Barcelona’s Placa Sant Felip de Neri is incredibly photogenic, which is why it’s been the backdrop for many books and films, such as ‘Vicky Cristina Barcelona’, Zafón’s ‘The Shadow of the Wind’, and an Evanescence music video. It’s become a must-see in several guide books and websites about Barcelona.
Perhaps thankfully, it can be quite difficult to find for the first-time visitor. This gives an initial impression of serendipity, usually at the end of an enjoying walk through the Barri Gotico’s (Gothic Quarter’s) narrow streets.
For the best pictures of Barcelona, it’s important to know not just how to get there, but also the best time to visit for the right light. The sun can be harsh at some times, giving the hard shadows necessary to capture the textures. At other times, the square is lit indirectly through the foliage of Acacia trees and the light is softer, often requiring a tripod or higher ISOs.
At night, the street lights are LEDs which can burn out the highlights if you’re not careful. Don’t worry – if you want pictures of Placa Sant Felip Neri for your portfolio while you’re here, we’ll work with you to make sure you get them.
It’s as well to say something of the troubled past of Placa Sant Felip Neri. It was built on a mediaeval cemetery, the Montjuic del Bisbe. Antoni Gaudi, the famous Catalan Modernist architect was coming here when he was hit by a tram.
But most obvious are the pockmarked scars on the walls of the Baroque church, ‘San Felip Neri’. It was built in the 18th century, but sustained the damage in 1938 during the Spanish Civil War after a bomb was dropped on the square. Tragically, 42 people, including 20 children were killed in the bombardment.
Unmentioned by most is the living history of this horrific past. Brave judge Baltasar Garzon, who had Chilean dictator General Pinochet arrested in London, has attempted to look into the villains and victims of the Franco era.
For his efforts he was put on trial in 2012 for violating the 1977 ‘amnesty’ in which the past of Franco-era unexplained disappearances was locked up and deemed irreproachable. Tellingly, someone has written ‘Always Remember The Victims Of Fascist Regimes’ on the the church wall, and a memorial plaque has been put up in 2007.
The square feels charming however, and is certainly one of the most attractive locations in the city. It’s fountain is calming, and the temperature is generally warmer in winter and cooler in summer than elsewhere.
There’s now a Catalan school in Placa Sant Felipe de Neri, and playtime is incredibly ‘lively’. The little square fills with laughing, running children who play football and splash one another with water from the fountain.
It was redesigned in the Fifties by an architect called Adolf Florensa, who sought to create an ancient-looking square. The city’s Museu del Calçat or Barcelona’s Shoe Museum is here.
If you’re planning a photoshoot in the square after seeing the Woody Allen film, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, bear in mind that the umbrellas in the little cafe (Hotel Neri H&R) which used to be red are bright blue now.
Placa Sant Felip de Neri also has a merry cast of local chaps who like to play football, argue amongst themselves and occasionally sing boisterously after drinks. I’m grateful for one such fellow for this photo, made completely in-camera (no Photoshop).
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[marker address=”Plaça Sant Felip Neri, 6, 08002 Barcelona”][/marker]