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The Map of Barcelona: Poble Sec

Katya R
Posted September 10, 2014

Some like staying close to the beach, yet others prefer living in the mountains. The former poses no problems in Barcelona, as residents and guests of Barceloneta and Sant Marti know really well. However, when it comes to the latter, one may ask: what counts as a mountain? Property owners in Vallvidrera, who paid steeply for their apartments and houses, assert that the real mountains start right outside of Barcelona's circular freeway. A tired traveller making her way towards Parc Güell who neglected the available escalators would argue that the mountain range starts right in Gràcia. And, well, residents of Poble Sec (El Poble Sec) know that one does not even need to leave Barcelona to look at it with a bird's eye.


Neighbourhood borders

Poble Sec borders with the freeway Ronda Litoral to the east, the avenue Paral·lel to the north, the streets Lleida, la Guàrdia Urbana, Rius i Taulet to the west, and with the Montjuïc hill to the south. The neighbourhood occupies 4.6 square km.


According to the municipal division of Barcelona, Poble Sec is part of the district Sants-Montjuïc due to the city government's desire to divide Barcelona into areas of roughly equal size. Poble Sec is too small to be a municipal district by itself, so it got added to the land that had been an independent town called Sants prior to 1897.


The history of Poble Sec

In the mid-19th century Barcelona was in dire need of more space outside of the medieval town borders, so new quarters were beginning to be built. The fortress wall was disassembled in 1854, five years were needed to choose the enlargement plan, and five more were spent amending the winning Ildefons Cerda plan. The land that belongs to Poble Sec today was not part of Cerda's plan. Many explain this as being due to the complex landscape that scared away the genius urban scientist.

In reality, the proximity to the military fortress on top of Montjuïc forbade building anything too close to the mountain lest the new structures obstruct the view of canons pointed at Barcelona.

At the same time, Poble Sec back then was an ideal place for accommodating numerous workers employed at Montjuïc quarries and factories. Plus, putting citizens in line of fire was beginning to feel like a faux pas, and lifting the building ban was put on the city's agenda.



Construction in Poble Sec was permitted after the competition for the enlargement plan had already begun, so land owners close to Montjuïc were not obliged to wait for the results or coordinate their plans with the winner. In 1858 the land in Poble Sec was divided into plots, and the construction began, impetuous and relentless. Settlement of aristocracy was not in the books and famous architects were not involved in landscaping. Rapidly developing Barcelona attracted waves of emigrants from across Spain and from abroad, so affordable no-frills housing was in high demand.


That the proletarian past of any area of Barcelona involved industrial development is easily deduced. But for better remembrance, the city disassembling factories and plants leaves behind the telltale sign of industrial production – a chimney. In the case of Poble Sec, there is a whole ensemble of three chimneys reminding residents about the power plant La Canadenca, called that for belonging to the Canadian electrical company "Barcelona Traction, Light and Power Company Limited". La Canadenca earned its place in history in 1919, when a major workers' strike on it resulted in the first victory of the union in Catalan history. Apparently, Canadians are unyielding only in hockey. The former plant's land is now a park called Jardines de les Tres Xemeneies ("The garden of three chimneys").



"Poble Sec" translates as "the dry town", and there are two theories regarding the name of the area. The first states that the name is due to the area not having water supply for the longest time, as the first fountains here were installed only in 1894. The other theory goes that the area became "dry" after too many local factories used up all water in nearby wells in Poble Sec.

Poble Sec sights

It may sound strange today, but a hundred years ago Poble Sec was compared to the Montmartre in Paris, and its main avenue was called either the Theatre Boulevard, or the Road of Sin. As is often the case, life abounds in blue-collar and modest-wealth neighbourhoods. A 500 meters-long stretch of the Marques del Duero boulevard (the former name for avenue Parallel) had tens of variety shows, cabaret shows, music halls and classic theatres vying for public's attention. The entertainment infrastructure was completed with bars, restaurants and brothels of Poble Sec and its neighbouring Raval.



The party was over after the civil war and the institution of dictatorship: many theatres shut down, and those that survived got their repertoires cut and censored by Francoists. The theatre boom died out, and Poble Sec as the epicentre of entertainment went out of style. Life resumed its normal boring course, most theatres disappeared, and only few remind us of the glorious days of the past.

A cabaret theatre on Plaça de la Bella Dorita square chose a role model back in 1908 by putting Petit Moulen Rouge on its sign and hinting at pleasures similar to those taking place in Paris on Rue Pigalle. For especially blunt the name got shortened to just "Moulin Rouge" in 1916, and the facade was rebuilt to look like a mill in 1929. After the dictator's rise to power in Spain the French name had to be translated into Castilian and make do without the word "red" that Franco associated with communism. The theatre El Molino entertains the public to this day, going through a lengthy renovation process from 1997 to 2010. The shows now incorporate modern technology and electronic music, but the essentials are unchanged: there is signing, dancing, and feathers all around. The theatre has seating for 250 guests.


Theatre Victòria (founded in 1905) specializes in musicals and zarzuela (Spanish operetta). After the renovation of 1992 the theatre has 1224 seats.


Theatre Apolo (founded in 1904) puts up not only musicals and flamenco, but also theatrical plays, mostly comedies. Thanks to the major renovations of 1991-1993 the seating capacity got boosted up to 1000 guests.


Theatre Condal (founded in 1903) performs lighthearted plays on weekdays and standup comedy on Saturdays. In the 60s and 70s the theatre was a movie hall, but in 1983 Condal went back to the roots.


The theatrical life of Poble Sec does not end on avenue Parallel. Going deeper into Poble Sec, one can find three more theatres.

Rather ugly from the outside, Barcelona Teatre Musical is a former sports complex built in 1955. During the summer Olympics of 1992 it was a backup venue for Palau Sant Jordi, the stadium built two years prior. After the Olympics, the city started using the venue for shows and performances. In 2000, the major rebuilding of the structure began, cutting down on seating (the number of seats went from 6500 to 1850).


Privately owned Teatre Lliure ("Free Theatre") started its history in 1976. In 2001 it moved to Poble Sec from Gracia, now occupying the Palace of Agriculture (no joke). The majority of performances are in Catalan.


Teatre Grec has nothing in common with ancient Greeks – it is just an open-air theatre. It was built for the International Exhibition of the 1929, was barely used before the civil war, shut down, re-opened in 1952 and actively used until 1969 and shut down again.


In 1976 the city gave the theatre a new life by establishing an international festival El Grec Festival de Barcelona, whose main platform was to be Teatre Grec. The festival is dedicated to theatre arts, music, dance and circus performances, and has been taking place in Barcelona every summer, except in 1978. The theatre accommodates 1900 visitors.

The Montjuïc hill is located in Poble Sec, and since nobody lives on it, it is argued that Montjuïc is just a local park whose sights and museums really can be attributed to Poble Sec. The list is impressive:
  • The National Museum of Art of Catalonia (Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya)
  • The Archaeological Museum of Catalonia (Museu d'Arqueologia de Catalunya)
  • The Ethnological Museum of Catalonia (Museu Etnològic de Barcelona)
  • The Museum of Olympics and Sports (Museu Olimpic I de L'Esport)
  • Joan Miró Foundations (Fundació Joan Miró)
  • The Spanish Town (Poble Espanyol)
  • The Castle of Monjuic (Castell de Montjuïc)
  • The Botanical Gardens of Barcelona (Jardí Botànic de Barcelona)

Population of Poble Sec

According to data collected by the city hall in 2012, Poble Sec is home to 41380 people, 30.6% of whom are foreign citizens (there are 17.4% foreigners in Barcelona in general). The most visible majority are emigrants from Pakistan (2120 people), the Philippines (1095 people), Italy (1008 people). The average income in Poble Sec is 28.1% lower than the city average.


The numbers absolutely do not suggest that Poble Sec is an unsafe area. Life here is quiet and peaceful.

Living in Poble Sec

Here are the advantages:
  • Poble Sec is a central area in Barcelona, and many key sights and good dining places are just a short walk away.
  • Montjuïc is really close by and so are its museums, hiking and cycling trails, parks.
  • The borders of Poble Sec have two metro lines running along them, plus the major transport hub at Plaça Espanya (two metro lines, Renfe and FGC trains) is just a kilometre away from Poble Sec's centre.


What are the disadvantages of living in Poble Sec?
  • The inner streets and blocks of Poble Sec look a bit run-down; only the streets forming the area's borders look presentable and well looked after.
  • Many residential buildings were built a long time ago and not for upper middle class living, so floor plans may not correspond to your idea of a comfortable apartment. Some places, for example, have separate bathrooms and WCs located at different corners on a balcony.


If that does not bother you, the best option for living in Poble Sec is renting an apartment here, be it short- or long-term. Buying property in Poble Sec is unlikely to be a good investment in the long run, and here's why:
  • The geography of the area is such that any major development here is unlikely. Case in point: the local municipal office's website lists no major plans for infrastructure of Poble Sec. Barcelona has stories of more talk than action (like the @22 project in Poblenou in Sant Marti), but in case of Poble Sec there isn't even any talk going on.
  • Poble Sec is historically a working class neighbourhood. Most of Barcelona's working class areas are still dropping in price and are unlikely to show any significant growth in tough post-economic crisis times like the respectable Eixample or Les Corts.
  • Poble Sec cannot count on its neighbouring areas to give it a lift. The aforementioned Poblenou with its proletarian past is a working class barrio too, but it exists surrounded by the wealth of Vila Olimpica and Front Maritim, and everyone including the city hall expect the prices in Poblenou to approach those of its affluent neighbours. Poble Sec, on the other hand, is located close to the industrial zone, to Sants and Sant Antoni, and to Raval.


Here is the current state of affairs in real estate in Poble Sec. In mid-June of 2014 Poble Sec had 238 apartments for sale, only 8 of those counting less than 40 sq. m of space, and the majority (154) having over 60 sq. m of space. Most of the properties are in less than stellar condition and require at least some renovations before the new owner would want to move in. Sellers' average asking price was 2587€ per sq. m. The final closing price was about 10% lower. In 2013 prices in Poble Sec fell 3%, and the similar dynamic is being observed in 2014.


A Study in Straight Lines

Katya R
Posted August 29, 2014

The list of Antoni Gaudi's works that are closed to the public keeps getting shorter. Last September the owners of Bellesguard Tower (La Torre Bellesguard) started offering tours of their estate, leaving Casa Vicens the only other major work that remained inaccessible to visitors in Barcelona. Casa Vicens is easily spotted from the street and can be observed from several angles, while the view of Bellesguard Tower had been obstructed by tall gates – until now.


Since Bellesguard Tower is located on the outskirts of Barcelona, it does not receive that many visitors yet, even in mid-August. It is possible that guests of the city have enough of Art Nouveau works (and queues) in the city centre, and going somewhere else for more Modernism is not something the majority would consider.


Too bad! First, Antoni Gaudí took over the project in his peak form as an experienced and well-respected architecture genius; second, the history of Bellesguard Tower made sure the task was a demanding one, and third, the tour of Bellesguard Tower is amazing all in itself: you can access the tower inside and outside and go anywhere except the bedrooms of the owners who still live here. All this with a multilingual audio-guide.






The place made its mark in history at the beginning of the 15th century, when the spot was chosen by the then-powerful King of Aragon Martin I the Humane. After the king's castle was erected here, history unfolded fast. In 1409, King Martin lost his only son and heir in the battle for Sardinia. He remarried in three months' time, in September 1409, but died in May 1410 still childless.

The new dynasty had no interest in the Bellesguard castle, and in 1422 the estate lost its royal owners and started changing hands while the fortress wall and the castle itself had been crumbling away, stone by stone.


In 1900 the Figueres family that owned Bellesguard at the time decided to build a house here. Apparently not too concerned about deadlines, the family offered the job to Antoni Gaudi. The history of the estate inspired the great master to erect a family residence in style of a Medieval castle, and this is why Bellesguard Tower looks so unconventional to those already familiar with other works of Gaudi. The blueprint of the house contains many straight lines that do not, according to Gaudí, exist in nature. Bellesguard Tower is classified as Neo-Gothic or, alternatively, as a mixture of Gothic and Modern by art historians.


Once you step inside, it is clear that flirting with Gothic architecture is over, and it is only pure Art Nouveau from now on.


Gaudi still found a way to elegantly reference the Middle Ages in the interior design of the house. The balcony pictured below would allow the house owner to see all visitors standing at the gate while remaining invisible to them. In "Gothic" times such clever elements were very popular among castle owners.


King Martin the Humane is remembered as a wise and good ruler. Many Catalan historians recall the rule of the Crown of Aragon in the Mediterranean as fondly as the time of their first love. Antoni Gaudí was no stranger to that sentiment and celebrated the first landlord of Bellesguard in his own inimitable and subtle way.

This coat of arms features a popular narrative of Saint George slaying a dragon. San Jordi, the patron saint of the Kingdom of Aragon, is revered in the modern Aragon as well, where the 23 of April, Saint George's day, is also the official holiday (Día de Aragón).


This forged chandelier is a larger copy of King Martin's crown.


The crown is also visible under the cross symbolizing the four cardinal points and the mosaic in the colours of Aragon coat of arms and flag.


The coat of arms fixed at the fortress wall by the entrance to the estate lost its bright colours over the century, but two dates are still visible, if you look closely: 1409, the year of King Martin the Humane lived here, and 1909, the year when Gaudí finished his work on Torre Bellesguard.


This bench mosaic reminds us that the Crown of Aragon was in complete charge of the Mediterranean sea during King Martin's rule. The circle of allies at the pique of its power included the Kingdom of Aragon, the Principality of Catalonia, the Kingdom of Valencia, the Kingdom of Mallorca, the Neapolitan Kingdom, Sardinia, Sicily, Malta, the Duchy of Athens, the Duchy of Neopatria, and the French Provence.


The mosaic on a long half-circle bench in the middle of the garden, yet to be restored, reflects the same idea.


This breathtakingly beautiful window, adorned by an eight-pointed rosace called The Window of Venice, symbolizes the noble Catalan family of counts of Barcelona, known as the House of Barcelona, or the Barcelona Dynasty. The eight-pointed star was part of their seal. Martin I the Humane was the last member of the dynasty; with his death the bloodline perished as well.


Antoni Gaudí spent almost 10 years working on Torre Bellesguard (1900-1901). During this time he was also working on Park Guell (1900-1914), on Casa Batllo (1904-1906) and Casa Mila (1906-1910) and, of course, on La Sagrada Familia (1883-?). Therefore it comes as no surprise that Bellesguard Tower includes many elements, techniques and narratives already familiar to visitors of Gaudi's other projects.

The "classic" cross of Gaudí:


Benches decorated with the use of Trencadís technique (mosaic made of broken ceramic shards and glass pieces):


The omnipresent dragon, whose scales, eyes and fire-breathing nostrils are visible only from a certain vantage point on the roof.


Like many others, this project of Antoni Gaudí was not completed a hundred percent. The music room of the house, the so-called "Brick room", was very well thought through in terms of acoustics, but had not been plastered. It is yet unknown if the master had planned to introduce smoother lines into the architecture of the room or leave it as is with many straight angles.



The king's castle and the fortress wall ruins are delicately restored, but exist in their own dimension. The upper level of the wall offers a good vantage point for taking pictures of Bellesguard Tower.






The gardens of the Bellesguard estate do not feel as wholesome as the house either, but the touch of the genius is evident here and there.


The beginning of the 20th century marked a positive page in the history of Bellesguard, but soon after it was forced to partake in disasters and hardships that plagued Spain and the world in decades to come. Bellesguard housed an orphanage during the Spanish civil war, and to keep children warm the oven was stoked with anything handy available. The result: there is no original furniture left in the house apart from the fire-resistant forged umbrella stand.


Lluís Guilera Molas, a renowned doctor of oncology, became the owner of Bellesguard in 1944 and turned it into a home clinic for his cancer patients. When the doctor passed away, his elder son Lluis Guilers Soler, also a doctor, but of obstetrics and gynecology, repurposed the clinic for his own patients. Therefore some Barcelona residents who are now between 40 and 45 years old can claim to have been born in a house built by Gaudí. (True story.)

A clear understanding of needs of new moms and their newborns that go far beyond admiration of Trencadís benches and soft ceiling curves came in 1974, when Torre Bellesguard returned to its status of a family residence with no added functions.


The Guilera family owns the estate to this day. It is said that the idea of opening this Gaudí masterpiece to the public belongs to the grandchildren of the recently deceased Lluis Guilera Soler. Thank you, guys. We are coming.


Address: Carrer de Bellesguard, 16.
You can get to La Torre Bellesguard by bus #60 from Plaça Glories (stop Ronda de Dalt - Bellesgurad) or use Barcelona Bus Turístic (its Blue line, the stop Tramvia Blau — Tibidabo). There are no bus stops right next to the tower, so a walk is unavoidable, but it is shorter and downhill from Ronda de Dalt.
You can visit Bellesguard Tower from Monday to Saturday, between 10 am and 7 pm in summer (April-October) and between 10 am and 3 pm in winter (November-March).
In August 2014, the cost of admission with audio-guide was 9€.


The Map of Barcelona: Eixample

Katya R
Posted August 15, 2014

After exploring Barcelona's beach district Sant Marti and its more self-absorbed counterpart Barceloneta, walking through the likeable Les Corts and the posh Pedralbes it is finally time to visit Barcelona's enormous Eixample, where the comforts of everyday life are coupled with architectural perfection and various gastronomic delights.



By the second half of the 19th century Barcelona was ready to break through the fortress wall confining its rapidly growing and increasingly industrial population and begin to expand towards the suburbs. Among the several applicants who submitted projects to the municipal contest announced for that very purpose was an engineer and urban planner Ildefons Cerda, whose utopian project, largely useless within Barcelona, was chosen as a winner by the royal decree from Madrid.

Works began in 1860 and resulted in what today is Eixample (meaning "extension" in Catalan), the largest district in Barcelona that now holds most of what the world knows and loves about Barcelona.

The Cerda Plan contained a wide array of progressive ideas that his contemporaries could not fully appreciate. For instance, Cerda thought that city streets should be at least 20 meters wide to be comfortable for all residential life, and was condemned for it by those thinking that 10 meters was more than enough for everyone. Another of his ideas – smoothed-out street intersections – allowed transport to park, load and unload easily, make turns without creating traffic jams, and formed attractive commercial spaces.



Not everything in Eixample was realized precisely as Cerda wanted. His plan included inner gardens in every building's courtyard, along with free street access to them instead of these closed-ff (some stunningly beautiful however) yards that we see now.



Eixample today is the most populous district in Barcelona with the number of residents hovering around 266 000 in 2012. The district consists of 6 neighbourhoods, found at the very centre of the map and numbered from 5 to 10:

5. el Fort Pienc
6. la Sagrada Familia
7. la Dreta de l'Eixample (Right Eixample)
8. l'Antiga Esquerra de l'Eixample (Left Eixample)
9. la Nova Esquerra de l'Eixample (New Left Eixample)
10. Sant Antoni




Sorting the neighbourhood list by income index from highest to lowest, we'll get the following (the average across Barcelona is 100):

7. la Dreta de l'Eixample - 144,1
8. l'Antiga Esquerra de l'Eixample - 125,9
9. la Nova Esquerra de l'Eixample - 115,2
5. el Fort Pienc - 108,5
6. la Sagrada Familia - 97,3
10. Sant Antoni - 95,4


And here is the same list sorted by real estate prices, from highest to lowest (in euros per square meter, all data from 2013):

7. la Dreta de l'Eixample - 4.829
8. l'Antiga Esquerra de l'Eixample - 3.744
9. la Nova Esquerra de l'Eixample - 3.473
5. el Fort Pienc - 3.287
10. Sant Antoni - 3.152
6. la Sagrada Familia - 3.100


It is obvious that both lists are almost identical, with two "poorest" areas merely swapping spots at the bottom of the list.

An important note regarding the significant divide between the Right Eixample and the rest of the district: the border between the Right and Left Eixample runs not along Passeig de Gracia, as one would logically assume, but Carrer Balmes that lies two blocks to the west. This gives La Dreta de l'Eixample not only Passeig de Gracia, but also its neighbour, the very, very luxurious Rambla de Catalunya. Real estate prices here echo the brand names sold in boutiques along both streets, which certainly skews any averages in the Right Eixample, making it difficult to judge the whole neighbourhood adequately.





To get fairer price numbers in the area, you can exclude large and expensive apartments from the estimate by reasonably expecting those properties to be located on both streets in question.

For example, setting a maximum price at 340 000 euros and a maximum space of 100 square meters on idealista yields a completely different result for real estate prices in Eixample:

7. la Dreta de l'Eixample - 3.590
8. l'Antiga Esquerra de l'Eixample - 3.342
9. la Nova Esquerra de l'Eixample - 3.198
5. el Fort Pienc — 2.987
6. la Sagrada Familia - 2.980
10. Sant Antoni - 2.848


With this adjustment, La Dreta de l'Eixample loses over 1200 euros per square meter in price, whereas the fluctuations in all other areas account to less than 400 euros.

What can you expect from prices in Eixample in future? Prices fell by 1.9% in 2012, however, growth was already registering in 2013, starting with 1.4% and continuing in the positive direction. It is not unreasonable to expect Eixample to be one of the first to recover from the Spanish real estate bubble.

El Fort Pienc

After Barcelona's revolt in 1714 was violently suppressed, Madrid built the Citadel (La Ciutadella, which is now an amazing park) and the Fort Pienc fortress to control the city. Fort Pienc was demolished in1869, and the vacant space was used to built a new urban area.



Today Fort Pienc is a solid B student in Eixample, found relatively close to the historic centre with plenty of its own parks. Plus, La Ciutadella park is nearby, and the real estate prices are buyer-friendly.





The places of note in the neighbourhood include the bus terminal Estació del Nord that has replaced a namesake train station, a conservatory, and the National Theatre of Catalunya.





Furthermore, Fort Pienc has recently been given a luxurious gift: Barcelona's most famous flea market Fira de Bellcaire, better known as Encants Vells, will be moving to Fort Pienc from Sagrada Familia and will be housed between Gran Vía and Meridiana in a shiny modern space with excellent infrastructure for buyers and visitors alike.

La Sagrada Familia

A whole chain of fortunate events contributed to inclusion of this neighbourhood into Eixample: first, the municipal government decided to build the temple of La Sagrada Familia in this poor working neighbourhood, then known as Poblet; later on, the same government fired the head architect of the project Francesc Villar and hired the young and unknown Antoni Gaudí to take over; and then, of course, Gaudí was recognized to be the genius that he was and it became clear that La Sagrada Familia would take slightly longer to build than anticipated.



The temple Sagrada Familia is a powerful motor bringing the neighbourhood closer to its more respectable and well-to-do counterparts in Eixample. The stream of tourists is ongoing and is steadily growing every year, bringing business and driving quality of life up in the area.



Another resource for increasing the area's attractiveness is the aforementioned move of Fire de Bellcaire, now located next to the metro stop Encants. The flea market is one of the oldest in Europe, first mentioned in the 14th century, and its popularity does not correlate with the amount of space that there used to be available for it in Sagrada Familia. The old space is already being cleaned up, while the business is being moved to the modern space in Fort Pienc.







La Dreta de l'Eixample (the Right Eixample)

The extension plan offered to Barcelona by the genius that was Ildefons Cerda began to see light in the Right Eixample. One of Cerda's ideas was creation of a classless city where all residents have fair access to wide streets, parks and gardens, but life corrected the plan as it saw fit – the bourgeoisie of Barcelona quickly made the area their domain. The first houses in Dreta de l'Eixample, the Art Nouveau masterpieces built by the greatest Catalan architects, all belonged to the aristocracy of Barcelona.





The Right Eixample today is not the absolute champion in real estate prices in Barcelona, although its main fare, Passeig de Gracia, stayed in the top ten of Europe's most expensive streets even during the economic crisis. One could intuitively assume that the further away you move from Passeig de Gracia the lower the price gets, and one would be correct. However, prices also drop the further away you get from Avinguda Diagonal.







L'Antiga Esquerra de l'Eixample (The Left Eixample)

If Dreta de l'Eixample was a place of refuge for the bourgeoisie leaving the confines of Ciutat Vella of Barcelona, then Antiga Esquerra de l'Eixample was the destination for the middle class. The 80s of the 19th century saw University of Barcelona being built on the southern border of the neighborhood, and the residential growth continued north.





The Left Eixample has way fewer buildings with a UNESCO protection status than its counterpart to the right, but it is equally and impressively equipped for the most comfortable lifestyle. The Art Modern buildings are just as beautiful and streets are just as clean, restaurants and bars are numerous, grocery stores are plentiful and transit links are convenient and always on hand.







Just like many of its neighbours these days, the Left Eixample has its grand construction site, Mercado Ninot, the market whose presence here in the 1930s contributed to the local building boom. Construction completion would mean not only bringing back the market onto its original spot, but also the demolition of its temporary home, a pavilion that currently blocks the view of the beautiful facade of the Medical building of University of Barcelona found in Antiga Esquerra de l'Eixample.





The Left Eixample is probably the best place to start house-hunting for an apartment in Barcelona if you don't know what you want exactly (renting it out or living there yourself), if your love for Barcelona has been tried and tested and survived, and if your budget for the purchase is not astronomical. In case there are many options available, you could limit your search to the spot formed by Carrer de Casanova on the left, Carrer Aribau on the right, Avinguda Diagonal from above and Carrer de Mallorca from below. The neighbourhood's gem is without a doubt Carrer d'Enric Granados, a beautiful semi-pedestrian street, but buying there is much more expensive than just one block west.



La Nova Esquerra de l'Eixample (the New Left Eixample)

Up until the 1930s no one even thought about building residential quarters here because of a major factory and train tracks running through. The factory was shut down in 1910 and converted into a community college, today Escuela Industrial, and the reformation process of the area has begun.





Today the only difference between Left Eixample and New Left Eixample is the distance away from the city centre. Crossing "the border" between neighborhoods goes unnoticed. One of main sights of Nova Esquerra de l'Eixample is Joan Miro park, delighting residents since 1983.





Price per square meter of space goes down as you move away from Passeig de Gracia. The same goes for demand for short-term apartment rentals for tourists.



Sant Antoni

There had been no life in Sant Antoni, that had gotten its name from the long gone church of Saint Anthony, up until 1882, when a huge market was built here. The market serviced the nearby quarters of Raval first, but gradually overgrew with houses and shaped up as a full-blown neighbourhood of Barcelona.



As part of the preparations for the International Exhibition of 1929, that significantly sped up the development of Barcelona in general, the municipal government had to seriously clean up Sant Antoni as the area lay between the historic centre and the very popular Montjuïc hill. For instance, numerous barracks between Avinguda Parallel and Gran Via had been demolished.



The Market of Sant Antoni today is damaged to the core, only the historically valuable metal frame is still standing. Hopefully, at the end of the grand reconstruction of the market Barcelona will get an impressive commercial space that would elevate the prestige of Sant Antoni and become its symbol, also improving the attractiveness of real estate in the neighborhood. The municipality voices these same hopes on its official website.





Sant Antoni may not be the first neighbourhood of choice for buying property in Eixample, but living here is rather comfortable.

The Golden Square of Eixample (El Quadrat d'Or)

There is no neighbourhood under this name on the Barcelona map, but it is frequently used by tourism information websites and guidebooks, especially when advertising excursions and tours, to denote the central part of Eixample bordered by Carrer Aribau on the left, Avinduga Diagonal from above, Passeig de Sant Joan on the right, and Rondas de Sant Pere and Rondas de la Universitat from below. To be fair, this is more of a parallelogram than a square, and it includes quarters from only two areas of Eixample, the Left and the Right. Those looking to invest into property in Barcelona for business purposes should be looking to buy within the Golden Square, as the clientele for apartment rentals here is always vast.



Gaixample

This area is also absent from city maps, but its borders are well-known to many: Carrer Comte d'Urgell from the lest, Carrer Balmes from the right, Carrer Aragó from above and Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes from below.


The Most Unusual Streets of Barcelona

Katya R
Posted August 8, 2014

Sometimes you can fit the whole street into one shot at a click of a button. This house with the balcony is the one side of Carrer de l'Anisadeta, the shortest street of Barcelona. The restaurant on the left belongs to another street altogether. Each of us, enchanted by the beauty of Santa Maria del Mar, likely passed this tiny street by, looking for a perfect angle to take a picture of the church.



The opposite side of the street also has only one house, but it is already a number 5!


In the same area, just steps away from the shortest street, you can find the narrowest street of Barcelona, Carrer de les Mosques. The word mosques means "flies" in Catalan, which gives us some idea of the body proportions you need to have to squeeze through the street without trouble.



The width of the street is approximately a meter and a half. To avoid head-on pedestrian collisions, it is closed on both sides.


The street with a long name Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes, along which lies the route to Barcelona from El Prat airport, is the longest street of Barcelona, whose length is measured at over 13 kilometres.



And now on to several special nominations:

The most unique non-pedestrian street

Carrer d'Enric Granados, one of the coziest and picturesque streets of the Left Eixample, is a headache for motorists. There is only one lane left for cars, and it is frequently used by unsuspecting pedestrians.



The second lane is for cyclists, and the middle (!) lane is for parking of everything on wheels and for flower beds.



The most English street

This short, less than 100 meters long, street Passatge Tubella is a real tourist sight in Les Corts. Joan Tubella, who bought land here in the early 20th century, built a piece of England in Les Corts by commissioning 22 houses in English style, all painted individual and in different way.



Being "born" in 1925, the street managed to survive to this day almost intact: neither the civil war nor the 1992 Olympic Games preparations influenced the look of Passatge Tubella. In the 60s, four houses were replaced by apartment blocks, but this "courtesy" of Francoists is the only loss undergone by this unique street in Les Corts.

The most Russian street



It is not surprising that the street named after the Russian capital is found in the Olympic Village; possibly, the Olympic delegates from the former Soviet Union stayed here, all 494 athletes along with the throng of staff. If you walk around the neighbourhood, you will find street names with other cities in them, but Carrer de Helsinki, Carrer de Melbourne, Carrer de Seoul and even Carrer de Los Angeles barely reach 50 meters in length, Carrer de Moscou is a prominent part of the city map of half a kilometer in length and crossing several major streets of Barcelona.



The hungriest street

There are several Ramblas in Barcelona, but while the main one offers live statues, live music and live parrots, Rambla del Poblenou leads to the beach and offers a fairly predictable range of entertainment: snacks for mornings before the beach, ample lunches afterwards, a drink or two between the siesta and the evening trip to the beach, and of course, dinners at night.



The best-sounding street

The temptation to say that Carrer d'En Tantarantana is the street with the silliest-sounding name is great, but one should be careful saying that in Barcelona, where Tantarantana could very well be a national hero of Catalonia who destroyed several Spanish armies in the 13th or the 14th century.



The official origin of the street name, according to the city hall, is as follows: several centuries ago the street was home to the town crier who started off the delivery of every piece of news by a drum roll. Apart from Tantarantana street, Barcelona also has a theatre called Tantarantana and the Tantarantana restaurant.



The Map of Barcelona: Barceloneta

Katya R
Posted August 6, 2014

Seashore strolls form an obligatory part of a visitor's itinerary in any seaside city. Even Barcelona, whose beaches are far from being the only great thing about it, is not an exception. About two and a half kilometres of the city's shoreline are found in Barceloneta, so many first-timers inevitably end up here while exploring Ciutat Vella, or the Old Town, making their way from Plaça Catalunya along La Rambla and down to the sea.



Leaving behind La Rambla with its tourist crowds, overpriced restaurants, the beautiful Teatre Liceu and fantastic La Boqueria market, after circling around the Columbus monument and walking through the alley of palm trees along the marina and Mall Maremagnum, turn right – and here is the sea, you can almost touch it.

Barceloneta begins here. Unlike many romantically inclined tourists, we will take a walk around the neighbourhood, looking critically around us and hiding nothing from the reader.

It is easy to draw the borders of Barceloneta: the seafront running along from Charles Darwin square and the residential quarters clutched between the Mediterranean sea, the Old Port, and the freeway Ronda Litoral make up Barceloneta.



Plans to build housing here date back to 1718, when the municipal government needed a place to move those lucky families in El Born. These folks happened to live on the piece of land where Madrid had decided to build the scarecrow of the city, The Citadel (La Ciutadella). After the first project was adopted, 30 years passed before things started moving along, so the date of birth of Barceloneta lies somewhere in the mid-18th century. For about a hundred years the main activity of Barceloneta residents was entirely dependent on the sea: fishing, shipbuilding, loading and unloading of ships docked at the port. The next half a century, right until the dawn of the 20th century, metallurgy and gas production got added to the list, and by the 1950s carpentry workshops, furniture factories, printing houses and chemical factories appeared as well. Not one of those take place in Barceloneta anymore; the area's main money source are the tourists.





Any official source or even Wikipedia could tell you all of the above. On the other hand, here is a description of the 1970s Barceloneta from a native resident of Barcelona.

"For us this place was always culo del mundo ("the butt of the world"), somewhere beyond the terminus stops of all trains, completely apart from Barcelona. It wasn't difficult to deduce when someone was from Barceloneta: they spoke their own language, it was Catalan of course, but with weird words constantly worked in, whose meaning was a mystery to us. They were very proud of their background and constantly underlined, somos del barrio de la hostia ("we're from the freaking best neighbourhood"). Not sure, not sure... They all lived in tough conditions, in tiny apartments that they also divided further to fit more people in and lived side by side, crowded, sharing a minuscule bathroom and a kitchen. Many residents of Barceloneta had cars, huge ones, like those American trucks. We who lived in Les Corts, Gracia or Horta, didn't own cars at all. Cars aren't tough to explain, we all got it that they needed them for working in port, loading and unloading on the docks. Half of the goods they dealt with were contraband, and customs officers were in on it, too. Everybody knew that if you needed American tobacco or some miracle appliance, Barceloneta already had it all, a hundred percent."
- Maria Teresa, 63 years old, a radio host



Certainly, several decades leave their mark. By the end of the 20th century Barcelona had changed and Barceloneta changed with it. There are no more empty spaces left dividing the two – the main promenade of Barceloneta, Joan de Borbo (Passeig de Joan de Borbó), and seafront roads around Mall Maremagnum smoothly connect to the Gothic quarter and El Born. The Old Port has none of the contraband goods left. The park halfway to the central Plaça del Mar towards Vila Olimpica, the promenade Passeig Maritim Barceloneta and the aforementioned Passeig de Joan de Borbó are all very pleasant places.







Nonetheless, it is hard not to notice that everything noteworthy of Barceloneta is located along its perimeter. Wandering deeper inside the residential area is not particularly exciting or pleasantly stimulating, especially in the evening.







There are beautiful and interesting buildings, but they are in the minority.









Also noteworthy is the number of men of varying ages mucking about on weekdays with no visible work to do (not tourists, obviously).

According to the data of the municipality of Barcelona, Barceloneta is home to 15 674 residents, 29.4% of whom are foreigners. In comparison, the city as a whole is 17.4% foreign, and an area like Les Corts has only 10.6%. Most of the foreign-born residents of Barceloneta are Italian (607), Moroccan (464) and Pakistani (453). The level of income is 27.4% lower than in Barcelona in general. (All data is from 2011.)



Remember what Maria Teresa said about the housing situation that was a norm 40 years ago? Communal apartments seem to be a thing of the past, but the vast majority of accommodations are indeed very small. When this post was being researched, idealista, the Spanish real estate portal, had 118 apartments on sale in Barceloneta, 55 of which had square space of less than 40 sq meters. Dreta de l'Eixample in the same period had 473 properties listed, only 5 of them of comparable (small) size, and Esquerra de l'Eixample – only 1 out of 269. At the same time, the enormous appetite of Barceloneta sellers makes you question whether they have heard about the worldwide recession in general and the acute crisis in Spain and its real estate bubble in particular. The average asking price among these 118 properties was 4690 euros per square meter!

Having heard once or twice that Barceloneta is the Miami of Barcelona, always from a resident of said self-proclaimed Miami, one can only justify that comparison by the presence of the luxurious hotel W Barcelona. However, it is quite far removed from the residential area, but this minor detail does not bother the Barceloneta patriots at all.





So is it worth buying property in Barceloneta? Or, more precisely: why should you buy property in Barceloneta?

If you are counting on the never-ending flow of tourists and the long summer season to derive profit from the purchase of an apartment in Barceloneta, please keep in mind that renting apartments to tourists requires a license, which is impossible to get in the Old Town (the municipality officially stopped issuing licenses in Ciutat Vella several years ago). Yes, the law is not actively enforced, and all those who have room to spare rent it, but one cannot say when the government will decide to milk that cow and fine unlicensed enterprises. Fact is, major apartment rental agencies will not manage your property for you unless it is licensed.



On the other hand, if apartment rental business is not what you are after and you are buying an apartment in Barcelona for your own use, answer this: how much do you love the sea? If you certainly must have the beach a hundred steps away from your front door, Barceloneta is indeed the best option, as it is the only neighbourhood in Barcelona that makes it possible. However, if you are okay with the beach being within a 500 meters radius, you already have two strong contenders from Sant Marti: Poblenou and Front Marítim. If access to the sea is far down on your list of priorities, and you value cleanliness, comfort, and security, Barceloneta completely loses to Eixample and Les Corts. Take your pick.


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