The centre of Barcelona is occupied by the Eixample, which is divided into right and left depending on its relation to Balmes Street, close to Passeig de Gràcia, the city’s main commercial thoroughfare.
A New Model for Urban Development
The Eixample was conceived by the Catalan engineer Ildefons Cerdà in 1860 as a model for urban development once the city’s restricting walls were demolished. Organized in blocks of about 100-metre sides, it was first conceived as parallel lines of houses whose interior and empty sides would serve as recreation areas. This ideal design did not last long, as shortly afterwards the decision was made to close the blocks and the grids of houses on each block that we know today were built. With the Eixample, a new city was born, easily distinguishable by its straight streets, as opposed to old neighbourhoods such as the Gòtic, Born, Raval, and Barceloneta, which had labyrinthine designs. The Eixample on the other hand is a shining example of ordered architecture that has endured over time.
Barcelona’s Eixample, under thCerdà plan, was built with funding from the city’s wealthy families, with each competing to outdo the other in terms of lavishness. For this reason, the neighbourhood is home to high-value modernist buildings, especially in its central area around Passeig de Gràcia.
The Great Commercial ThoroughfarePasseig de Gràcia 1 , which runs from Plaça Catalunya 2 to Diagonal 3 , has become the city’s great commercial thoroughfare, together with the parallel-running Rambla de Catalunya 4 . This was the shop window of Barcelona’s upper class in the 19th century, and now it serves two magnificent functions: a shopping destination and tourist route.
Rarely do these two aspects come together in a city. Alongside the magnificent façades are the best offerings from international fashion designers. The rents of the first row of houses are not only among the highest in the city, but also in all of Spain. Visitors to this avenue can delight in the plethora of offerings, both cultural and shopping-related, and of course restaurants too. On both sides of the wide pedestrian streets, the lamp posts designed by Gaudí make a good counterpoint. Apart from their originality, the thousands of lights that illuminate the avenue during the Christmas holidays hang from them.
Barcelona’s Passeig de Gràcia can be compared to the Champs Élysées in Paris or Unter den Linden in Berlin.
Here you’ll find the most exclusive shops by prestigious brand names such as Montblanc, Bvlgari, Camper, Armand Basi, Desigual, diesel, Furest, Lacoste, Hermès, Carolina Herrera, Loewe, Louis Vuitton, Mango, Max Mara, Marina Rinaldi, Podivm, Santa Eulalia, Tascón; the jewellers Bagués and Rabat; the well- known coffee brand Nespresso; design shops such as Vinçon; art objects such as Lladró, as well as shopping centres and galleries gathering together small shops with a unique selection. However, the shopping itinerary is not limited only to this street. From the west end of Diagonal Avenue all the way to Plaça FrancescMacià 5 ,withitsshortbutemblematic Pau Casals Avenue 6 , there is a large number of shops offering clothing, accessories, and products for the home. Further along up to Gran Via Carles III 7 you’ll find office buildings, prestigious hotels such as the Hilton, as well as the large Illa Diagonal and El Corte Inglés shopping centres.
The left wing of the Eixample neighbourhood offers a variety of options. There is the Universitat de Barcelona 8 building in Plaça de la Universitat, a neo-romantic work erected between 1863 and 1882, which marked a significant change in the city at the time. At the opposite end of the neighbourhood, Parc Joan Miró 9 pays homage to this renowned artist with the monumental work “Dona i ocell” (Woman and Bird). This colourful sculpture of large proportions seems to compete with the adjacent Las Arenas shopping10 centre,locatedintheoldbullfighting ring and only recently inaugurated.
Between Aragó Street and Gran Via on one side, and the cross streets Balmes and Urgell, is a series of gay establishments (bars, clubs, shops, and even hotels) that have led this part of the neighbourhood to be lovingly baptized as Gayxample 11 . The tolerance prevalent in Barcelona allows for this issue-free cohabitation, and long-time residents and shops mix with the gay ones, which don the typical multicolour flags on their shop windows.
Little Gastronomic Gems
Colmado Quilez 12One of Barcelona’s most emblematic grocer’s, founded by the Vilaseca family in 1908. Located on the corner of Rambla Catalunya at Aragó, its shop windows are filled with appealing, original food items. Inside you’ll find more than 4,000 types of food products, including cheeses, smoked meats, preserves, coffees, teas, oils, and vinegars, as well as 3,500 brands of domestic and imported wines, liqueurs, aguardientes, and whiskies..
Address: Rambla de Catalunya, 63.
Phone: 932 158 785.
Opening Hours: From 9:00 to 14:00 and from 16.30 to 20.30. Closed Saturday afternoons and Sundays.
Colmado Múrria 13Traditional and delicatessen products so you can take away a good gastronomic souvenir from Barcelona, at an establishment that opened its doors in 1898 and has since received numerous awards both for the quality of its products and the establishment itself. With a markedly modernist shop window, on the inside you’ll find cheeses from all over the world, Iberian cured meats, quality preserves, foie, caviar from Iran and the Vall d’Aran, and around 300 wines, among other delicacies. Located at the corner of Roger de Llúria and València.
Address: Roger de Llúria, 85.
Phone: 932 155 789.
Opening Hours: Tuesday to Saturday, from 9:00 to 14:00 and from 17:00 to 21:00.
La Bodegueta 14
Located at the corner of Rambla de Catalunya and Provença, entering this small establishment, a former wine cellar, is like entering another world, far from the hustle and bustle of one of the city’s most popular streets. With a small bar where patrons crowd, and four tables, La Bodegueta restores the tradition of wine from a barrel and a glass of cava with a series of sandwiches accompanied by a ration of olives. Vermouth, traditional tapas, and a pleasant terrace on the pedestrian street. Credit cards not accepted.
Address: Rambla de Catalunya, 100.
Phone: 932 154 894.
Opening Hours: day to Saturday, from 8:00 to 2:00; Sundays, from 18:30 to 1:00.
Ciutat Comtal 15
Almost at the beginning of Rambla Catalunya, an establishment with wood-based decoration and a bar filled with traditional and creative tapas and often filled with people. A variety of beers, a dining room upstairs, and a pleasant terrace right on the street.
Address: Rambla Catalunya, 18.
Phone: 933 181 997.
Opening Hours: Monday to Friday, from 7:00 to 1:30; Saturdays, Sundays and holidays, from 9:00 to 1:30.
The closest thing to a pinchos bar from the Basque Country is located on València Street almost at the corner of Muntaner. Unbeatable tortilla de bacalao (cod omelet), cocochas rebozadas (breaded cod cheeks), and an excellent txangurro (crab) salad. There are creative pinchos at the bar and a restaurant inside specializing in Basque food.
Address: València, 169.
Phone: 934 534 759.
Opening Hours: Monday to Friday, from 13:00 to 16:00 and from 20:30 to 23:00; Saturdays, from 13:00 to 16:00. Saturday nights and Sundays closed.