Photo credit: Christine Zenino
Just like many other glamorous and exciting travel destinations, Barcelona is a place that is always evolving, making way for a whole new host of treasures that add to its rich tapestry. And just like other cities, there is plenty to discover off the beaten track. Poblenou (Catalan for ‘new village’) is a part of the city that many tourists will not have ventured out to, despite its proximity to the centre, as it has enjoyed a low profile over recent years. But Poblenou Barcelona is beginning to emerge as one of the city’s most fascinating, lesser-known locations.
The place that time forgot
Poblenou Barcelona has the pumping heart and soul that is so typical of the city but it is also beautifully unspoilt and boasts a fantastic, tantalising atmosphere. Wandering through the Poblenou Barcelona is like coming to an entirely different city. The atmosphere is fun but calmer, the pace of life slower and the main Rambla de Poblenou lined with elderly Catalans sitting on benches and eyeing visitors with (friendly) suspicion, seemingly baffled at their curiosity about this corner of the world. The Rambla is the area’s main boulevard – lined with trees, benches and an assortment of cafes and restaurants with outdoor seating, it offers plentiful opportunity to watch the very absorbing world go by. People watching and just having a walk around the area is one of the best ways to enjoy Poblenou Barcelona and to take in sights that are so different from the familiar images of Barcelona.
The contrast between old and new
The architecture in the area is also markedly different – in the centre of Poblenou Barcelona the buildings are designed in modernist style with a practical, unfussy edge. There is a whole different vibe, a slower vibe. While Poblenou Barcelona is perhaps not quite as beautiful as areas like the Gothic quarter, it is an authentic part of the city with an atmosphere that has remained just as buzzing despite the slow onset of modern developments. The wider neighbourhood is made up of factories and residential streets, the former giving a nod to Poblenou’s previous occupation during the 19th century as an industrial centre.
This neighbourhood is intriguing and beautiful, offering an entirely different view of Barcelona in contrast to the more built-up areas around the city centre. It is also fascinating as it is a neighbourhood in the throes of development, yet it retains so many of its original quirks and personality. Perhaps this contrast between old and new is best shown in the way that the area has developed. It is here that you will find Timesburg, one of the city’s best burger joints with a striking modern design, which is situated just over the street from a handful of traditional Catalan hole-in-the-walls with lines of elderly men nursing their pint and putting the world to rights. Just like these local men, who fill the bars day and night, the original personality of Poblenou Barcelona is here to stay. Siesta is still firmly observed here with just a few cafes and restaurants staying open during the heat of the day. Yet either side of this time, you will find the eateries on the main Rambla Poblenou and the streets that branch off it filled with young, trendy locals, families and friends. Poblenou Barcelona is a place where old tradition fuses with the lifestyle of the newer generation in a fluid transition.
Where to eat
Another hidden gem of Poblenou Barcelona is Plaza Prim. This beautiful square was an important meeting place for everyone from fishermen to factory workers in the late 19th century and has retained its natural charm. One of the city’s finest fish restaurants, Els Pescadors, is also located on the square, where you can enjoy a glass of wine and delicious seafood in a picturesque setting against a backdrop of white stone houses and orange trees.
For more traditional Catalan fare, there are some great tapas joints all along the Ramblas. Cala Blanca is located off one of the side streets – the restaurant buys all of their food from the local market, meaning you can sample some of the finest Catalan specialities from artisan producers. The market itself is well worth a visit, with around 22 stalls offering fresh fruit and veg, cheese, meat and fish as well as beautifully displayed selections of olive oil, vinegar, nuts and pulses. The market is somewhat of an institution in Poblenou Barcelona; built in 1889 it has a traditional feel enhanced by its historic building, which recently underwent extensive renovations.
Shop ‘til you drop
Photo credits: Raluy Schneider
Poblenou Barcelona also offers some great shopping options with the best of both old and new. The main Rambla Poblenou hosts a market throughout the week and at weekends. Stretching the entire length of the boulevard, the stalls offer everything from locally produced sweets to delicate jewellery and hand-carved kitchenware. Those seeking something more commercial should head to the Glories complex, which meets Rambla Poblenou at Diagonal (one of the city’s main avenues). With over 150 shops including Massimo Dutti, H&M and Stradivarius, the complex also has some fun, trendy restaurants with outdoor seating providing the perfect place to enjoy some revival food after a long shopping trip. If you fancy an alternative experience and want to rummage for a bargain in a vintage setting, head over to Barcelona’s biggest flea market – Mercat Els Encants. This market dates from the 14th century and sells absolutely everything you can think of, from vintage clothes, books and furniture to bicycles. Its chaotic and bustling atmosphere just adds to the fun. The marketplace also holds antique auctions three times a week early in the morning.
Sun-worshippers will be happy to know that the area is bordered by some very picturesque beaches. While Barcelona might consistently be voted as the world’s best beach city, the beaches in the immediate local area around the city’s hotspots, such as Barceloneta, become extremely overcrowded in the summer months. If you would rather not sit elbow-to-elbow with fellow travellers, try visiting Bogatell beach close to Poblenou. This Olympic beach boasts 600 metres of sand and a quieter, more chilled-out atmosphere. Here the chiringuitos (beach bars) are less catered towards tourists and offer a type of luxury beach setting, with fantastic long cocktails and big sofa-style beach beds. Mar Bella, a little further down the coast, is also a great beach spot although watch out for the nudists who like to frequent these parts!
Art and design
For another way to enjoy your leisure time, the Parc Central is a beautiful green area designed by the architect behind the Torre Agbar – Barcelona’s 38-storey skyscraper. Created in 2008, this park is part of the ‘new Poblenou’ and features winding circular pathways framed by colourful blooms and fragrant flower gardens. The main square – Plaça de la Sardana – has lots of places for the kids to play and the park welcomes local people in abundance.
And then we have the art. Poblenou Barcelona is fast becoming the new creative hub of the city and many of the former factories have been converted into striking art galleries and creative hubs to which the fashion crowd are starting to flock. Among the best is Chez Xefo – a large space dedicated to established and emerging designers with unique art exhibitions. Niu is another great location and the place to go for more offbeat exhibitions – those of audiovisual and multimedia art, and contemporary music aimed at exploring how we communicate with one another. La Pan is part of an international art initiative showcasing works from the most creative contemporary artists.
From the art to the beaches, shopping, parks and restaurants, Poblenou Barcelona is another wonderful part of Barcelona just waiting to be explored. A visit to this area is something very special and will enhance any trip to the city.
When in Barcelona, Chic Collection recommends staying at the beautiful Hotel Bagues – an ideal city hotel evoking the same spirited atmosphere of its location on La Rambla.