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Blog

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 EstaciГі 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 VГ­a 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 GaudГ­ to take over; and then, of course, GaudГ­ 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 MontjuГЇc 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 AragГі from above and Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes from below.

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