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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 MarГ­tim. 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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