From then until 2003 the cat wandered the city's streets in search of a permanent site. His first stop-off point was the Parc de la Ciutadella, near his fellow animals at Barcelona Zoo. Then he was taken to a site by the Olympic Stadium, and a few years later he was put in a little square behind Barcelona's medieval shipyards. Finally, in 2003, the decision was taken to move him to a permanent location at the end of the newly created Rambla del Raval:
Head northwest on Rambla del Raval toward Carrer Sant Antoni de Pàdua, 10 m. Turn right onto Carrer Sant Antoni de Pàdua, 40 m. Continue onto Carrer de Sant Josep Oriol, 80 m. Turn right onto Plaça de Salvador Seguí for 60 m. and the Filmoteca de Catalunya, Plaça de Salvador Seguí, 1-9 will be on the right. You can "catch" foreign-language films (translated into Catalan). Some of them are even FREE. In addition to two cinemas totalling 555 seats, the Filmoteca comprises a film library, a bookshop, a cafe, offices and a dedicated space for exhibitions. In 2012 the Filmoteca de Catalunya relocated to its current headquarters in El Raval:
Head BACK northwest on Plaça de Salvador Seguí toward Carrer de Sant Josep Oriol, 60 m. Turn right at Carrer de Sant Josep Oriol, 40 m. Turn left onto Carrer d'En Robador. Carrer d'en Robador is a dark narrow street in the heart of La Rambla. It was famous for being Barcelona's red light district in the past. Nowadays, it is much more conservative, but nevertheless, has preserved the atmosphere. There are many bars on this street:
Head northwest on Carrer d'En Robador toward Carrer de Sant Rafael, 130 m. Turn right onto Carrer de l'Hospital, 120 m. Turn right onto Plaça de Sant Agustí to see the The church of San Agustín (in Catalan , Església de Sant Agustí ,Plaza de San Agustín, 2). It is also called San Agustín Nuevo (in Catalan , Sant Agustí Nou ) to distinguish it from the church of the old convent of San Agustín , also sometimes called San Agustín Viejo (in Catalan , Sant Agustí Vell ). Popularly known also as the "Cathedral of the Poor". It is a single-nave church, very spacious, with side chapels, covered with a barrel vault with lunettes. The unfinished façade is the work of Pere Costa:
From here we move to our almost final destination in El Raval - Mosaic de Joan Miró o del Pla de l'Os, La Rambla. Head northeast on Plaça de Sant Agustí toward Carrer de l'Arc de Sant Agustí, 30 m. Turn left to stay on Plaça de Sant Agustí, 30 m. Turn right onto Carrer de l'Hospital, 110 m. Turn right onto La Rambla, 15 m. The Mosaic de Joan Miró o del Pla de l'Os is on the left. The mosaic is circular like the cosmos and its basic colours are: yellow, blue and red. Tens of thousands of people walk over Joan Miró's pavement mosaic in the centre of Barcelona's Rambla. It goes unnoticed by some, others stop to look at the characteristic colours used by the Barcelona-born artist. Joan Miro chose this spot, near his birth house in Barri Gothic, in 1976 and designed this wonderful, colorful mosaic in the pavement. This place is close to the Passatge del Crèdit, the exact place where he had been born 83 years earlier. His intention was for passers-by to walk over the mosaic, and he wasn't concerned about it getting damaged. However, over the years, the cobblestones deteriorated and the colours faded, and in 2006, the Barcelona City Council decided to restore this Joan Miró's milestone to mark its 30th anniversary:
Now, we move to our last final attraction in El Ravel - Palau Güell. From Mosaic de Joan Miró o del Pla de l'Os, La Rambla, head southeast down along La Rambla toward Carrer de Sant Pau, 220 m. Turn right onto Carrer Nou de la Rambla, walk 70 m. and Güell, Carrer Nou de la Rambla, 3-5 Palau Güell will be on the left.
Note: you may arrive to the palace at the late afternoon hours. Be in-sync with the following opening hours. Summer opening hours (1st April to 31th October): 10.00 - 20.00. Winter opening hours (1st November to 31th March): 10.00 - 17.30 pm. Closed: Mondays, except public holidays, 25th and 26th December, 1st January and Third week of January (for maintenance). Prices: GENERAL - €12, CONCESSIONS - €9, FREE - Children under 10 years of age. The audio tour is included in your entry fee. They do have 'free tour days' during the week, so check with them ahead of time to avoid paying the entrance fee. Public Transport: On the metro: The closest metro station is Liceu, line 3. By bus: Numbers: V13, 59, 91, 120 and Barcelona Bus Turístic Transports Metropolitans de Barcelona. On the FGC local railway: The following Ferrocarrils de la Generalitat de Catalunya (FGC) lines go to Plaça Catalunya (Catalunya station): L6, L7, S1, S2, S5, S55. There is no food or drink sold inside. Opposite the ticket office in the street you can find a supermarket to get a bottle before you enter. Toilets - in the entrance.
There's little place to seat and relax inside but at the very entrance. If you come from a long walk - rest before the visit. This old house is 5 or 6 stories high with lots of stairs to climb. It's not an enjoyable place to visit if you have problems walking or in a wheelchair.
Palau Güell (1886-1890) is a magnificent example of domestic architecture in the context of Art Nouveau. "Palau Guell" was built between 1886 and 1888 by the Catalan architect Antoni.Gaudi for the Industrial tycoon Eusebi.Guell. It was the home of the Güell i López family until they moved to Park Güell. Palau Güell was one of the first important commissions Antoni Gaudí received at the start of his career. Eusebi Güell (industrialist, politician and patron of the arts) wanted Gaudí to build him this peculiar urban palace as an extension of the family home on La Rambla. This casa was the first commission that Gaudi undertook for Guell. Gaudí designed a functional palace adapted to the family's needs in both their private life and the intense cultural and social life they led. A lot of his early architectural ideas are incorporated in this home. The building is noteworthy for its innovative conception of space and light. In building Palau Güell Gaudí used a variety of solutions based on very personal approaches and created exceptional expressive forms, the fruit of his imagination, using noble traditional materials (stone, wood, wrought iron, pottery, glass, etc.). It is a wonder that Guell did not live here for many years. It was declared a historical-artistic monument by the Spanish Government (in 1969), Cultural Asset of National Interest by the Catalan Government and a World Heritage Site by UNESCO (in 1984). As an early work, the building contains the essence of Gaudí's later works and is fundamental to understanding his architecture. We found this building a great surprise and found it very interesting. We think it was also the most reasonably priced attraction in BCN and in our opinion well worth the money. Directions are easy to follow. Allow, easily, 1-1.5 hours admiring every detail. The house is quite spectacular inside but it’s the colourful and interesting chimneys on the roof that made it for me. Every room has different architecture, different types of walls and ceiling and lighting. The woodwork everywhere throughout the building is incredible. The organ in the main lobby is played each half hour. Unfortunately, the outside appearance is not something special. So, if you are not planning to visit it inside then there is no reason to go and see it from outside:
Main Attraction: Montjuic Castle, CaixaForum, Las Arenas, Parc de Joan Miró, , Font Màgica.
Duration: 1/2 day.
Public Transport: Take Metro lines 2 (Purple Line) and 3 (Green Line) to Parallel. From there, pick up the Funicular train to Castell de Montjuic. The Funicular is a smaller train running every 10 mins or so from Parallel to Montjuic and back. The ride itself only takes 2 minutes and the journey is included as part of a Metro ride. Remember: you do not need a special ticket for the Funicular. You can use a regular metro card. Another way is by Cable Car (the fun one!). Right next to the funicular Station, lies the Montjuic’s Cable Car. This ride takes you directly to the castle of Montjuic with photogenic views of Barcelona. Changing to the cable car - you do not have to exit the metro station - it connects directly to the cable car. This will leave you quite near the highest point too. The funicular of Barcelona (FM metro line) operates like a metro with two stops: Paral·lel, which links up with metro lines L2 and L3, and Parc de Montjuïc, located on the mountain, which links up with the cable car to reach the top of Montjuïc and access the castle. The funicular is part of the integrated fare system and the ticket is the same price as a trip by metro or bus. Montjuïc funicular operating hours: Autumn-Winter: MON - FRI: 7.30 - 20.00, SAT, SUN and public holidays: 9.00 - 20.00. Spring-Summer: MON - FRI: 7.30 - 22.00, SAT, SUN and public holidays: 9.00 - 22.00.
Option number three, is taking regular bus #150 (we took it from) which also stops at the castle. Buy your ticket to Montjuic’s cable car stop. During holidays, weekends and the busy summer months - expect long queues for the bus:
Fourth option: Barcelona’s Port Cable Car located in Barceloneta (Transbordador Aeri del Port). The journey lasts around ten minutes and it’s the fastest way to get to the mountain from Barceloneta Beach. The view of the seaport and Barceloneta from 70 meters high is priceless (see Tipter blog "Barcelona - Port Vell").
Views to Barcelona City:
Option number 5: you can take the Metro or bus to Plaça Espanya, walk Av. Maria Cristina and climb the stairs or take the automatic stairs to the MNAC museum, and keep walking up. It will be quite a long walk, but scenic and not difficult. It takes about 40 minutes from the Metro stop at Plaça Espanya to walk up to the castle. Option number 6: you can also get to Avenida Miramar (on the Montjuic) by #50 bus which runs along Gran Via to Plaça Espanya. It passes Caixaforum, Poble Espanyol, Olympic Stadium and Miró Foundation on the way. Option number 7: there is a Hop on Hop off bus (22€-24€) that link all places of interest in the mountain, it may be a good option.
The Montjuic Castle itself is very beautiful and the views are incredible. From outside the castle is very beautiful. Especially about its shape, very well kept outdoor gardens and the entrance bridge. The garden around the castle is gorgeous. We would say it’s worth a visit if you’re in Barcelona for a week or so. You have a 360 degree view of the city of Barcelona and over the Mediterranean. There are some superb views from here to the Port Olympic and the city’s southern docks:
View of the Port Vell from the Montjuic Castle:
Views to the commercial port:
All that is worth the entrance ticket. Up until March 2014 this pleasant piece of Barcelona was free to visit to anyone who wanted, unfortunately that soon changed and visitors can now be expected to pay a fee to set foot within the fort. So, is it actually worth it now that the price of Montjuic Castle is €5 per person for a standard ticket and €3 per person for a discounted ticket. Free entrance on Sundays. It's likely to have more of a crowd during this time, but is certainly worth doing if you fancy experiencing this 17th century gem and the vistas that it offers. Note: It is definitely worth bringing food with you to eat either at the castle or around the grounds while enjoying the views around. Another note: almost no signage. It's not to say that the attraction is bad, because that's far from the truth, it's merely that the value offered by the city council just isn't there for a tourist who is visiting to learn more about the castle. Once you enter the castle practically nothing about the history of this wonderful complex is explained. The website says there is "general guidance" provided, however it isn't apparent exactly where that is or in what form it comes in. Without the history, the only attraction for tourists are the views... But there are other more impressive and free to access locations in the city to snap landscape photos or share a romantic moment with someone. You could even just walk around the castle without entering for some equally good views and shots of the castle. There is a snack bar service as well as restrooms. Opening hours: 1st October - 31st March: MON - SUN: 10.00 - 18.00, 1st April - 30th September: MON-SUN: 10.00 - 20.00:
History: The castle was originally constructed during the 17th century war between Spain and Catalonia (War of the Reaper). The star-shaped fortress dates back to 1640 has served as a defensive fort, a prison, a military museum (which was inaugurated in 1963 under Francisco Franco) and now a municipal facility. It was destroyed by Bourbon troops in 1714. The Castle was rebuilt between 1751 and 1779 with improved defences that included large moats and impenetrable ramparts. Montjuic castle is one of the oldest constructions on Montjuïc hill. It is mostly from the 18th century and has been used both for the defense of Barcelona, and to keep the Catalans control using the threat of attack from Montjuic during times of oppression of the Catalans. In 1919, during the revolutionary anarchy that invaded Barcelona, over 3000 workers were made prisoners here. Also, during Spanish civil war, 173 people were executed in the Castle, mainly Catalan politicians. Today the castle holds limited appeal for many of the city’s citizens as it is seen as a symbol of Spanish repression (Catalan leader Lluis Companys was executed here by General Franco’s Nationalists in 1940). The castle was a military prison until 1960, and was inaugurated by Spanish dictator Francisco Franco in June 1963 as a military museum, which it remained until 2009 for more than 30 years after the Spanish transition to democracy. It was only in 2008-9 after the castle was returned to the city of Barcelona, that a rare (for post-regimen Barcelona) statue of General Franco was finally removed. Now Montjuic fort is only used for cultural events and festivals, like outdoor cinema in the summer, concerts and festivals.
In front of the entry is a nice colorful garden parterre filled in from the original moat. Bright spring annuals to add more visual color and frame some nice photos of the fortress. It’s worth spending a little time here to take a few photos of the fortress or some magnificent views of Barcelona. Once you reach the castle, taking a break on its wide expanse of lush green lawns is a good plan. Just be sure to bring a beverage to slurp and something to snack on:
Post-rest, take a self-guided tour of the Castle gardens and search out famous sculptures like the snowy curves of “La Fertilitat” by Josep Clarà and strangely challenging stance of Pau Gargallo’s “La Pomona”, clutching apples in her skirts. Along the way, pose with cannons and snap shots of Barcelona’s busy port at the Alcalde look-out point and the Explanada de Miramar. At the look-out point, the floor, an elaborate mosaic of ceramic and glass, warrants a few moments of your undivided attention.
After a nice stroll about the grounds, cross the drawbridge and follow stone steps to the wide expanse of the castle’s roof-top terraces for sweeping views of Barcelona and beyond.
BTW, Montjuic has many lovely green parks and gardens including the Barcelona botanical gardens.
Montjuïc Castle hosts many temporary exhibitions throughout the year as well as those that are permanent, including installations on the development of the castle and the story of Montjuïc Hill at the Montjuïc Interpretation Centre. The castle is also the venue for the highly popular Sala Montjuïc with its open-air film festival during summer. The festival screens popular movies as well as the classics and makes for a wonderful summer night under the open sky. The Montjuïc Castle was the stage for a big circus fiesta, during La Mercè 2016. During several performances of "Circus at the Montjuïc Castle" - thousands of spectators, everyday, could discover the high level of contemporary Barcelona circus, as well as the extraordinary skills of the circus artists from Paris, the guest city of La Mercè in year 2016. In total, between Saturday the 24th and Sunday the 25th, there were some 20 shows, on stage 1 Fossat de Santa Eulàlia, all presented by the clow Morc Fant (Marcs Font): acrobats, clowns, air dancers and daring jugglers were out to surprise all who made the journey up to the Castle:
The Montjuic hill is a very green area, and several gardens are present there. The most famous is the Botanical Garden with more than 2000 plants speciesbut, there are other great gardens in Montjuic Hill (all north-east to Montjuic castle) :
o Hortes de Sant Bertran y escaleras de Forestier
o Jardines de Mossèn Costa i Llobera
o Jardines de Miramar y camino dels Cims
o Jardines de Joan Brossa
o Jardines de Mossèn Cinto Verdaguer
The only hotel on Montjuic hill is the luxury 5 star Miramar hotel, pretty close to Jardines de Joan Bross. The Miramar hotel occupies an old mansion which was previously used in the early days of Spanish television. This historic building was renovated a few years ago and hotel guests at the Miramar can now enjoy stunning scenery and views. From the Miramar hotel you are just a few steps from the thrilling Transbordador Aeri del Port cable car, which takes you across the Port Vell marina of Barcelona to the first of the Barcelona beaches. This exciting transportation facility is described at our "Barcelona Port Vell" blog.
But, we head down to the north to our next destination - the CaixaForum, near Plaça Espanya. Taking bus #150 would be the easist and fastest way to arrive to the famous square. From Montjuïc Castle walk about 3 min , 160 m to the Castell bus stop. Take Bus 150 to Pl. Espanya and drop off after 11 stops at Pl. de Carles Buïgas. Walk about 170 m. to arrive to CaixaForum Barcelona: Head southwest on Av. de Francesc Ferrer i Guàrdia toward Carrer de Montfar. Turn right onto Carrer de Montfar. Continue onto Carrer dels Morabos. Turn left onto Carrer del Nord and the CaixaForum, Av. de Francesc Ferrer i Guàrdia, 6-8 will be will be on the left. If you want to get away from the hectic crowd for an hour or so this is the place. A unique gallery offering a wide range of exhibitions of ancient, modern and contemporary art. Near Plaça Espanya is Mies van der Rohe Pavillion / CaixaForum, an exhibition space in a Modernista, renovated textile factory building. The renovated building makes a good impression. The museum is good for taking pictures, as the outside is very nice white marble. The rooftop terrace (viewed for FREE) is a very nice example of Catalan Modernista architecture. Excellent exhibitions on very wide range of subjects; 4€ entry and open daily: 10.00 - 20.00. Mies van Rohe established in 1929 the Barcelona Pavillion (which held the German Exhibition), as part of the International Exhibition held in the city in such date. It can be understood as a futuristic Art Deco building, as it is still nowadays considered a pioneer in design (although it’s 83 years old!). The Mies van der Rohe design museum is inside. CosmoCaixa is a restored modernist building that is nowadays Barcelona’s largest free admission museum. It is worth a visit even if it is 4€ admission fee. With this descent fee you can,sometimes, hit sensational temporary exhibitions (photography, Salvador Dali portraits etc'). Check their web site (their website is not available in English): https://caixaforum.es/barcelona/home. There are always at least 4-5 exhibitions going at any one time .They have a restaurant inside (exceptional Menu de Dia) and a gift shop in the lobby area. Together with an evening visit to the Font Magica, this can round out a fun weekend night in Barcelona.
Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes, 373 - 385
From CaixaForum we head to the Las Arenas more southward. From CaixaForum, Av. de Francesc Ferrer i Guàrdia, 6-8, we walk southeast. Turn left toward Carrer de Mèxic, 35 m. Turn right toward Carrer de Mèxic, 20 m. Turn right onto Carrer de Mèxic, 25 m. Turn left onto Av. de Francesc Ferrer i Guàrdia, 100 m. Turn left onto Avinguda de la Reina Maria Cristina, 350 m. At Plaça Espanya, take the 5th exit, 150 m. Turn left, 20 m. Walk for 50 m. Take the elevator down to -1 or to the rooftop (FREE) of Las Arenas, Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes, 373 - 385.
Las Arenas de Barcelona is a commercial shopping complex located in Plaça d'Espanya. The structure was first used as a bullfighting arena but was reconstructed and designed into a commercial centre in March 2011 by Richard Rogers. Arenas de Barcelona is now a shopping, sports and music centre with a 360 rooftop view of the city. Take the lift (1 euro, hang on to your receipt, you'll need it to go back down) to the top of Las Arenas de Barcelona and you have a wonderful bird's eye view of Barcelona. The top floor also has several (posh) restaurants that go all the way around the building. A floor down from the restaurants you have the Arenas cinemas, however all the films are in Spanish only. The rest of the floors in Arenas are dedicated to shops and eateries.
Las Arenas at Night:
From the Las Arenas rooftop - we can see, perfectly, the the Parc de Joan Miró. This large park is also known as the Parc l'Escorxador (it stands on the site of the old municipal slaughterhouse: escorxador in Catalan) and is situated south-west of Barcelona's Eixample quarter or neighbourhood. This great urban, green "lung", is your best bet before or after you explore the monumental Plaça Espanya. Starting at 1979, a group of young architects, headed by Beth Galí, designed a park, in place of the demolished slaughterhouse, that occupied four blocks of the Eixample, which Ildefons Cerdà – the architect behind the Eixample district – had originally envisaged for this part of Barcelona. The park, known locally as the Parc de l'Escorxador, emerged, at last, as a jigsaw puzzle of different elements set out around a cement plaza designed to host all kinds of events and activities. Around the plaza, there are platforms on different levels, pathways, pergolas and landscaped areas with palms, pines and evergreen oaks, which are the ideal place to take a stroll in hot days. An artificial water channel runs parallel to Carrer Tarragona, lending coolness to this side of the Parc de Joan Miró. This is the site of Joan Miró's 22-metre-high monumental sculpture Dona i Ocell (Woman and Bird). Like the park, it was dedicated in 1983, shortly before the artist's death. There is a public library on the other side of the park, which is named after Joan Miró. To walk from Las Arenas to Parc Joan Miro - it is 280 m.walk. From Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes, 373 - 385 take the elevator up to 0. Head northwest toward Carrer de la Diputació, 20 m. Turn right onto Carrer de la Diputació, 50 m. Turn left, take the stairs and the Parque de Joan Miró, Carrer d'Aragó, 2, is on your right 130 m. further. The park might be under reconstruction during end-2017 and 2018...:
We shall return to Plaça d'Espanya - taking, a bit, longer way. From Parque de Joan Miró, Carrer d'Aragó, 2 we head southeast toward Carrer de la Diputació. Take the stairs, 130 m. Turn left onto Carrer de la Diputació, 25 m. Turn right onto Carrer de Llança, 140 m. Turn right toward Plaça Espanya, 150 m. Plaça Espanya is a famous and lovely plaza in the south side of Barcelona centre. It is, formally, in the Sants-Montjuïc district. Many main roads of Barcelona intersect in this square like: Gran Via, Carrer de la Creu Coberta, Carrer de Tarragona and Paral.lel. It is also home to Barcelona's old bull-fighting ring which has been converted into the Las Arenas commercial centre. South to the square stands the Palau Nacional Art de Catalunya, (MNAC), which is the Museum of Catalan art, regally up on the side of Montjuïc. The fountain at the centre of the square was designed by Josep Maria Jujol, a collaborator of Antoni Gaudí, while Miquel Blay designed the statues. The buildings were designed by Nicolau Maria Rubió i Tudurí. The Venetian Towers (which are similar to the famous tower of S. Marco square in Venice) are 47 m tall and lead the way to the MNAC via Avinguda de la Reina Maria Cristina, an avenue commonly used to host trade fairs. Amazing architecture with beautiful surroundings. It's stunning, especially, during dark hours, when it is lit up with the Magic Fountain (Font Majic) in front. Also, departure and arrival point for the Aerobuses.
Plaça d'Espanya with the adjacent Plaza de Toros de las Arenas:
When work on the Great Universal Exhibition of 1929 was well under way, the organizers felt that it needed that “something” special to make it a cut above the rest. That was when Carles Buigas submitted his project of the Magic Fountain for a “colossal, daring and costly piece of work”. Font Màgica, Barcelona’s largest ornamental water fountain situated at the bottom of the Palau Nacional, near the Plaça d’Espanya and Poble Espanyol. The fountain delivers a spectacular display of colour, light and water acrobatics with musical accompaniment every Thursday to Sunday in the summer months and every Friday and Saturday during winter. The Magic Fountain is a free show that is not to be missed. a fantastic display of water, light and music brings Montjuïc alive at night. Thousands of people go to enjoy the Magic Fountain performances and if you decide to go it will be one of the highlights of your visit to Barcelona. Around 2,600 litres of water, a second flow through the fountain's three concentric pools, driven by a water-recycling system. Music selections include 1980’s mix, cartoon soundtracks, Spanish classical, swing, current hits and more. In all the show lasts about 20 minutes and it’s completely FREE. To get the best view of the Barcelona Magic Fountain show make sure you arrive early. There 30-60 minutes before desired show times to get the best spots. A good way to ensure the best view is taking in the first show. Get there an hour in advance. In general the best place to sit is on the steps leading up to the MNAC museum behind. Another great spot is the pedestrian bridge on the Plaza de España side. If you’re willing to spend a bit of money you could also grab a drink on the 8th floor terrace of Hotel Catalonia Plaza or for a dinner at the Las Arenas rooftop for a view without crowds. Tip: if you’re close up, gauge the wind before the show because if not you might get soaked! There are 8 public toilets in a small building near the fountain. Keep bags in front of you - because the crowds attract pickpockets.
Please note that the Magic Fountain only has performances on certain evenings. Performance times for the Magic Fountain of Montjuïc: Schedule 2017: 06 January - 16 February Closed, 01 January - 31 March Thursday, Friday and Saturday 20.00 - 21.00, 01 April - 31 May Thursday, Friday and Saturday 21.00 - 22.00, 01 June - 30 August Wednesday - Sunday 21.30 - 22.30, 01 September - 31 October Thursday, Friday and Saturday 21.00 - 22.00, 01 November - 31 December Thursday, Friday and Saturday 20.00 - 21.00.
Main Attractions: El Cap de Barcelona or La cara de Barcelona, Plaça de Palau, Museo de Historia de Cataluña, Passeig de Joan de Borbó, Transbordador Aeri del Port, Platja de Sant Sebastià, W Barcelona hotel, Torre del Reloj, Moll de Bosch i Alsina (Moll de la Fusta), Maremagnum, Rambla de Mar.
Start: Jaume I Metro station (L4 - the yellow line). End: Colombus Monument. Distance: 9-10 km. Weather: mainly sea views. Only sunny day.
Note 1: you can extend your itinerary of La Ribera (See the Tipter "Barcelona - La Ribera" blog) onto this itinerary (or, at least, the Port Vell part of it). From Plaça de Jacint Reventós (the final point of the La Ribera route - it is 5 minutes (220 m.) walk to Jaume I Metro station: from Plaça de Jacint Reventós - head west toward Carrer de l'Argenteria, 30 m. Turn BACK left onto Carrer de l'Argenteria, 150 m. Turn right onto Via Laietana, 15 m. Turn left onto Plaça de l'Àngel and the Jaume I Metro station (yellow line, line 4) is on the right - 30 m. further.
Note 2: this itinerary is involved with a significant deal of walking of long distances in Port Vell (and Barceloneta if you dare to). AVOID using this route during HOT, MOIST or WET days.
Introduction: both of these areas - the old port ("Port Vell") and Barceloneta reside at the eastern parts of Barcelona - east to the old harbour of the city. Both districts, like other areas along the seashore, have been degenerated areas before the Barcelona 1992 Olympic Games. In a huge urban restructure project Port Vell and neighbouring Barceloneta have been transformed to open the city up to the sea. From industrial wastelands emerged two huge marinas that encompass a peninsula with a large entertainment complex.
The most popular attractions in Port Vell are: the Barcelona’s Aquarium, the IMAX cinema (adjacent to the Aquarium), the Maremagnum complex with its shops, bars and restaurants - leading to the Port Vell promenade over the wooden swing bridge along Rambla Mar. Port Vell’s promenade is on the site of the former city motorway. This motorway has been put under the ground so that you can now stroll along the old customs building (Aduana de Barcelona). On your right you have got the maritime museum (Museo maritime) and along the pier on your left you will reach Barcelona’s W (World Trade Center) - an hotel and convention center in the middle of Port Vell.
If you continue northward, along the (east) shores of Barcelona - you arrive to Barceloneta: an elongated district (from south to north) bounded by the sea (east), El Born (west and north-west) and La Vila Olímpica del Poblenou in the north. A neighbourhood, with narrow, but, still airy, streets, which was built on a military grid structure to provide accommodation for the former inhabitants of La Ribera who had lost their homes due to the construction of the Ciutadella. La Barceloneta was once the home of fishermen, people associated with the fishing trade and the metal industry, and is now one of the city's most visited and popular districts. The houses are low-rise and small in scale so as not to obstruct views of the city. Before the 1988 Olympics, the decision was taken to demolish the old Barceloneta beachfront restaurants, known as "Xiringuitos" - opening the city up to the sea and leading to the modernization of an area which now offers first-class beaches as the main attraction for its visitors.
Our daily itinerary: from Jaume I Metro station we head east on Plaça de l'Àngel toward Via Laietana, 30 m. Turn right (south-east) onto Via Laietana for 90 m. The Exe Laietana Palace hotel, Via Laietana, 17 is on the right:
Continue walking southeast along Via Laietana toward Carrer de Salvador . After 300 m. you arrive to Plaça d'Antonio López. Until year 2017 there was a big statue of Antonio López standing in this square. It was planned to be removed after several unions and organizations claimed that Antonio López took active part in slaves trade. On our right is the Post office, Correos y Telegrafos Building in Plaça d'Antonio López:
Placa Antonio Lopez is a bustling square. In its centre - a modern sculpture: El Cap de Barcelona or La cara de Barcelona by American Roy Lichtenstein. (the Head) (1991–1992). The sculpture was Lichtenstein's first outdoor work using ceramic tile. It is said to acknowledge Antoni Gaudí and Barcelona's affinity for mosaics. Although it is very abstract, it is clear that the sculpture was made to resemble the head and face of a woman. It is made up of thick pieces of concrete completely covered in red, yellow, blue, black and white mosaic tiles, and from far away it looks like it could be a painting. The woman's eyes look like thick blue and black brush strokes; same with her nose, and her lips look like Lichtenstein could have used a quick stroke of bright red paint. The left third of her face, the side with the blue nose and eye, is covered with white tiles, while the right two thirds of her face is covered in a grid of red dots, typical of Lichtenstein's pop-art style. Lichtenstein added other artistic elements to this sculpture as well. Below her head, what would probably be considered the woman's neck, is a tall, flat stroke of blue and white that extends all the way up through her face and ends a few inches above her head. Perpendicular to the blue and white stroke is a stroke of yellow and black, beginning at the bottom and then reappearing at the top of her head.
It indicates the starting of the Port Vell district:
As we approach the Ronda Litoral and coming closer to the Port Vell - we look backward to the Placa Antonio Lopez - we see this picture:
We are, approximately in the most northern end of the Port Vell. It extends from the south from Barcelona's La Rambla, by the Columbus (Colon) monument, a major city landmark since 1886. We shall walk along the north border of Port Vell - heading to Plaça Pau Vila and Museo de Historia de Cataluña - skipping the Port Vell and its Marinas (in case you are, here, in the late afternoon hours) OR returning a bit later to the POrt Vell marinas and beachfront a bit later (if you are, here, in the morning hours). From the Plaça d'Antonio López - you continue eastward onto Passeig d'Isabel II, 160 m. Turn right onto Plaça de Palau, 150 m. The Plaça de Palau square is located in the triangular space between Palau de Mar and Barceloneta district, which is a busy crossroads for cars. The whole area around is NOT pedestrianized, so terrace space for cafes and bars is minimal. However, it is a beautiful area, with old buildings, distinctive porches under which the Hotel del Mar hides. The Hotel del Mar main entrance can be found behind Roman style pillars as part of an old building with ornate wrought iron balconies. The lobby's décor is simple but modern and new. There is a maritime theme running throughout, with lots of blue, nautical memorabilia and harbour front maps. Located underneath the arches on the Palau Square, the hotel is joined by one of Barcelona's most renowned paella restaurants - 7 Portes. This is a traditional Spanish restaurant, with beautiful old wooden doors, large open dining spaces and a distinctive chequered tiled floor. The food is reasonably expensive, but it is served with a sense of ceremony by suited Spanish waiters:
Continue onto Passeig de Joan de Borbó, 120 m. Turn right and the Museo de Historia de Cataluña (Palau de Mar,), Plaça de Pau Vila, 3, is in front of you. The permanent exhibition traces the history of Catalonia from its distant roots to the present day in an interactive and innovative way. The Museu d'Història de Catalunya layout is structured chronologically, in eight areas, set out on four floors, and includes authentic recreations of historical settings, as well as everyday items such as food and clothing. The exhibits range from prehistoric times to the development and expansion of the city of Barcelona and the Catalan hinterland. The exhibits are written in English too. No audio guides. Allow 1-1.5 hrs.
Public transport: Metro: L4-Barceloneta, buses: 14, 39, 45, 59, 64, 120, D20, V15, V17. Opening hours: TUE - SAT: 10.00 - 19.00, WED: 10.00 - 20.00, SUN and public holidays: 10.00 - 14.00 Closed: Mondays, January 1st and 6th, December 25th and 26th. Prices: Permanent exhibition: adult 4.50 euros, concessions - 3.50 euros. Permanent Exhibition + current (temporary) exhibition(s): adult - 6.50 euros, concessions - 4.50 euros.
The museum itself is set on an attractive marina with plenty to see and do close by; boat trips, cable car, shopping. There are wonderful views from the outside upper terrace (good cafeteria !) over the port where the rich and famous moor their super yachts. This terrace is worth, in its own, the visit of this, surprisingly nice (under-rated) museum:
In case you complete your daily itinerary in this point - head to the Barceloneta Metro station (L4 - yellow line). It is 220 m. walk. From Museo de Historia de Cataluña - turn left onto Passeig de Joan de Borbó, 120 m.
Turn right onto Plaça de Pau Vila to follow Carrer del Dr. Aiguader, 100 m. Barceloneta Metro station is a bit hidden - but it will be on the left.
In case you have enough time - we head to the heart of the Port Vell (Old Port). It is quite a long walk (1 km.) to our next estination: Transbordador Aeri del Port / Teleférico de Barcelona - a mountain cable car station - connecting the Port Vell area and the Montjuïc (Jews Mountain). From Museo de Historia de Cataluña we turn southeast toward Passeig de Joan de Borbó and continue SOUTHWARD along Passeig de Joan de Borbó FOR 1 km. The Transbordador Aeri del Port, Passeig de Joan de Borbó, 88 is on your right. Along this (quite boring) way we have the beachfront of Port Vell and on our left plenty of stalls selling every kind of merchandise on earth (most of them are items from South America). You will find real bargains here (sweaters from Peru, spices and fantastic colored rugs from Guatemala etc'). As you approach you will see the large tower of the cable car ahead of you. It is straight on the Passeig de Joan de Borbó that you are on, just keep walking. There are people who say that the Passeig Joan de Borbó is set in the Barceloneta district. Others swear it is in the Port Vell area. It is an old fishermen's quarter, built in an area that was previously almost uninhabited: it was due to its proximity to the sea that the fisherfolk were the first to settle in this part of the city, in 1754, although their living conditions were truly appalling. A chain of restaurants are on your left along Passeig de Joan de Borbó: L'Arros, the Fastnet Pub, Pizzeria Napoletana Reina Margherita, Can Solé, La Malandrina, El Rey de La Gamba I, Vioko Experiencia, La Mar Salada, Suquet De L'Almirall, FOC BCN, Restaurant Can Costa, Makamaka Beach Burger Cafe, Habana Barcelona, Restaurante Rangoli and Plaça del mar.
The Transbordador Aeri del Port is past its glory days. Prices are high (11 euros one way, 16.50 euros return), staff can be, sometimes, rough, the stations (especially, the Port Vell one) are shabby. Despite all of this, on a sunny day, the cable ride is arguably the most stunning and exhilarating way to view Barcelona and links two of the city's prime locations - the beachfront / Port Vell and Montjuïc. Even from just waiting for the next car, the views from the top of the platform and from the restaurant (on top of the tower) are amazing (do not expect much from their toilet...). Of course the Muntjuic itself is rewarding: lovely gardens and again stunning views of the city from Muntjuic mountain. Even if this station is far from the city centre - it does get busy going along the day (high season only) - especially, from the port to Muntjuic. The trip offers wonderful views with enough fear to keep you from relaxing. Before you make your final decision be warned, the Transbordador cable journey is not for the faint hearted. inside of the car it holds a maximum of twenty people. Usually (if it is a busy day) it hold around 10 passengers. it is fairly difficult to manoeuvre around the car and you face difficulties in making photos. There are no seats inside the car and people generally move around the space, giving you the opportunity to check out different views from different windows. You will be rewarded for your bravery with some stunning views of Barcelona. Take in the bird's eye views of the port and harbour as you glide along. The cable car provides an opportunity to see the whole city clearly, so it's a chance to observe Barcelona's highest monuments such as the Sagrada Familia and the Torre Agbar, from the cable car's (not so clean) windows. The entire journey lasts approximately 5-7 minutes and the car moves continuously throughout the trip. Mid-way through the journey the cable car travels through a central tower- the Torre de Jaume I - a swift sigh of relief before continuing on your journey. To your left you can view Barcelona's working port and a great expanse of sea. To your right - all Barcelona icons. As you near the end of the trip you can take in the views of Montjuïc mountain. You will see the iconic Montjuïc Communications Tower. If you choose to make the return journey, be sure to keep hold of your small cable car ticket. On returning to the port area you can reward yourself with a slap up dinner in the renowned Torre d'Alta Mar Restaurant at the top of the tower. That's if you're not desperate to get your feet back onto solid ground. AS we said - it takes 5-6 minutes and you may spend much longer in the queues. Expect to wait over half an hour (with little shade) for your cable car at busy times. Finally, it is worth pointing out that if you buy a return ticket, you will still have to get off the cable car at each end and join the back of the queue to return - so please don't think that you can spend a quick 15 minutes aerial sightseeing by staying in the car....you may be in a nasty surprise and long waits ! Operating Hours: 01 December - 28 February: 11.00 - 17.30, 01 March - 31 May: 10.30 - 19.00, 01 June - 10 September: 10.30 - 20.00, 11 September - 29 October: 10.30 - 19.00, 30 October - 31 December: 11.00 - 17.30, 25 December: Closed. During the winter months (approximately November to March) the cable car does not run between the following hours: 14.00 - 15.00
We continue to walk southward along Passeig de Joan de Borbó until we arrive to Platja de Sant Sebastià on our left. Sant Sebastià Beach is one of the oldest and most traditional beaches. The Barceloneta beaches were for the more poor peaople in Barcelona and Sant Sebastià Beach was more for the city's well-to-do classes at the time. The recent building of a hotel has created a small, peaceful cove where you'll find a number of restaurants. On your right the Nova Bocana Barcelona S.A.U company headquarters:
Head south on Passeig de Joan de Borbó toward Moll de Catalunya street (on your right - west), 260 m. Turn left toward Passeig del Mare Nostrum, 70 m. Turn right and keep walking along Passeig del Mare Nostrum, 230 m. Slight LEFT along Passeig del Mare Nostrum, 55 m. and you see the W Barcelona hotel. A new luxury hotel. If you get the chance - catch the elevator to the top floor for stunning views of ALL Barca. This hotel is one of the most iconic views of the the Port Vell:
The W hotel faces the Marina Vela: a new port and marina in Barcelona. Just opened in summer 2017.
From W Barcelona hotel (Placa de la Rosa dels Vents, 1, Final Passeig de Joan de Borbó) - walk west on Passeig del Mare Nostrum, 55 m. Turn right and walk along Passeig del Mare Nostrum, 260 m. Turn left onto Passeig del Mare Nostrum, 550 m. Turn left toward Carrer de la Drassana, 85 m. Turn left onto Carrer de la Drassana, 30 m. Kaiku restaurant on your right. Continue onto Carrer de l'Escar, 150 m. Slight left onto Moll de Pescadors, 100 m. (here, you'll might face restricted usage or block road(s). You've arrived to another, relatively new, shopping center.
If you are hungry - try the Paella Moll del Rellotge (fish and sea food) in the Barceloneta restaurant here (20 euros for 2-persons portion):
we shall try to return to the Museo de Historia de Cataluña along the Marina (800 m.) - but, the road might be blocked or closed. Otherwise, we return along Passeig de Joan de Borbó (900 m. - 1 km.).
Behind the Moll stands the Torre del Reloj. The Clock Tower was a historical bastion of the Barceloneta port, erected in 1772 to serve as the lighthouse of the port. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the urbanization of the whole port area became more complex, eating land to the sea to give way to the enormous commercial traffic that was being generated and the lighthouse was lost between the docks. The whole area around might be blocked or under restricted usage. But it can be seen, easily from the Moll del Pescadors or from Barceloneta (see below).
From the museum there is a 800 m. walk along a pretty, pleasant, even grandiose promenade to MareMagnum. It is rather complicated to describe, in detail, your path. But, you'll see a decorative road lined with cones sculptures leading south to Moll d'Espanya, along Carrer de l'Ictíneo and ending at the huge patio or courtyard of Maremagnum, Edifici Maremàgnum, Moll d'Espanya, 5 shopping centre. On your left - stunning views of the Port Vell with the W Barcelona hotel and the Transbordador Aeri del Port in the background:
The last part of these 800 m. (between Museo de Historia de Cataluña and Maremagnum) is The Boardwalk. The stretch between the Carrer de l’Ictíneo in the north and Rambla de Mar (see below) in the south is officially called the Moll de Bosch i Alsina or Moll de la Fusta and it was once the area where the ancient Romans set up their markets and stations along the fishing port of Barcino. It’s a wide, open space with cemented cones, wooden bike roads, relaxing palms and benches all wrapping around the Old Harbour that sailboats and yachts call home. The best time to arrive to this place is the afternoon. Below, you'll see that the afternoon hours are also the best time to get views to the east from the Maremagnum decked courtyard and terraces (see below). It is accessible to people with reduced mobility:
On or way along the "Boardwalk to the Maremagnum we see on our left the most important Mediterranean themed Aquariums. It’s not the biggest in the world, but its impact on oceanic study and marine biology is well known all over the world. Nothing special. You may skip this Aquarium. Opening hours : every day 10.00 - 19.30 (weekdays, JAN-MAR, NOV-DEC) or 20.00 (weekdays, APR-MAY, OCT, weekends and holidays JAN-MAR, NOV-DEC) or 20.30 (weekdays APR-MAY, OCT) or 21.00 (Weekend and holidays, JUN, SEP) or 21.30 (weekends JUL-AUG). Prices: Adult (11+) 20,00€ (online purchase:18,00€), Children from 5 to 10 years old 15,00€ (online purchase: 13,00€), Children from 3 to 4 years old 7,00€ (online purchase: 6,5€). Ticket valid for 90 days after date of purchase:
WE HIGHLY RECOMMEND DOING THE WHOLE WAY TO THE MERAMAGNUM SHOPPING CENTRE - JUST FOR VIEWS FROM ITS COURTYARD AND TERRACES TO THE EAST DURING SUNNY AFTERNOON HOURS. The Maremagnum is one of Barcelona's most distinctive shopping malls. Located right at the heart of the port, it is a good place to bring the family to do some shopping, grab a bite to eat or simply sit and watch the boats go by. You can't miss the spectacular Meramagnum huge building. It sits jutting out into the water at the end of the wavy wooden pier of the Boardwalk. It's mirrored walls and arced roof reflect the water that surrounds it, giving it a glimmering blue glow. Around the building you will see people relaxing on the wooden Boardwalk, basking in the sunshine and watching the boats come in and out of the port area. Endless list of shops (fashion, home ware, electronics, toys), eateries and view points. From all directions the center there are terraces with a beautiful views of the Old Port and of Barcelona. How to get to Maremagnum Centre: Metro: Drassanes (Green Line, L3) 10 minutes walk, Barceloneta (Yellow Line, L4) 15 minutes walk. Hop on hop off sightseeing tourist bus - nearest stop for Maremagnum Centre is "Passeig de Colom" with the Barcelona City Tour "hop on hop off" sightseeing bus. Public bus: Maremagnum: V17, Passeig Colom / Via Laietana: 59, 120, D20, H14, V13.
Torre del Reloj near Moll del Pescadors from the Maremagnum:
The W Barcelona hotel from the Maremagnum:
The Aquarium from the Maremagnum:
Views of the Port Vell in the east from the Starbucks cafe' in the Maremagnum:
The western side of the Meramagnum:
Now, you have two options.
Option 1: completing your daily itinerary. With this option you walk (650 m.) from the Meramagnum to the Colombus Monument via the Rambla de Mar. From the Maremagnum turn right onto Rambla de Mar, 300 m. Turn left onto Moll de les Drassanes, 65 m. Turn right, 80 m. to the Columbus Monument, Plaça Portal de la pau. The Rambla de Mar is a wooden walkway which takes you across from the Port Vell around the Maremagnum Centre waterfront and shopping and dining areas to the Christopher Columbus monument. Designed in 1994 by the architects Albert Viaplana and Helio Piñón, the Rambla de Mar is an undulating wooden walkway over the water, with two openings. It's supported over the water by two iron arms. Every hour it opens up to allow recreational yachts to pass through. This walkway can be quite crowded, particularly when it opens and you wait for for a boat to go through. This bridge takes not long to cross and has great views of the Port Vell and boats around it. Lovely views of Montjuic in the background. You can consider the ambla de Mar as a new continuation of the La Rambla avenue - as it continues south, straight ahead from the famous La Rambla. The place is definitely packed with tourists. Like the La Rambla - be aware of pickpockets.
Option 2: connecting or continuing with the Barceloneta Itinerary. This daily route of the Port Vell is quit demanding and involved with lengthy walks. The Barceloneta walk is concerned with a 7-8 additional kilometres of walk. We recommend leaving Barceloneta for today and connecting this quarter with the Ciutadella itinerary.
Tip 3 - walking over Girona Walls:
Distance: 3 km. Duration: 2-3 hours.
The extension of the Roman walls during the medieval ages and modern times - enables visitors to stroll along a walkway following some sections of the longest Carolingian walls in Europe (9th century). Parts of the old city walls are walkable and provide great views over the city and the surrounding countryside. There are several towers along the walls and a walk will give you a taste of what it was like to be a defender of the city in the old days. The various towers are excellent vantage points offering views over the city and the surrounding areas. Interesting parks, landscapes and photo opportunities are dotted along the way over the walls. The path along the walls is narrow, so it might be hard to walk along if you're in a big group. The pathway created by the Roman walls is known as ‘Passeig de la Muralla’, and experts believe that some sections of the wall date as far back as the 1st century. However, many portions of the wall are actually much newer and were restored following intentional destruction, which enabled the city of Girona to expand. There are a number of entry and exit points along the path, but taking in the entire 3-kilometer wall is recommended.
How to arrive to the walls from our last point of visit in Girona (tip 2): Walk to Plaça de Sant Pere, then continue along the road going towards Pedret and away from Girona. If you turn round, on the left you will see clearly the wall extending off to your left and some steps up. This is where you're headed and the França Gate used to span over the middle of what is now the road, more or less where the zebra crossing is. It was one of the main entrances to the city in the middle ages. Once up on the wall, the views are magnificent, extending to the distance mountains.
In the first section - you see, downstairs, the Sant Pere Galligants Romanesque church on the Sant Daniel Valley road and the John Lennon Gardens (you can wander around here and rejoin the wall to continue). Later, you see the Jardins de l'Angel (you can go down and wander around them). You can take a break - you are in spitting distance of a couple of cafes.
Cross the river from the church and follow the 'Archeological Walk', where you will almost certainly be tempted down other paths. However, to complete the medieval wall circuit, things get complicated.This photo shows an unrecognisable fortified Sant Pere Galligants church, made into part of the defensive wall. After a break then, i suggest starting at Sobreportes Gate, on the outside looking in as it were, to the Cathedral square, and following the wall to your left (away from Sant Feliu/Felix Church). This is originally roman but has the reinforced medieval wall and towers on top. Follow then the Passeig Archeologic to its' end, hopefully arriving at Plaça Catalunya. You might have to start from Plaça Catalunya to do this part of the wall because it has been known for the gate at the highest point of the wall (near Torre Gironella), to be locked, so everyone has to traipse back down again in single file! It's a bit of true local experience however!
We started our walk of the walls with the stairs near the Archeology Museum in Monestir de Sant Pere de Galligants, Carrer de Santa Llúcia, 8 (see end of Tip 2):
Before you climb to the walls - you can stroll around and visit the (150 m. more to the north-east) walls opposite John Lennon Gardens (Val St. Daniel):
Monestir de Sant Pere de Galligants (the Archeology Museum) and, in the background, Basilica de Sant Feliu from Girona Walls:
The Monastery of Sant Pere de Galligant which houses the Archaeology Museum of Catalonia is considered one of the most remarkable examples of Catalan Romanesque architecture. It was originally built in 992 and construction continued through the 12th century. Opening hours: From 1 May to 30 September - TUE - SAT: 10.00 - 19.00, SUN and holidays: 10.00 - 14.00. From 1 October to 30 April: TUE - SAT: 10.00 - 18.00, SUN and holidays: 10.00 - 14.00. Closed on Mondays. Prices: adult - 4,50 €, concessions - (people 65 years or more, people under 25, pensioners, families of 2 adults and one child or more, and persons with disability certificate) - 3,50 €:
One of the most prominent sights from the walls is the Girona cathedral and in the distance you can see the snow capped peaks of the Pyrenees:
Girona Cathedral from Girona Walls:
Opposite - Girona hillside houses:
Girona Cathedral and the Basilica de Sant Felieu from Girona Walls:
The Monastery of Sant Pere de Galligant and, In the background, Girona Cathedral:
Another flight of stairs climbing to the walls (not far from the Cathedral):
Girona skyline from the City walls - not far from the St. Mary Cathedral:
Convent de Sant Domènec, Plaça Ferrater i Mora 1 from the city walls. Was founded in 1253 by Berenguer de Castellbisbal of the Dominican Order (Bishop of Girona) and Fra Arnau de Segarra. It was founded outside the walled enclosure that protected the city. Later, when that wall was expanded, the convent was included in the city:
Girona City walls opposite Torre de Sant Domènec. Here, end the staraight section of the walls and they slope down to Sant Domènec campus of Girona University (see below). This is one of the highest vantage points with the best view of the city. It is worth to stay a while and look at the view. Lookout tower that lets you see Girona and recognize places, where you have been, today. Highly recommended:
View from Torre de Sant Domènec of the Muralla Medieval to the east:
View from Torre de Sant Domènec of the Muralla Medieval to the west:
As we descend down - here, starts a section of the walls with metal benches:
From here we descend down and walk to Plaça Josep Ferrater i Móra near the Facultat de Lletres (University of Girona). Using the stairs - we head more westward to Plaça de Sant Domènec (the Rectorat):
In this square resides the Edifici Les Àligues (building of the Eagles) with a tombstone with the eagles of Austria, from where the name of the building is derived, and the shield of Girona, supported by two angels. It was constructed in 1570 by Onofre Enric:
We walk NORTHWARD along the alongated Plaça de Sant Domènec and turn LEFT (west) to Carrer dels Alemanys, and, then, RIGHT (north) to the Plaça dels Lledoners. The square, located on the southern side of the Cathedral. You can see several decorated reliefs on the walls around: A stamp of the Chapter of the Cathedral of Girona ; Further down a shield that shows a peacock in the field; In the middle of a Gothic inscription it mentions that the fountain was erected with the donations of the Seventy clergy in 1450. To the right, a horse's head sculpture indicates the bee trough. The pavement of the square is formed by regular and well-adjusted cobblestones, in the middle of which two rows of lime trees grow:
We continue west ward via Carreró de la Torre del Socors to the Pujada de la Catedral and look backward to the Cathedral:
We walk back to the railway station and make, again, already explored sections of our daily trip. Head southwest on Pujada de la Catedral toward Carrer de la Força, 40 m. Turn left onto Carrer de la Força, 110 m. Turn right onto Carrer Bonaventura Carreras I Peralta, 30 m. Continue onto Carrer de l'Argenteria, 120 m. Turn right onto Pont de les Peixateries Velles (Onyar river), take the stairs, 45 m. From the bridge it is a further 1 km. to the train station. From Pont de les Peixateries Velles head west toward Carrer de Santa Clara. Take the stairs, 30 m. Turn left onto Carrer de Santa Clara, 90 m. Turn right onto Carrer de l'Obra, 60 m. Continue onto Carrer de la Sèquia, 250 m. Turn left onto Gran Via de Jaume I, 60 m. Turn right onto Plaça del Marquès de Camps, 70 m. Turn left to stay on Plaça del Marquès de Camps, 100 m. Continue onto Carrer Barcelona, 180 m. Turn right onto Carrer Bailèn, 110 m. Turn left onto Plaça Espanya, 50 m. Turn right to arrive to the Girona railway station.
Main Attractions: Duchesse Anne Château, Château des Ducs de Bretagne, St. Peter and St. Paul's Cathedral, Place Maréchal-Foch, Musée d'arts de Nantes, Jardin des Plantes, Basilique Saint-Nicolas, fresco of Jules Verne, Place Royale, Passage Pommeraye, Place Graslin, La Cigale Brewery, Cours Cambronne, Palais Dobrée, Eglise Notre Dame de Bon Port, Les Machines de l'île.
Start and End: Gare de Nantes. Distance: 15 km. Weather: a bright day only.
Flying to the Loire ? we found a cheap flight from London to the heart of France (Nantes) by British Airways. The flight's times were perfect. The flight is leaving Heathrow during the afternoon hours and landing at Nantes during the early evening hours (still pleasant daylight hour). We booked, first, a flight from London City Airport to Angers in the Loire valley. This flight had been canceled by BA one month before our planned departure and we had been forced to change all our plans, bookings and itinerary. We chose the BA alternative, default offer of flight from Heathrow to Nantes. It was, still, a budget price option. But, using Heathrow, as a departure airport, instead of London City Airport, is, always, an worse option. Heathrow is far more congested airport with lengthy journey, security procedures, waiting times etc'. We still think that arriving to the Loire Valley via Paris is an worse option. The train connections between Paris and the Loire Valley are very good. But, the hotels prices in Paris are, still, daunting. We advice you to find a flight, from your country, to the Loire region, via London, using cheap connection flights from London (better, via smaller airports in the British capital). Formally, Nantes is not included in Brittany, but, you feel Brittany heritage and tradition in every step in the city.
Introduction: Nantes is the main north-western French metropolis. The city is the sixth-largest in France, with a population of nearly 300,000 in Nantes and an urban area of 600,000 inhabitants. Nantes belongs historically and culturally (but, NOT, formally, nowadays) to Brittany. It was founded by Celts around 70 BC and in AD 937 it joined the duchy of Brittany. It was conquered by the Bretons in 851. The Edict of Nantes, a landmark royal charter guaranteeing civil rights to France's Huguenots (Protestants), was signed in Nantes by Henri IV in 1598. By the 18th century Nantes was France's foremost port, and in the 19th century – following the abolition of slavery – it became an industrial centre; the world's first public transport service, the omnibus, began in Nantes in 1826. Shipbuilding was the corner-stone of the city's economy until the late 20th century and when the shipyards relocated westwards to St-Nazaire, Nantes transformed itself into a thriving hi-tech and cultural hub. When it comes to Nantes the city is so rich in history just walking through the streets you see the modern industrial out skirts and as you go into the centre you see its historic buildings and its medieval streets.
Tip: Following the Green Line around the Nantes city will guide you to all the tourist sights.
Although Nantes was the primary residence of the 15th-century dukes of Brittany, Rennes became the provincial capital after the 1532 union of Brittany and France. During the 17th century Nantes gradually became the largest port in France and was responsible for nearly half of the 18th-century French Atlantic slave trade. The French Revolution resulted in an economic decline, but Nantes developed large-scale industries after 1850 (chiefly in shipbuilding and food processing). De-industrialisation in the second half of the 20th century triggered the city to adopt a service economy.
Nantes Airport: Small, intimate, pleasant, very efficient. Quick transfer procedures. You can get the bus to the city (Navette) every 20 minutes. Price: 8 euros.
The hotel in Nantes: Our hotel was Novotel Centre Gare, rue de Valmy, 4, Nantes, 15 minutes walk from the the Bus Station. A pleasant walk along the river and its canals. The hotel is new, modern, quiet, a spacious room, very convenient, Shower separated from the WC, a table, chairs, a sofa, kettle with coffee and tea bags, a small frigid, a coffee machine, a safe, free WIFI . Friendly staff members. Good, well stocked breakfast. This hotel is within walking distance of the Cathedral, the Chateau des Ducs de Bretagne and the Botanical Gardens. The location is pretty, quiet, overlooking a branch of the river. You can (hardly) see the river from the dining room. Price: 90 euros/night for a standard double room:
Our first day in Nantes: From Hotel Novotel Nantes Centre Gare
3 Rue de Valmy, we head southwest on Rue de Valmy toward Avenue Carnot, 70 m. We turn right onto Avenue Carnot and walk along the avenue for 300 m. Continue onto Cours John Kennedy for 40 m. and you see Duchesse Anne Château (Castle of the Duchess Anne) on your left.
From Gare de Nantes to Duchesse Anne Château (500 m.): From Gare de Nantes, 27 Boulevard de Stalingrad head west on Espl. Pierre Semard, 100 m. Turn right toward Allée Commandant Charcot, 20 m. Turn left onto Allée Commandant Charcot, 220 m. Slight left toward Cours John Kennedy, 55 m. At the roundabout, take the 2nd exit onto Cours John Kennedy, 90 m. and Duchesse Anne Château is on the right side.
Buses arriving near this castle: 1, 4, 23, C3. This is the most east wing of the Château des Ducs de Bretagn (see below):
With your face to Duchesse Anne Château head north on Cours John Kennedy, 35 m. Turn left to stay on Cours John Kennedy, 10 m. Turn left toward Rue des États, 300 m. Turn right onto Rue des États, 80 m. The sights of the southern walls of the Château des Ducs de Bretagn are magnificent:
The main entrance to Château des Ducs de Bretagne, 4 Place Marc Elder, is on your right. Adult ticket price: 8.00€, concessions (age 18-25) - 5.00€ ; FREE with the Nantes City Card. Free: under 18 years. FREE entrance to courtyard and ramparts to ALL visitors. Guided tours: Adult ticket price: 12.00€, concessions (age 18-25) - 7.50€. 7 - 17 years - 2.50€, free - under 7 years. Free on the first Sunday of the month. The castle guided tour offers around 34 rooms and lots of stairs to climb. Wear your best shoes... Opening hours: daily: 8.30 - 19.00. 1 July – 31 August: 8.30 - 20.00. MUSEUM AND EXHIBITION: 10.00 - 18.00 except Mondays. 1 July – 31 August: 10.00 - 19.00, 7 days a week. The castle is closed: 1 January, 1 May, 1 November, 25 December. Allow, at least, 2 hours.
It is located on the right bank of the Loire, which formerly fed its ditches:
Near the entrance stands a sculpture of Duchess Anne (1477 - 1514) :
The Château des Ducs de Bretagne (Castle of the Dukes of Brittany) is one of the main historical sights in the heart of the French city of Nantes. It is Listed as a historical monument for over 170 year. The Castle of the Dukes of Brittany’ serves not only as a symbol of the city’s intriguing history and home to the Urban History Museum, but also as a gathering place for the residents of Nantes. Over the course of its history, the Castle of the Dukes has served as a military fortress and royal residence, and was home to Duchess Anne of Brittany (twice crowned Queen of France…before the age of 25). It stands on the site of a previous 13th century fortified palace called La Tour Neuve (The New Tower). The present castle, surrounded by a moat and ramparts, was built in the 15th century for Francois II, last of the dukes of Brittany. It was the residence of the Dukes of Brittany between the 13th and 16th centuries, subsequently becoming the Breton residence of the French kings. From the 1990s, the town of Nantes undertook a massive programme of restoration and repairs to return the castle to its former glory. It was reopened on 9 February 2007 and is now a popular tourist attraction which now includes the new Nantes History Museum, installed in 32 of the castle rooms. Night-time illuminations at the castle further reinforce the revival of the site.
Cross the bridge over the moat and step into the fortress courtyard, where you’ll see the octagonal wellhead with its ornate wrought iron crown. Around you are the various buildings that make up the heart of the castle. The Golden Crown Tower, with the nearby well, stands over 100 feet tall, and connects the Grand Logis (the main building) (see below) and the Grand Gouvernement. The loggias at the top were built for Duchess Anne and provide a view of the Loire River:
Remember: The battlements are free. The castle itself is very picturesque and pretty. The 500-metre round walk on the fortified ramparts provides views not just of the castle buildings and courtyards but also of the town. Made out of giant granite blocks and white stones, the site features 500 meters of curtain walls, seven towers, and a sentry walkway. The residential palace of this historical monument features fine sculpted facades and Renaissance loggias. The walk all around the ramparts and across the courtyard is very well signposted. Absolutely stunning views of the totally rebuilt architecture. The fortifications, consisted of water tunnel and mighty walls, indicate towards the importance of the shelter it provided to residents who resided there. You can slide down from the top of the walls to the bottom but you must be adequately clothed to avoid any friction burns (the slide is not open everyday). The walls are relatively high but nice to walk around to get a different aspect of Nantes. There are spectacular views of Nantes from the heights of the walls. As we said before - descent can be via a slide off the walls downstairs to the ground. The castle also features moat gardens and a rampart walk where visitors can have a picnic or simply enjoy the night lighting of the fortress. Le Grand Logis – this five-story building (six if you count the basement) was built in two stages; the first four levels constructed under the reign of Francois II and the top two under that of his daughter the Duchess Anne:
Le Grand Gouvernement – formerly the Ducal Palace, this ‘Large Government’ building with symmetrical stairs (left side of the photo below), served as of the Home of the Governor. Rebuilt following a fire in the 17th century, the building bears the Coat of Arms of Louis XIV above the doorway. Inside you’ll see the wood framed ‘upside down ship’s hull’ vaulted ceiling, made of chestnut:
Le Petit Gouvernement – a simple building, this ‘Small Government’ building, also referred to as Logis du Roi (King’s Home) (middle of the photo below) dates to the 16th century. It’s believed to have been the site of the signing of the Edict of Nantes, a ‘Treaty of Tolerance’ signed by the duc de Mercœur, Governor of Brittany, and Henry IV, King of France, putting an end to the French Wars of Religion. Le Harnachement – now used for temporary exhibits this symmetrical building served as a munitions warehouse in the 18th century (middle of photo below):
The museum is very interesting, goes through the history of Nantes in fine detail. Lots of interesting artefacts. The history of the city snakes through the castle (rabbit's warren of rooms) allowing you to see the refurbished structure as you go. The museum is equipped with many multimedia devices. The castle and the museum try to offer a modern vision of the heritage by presenting the past, the present and the future of the city. Particularly interesting is the section on the slave trade and the involvement of the Nantes city. Note: While English audio guides are available the signs with each exhibit are almost exclusively in French. Excellent and impressive museum:
Model of the castle and a tapestry:
Crown of Duchess Anne:
Commercial ships of the Dukes of Bretagne:
Les Mascarons, masques en pierre:
Le Navire des armoiries:
We exit the castle from the main entrance in Place Elder and turn RIGHT (north) . On our right is Rue Premon:
We climb with our face to the north along Rue Mathelin Rodier and within walk of 2 minutes we arrive to the Cathedral of St. Pierre and St. Paul. The cathedral resides on the right side (east side) of Place St. Pierre:
The 1868 alignment modeled a regular square, in the form of a 60-meter square, bordered by the identical facades of five-storey "Haussmanian" buildings, with shops on the ground floor. Balconies on the upper floors are cast iron:
St. Peter and St. Paul's Cathedral , built between 1434 and 1891, dominates the square. The cathedral's foundation stone was laid on 14 April 1434, by John V, Duke of Brittany and Jean de Malestroit, Bishop of Nantes (1417-1443). The first architect in charge was Guillaume de Dammartin who was later replaced by Mathurin Rodier. The building started when Nantes and Brittany were commercially prosperous. The cathedral is in the Gothic architectural tradition. Construction of the church began in 1434, on the site of a Romanesque cathedral, and took 457 years to finish, finally reaching completion in 1891. It has a classification as historical monuments since 1862 14 . Gothic style , 63 meters high , light in color due to the use of tufa. At the entrance to the cathedral, the steps of four steps, created during the leveling of the square of 1867, contributes to the majesty of the building. The steps outside seem to be a popular place to hang out, and they overlook the St. Pierre Square. The edifice was damaged by Allied bombing during World War II, on 15 June 1944. On 28 January 1972, a gigantic fire started on the roof. Firemen managed to bring it under control, but the timber frame was severely damaged and many other damages were inflicted. This event led to what was undoubtedly the most complete interior restoration of a cathedral in France:
The plain façade is largely compensated for by the polish of the interior of the building. The whiteness of the stone, accentuated by recent restoration work, the imposing dimensions of the nave and the aisles and the effect of the immense inner column create a Gothic atmosphere inside the cathedral.
The Nante Cathedral contains the tomb and recumbent Duke Francis II of Brittany and his wife Marguerite de Foix (the parents of Duchess Anne of Brittany):
You can leave the Cathedral from its west front or its eastern facade - continue walking northward along rue de L'ereche. Cross the city walls and Louis VI Square (or Place Maréchal-Foch). One of the most famous squares in Nantes , France , is an architectural ensemble designed in the 18th century. In its center the Louis XVI column , erected in 1790 as "Column of Liberty", 28 meters high , surmounted since the Restoration of a statue of the sovereign . It is one of the rare statues of Louis XVI still present in France in the public space. It was established in 1823:
From Place Maréchal-Foch head north-east onto Rue Gambetta. Turn right to Rue Henry IV, where the mighty Place de L'oratoire on your left. Turn, again, left onto Rue Georges Clemenceau and you'll see, on your left, the Musée d'arts de Nantes (Arts Museum of Nantes) or Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nantes, 10 Rue Georges Clemenceau. The Musée d’arts de Nantes is open daily, from 11.00 to 19.00, except Tuesdays. Late-night opening all year round on Thursdays until 21.00. Closed on 1st January, 1st May, 1st November and 25th December. Prices (to all permanent and temporary exhibitions): adult: €8, concessions: €4. Guided tours: adult: €12, concessions: €8 or €4 or €2.50. The museum offers an overview of all the main French and European art movements, which places its collections among the largest public collections of province alongside some of Museums of Fine Arts of Valenciennes, Grenoble, Lyon, Lille and Montpellier. Artworks in the collection include paintings from the 13th century to modern art. In 2011, the museum was closed for a maximum of 2 years to make major expansion work. Reopening of the museum finally took place in May-June 2017, after 3.5 years of delay. Exhibition space, restored facades, a restaurant and a bookshop all designed by the London's architecture firm Stanton Williams. The more famous painters represented in this museum are: Guido Reni, Peter Paul Rubens, Antoine Watteau (remember Hannah Rothschild's book of 'The Improbability of Love' ?), Camille Corot, Raoul Dufy, Max Ernst, Wassily Kandinsky, Fernand Léger, Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Georges Seurat, Paul Signac and Alfred Sisley. It is a fabulous, neat, polished architectural gem. The collection is huge. You may spend here a day. A real experience for a rainy day. You can buy a pass for 8 euros entitling unlimited visits in this museum combined with the Château des Ducs de Bretagne ! The visit in the museum's halls is an experience in its own !
Pietro Perugino, Sant'Antonio da Padova e San Sebastiano, 1476-78:
Georges de La Tour, The Denial of Saint Peter, 1650:
Jean-Antoine Watteau, Harlequin, Emperor on the Moon, 1707:
Nicolas Lancret, Before the Constume Ball, 1743:
The Wheat Sifters, Gustave Courbet, 1854:
First Leaves, near Nantes, Camille Corot, 1855:
Portrait de Mademoiselle Stéphanie Brousset, Jules-Élie Delaunay, 1871:
Léon Comerre, Le Déluge (The Flood):
Vassily Kandinsky, Gegenklänge, 1924:
Wassily Kandinsky, Mild Process, 1928:
Wassily Kandinsky. Downwards, 1929:
We leave the Museum of Fine Arts in nantes and head northeast on Rue Georges Clemenceau toward Rue Élie Delaunay, 210 m. We turn right onto Allée des Magnolias, 50 m and face the main entrance to Jardin des Plantes, Rue Stanislas Baudry. Open daily. FREE. The two exhibition greenhouses: Monday to Friday: 12.30 to 18.00, Saturday and Sunday: 09.30 to 18.00. Guided tours for individuals: FREE. From the front of the reception located next to the restaurant north of the garden: Monday 15.00, Visit of greenhouses: → Wednesday 15.00, Friday 15.00, Saturday 11.00, 15.00, 16.00, 17.00, Sunday 10.00, 11.00, 15.00, 16.00, 17.00. The greenhouses are wheelchair accessible. Palm Island's greenhouse: daily from 12.00 to 18.00. The Nantes botanical garden started in 1688 as a small medicinal plant garden outside the city walls. In 1726 it was transformed as a Royal Garden for exotic plants. By 1795 the garden again reverted to a medicinal garden, and slowly declined until its demise in 1877. The current garden was first established in 1806 under the leadership of Jean Alexandre Hectot, and by 1807 contained a magnificent magnolia which still exits (the Magnolia d'Hectot). It became a municipal garden in 1820 and opened to the public in 1829. Under director Jean Marie Ecorchard, it was restyled as an English park containing some 2500 species. The last section was created in the 1850s, including a remarkable fountain (1859) that operated for 130 years without maintenance or repair. After more than a decade of neglect, active restoration began in the early 1890s under the leadership of Paul Marmy, who built the garden's palm house 1895-1898 and orangery in 1899. By 1900 the garden was substantially complete in its current form. From Wikipedia: "Today the garden contains about 11,000 species planted within a web of ponds, waterways, and paths, with an artificial "mountain" and fine collection of statues, as well as pavilions, fountains, and cascades. It features an excellent collection of camellias (600 cultivars), mature specimens of Magnolia grandiflora (219 years old), Liriodendron tulipifera (150 years), Sequoiadendron giganteum (150 years), and Sequoia sempervirens (150 years), Aesculus hippocastanum (140 years), Platanus acerifolia (140 years), as well as fine specimens of Arbutus unedo, Carpinus betulus, Ginkgo biloba, Liquidambar styraciflua, Pterocarya caucasica, and Quercus mirbeckii.". The gardens complex have many entrances. On their southern side resides the Gare SNCF (railway station). The gardens ARE MAGNIFICENT. There many points of interest including topiary, lakes or ponds, waterfalls, sculptures, hot houses and planted structures. Trees and plants from ALL around the world are clearly labeled. Bring your camera as the vistas and the flowers are spectacular. Take your time and walk the entire park. There are tables where you can sit and eat your own picnic if you have brought one with you EXCEPT the grass which is NOT for sitting on. It is a lovely spot and definitely worth visiting:
We took our lunch in the restaurant of the Jardin des Plantes - Cafe De L'Orangerie. 13.50 euros/person for Poulette+Pommes de Terre. Delicious, pleasant and efficient with young friendly staff. The chalk board Menu de Jour is quite limited but good quality. Expect the cafe to be crowded during the weekends. In a bright day it is a good idea to sit in the outside terrace.
We change direction and head, now, to the south-west districts of Nantes. First, we walk 1.7 km. from the Jardin des Plantes to Basilique Saint-Nicolas. From the Jardin des Plantes, Rue Stanislas Baudry, we head southwest and slight left at Volière, 158 m. Turn right toward Rue Ecorchard, 20 m. Turn left onto Rue Ecorchard, 15 m. Turn right onto Boulevard de Stalingrad, 100 m. Continue onto Allée Commandant Charcot, 300 m. We passthrough several hotels (the railway station is nearby) like: Ibis and Kyriad. Turn left onto Cours John Kennedy, 5 m. Turn right toward Rue de Strasbourg, 300 m. Turn left onto Rue de Strasbourg, 20 m. Turn right onto Cours Franklin Roosevelt, 400 m. Turn right onto Allée Cassard, 150 m. Continue onto Allée d'Orléans, 130 m. Turn left onto Rue de Feltre, 50 m. You see the Basilica on your left. Turn left onto Rue Affre and Basilique Saint-Nicolas, 5 Rue Affre is on the right after 70 m. Under the leadership of Felix Fournier , pastor of the parish and future bishop of Nantes, the construction of the current church ranges from 1844 to 1869. The tomb of Félix Fournier (died in 1877), had been installed in 1883 in the basilica. The church is badly damaged during the bombing of September 16 , 1943. The rebuilding project began in 1953 and lasts until 1974 . The damaged great organ, dating from 1901, was later rebuilt, in two sections of work, in 1963 and 1985. Saint-Nicolas is a church that the father of Jules Verne (see below) helped rebuild in the 1840. His father belonged to the parish council that commissioned the building, and was one of the first subscribers. The old church, which leaned against the ramparts and had threatened collapse for over a century, served as the backdrop to Verne’s first novel, which he never finished and was published by the City of Nantes in 1992 (Un prêtre en 1839, le cherche midi éditeur):
Next, we walk 250 m. to the new fresco of Jules Verne. From Basilique Saint-Nicolas head north on Rue Affre toward Rue du Pré Nian, 60 m. Turn left onto Rue de Feltre, 110 m. Turn left onto Place du Bon Pasteur and take the stairs, 70 m. Over the stairs in Rue de L'echelle - you see the fresco of Jules Verne depicting Jules Verne and his Voyages Extraordinaires. This large mural to the glory of the most famous child of Nantes, on the wall of a building along the stairs of the rue de l'Echellet is part of the route "in the footsteps of Jules Verne" already existing. Directed by the muralist painter Jean-Yves Jodeau, this fresco is fourteen meters wide and twelve above. It depicts the port of Nantes as known by the little Jules, but also the Albatross, the Scarecrow, and a Jules Verne with a white beard (although Nantes is rather related to his childhood). The work of preparation of the wall began in November 2007 and the fresco is completed at the beginning of the year 2008:
With our face to the mural, we take the road on our right, Rue Contrescarpe and turn left to Rue Crebillon and we arrive to Place Royale, where we see the high tower of Basilique Saint Nicholas. The square was designed in 1786 by the Nantes architect Mathurin Crucy . Built in 1790 after the destruction of the medieval ramparts. It has a monumental fountain inaugurated in 1865. The monumental fountain, was designed by the city architect Henri Théodore Driollet and symbolizes the fluvial and maritime vocation of Nantes. Its pyramidal structure is composed of three granite basins superimposed. It shows allegorical figures of Nantes (top), of the Loire river (front) and of its tributaries: the Erdre (front left), the Sèvre nantaise (front right), the Cher (right, hidden) and the Loiret (left, hidden). Architect of the place: Mathurin Crucy (1788). Fountain by Daniel Ducommun de Locle, Guillaume Grootaërs and Simon Voruz (1865). Despite its name, the square had never hosted a monarch statue, like the other Royal squares in France. It is an iconic site in Nantes, and is a popular point of artistic, festive or political gatherings. The site, very damaged during the Second World War , is restored almost identically between 1945 and 1961. The square, entirely paved with granite blocks, is served by nine streets: Crebillon , the Pit , Gorges , La Perouse , Orleans , Commandant-Boulay , L'Arche-Sèche , Saint-Julien and the Vieilles-Douves. It is located at one of the lowest points of the city:
Basilique saint Nicholas from Place Royale. Behind the Basilica stands Tour Bretagne with 26 floors:
We leave the Place Royale from its most southern end and walk DOWN (southward) along Rue de la Fosse. On our right (west) is the pretty Passage Pommeraye. A very special shopping center with very old and luxury architecture and fantastic photo opportunities. A classy, multi-level mall with marvelous, colorful shops. Lovely roof, statues and staircases. A vintage atmosphere at its best. Named after its property developer, Louis Pommeraye. Construction started at the end of 1840 and was completed on 4 July 1843. Two architects, Jean-Baptiste Buron and Hippolyte Durand Gasselin, contributed to its design:
We cross and walk through the mall from east to west. We exit the shopping centre at Rue Crébillon and turn left to continue climbing south-west along Rue Crébillon. Walking 300 m. along Rue Crébillon will bring us to the impressive square of Place Graslin. It is served by eight roads: Crebillon , Moliere , Corneille , Racine , Voltaire , Piron , Regnard and Jean-Jacques-Rousseau. The square is mostly pedestrianized , except the west side serving the streets Racine and Piron (the beginning of the street Voltaire is also pedestrianized) which are open to traffic. On its north side is the Graslin Theater ; south of the square is La Cigale restaurant and brewery. Jean-Joseph-Louis Graslin was the promoter of this square from 1777. In 1960, the place served as an outdoor setting during the filming of Lola (1961) by Jacques Demy. The theatre, in the north side, was built in 1788 , on the plans of Mathurin Crucy . Twelve steps lead to the vestibule , while eight Corinthian columns support the pediment. Ravaged by a fire in 1796 , it was only after the visit of the Emperor Napoleon I , in 1808 , that the theater was rebuilt. This operation was conducted from 1811 , still under the leadership of Crucy. A little later, during the period of the Second Restoration , the sculptor Dominique Molknecht creates the eight antique-style muses overlooking each column, as well as statues of Molière and Corneille overlooking the main staircase, visible from the square.
tThe theater (middle) and the café le Molière (left):
La Cigale , which is one of the most beautiful breweries of France in the style " Art Nouveau", faces the theater from the south side of the square, was inaugurated on April 1 ,1895. It is a place very frequented by comedians at the exit of the theater. Thus, the actor Jean-Louis Trintignant (Claude Lelouch classic movie "A Man and a Woman", which at the time was the most successful French film ever screened in the foreign market) said of this brewery that it was "probably the most beautiful brewery in the world":
We leave Place Graslin from its southern edge. Behind La Cigale resides Cours Cambronne. Head south on Place Graslin and continue onto Rue Piron, 30 m. Turn right onto Cours Cambronne, 100 m. This avenue is approximately 180 meters long and 50 meters wide. You enter this manicured avenue (from both of its sides) via wrought iron gates located at both ends: rue Piron to the east and rue des Cadeniers in the west. The west gate is further framed by two stone sentry posts . The course is bordered by a row of identical buildings on the north side (overlooking rue Gresset ) and south (overlooking rue de l'Héronnière ). The avenue is planted with silver lime trees , magnolias with large flowers , adorned with boulingrins and flower beds
In the center of the avenue is a statue of Pierre Cambronne , created by Paris sculptor Jean Debay . According to a very popular legend, Pierre Cambronne, commanding the last square of the Old Guard at Waterloo, summoned to surrender by the British General Colville , Cambronne would have replied: "The guard dies but does not surrender! ". During the Waterloo battle, Cambrone was seriously wounded. He was indeed taken prisoner after the massacre of the last squares. Led to England, he wrote to Louis XVIII to obtain permission to return to France. He returns without having received an answer, is arrested, taken to Paris , brought before the council of war. He is released to attend his trial for treason ( attack of France at gunpoint ). Defended by the royalist Berryer, he was set free on April 26, 1816. Cambronne then returned to live in Nantes at No. 3, rue Jean-Jacques-Rousseau. He died in the night of January 28 to 29, 1842, at his home in Nantes Street Jean-Jacques-Rousseau, and was buried in the cemetery Misericordia . By an order of December 5, 1842, King Louis-Philippe I authorized his hometown to raise a statue in his honor. The monument is inaugurated on July 28, 1848, and placed in the center of the avenue which since 1936 bears his name . In Paris , a street , a square and a metro station located in the 15th arrondissement bear his name:
We walked the whole Cours Cambronne from north-east to south-west. We turn right (north) to Rue des Cadeniers and, immediately, LEFT (west) to Rue Voltaire. After passing Rue Mascara, on your left, the street changes its name to Rue Dobrée. In 18, rue Voltaire stands Palais Dobrée hosting the Departmental Museum Thomas-Dobrée. Public transport: Tram line 1 (stop Media Library) or Bus 11 (stop: Jean V). Coming from an old Huguenot family from Normandy , established in Guernsey in the 16th century, Thomas Dobrée abandoned business at twenty-eight years of age. Then he devoted himself to collecting works of art. From 1862, he devoted himself to the construction of his "palace. The palace was intended to accommodate the ten thousand objects of art that he spent his life collecting them. His collections were particularly rich in precious books and old Breton prints and in manuscripts for paintings, autographs, coins and medals, in graphic arts (in particular the German and Dutch engravers). But they also included a large collection of sculptures, paintings and decorative arts from the Middle Ages to the late nineteenth century. Dobrée then built in the immediate area of the medieval manor of the Duke of Brittany Jean V (dating from the fifteenth century ), a palace that meets his expectations, and was the joint work of architects Simon , Boismen , Chenant and Le Diberder. The palace was not completed until 1899, four years after the death of Thomas Dobrée. Dobrée museum will reside, in the future, into TWO remarkable buildings: the Dobrée Palace, neo-medieval style, with its tower 30 meters high and the Manoir de la Touche, former episcopal residence. The Dobrée Museum is under renovation and will open on 2021. At the moment visitors can access ONLY temporary exhibitions and the garden around. The gardens are open every day from 08.00 to 18.30 (19.30 in July and August). Closed: January 1st , November 1st and 11th, December 24th, 25th and 31st:
We continue walking south-west along Rue Voltaire and after 150 m. we arrive to the Eglise Notre Dame de Bon Port. The church was constructed in 1846 by the architects Seheult and Joseph-Fleury Chenantais:
From here we have to walk 750 m. to our final destination in Nantes: Les Machines de l'île. From Notre-Dame de Bon-Port, 1 Rue Dobree we head northeast on Rue Dobree toward Rue Massillon, 35 m. Turn right (south) onto Rue de la Verrerie, 270 m. Continue southward onto Boulevard Léon Bureau and cross the Loire over Pont Anne de Bretagne, 350 m. Turn right toward Mail des Chantiers, 20 m. Turn left toward Mail des Chantiers, 100 m. Turn left onto Mail des Chantiers, 10 m. and the huge site of Machines of the Isle of Nantes, Parc des Chantiers, Boulevard Léon Bureau is on your right. Les Machines de l'île is one of a kind in the world. This park or museum is a very exceptional experience for adults and children. The main player here, a company called "La Machine" is creating giant machines with the form of surreal animals for entertainment - automated animal-machines. You may call them "Outdoor Robots". The Machines of the Isle of Nantes (Les Machines de l'île) is an artistic, touristic and cultural project based in Nantes and aims to promote the city's image and tries to build an identity as a creative metropolis of dream and of fantasy. The site was opened to the public on 1 July 2007 in the old covered buildings of the former shipyards in Nantes that were once used for ship construction (les nefs), and later used as business sites. The Machines of the Isle were, actually, created by two artists: François Delarozière (of La Machine production company) and Pierre Orefice (of Manaus association).
You can see the workshop where the giant machines / animals are made and where new projects are starting. The animals are created out of machinery and wood. The only giant animal in motion is the elephant. it is magical and unforgettable to see the elephant walking and carrying people, either from on high (from the magical tree) or by walking alongside it. You have to pay extra if you want to go on it. The other machines are interesting, especially the dragon, a spider, a heron, a worm and an ant. People can go on them and "pilot" them under instruction from staff. The Gallery is a living place with the staging of a real bestiary of machines. It is a laboratory where the machines built in La Machine's workshop are tested. Sale of tickets on the spot, the same day, during the ticketing hours, within the limits of available places. Each ticket gives access to the terraces of the workshop, the film and the Prototype Branch of the Heron Tree. This ticket is different of the Trip in Grand Elephant. In case you want to see the galleries and ride the Giant Elephant - you are obliged to buy to two distinct tickets ! The following prices hold for the TWO tracks of visit. Adult price:8,50 €, concessions - people with disability. Free of charge: Children under 4 years old and the accompanying person of a disabled person. There are MANY other options and types of tickets. The gallery or workshop option is intended only for the persons who can understand French. If you don't, we advice you to skip this attraction. Inside, the employees introduce all the machines one by one in French. They show how they work and, if you are lucky, you might be chosen to ride the machine. During the presentation, the place gets very crowded and you can barely see anything. The machines are FANTASTIC. Unfortunately, they don't work on their own, but rather with a help of a lifting system and under the guidance of the staff members. Very small number of people can go on the machines and you have to watch them downstairs with herds of other people. Not very well organised and sadly not in English. More or less holds for the Elephant. If we consider adults only - just standing watching it go for a walk is amazing and well worth a FREE visit. You get better photographs of the mighty elephant from ground level. In the summer months the queues can be long. Beware of the water while the elephant is marching on. Its funny to see the elephant using its trunk to spray water on people. Our advice: just go and see the elephant and carousel from the outside for free. Free entrance if you use your Nantes City Pass. Highly recommended. Allow 2-3 hours.
The Great Elephant is a mechanical elephant (2007) with 12 meters high and 8 meters wide, made from 45 tons of wood and steel. It can take up to 49 passengers for a 45-minute walk. It is a non-exact replica of The Sultan's Elephant from the French group Royal de Luxe (from Aix-en-Provence), which toured the world from 2005 to 2007:
The Marine Worlds Carrousel (Carrousel des Mondes) (2012) is a huge carousel, rising nearly 25 m. high and measuring 20 m. in diameter. Visitors move about amidst a ballet of aquatic animals and sea carriages, as well as climb aboard and guide the movements of the Machines. Three carousels are stacked in a genuine concrete lacework topped by a marquee adorned with pediments, and guarded by 16 fishermen from all the oceans of the world. You witness the sea every way, from the depths of the bottom, through the abysses, right up to the surface of the sea:
The Arbre aux Hérons (The Herons Tree) is still a model at this moment, though. This future project will consist of a 35 meter tall steel tree with herons nests in it, of which you can already see a prototype branch outside, above the café and gift shop:
In case you decided to complete your busy 1-day tour in Nantes - it is a 2.7 km. walk to the railway station. From the Carrousel of the Marine Worlds you head northwest, 25 m. Turn right toward Quai Fernand Crouan, 15 m. Turn left toward Quai Fernand Crouan, 65 m, Turn right onto Quai Fernand Crouan, 80 m. Turn left to stay on Quai Fernand Crouan, 160 m. Take the pedestrian tunnel, and, the stairs - approx. 250 m. Continue straight onto Quai François Mitterrand, 90 m. Turn left onto Passerelle Victor Schoelcher, 450 m. Turn left toward Cours Franklin Roosevelt and walk along it for 700 m. Turn left onto Rue de Strasbourg, 20 m. Turn right at Allée du Port Maillard, 300 m. Turn left onto Cours John Kennedy, 5 m. Turn right onto Allée Commandant Charcot, 300 m. Turn right at Rue Stanislas Baudry, 20 m. Turn left onto Espl. Pierre Semard, 100 m. You are in Gare de Nantes, 27 Boulevard de Stalingrad.
Basically I'll give only an outline on what to see in each city, places to say and costs. The method of this trip is to go where your feet take you... You'll reach where you need to.
Generally speaking, the cities are divided into the old city surrounded by a wall (the 'state') and the city outside the wall. Most of the action occurs inside the the walled city.
In every Riad we visited, we received a very user-friendly map with all the sightseeing in the city.
Day 6 – Spending the night at Adrian and Lucia’s
We had breakfast on the balcony with the view and left at 8:00 to Dubrovnik. It was early so we managed to find a parking space in the lower level of the city. The moment we got out of the car we absorbed the ambiance of the place. There was a man playing an instrument, another man performing his mime act, and lots of tourists everywhere. Later in the evening we learned actor, Roger Moore was in town, so maybe that was the reason for the public gathering. We were enchanted by the walls of the city.