Arc de Triomf history

The history of the Arc de Triomf began in late 19th century. This arch was built for the World Expo of 1888, which took place here in Barcelona. The arch was to become one of the main attractions while at the same time serving as the entrance to the exposition, which took place at the nearby Parc de la Ciutadella.


The arch was designed by the noted Catalan architect Josep Vilaseca. The design by Vilaseca stands out from other well-known triumphal arches, in particular the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. Instead of using sandstone or marble, Vilaseca decided to build the arch using red bricks.


Using bricks as the main material is a typical feature of the rather unusual architectural style the arch is built in. Unknown to many – even to a lot of Barcelonans – is that the arch is inspired by Muslim architecture. The style is known as “Mudéjar” which emerged during the 12th century on the Iberian Peninsula.

The style was created by the Moors and Muslims who remained in the area after the Christians had recaptured and repopulated the whole Iberian Peninsula. When paying a closer look at the arch, the Muslim influence is actually showing pretty clearly.

Why visit Arc de Triomf ?

Arc de Triomf is one of the most striking structures in Barcelona. The arch is dominated by its several beautiful stone carvings. Above the arch itself, visitors can see carvings depicting the Barcelonan coat of arms with a small crown above it. On either side of the Barcelonan coat of arms, one can see the coat of arms of the other provinces in Spain.

Catalan pride

Above these stone carvings is a detailed stone relief located. The relief on one side depicts a prize giving ceremony and is known as “Recompense”. The relief on the other side is known as “Barcelona rep les nacions”, Catalan for “Barcelona welcomes the nations”. It represents the various countries’ participation in the World Expo and Barcelona thanking them for their attendance. By looking closely, visitors can see that the man in the middle bears the Barcelonan coat of arms on his chest.

The Barcelonans are generally very proud of their city and the Catalan region; visitors can even find the coat of arms on the lampposts in front of the arch!

Coat of arms

Why the Barcelonan coat of arms looks the way it does? The crosses, which are red on a white background, represents the patron saint of Barcelona; Saint George. The striped sections, which are red on a yellow background, represent the Catalonian coat of arms.

The legend has it that the red stripes are the blood from a mortal wound the Barcelonan Count, Wilfred the Hairy, suffered during the defense of Barcelona against the Moors in the 9th century. The blood is said to have been painted on the Count’s golden shield by the French ally, Charles the Bold, as a sign of gratitude.


Surrounding the arch stands twelve angels representing fame. Arch de Triomf is crowned by yet another coat of arms. The one at the top represents the arms of the Spanish monarchs. The pillars held by the lions are known as the Pillars of Hercules, which is the ancient name given to the Strait of Gibraltar.

Under the lions, even though it can be hard to spot from ground, stands the words “Plus Ultra” – a motto which means “Further and beyond” in Latin.

A loved gate

Today, the arch still serves its purpose as an entrance; not to the World Fair but to the great Park de la Ciutadella. Many say that the beauty goes on beyond the arch itself. The arch, with its open surroundings and rather relaxed environment, has become a favorite spot for a lot of people, both visitors and Barcelonans.

One quickly understands why the arch became such a success during the World Expo. It is easy to imagine visitors passing under the arch into the promenade leading to the World Expo in Parc de la Ciutadella.

Arc de Triomf location

Arc de Triomf is located is located in central Barcelona, in eastern Spain. The arc forms the northern entrance to Parc de la Ciutadella; one of Barcelona’s most popular parks.  For the exact location of Arc de Triomf, check out the location map to the right.

Arc de Triomf Video

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