The Font De Canaletes

A Barcelona Legend

The famous Font de Canaletes is a drinking fountain located at the top of La Rambla and is the reason why this section of the avenue is called La Rambla de Canaletes.

It's a relatively run of the mill wrought iron drinking fountain of which there are many in Barcelona.

However, Canaletes is surrounded in legend and it is said that if you you drink its water you will always return to Barcelona.

To answer the question why the Font de Canaletes is so important to the people of Barcelona and why Futbol Club Barcelona celebrate their victories there, we have to go back to at least the 15th century.

In medieval times, part of the water supply of the walled city of Barcelona came from Collserola and arrived at a cabin located roughly where Carrer Aragó reaches Passeig de Gràcia.

From there, it was channeled to Portal de l'Àngel, one of Barcelona's main entry points, where half was directed to Plaça Sant Jaume and the inhabitants of the city whilst the other half was sent to the Estudi General - the original University of Barcelona - to provide water for the gardens of El Raval.

The place became known as the Font de Canaletes - the fountain of the troughs or gutters - presumably because of the ostentatiousness of the pipes and tubes that channeled the water.

It soon became a popular meeting place as the water from the fountain was considered the best in the city.


Font de Canaletes Inscription

The Legend of Canaletes

The legend that if you drink water from Canaletes you'll always return to Barcelona is one of the city's most quoted stories and there is a plaque at the foot of the fountain that reads:

"Si beveu aigua de la font de Canaletes sempre més sereu uns enamorats de Barcelona. I per lluny que us n'aneu. Tornareu sempre."

"If you drink water from the Font de Canaletes you will always be in love with Barcelona. And however far away you go. You will always return."

The reason for the legend, however, is a lot more practical and came about because the Estudi General and consequently, the drinking fountain was located directly in front one of the city gates, La Porta de Santa Anna.

La Porta de Santa Anna was also known as La Porta dels Bergants or La Porta dels Contractistes, or Contractors' Gate, because this is where employers came to take on temporary workers.

Obviously, the labourers came back regularly in search of work and would drink water from the Font de Canaletes whilst they were waiting.

Hence, the legend that if you drink the water from Canaletes you'll always come back to Barcelona.

Canaletes and FC Barcelona

When the Estudi General was closed by the Castilians following the fall of Barcelona to Felipe V's troops in 1714, the drinking fountain was moved to its current position on La Rambla.

Various fountains were installed during the 18th and 19th centuries but the current one dates from 1888 when Barcelona hosted its first International Exposition.

It is a standard wrought-iron lamppost design of which there are apparently 17 around the city but it kept its original name and its reputation for having the best water in Barcelona.

The Font de Canaletes fame increased in 1901 when a local businessman, Esteve Sala, seeing that the fountain was a natural meeting place, decided to install a kiosk selling brandy and other liquors right opposite.

The open air bar became so popular that the celebrated Modernista architect Josep Puig i Cadafalch was commissioned when Esteve Sala decided to build a new one.

The Ajuntament, Barcelona City Council, saw the opportunity to make some money and put the site up for a public tender, which was won by a gentleman named Castasús and Esteve Sala was forced to leave his beloved kiosk.

A little later he opened the Café Royal at La Rambla, 126, which soon after changed its named to Café Moka and is still there to this day, and still miffed in 1916, he opened Bar Canaletes opposite the kiosk, which was finally demolished in 1951.

The accompanying drawing by Barcelona cartoonist Opisso dates from around the 1920s.

In 1930, republican politician and sports journalist, Josep Sunyol, opened the offices of the popular newspaper La Rambla de Canaletes at number 13, where Restaurant Núria now stands.

La Rambla newspaper, whose subtitle was Esport i Ciutadania or Sport and Citizenship, became particularly attractive to FC Barcelona supporters because Sunyol installed blackboards outside the offices and the football scores were written up as the were wired in.

Remember these were the days before radio so for any fans who hadn't gone to the game, the only way of finding out the result was from the newspaper chalkboards.

La Rambla wasn't the only newspaper to do this at the time but the combination of football results and access to alcohol made Canaletes particularly attractive and the tradition of celebrating Barça's victories, effusively and drunkenly, has continued to this day.

Incidentally, both Esteva Sala and Josep Sunyol were to become presidents of FC Barcelona in 1934 and 1935 respectively.

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