This old port area at the bottom of Las Ramblas was once a real eyesore with old factories and disused buildings, but has been transformed beyond recognition since the 1980’s. With lots to choose from, be it chic shopping, harbour side seafood treats, movies by the sea along with bars, discos and a world famous - and apparently Europe's biggest - aquarium have made this the perfect area for the visitor to Barcelona.
Thanks to the 1992 Olympics, Barcelona realised the enormous potential of its shoreline and beaches were quickly transformed from the “not so appealing” and filled with golden sand, imported palm trees, drainage systems, flood lighting and the promenades were landscaped. A main feature of these great beaches are the “beach bars” or chiringuitos that serve tasty snacks and play music….
Passeig Joan de Borbó is a restaurant lined boulevard where visitors can enjoy a tasty paella as they look on to the yacht marina, before or after lounging on Barceloneta beach. Behind this busy and elegant boulevard lies the real Barceloneta or “Little Barcelona”. Back in the early 1800’s these two storey houses became homes to fishermen and sailors but soon became so overcrowded that they were split in half and later quartered; these “quarts de casa” measured approx 30 m2. It is probably because of this overcrowded atmosphere that Barceloneta residents used to pile onto the streets to socialise, chat with neighbours, etc…It is for this reason that the area has maintained an exceptionally full street life with the district also being famous for its colourful local celebrations;
Plans for a new addition to this area include the tall sail-shaped hotel by Ricard Bofill, which no doubt will be an imposing sight once completed…
The Passeig Maritim esplanade is a common hangout for skaters, locals and visitors alike walking off the excesses of lunch…..
Barceloneta is a wonderful area, full of life, for the young and the old…..
The Barrio Gotico or Gothic Quarter is the heart of old town Barcelona and one of the best preserved medieval quarters in Europe, with various Roman remains to be found. The area itself is a body of pedestrian, interconnecting, narrow cobble stoned streets where you can wander around aimlessly for hours, taking in all the wonderful bars and cafes, restaurants and shops… as well as Barcelona’s very famous “La Catedral” (gothic cathedral) which is magnificent and a must see for all visitors. There is another very distinguished - but less visited Gothic church in this area also, the Santa Maria del Pi. The quiet and attractive Plaça del Pi in front of the church is filled with bars and restaurants with outside seating where a cup of coffee goes down well while watching the quirky street performers which congregate to entertain the visitors most days.
The Municipal government (Ajuntament) and Catalan regional government (Generalitat) are in this area standing opposite each other. Within walking distance from the Gothic Quarter are the famous Las Ramblas, the Liceu opera house, Barcelona City Hall in Placa Jaume, as well as the remains of the old Roman Walls coupled with many more treats from Barcelona's ancient and medieval past.
Plaça Reial is a well known spot, popular for it’s bars and restaurants and visitors can enjoy outdoor meals in one of the many eateries to be found, … Here we find the only work a young Gaudí designed for the city council, the Tres Gràcies fountain in the centre and lamp-posts around the plaza…
Although the Gotico is not as incredibly “cool” as the Born or as bohemian as the Raval, it is nonetheless an essential port of call.
El Born is one of the trendiest neighbourhoods in Barcelona and has become even more so over the last few years, combining a perfect balance between historical treasures, culture and “coolness”; an area very much sought after by the locals as well as the visitors. This area also boasts some of the highest property prices in the city …. This wonderful neighbourhood is full of many great bars, cafes, restaurants and is especially great for one of a kind boutiques as well as other, very well known clothing brands, such as Custo. The Born area is in such a great location, close to the Old Port and the beach, it’s surrounded by all the other cool and interesting places in Barcelona such as Barrio Gotico, Barceloneta, Old Port and Via Laietana. The Park Ciutadella is also a quick 5 minute walk from this area, perfect for a long stroll after a lovely lunch in one of the many terraces the Born has to offer.
A main feature of this great area is the wonderful basilica Santa Maria del Mar, right in front of this magnificent landmark, Barcelona’s guests can enjoy tapas and wine and watch the world go by…Other spots not to miss include Paseo del Born which is full of great bars and makes this area a lively night spot; not far from here is the Picasso museum….. The Born also has it’s own market, Santa Catarina with it’s funky, bright coloured roof. And finally not to be forgotten is the fantastic Palau de la Musica, which is possibly the most dazzling work of modernist architecture present in Barcelona….
Diagonal Mar has also been transformed from an industrial wasteland into the newest neighbourhood in Barcelona; it’s main claim to fame is the six month multicultural event that took place in 2004, referred to as the Forum.. Thanks to this event this area was built up from scratch and now boasts of tall and imposing residential buildings, of large conference halls, venues and hotels which attract potential business to the city. The many residential buildings in this area have a hefty price tag with many enjoying front line sea views and large spacious terraces… The man made beaches are great and during the summer months are enjoyed by locals and tourists alike… At the heart of this huge development project is the Edifici Fòrum, created by Herzog and de Meuron; this building is very imposing, triangular in shape and a striking blue colour…
One of the features of this area is the Diagonal Mar Park, modern and angular in appearance it is not everyone’s taste however, is a popular spot on the weekend; across the road from this park is the large commercial centre known as the CENTRO DIAGONAL MAR …
EIXAMPLE ESQUERRA (LEFT)
This area of the Eixample was built at a later stage and contains some great marketplaces and some less well-known Modernista sights, however, there is still plenty going on in this area… with it’s lively, energetic atmosphere the night life is wonderful, with lots of bars and hot spots to visit while in Barcelona…
Although this side of the Eixmaple may not be teeming with elegant, must see landmarks it does have one or two treasures such as the Universtitat de Barcelona building, this is an elegant construction with very pleasant gardens and Cassa Boada and Casa Gofverichs build by one of Gaudí’s collaborators in the early 1900’s… …two markets in this area, generally frequented by locals are the Ninot and the Mercat de Sant Antoni; the latter converts into a second hand book market on Sunday mornings;
Barcelona´s 19th century Eixample district is the birthplace of the Modernism movement where Antoni Gaudi is considered the leader. When looking to experience Barcelona´s world renowned reputation for leading 19th century architecture, this area is king. With all the Gaudi sites within reach like the grand and impressive famous Sagrada familia, the two famous Gaudi houses of La Perdera and Manzana de la Discordia, the sprawling Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau, you´ll spend hours rambling along and looking upwards. This grid-patterned area was created in the 19th century to accommodate the overflowing population from old Barcelona; luckily this coincided with Barcelona’s golden age of architecture.. Gaudí, Puig I Cadafalch, Domènech I Montaner were employed by the wealthy to build townhouses, each one more daring than the last…
The Eixample district is divided in two, the Eixample Dreta (right side) and Eixample Esquerra (left side), this divide is marked by Passeig de Gracia, a highly sophisticated shopping street…..
A large part of the Eixample’s attraction includes all the shops, restaurants, cafes and bars to be found… Passeig de Gracias alone will keep any visitor entertained for hours, but all the side streets are full of great stores, theatres, cafes with people everywhere, shopping, relaxing and enjoying an aperitif with friends and family…
EIXAMPLE DRETA (RIGHT)
This area of the Eixample came first and is full of fabulous Modernista works, such as Gaudí’s Casa Batlló, Puig I Cadafalch’s Casa Amatller and Domènech i Muntaner`s Lleó Morera famously referred to as the Manzana de la Discordia…..
To the east of the city centre we can find another massive, towering example of Gaudí’s creativity, the Sagrada Familia; still under construction and will most likely continue to be so for a long time to come … it is full of symbolism and meaning. This amazing creation never disappoints as visitors to Barcelona are awed by it’s imagery and beauty time and time again….
One building which also warrants a mention is the Hospital de Sant Pau, still a functioning hospital to this day and it is probably the most complex example of Modernist architecture….
The Eixmaple dreta is rife with museums such as Fundavió Antoni Tàpies, Museo Egipci de Barcelona and the Fundació Francisco Goddia;
Other buildings of interest include the Palau Macaya, the tiled Mercat de la Concepció, the egg-topped Plaçá de Braus Monumantal and Barcelona’s last active bullring ….
The Gracia neighbourhood is one of the oldest in Barcelona, it has its own personality with lots of atmosphere and huge community feeling… Little more than a village in the 1820’s it was connected to Barcelona by a country lane, this is now known as Paseo de Gracia. The Gracia barrio is quite different from the well developed and spacious urban plan of Eixample, with it’s small streets and plazas…fiercely proud of it’s past independence from the main city of Barcelona.
The Gracia neighbourhood is inhabited by locals, artists, students and some foreigners and due to the varied residents living here, this barrio has a myriad of restaurants and shops, all offering good quality products at an affordable price… the streets are always full of people going about their daily lives, socialising or chatting with neighbours while sitting in the outdoor cafes….
This area has a wonderful nightlife and is full of restaurants and cafes; to really get the feel of this neighbourhood it is imperative to visit the plazas del Sol, de Rius y Taulet, de la Virreina, del Diamant, etc … the most important of these is the Rius y Taulet which is the site of the pre-1897 town hall and magnificent clock tower….
The most important of all the sites in the Gracia neighbourhood is Park Güell; this incredible fusion of modernism and urban leisure is the ideal way to spend an afternoon during your visit to Barcelona..
And for those guests coming to Barcelona in August, then Gracia is the place to be. It is at the end of this month that the Festa Major takes place…..an incredibly well-organised local festival in Gracia. Many streets are colourfully decorated each with a certain theme in mind. There is live music on every corner and you will find lots of the local people wining and dining outside. A festival not to missed!!!
Gracia is without a doubt a great neighbourhood to stay in, it is lively, colourful and definitely a slice of real life in Barcelona…
Undoubtedly the most cosmopolitan street in Barcelona with the greatest diversity of people, passers-by, shoppers, tourists, civil servants, big shots, comedians, street performers and musicians with a healthy night-life.….
This area in an absolute must for any visitor to Barcelona, although it can be slightly claustrophobic due to its popularity it should definitely be visited at least once, (it is wise to mention that pick pockets are common in this area, so be careful with handbags, wallets and purses!!….) the wonderful and very famous La Boqueria market can be found halfway down La Rambla on the right hand side… In the most wonderful setting one could imagine there are locals and tourists alike looking for all kinds of produce, cheese, ham, olives and the fish market alone is incredible…
On the left hand side, on the corner of Calle Portaferissa is the fountain; colourful tiles by the fountain depict the spot that used to be the city’s old gateway, Portaferissa actually means “iron gate”…..
Another wonderful landmark on this great Rambla is theGran Teatre del Liceu, one of the leading opera lyric houses in Europe….
The many terraces, souvenir shops, stores and many stalls make La Rambla a unique experience and to this day La Rambla remains one of Barcelona’s essential attractions…
Plaza Cataluña/Paseo de Gracia
Catalonia Square is the largest square in the centre with 30.000 meters square it is the third biggest square in Spain. Some of the most important streets and Avenue interconnects with this important square, famous for its fountain, and statues. Until almost half of 19th century the Plaça de Catalunya was mainly a rural zone located outside the city walls. It was only in 1858 that the Madrid's central government finally ordered the defensive walls to be torn down., approving also the construction outside the walls so a public contest was organized in search of a design of a new district. The first place was awarded to a design by Rovira i Trias but the head government ended up choosing a far more modern design with a grid plan by Ildefons Cerdà.
Eventually the local and head government agreed add a new plan. A design by the architect Puig i Cadafalch (author of the modernist building 'Casa de les Punxes') resulted in the current enormous square, created between 1925 and 1927.
Nowadays it is also a main interconnecting point, where transport is widely available, such as metro, buses, taxis, etc. And it is there that the airport bus and the touristic double decker bus have its last and first stop at Plaza Catalunya, right opposite to the famous department store, El Corte Inglés.
Passeo de Gracia
One of the most famous Avenues in Barcelona and it is a 1.50 kilometers stroll to Plaza Catalunya and Las Ramblas, Passeig de Gracia is the street that has the most designer shops per meter square in the whole of Barcelona. From this location, other zones of interest such as the Gothic Quarter, and the very trendy El Borne are just a stone's thrown away.Visitors staying at this area will find the superb food and produce market called La Boqueria on Las Ramblas, an absolute must for any visitor to Barcelona and will be able to stroll along the very up market Passeig de Gracia with its designer shops and some of Gaudí's most emblematic buildings such as Casa Battló and La Pedrera which have been listed as Human Heritage buildings by the Unesco. This popular Avenue is the closest to The Champs Elysés in Paris, right here is the vibrant capital of Catalonia. The first urbanistic proyect that gave life to this amazing avenue begun back in 1821 by the famous architect Ramon Plana.
Guests are expected to have a shopping experience just waiting to happen all around you. Paseo de Gracia alone will keep you busy for hours.
Plaça Espanya is one of the most important junctions in Barcelona. The streets Gran Via, Parallel and Tarragona all meet at this enormous roundabout. The area is very well connected to the rest of Barcelona via buses and is only 10 minutes walking from Sants Train Station. Lines 1 and 3 of the metro system run underneath the square and there are threee lines of the FGC.
The square was built for the Barcelona International Exposition in 1929. It is the combined work of Josep Puig i Cadafalch, the architect behind some of Barcelona’s famous modernist buildings such as “Casa Amatller”, and Guillem Busquets.
Two Venetian towers mark the beginning of Maria Christina Avenue which ends at Montjuic Mountain, one of Barcelona’s largest green areas. In this avenue you will findthe Catalan National Art Museum, La Fira Exhibition Centre and the Magic Fountain, where at night you can see spectacular light and music shows.
Another of the attractions of Plaça Espanya is the shopping centre, Las Arenas. The disused neomudejar style bullring was converted into a shopping centre complete with shops, restaurants and a panoramic walkway overlooking Barcelona and the square. Other areas of interest in the area include Parc Jaon Miró, presided over by an enormous sculpture of the famous Catalan artist; Caixa Forum, where free exhibitions and cultural activities are organised, the Mies van der Rohe Pavillion and Pueblo Espanyol with building representing the different architectural styles in Spain.
In the streets around Plaça Espanya there are numerous shops, restaurants and tapas bars. The area of Poble Sec is an interesting place for a night out.
This area of Barcelona is perfect for those coming to Barcelona for business, to participate in trade fairs, congresses and conferences since the area is handily located next to the Barcelona’s La Fira Exhibition Centre.
Poble Nou is the area that follows the Villa Olimpica and is another area of Barcelona that has undergone many transformations over time; it has been a farming community, a fishing port and an industrial factory site… now, buildings that have not been demolished are used as schools, civic centres, etc, or in many cases they have been converted into sought after lofts…this area has a strong community feel to it with it’s own Rambla de Poblenou where locals enjoy a stroll….
Close by are two landmarks, one is Plaça de les Glòries, Cerdàs creation, considered the new gateway to Diagonal Mar and the Torre Agbar, designed by Jean Nouvel, a controversial project which has now captured the public’s imagination and admiration; it is 144 m high, has 4,400 uniform windows and is multicoloured due to the lighting technique used to illuminate it at night….
Poble Sec has always been a traditional kind of “barrio”; residential mainly, it is a very pleasant and friendly area of the city, with plenty of plazas and leafy streets and a good combination of local traditional bars, cafes and restaurants as well as modern and new restaurants.. The local industrial heritage consists of three tall chimneys known as La Canadença, and the surrounding area is a large open space popular amongst skateboarders and Pakistani expat cricketers; part of this area is the well known Avenida Parallel, known many years ago as the centre of Barcelona’s nightlife it was full of theatres, nightclubs and music halls; today there are only a few cinemas and theatres on the avenida…Avenida Parallel will lead the visitor directly to La Rambla and the port of Barcelona, both central hightlights of this great city… in the opposite direction the visitor can make their way to the FIRA conference centre and Gran Via….
Montjuic is a wonderful spot to spend a day strolling around the many gardens, museums and galleries with majestic views of the city; the area is home to various 1992 Olympic game venues such as Calatrava’s Olumpic needle on the landward side, the enormous cemetery and lighthouse can be found on the other side…
The solid, fortified “Castell de Montjuïc” looks over the entire city, and dates from the 18th century…. Bombardments and executions, most notably’s Luis Company’s the president of the Generalitat de Cataluña took place here… Formally ceded to the City of Barcelona in 2004 it now houses the Museu Militar and various other museums… as it’s location is 173m up it makes a great place from which to enjoy the city view as well as the view on the way up should the visitor choose to take the Montjuic cable car that leaves from Avenida Marimar
The Raval has undergone one of the most amazing transformations since the 1980’s; well known for it’s overpopulation and less than desirable residents it was an area to be avoided at all costs.. Riddled with drug dealers, prostitution and street crime it really has changed incredibly in the last 25 years or so… it is now a bohemian, alternative and very colourful barrio….
Now the Raval barrio is in some parts ultra-hip with lots of cool stores with avant-garde clothes, residents are young, hard working and innovative; some of the hottest bars, shops and restaurants are in the Raval… it has a huge modern art culture and the Raval houses the MACBA, (Museo de Arte Contemporanea de Barcelona, Museum of Modern Art) and many art galleries have paid top notch prices to rent space around the museum…
The less desirable residents such as drug lords and common thugs have to a large extent been eliminated and a large number of immigrants from Morocco, Phillipeens, Pakistan, Ecuador, India to name some, live in this neighbourhood and own and run businesses; it makes for an interesting afternoon to see all the different options for food, clothes, art, hairdressing or bars…. It is still less polished than the neighbouring areas such as Gotico and Born, but still popular, modern and cosmopolitan ……
The Raval also comes with it’s own Rambla; after several residential buildings were knocked down during the area’s “facelift”, the Rambla Raval was created, a wide path with palm trees, café terraces and it even boasts it’s own Botero sculpture of a big black cat….. the Rambla is used a lot for socialising amongst the local residents and at weekends there is an interesting “mercadillo artisanal” where anyone can sample Arabian teas and cakes…..
The first thing many travellers see when they arrive in Barcelona is Sants Station. Maybe the surrounding neighbourhood is not one of the Catalan capital’s finest but it charming in its own way and is a great place to stay for those on business or travelling with the family.
Sants was independent village until being annexed by Barcelona in the late 19th century. It’s a quiet residential neighbourhood containing a few modernist buildings and several pedestrian zones lined with bars, cafeterias and outside seating. One of the more popular areas is Plaça d’Osca, which is also one of the liveliest.
However, the real heart of the neighbourhood is Sants Street, a long and dynamic street lined with over 300 shops. Sants Street joins Hospitalet de Llobregat with Plaza Espanya, where the Barcelona Trade Fair and Montjuic Fountains are found.
Sants is also famous for its annual street parties which take place during late August. For one week the street are elaborately decorated and there is nightly entertainment featuring bands, dancing, dinners and lots of tradition.
There is no need to tell you that Sants is one of Barcelona’s best connected neighbourhoods. Apart from the train station, there are three Metro and bus lines which means anyone staying in Sants can be in the city centre in 10 minutes.
One of Barcelona’s more affluent neighbourhoods Sarria-Sant Gervasi is sandwiched between Diagonal, Via Augusta and the Collserolla Mountain Range. Founded as a separate town in the year 982, it was eventually annexed by Barcelona in 1921. Despite this annexation it has managed to retain much of its small town charm.
Today it is primarily a residential area where neighbours still greet each other when they meet in the main street, the Carrer Major de Sarria. This delightful street snakes its way up the hill before finishing in the town square and is lined with boutiques, small neighbourhood bars including Bar Tomas which is famed for its Patatas Bravas, bakeries and other speciality neighbourhood shops.
As you come down the hill and move more into the Sant Gervasi area of the neighbourhood you will find the area becomes more affluent, in Barcelona it is known as the “Zona Alta” the uptown neighbourhood. The pace of Sarria-Sant Gervasi is markedly more relaxed than the rest of Barcelona but despite this it has a very lively nightlife especially around the streets Amigo, Santaló and Maria Cubi where Barcelona’s well at heel come to party.
For food shopping in the area there are several municipal markets selling fresh fruit and vegetables and there are a number of supermarkets close by for other supplies. If you prefer eating out then you won’t be disappointed by the selection of restaurants available ranging from traditional Catalan and Mediterranean Cuisine to the exotic flavours of China and South East Asia.
When wandering the quiet leafy streets of the Sarria-Sant Gervasi neighbourhood it seems as though the hustle and bustle of Barcelona is light years away when in fact a 10 minute train will have you in Plaza Catalunya.
If you want to explore all the best Barcelona has to offer as well as being away from the main tourist areas the neighbourhood of Sarria-Sant Gervasi is the perfect option.
A couple of years prior to the 1992 Olympic Games this area underwent a major “makeover”; it was transformed from an industrial wasteland into a great neighbourhood which simply did not exist before the collaboration of it’s four main architects, Martorell, Bohigas, Mackay and Puigdomènech. The area was originally transformed to house the thousands of athletes that were to perform in the 92 Olympics, and later were sold off as residential units and so one of Barcelona’s newest neighbourhoods was created… the result was a spacious and comfortable neighbourhood…
Points of reference for the area are the two towers that can be clearly seen from afar; both towers are the same in height, 153.5 m and the tallest in Spain. One is the very famous Hotel Arts which is surrounded by scaffolding and was designed by Bruce Gram and Frank Gehry and the other tower is the Mapfre tower, which consists mainly of office space….
Another important landmark of this area is the Peix sculpture by Frank Gehry, creator of the famous Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao and Hotel Arts… this headless, golden fish is quite a sight, like it or hate, it is quite impressive and located on the promenade. The promenade is an ideal spot for a leisurely stroll, great for biking, skating and boarding especially during summer months..….
The beaches, although man-made are great and can be pretty packed during the hot summer months; these beaches have what are called beach-bars or “chiringuitos” which play cool music and serve tasty snacks and create a very pleasant atmosphere…..
Most social activity takes place in the Port Olympic seafront, with its docked boats, restaurants, nightclubs and pubs which make for a very lively and energetic atmosphere especially at night time..
The promenade stretches along towards the area known as Diagonal Mar and running parallel to this is the residential units build in early 90’s and their gardens or communal areas, both sides are linked by bridges, allowing the visitor to reach the beaches by foot and avoiding the heavy traffic…
This new residential area by the sea, with its man made beaches, promenade, restaurants and night life is one of the most frequented areas in Barcelona.