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Barcelona Tiles: Why You Should Look Down in Barcelona

Anyone walking through Barcelona will undoubtedly notice: it’s not just the beautiful houses and unique buildings that catch the eye, but also the floor tiles, each with their own design! For most Barcelonans, these sidewalk tiles rank high as symbols of Barcelona. The city council, according to a study, spends an average of €60,000 on replacing and maintaining the city’s paving (which is often broken or stolen). But what are these tiles, and what makes them so special? Today, I’ll introduce you to the sidewalk tiles of Barcelona, in all their varieties and forms!

1. Classic panots of Barcelona

The first sidewalk tiles of Barcelona, dating back to 1906, are called ‘panots‘. Designed by Juli Capella and Quim Larrea, they are made of cement, sand, and water. This technique, known as hydraulic paving, was brought to Barcelona by Casa Escofet i Cia at the end of the 19th century.

During that time, the city was growing rapidly, especially in the then-new Eixample district. However, the infrastructure was lacking, resulting in muddy streets. The municipality gave Escofet exclusive rights to produce the tiles, and in 1906, various panots were distributed to homeowners for paving their streets. This led to a mix of panot designs on the streets.

Why You Should Look Down in Barcelona
Barcelona Tiles

In fact, there are 6 different classic panots in Barcelona:

  1. The famous panot with the flower or flower tile, allegedly inspired by floor tiles designed by Josep Puig i Cadafalch for the carriage entrance of Casa Amatller. Introduced in 1926, this tile is a typical element of the Eixample district and a symbol of Barcelona. It’s so iconic that you’ll find the flower design on various souvenirs, from chocolate bars to bags and mugs.
  2. The panot with the rose, slightly different from the flower tile, features four triangles with curved sides and stems converging in a central cross. This very old design is now rare and was one of the original six panot types, but was soon removed from the catalog.
  3. The diamond-shaped panot, also quite rare, features four circles and a central diamond with curved sides.
  4. Tiles with concentric circles are currently the least common and thus very special.
  5. Tiles with four tablets and four circles are still quite popular. There are rumors of tiles with four tablets and two circles, but these are hard to find.
  6. Next to the flower tile, the simplest design featuring four tablets, also known as the ‘chocolate bar’ due to its block shape, is extremely popular.
Panots with four tablets and four circles (right), diamond (center), and the flower tile (left)
Panots with four tablets and four circles (right), diamond (center), and the flower tile (left)

At that time, panots were also laid with the street name in the streets of l’Eixample, as required by the ordinance of 1916. Although this practice continued into the 1960s, examples of these types of panots are now very scarce, and most are incomplete. If you want to see them, go to Carrer Muntaner (at the corner with Carrer Consell de Cent), Carrer Paris and Carrer Londres (at the corner with Carrer Aribau), Carrer Concepció Arenal (near number 72), Carrer de Marià Cubí (at the corner with Carrer Muntaner), or to Via Laietana (at the corner with Plaça de l’Àngel and Carrer Argenteria).

Panots with the diamond (left and right) and the rose (center)
Panots with the diamond (left and right) and the rose (center)

In total, there are as much as 5 million square meters of the city paved with these panots, so there’s a good chance you’ll come across them! Most of the panots can still be found in l’Eixample. One of the best spots I’ve found to see multiple panots at once is Plaça de Tetuan (at the corner of Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes and Passeig de Sant Joan) and near Carrer Londres (close to Avinguda Diagonal and at the corner with Carrer Aribau).

2. Gaudí’s Sidewalk Tiles

While walking along the luxury shops of Passeig de Gràcia, don’t forget to look down. This beautiful avenue is adorned with the famous Gaudí sidewalk tile! These hexagonal tiles with aquatic motifs and relief were originally intended for Casa Batlló but ended up in the service rooms of Casa Milà (La Pedrera). They were placed on Passeig de Gràcia in the 1970s as a tribute to the architect. Gaudí’s tile won the Premi Delta for Best Product Design in 1965 and is now part of the permanent collection at MoMA in New York.

Gaudí's Sidewalk Tiles
Gaudí’s Sidewalk Tiles

3. Sidewalk Tiles of Las Ramblas

The wavy tiles on Las Ramblas, called ‘vibrazo’, were designed by Adolf Florensa in 1950. Since 1968, these tiles have covered the famous boulevard, witnessing numerous events such as FC Barcelona’s title celebrations at Font de les Canaletes, the tourist boom following the Olympics, and romantic scenes during Sant Jordi each year. A smaller variant, the ‘vibrazoli’, was used to pave Anella Olímpica de Montjuïc in 1992.

Barcelona Tiles at Las Ramblas
Barcelona Tiles at Las Ramblas

4. Modernist Floral Tiles

A tile that you often see is the round and red-colored tile with the flower of Barcelona in the middle. This tile symbolizes the Ruta del Modernisme and was introduced in 1995. If you follow this route, you will come across buildings that have been important to Catalan Modernism. You often encounter these tiles in Barcelona. Pay close attention, as it means you are standing in front of a Modernist building!

Tiles in Barcelona - Ruta del Modernisme
Tiles in Barcelona – Ruta del Modernisme

5. Tree-Name Tiles

Particularly interesting for flora and fauna enthusiasts are the round green tiles placed near trees. These display the name of the adjacent tree species, offering a learning opportunity.

6. Modern Sidewalk Tiles

You might not guess it, but the world of sidewalk tiles continues to evolve. In 2008, a new tile design was introduced, featuring the ‘B’ of Barcelona as its main element. In this panot, there are no less than four Bs in high relief. This experiment can still be seen at Carrer Ganduxer 130, in front of Espai Cultural Pere Prunavier.

However, old and broken panots are often replaced by smooth and simple sidewalk tiles. Although these are likely cheaper to produce and more durable, I personally find them less attractive and miss the details of the old panots. Other tiles have a more functional design, like the ones with tacos to prevent slipping, or tactile paving for blind pedestrians at crossings and bus stops.

Fortunately, not all pedestrian areas are being renovated in this way: in October this year, a new type of floor tile was introduced on Avinguda Diagonal (between Calvet and Casanova streets) with an anti-slip layer and a plane tree leaf motif, a tree that is common in this area. This design is called panot Diagonal, created by Terradas Arquitectes, and continues to be manufactured by Escofet. At the end of the renovation of Diagonal, an impressive 24,000 square meters of these new panots will adorn Avinguda Diagonal, from Plaça Francesc Macià to Passeig de Gràcia. In short, a new design to keep an eye out for when you walk along Avinguda Diagonal!

The Newest Barcelona Tiles Panot Diagonal
The Newest Barcelona Tiles Panot Diagonal

Extra Tip: Buy Your Own Barcelona Sidewalk Tile

If you’re fascinated by Barcelona’s sidewalk tiles and want a souvenir, visit these stores for tile-inspired products:

  • Panot Store (Carrer Banys Nous, 20): Various souvenirs inspired by the flower panot.
  • Enric Rovira (Avinguda Josep Tarradellas, 113): Famous chocolate panots.
  • La Mallorquina (multiple locations, including the airport and Plaça Universitat, 6-7): Home items inspired by Barcelona and the flower panot.
  • Kiosks: Check Barcelona’s kiosks for postcards featuring the flower tile.

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Photo of author
Hello! My name is Marta, and I am a born and raised Barcelonian. I love introducing people to Barcelona, especially the Barcelona known to locals. In Barcelona, I am always looking for fun places and tips that I can then share with you, with the goal of helping you experience Barcelona like a local.

Marta Rubio

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