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Blog

The Secret Gardens of Eixample

Katya R
Posted October 21, 2014

Everything is great in Barcelona's Eixample: its convenient location, its almost total safety and security are undisputed; shops, cafes and restaurants are in thousands, and one can't go two steps without stumbling upon an architectural masterpiece. The winning formula that puts Eixample above the other central neighbourhoods in Barcelona is far from winning, however, when it comes to the number of green spaces – parks and gardens – available locally. Residents and visitors alike, especially with children, feel the deficit once they settle here.



Ildefons Cerda, the genius urban planner behind the creation of Eixample in the mid-19th century, had initially decided to build the new district city blocks that would be U- or L-shaped, making the inner yards accessible from the street. If everything had gone according to plan, every yard would have had a garden. However, it was not meant to be: the blocks ended up being octagonal, the gardens were forgotten, and today's Eixample courtyards typically look like this:




Many Cerda's ideas got appreciated only many years after his death. For example, many thought Cerda mad for wanting the streets much wider than what was needed for horse-drawn transport to move through – thank god it was just kitchen talk, as today's drivers would probably agree. It was the same story with gardens: only in the 20th century it became suddenly apparent that children are people too and they need spaces to go for walks and have fun without risking to get run over by a "horse".

After Barcelona had been announced as the host of the 1992 Summer Olympic Games, the city turned into a huge construction site, and inner yards of Eixample were included in the "Do-Something-About-It" list. At the end of the 80s small gardens started appearing within Eixample blocks, and they were named Jardins dВґInterior dВґIlla.

Often these are called "Secret" or "Hidden" gardens, as it is an unlikely guess that through the narrow entrance or tunnel lies sunlight, trees and a cozy bench, despite an obligatory green sign that promises all of that.





Today, almost thirty blocks have their own secret gardens. Finding out if you are located close to one is fairly easy. Look at Eixample from above using Google Maps and spot a green square – this would be the garden you are looking for! Time to head out to find the coveted green plate next to the entrance.





In most cases, the only difference between one garden and another is the area that was won from offices and shops of the block in question, and, therefore, the number of trees and benches available once you are inside. Creating a whole miniature Park Güell within the yard is impossible, not to mention that the target audience – children – would probably not appreciate using the space in that way.









Some gardens in Eixample do stand out, nonetheless. For example, Placeta de Joan Brossa that is found in the Left Eixample, on the spot marked by the streets Carrer d´Aribau – Carrer del Roselló – Carrer d´Enric Granados – Carrer de Còrsega. Because the neighbouring restaurant operates its summer terrace in the garden, here playing with kids, reading books and meditating can be accompanied by coffee, wine and tapas.





Another garden well worth mentioning is Jardins de la Torre de les Aigües that appeared in Barcelona in 1987 and actually headlined the project of Jardins d´Interior d´Illa. Look for it in the quarter of Carrer de Roger de Llúria – Carrer de la Diputació – Carrer del Bruc – Carrer del Consell de Cent. The garden got its name from the water tower standing right here, built in 1870 to supply the first inhabitants of Eixample with tap water.

Ten mouths a year this garden is just your usual green spot deal: children play, teenagers make out, adults read or just relax.





But at the end of June the fun begins, and you can take part for a (really small) price of admission. Jealous much, Barceloneta?





Eixample is definitely a great place to call home in Barcelona.

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