Category Archives: The Eixample

Passatge de la Concepció

From Gracious to Rambling

If you’re sightseeing or shopping in the upper part of Passeig de Gràcia or Rambla de Catalunya, towards the Diagonal, and want to take a break from the hustle-bustle and traffic and catch a bite to eat, turn off into the Passatge de la Concepció.Passatge de la Concepció

Lined by town houses in a mix of classic Eixample and modern styles, this bright traffic-free leafy lane is a peaceful retreat from its busier neighbours and also provides a surprisingly varied offering of tapas and Mediterranean and international cuisine. As well as a Barcelona old favourite, the Tragaluz, which celebrates over 20 years with gastronomic innovations including an oyster bar around its classical formula, you will also find the sumptuous Boca Grande and Boca Chica, specialising in seafood and a cocktail bar. Nearby is a Sushi Shop, where you can order a Japanese take-out and  on the ground floor of the Omm Hotel, another Mediterranean cuisine offering at Tragaluz’s sister restaurant, the Mordisco (which means the bite).

So, to take a break and slow your pace when you’re sightseeing or shopping in the area, take a wander down Passatge de la Concepció, breathe in the peace and enjoy some more of Barcelona’s varied gastronomy.

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Doorways and demons

Art and artifice on every street

Design and skilled craftsmanhip in wood, stone and ironwork are all around you when you walk through the streets of the Eixample. Here is a selection of doors and entrances you can find along the way.

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París 182

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The many faces of the Eixample

Balconies and balustrades – part 1

A city’s soul – and that of its quarters – is made up of the people who live and work there, the places they meet, eat and have fun, of the visitors and those passing through, but also of the legacy left in its architecture. The streets of the Eixample have their own character, reflected in these images that bear the mark of the designers and architects of the second half of the 1800s, who created this new quarter combining classical and modernista aesthetics to create its distinctive style.

Here’s a wee tour of some of the sights you’ll find as you explore the streets of the quarter.

Balconies, galerías and oriel windows

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IMG_0219Look out for more to come in future posts.

Enjoy!

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Muntaner

The street with an exotic treat

As you move deeper into the left Eixample, the character of the streets gradually changes as the modernista influences of the early 20th century are replaced with less flamboyant styles of later periods.

Muntaner

Muntaner

However, finely carved stonework, colourful façades and richly decorated balconies and galerias still grace the streets as you progress away from the Quadrat d’Or (Golden Square) centred around Passeig de Gràcia and bordered by Aribau and reach carrer Muntaner.

Starting out on the edge of Ciutat Vella, Muntaner heads mountainward, cutting across the Gran Vía and Diagonal, into the upper reaches of Sant Gervasi. Along its way the typical Eixample cityscape is interspersed with modernista architecture, pavement cafés, more classical buildings and a smattering of unprepossessing 70s rectilinear edifices. But for me, a must-see of lesser-known Barcelona architecture is La Casa China, or Casa Ferrán to give it its official name, at the lower end of the street on the corner of Consell de Cent, an exotic art deco mélange of classical and Oriental styles, unveiled to mixed acclaim in 1930.

Sightseeing

The Eixample section of Muntaner has some other fine buildings at its upper end off the Diagonal and at the lower end Gran Vía. Starting from the Diagonal:

La Casa China

La Casa China

Casa Parés de Plet (off Diagonal – behind Hotel Presidente) – A striking modernist house with a twin column of highly decorative stained glass oriel windows, stone parapets and ironwork balconies.

down at the lower end towards Gran Vía:

Casa Ferrán La Casa China (Corner of Consell de Cent) – An exotic fusion of art deco architecture with Ionic columns and a pagoda-like central turret incorporating Moorish designs. More…

and 5 buildings down towards Diputaciò on the same side of the street:

Muntaner 44 – A classic Eixample house with decorative façade and fine stonework, particularly on its upper level.

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Séneca

A street that’s short but sweet

Tucked away behind the Diagonal between Vía Augusta and the Jardinets at the top of Passeig de Grácia is this small

Séneca

Séneca

unassuming street with a charm all of its own. Named after the Roman orator, who people here will remind you is their favourite Spanish celebrity from antiquity, hailing as he did from Córdoba, carrer Séneca derives its charm, not from any significant architectural gem along its short stretch, but from a mix of design shops and galleries and a small theatre, as well as the nobodinoz kid art design shop and a small cosy restaurant offering tapas and light home-made dishes.

So, if you’re heading from the left Eixample towards Gràcia, you could do worse than to cut across from the bottom end of Vía Augusta along Séneca and stroll, away from the traffic, experiencing these visual offerings of contemporary Barcelona design, or even a bite to eat or a coffee, before coming out at its other end at the Jardinets in front of the modernista Casa Fuster.

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Aribau

A hub of Eixample life

As a main artery from the city centre to its upper reaches in Sant Gervasi, ending at Vía Augusta, Aribau is a busy – and

carrer Aribau

carrer Aribau

diverse – throughfare with several bus routes running up it. Between Plaça Universitat – where it starts – and the Diagonal, it has multiple personalities: at its lower end, a variety of shops, bazaars, cinemas and cafés offering cheap and cheerful consumption to the students at the university round the corner, including the famed traditional orxatería La Valenciana that has been drawing in customers for its refreshing orxatas (tiger-nut milk) and ice-creams from far and wide for the best part of a century.

As you progress up through an array of blocks mixing street cafés with modernista buildings, cuisine from around the world, a specialist wine restaurant-shop, art galleries, antique shops and boutiques, you experience that certain something that gives Eixample living its distinctive character.

Sightseeing

There are several worthwhile buildings to see along Aribau in the section between Plaça Universitat and the Diagonal, combining a mix of classical and modernista styles.

Aribau 48

Aribau 48

Aribau 46,48,50 (between Consell de Cent and Aragó) Three adjoining buildings with classical features and carved stonework at no. 48 probably inspired by Central American pagan iconography.

Aribau 54 (corner of Aragó) Now home to the Cram hotel, this broad-fronted xanfrà building has fine stone carvings on its façade and handsome galerías.

Aribau 61 (between Aragó and Valencia) A classic Eixample house with fine stonework on the ground floor and ironwork balconies.

Aribau 91 (corner of Mallorca) A decorative façade with 4 richly carved stone columns on its upper level. A classic Eixample xanfrà building from 1901.

Aribau 146, 148, 150 (between Rosselló and Còrsega) A trio of fine carved stonework façades with decorative ironwork balconies.

Aribau 175, 177 (between Còrsega and París) Blending clasical with modernist, two fine houses with imposing entrances and stone carving on lower level and galería on first floor in stone.

Aribau 179 (corner of París) This building sports a decorative turret on its upper level with colourful ceramic work in the Spanish style.

Aribau 182 (corner of París)  A classic xanfrà corner building flanked by two smaller modernista houses with carved stone façades and ironwork balconies

 

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The Diagonal then and now

Parakeets and parapets

Having known the Diagonal since time immemorial – well, at least since well before the colonisation of its palm trees by parakeets – I’ve been reflecting on how little it has changed. The rumble of traffic at busy times, mercifully relatively free of jams, continues much the same, although the number of motorbikes parked along its length has multiplied.

The Diagonal

The Diagonal

Where once you would  find – on the corner of Villarroel – the Finisterre restaurant of yesteryear with waiters in white gloves and tuxedos delivering fine dining in old-fashioned style, today it’s the livelier, more hip, but less refined, Daps. The ubiquitous Zara has added its imprint on the scene, the old Galerías Preciados department store that sprung up in the 60s has long been swallowed up by the El Corte Inglés juggernaut and the dark ochre steel shell of the Habitat store is now a long-standing and familiar feature.

But, by and large, the central part of the avenue retains much of its character. The steady stream of cyclists using the dedicated lanes along the central walkways and the evening joggers are a feature of the changed mobility and fitness habits of the Barcelonese, but essentially it remains the domain of the strollers, dog walkers, shoppers and commuters who have always made up the mix of patrons using this city artery within a largely unchanged cityscape of imposing noucentista edifices.

In the 1880s the Diagonal was still the road that led to surrounding towns like Sarrià, bordered in the area between what are now the streets of Balmes, Aribau and Còrsega by an open space, used by Buffalo Bill to stage his Wild West show as part of his European tour.

But now Plaça Francesc Macià, which then stood at the edge of the city, is the same as the Francoist Plaza de Calvo Sotelo in all but name and, turning down into any of the streets of the Eixample, but for the addition of children’s play areas and some pedestrianisation, you will find the same combination of bakers, bars and boutiques, antiquarians, hair stylists, restaurants and electrical shops as forty years ago. True, the offer is now more diverse and eclectic, with Japanese tea-rooms, Korean restaurants or acupuncturists and 24-hour mini-marts as much part of the scene as the traditional patisseries, florists or fishmongers.

The character of the Eixample is defined as much by the vibrancy of a residential and commercial quarter mixing tradition and modernity, as by the fact that it sees people come and go from around Barcelona along one of its main avenues, the Diagonal itself. And part of that character derives from its distinctively designed layout and architecture. It is a tribute to the planners who devised the Plan Cerdà 150 years ago and to the architects and designers of the modernista period, that modern Barcelona continues to offer a quality of city life that is both intimate and cosmopolitan, distinctive and immediately recognisable and draws in growing numbers from around the world, who come to enjoy not just the splendours of  the “historic” Barcelona, but the diverse and enduring pleasures of one of Europe’s great modern cities.

For more detailed information about the development and history of the Eixample and modern Barcelona, you can visit the Any Cerdà website here.

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