The Barcelona districts that tourists don’t visit, but should
© Copyrights: Jorge Franganillo
Sarrià, an upmarket neighbourhood with a villagey feel
If you’re a backpacker in Barcelona, you’re most likely to be staying in the hostels in the city centre – the old district of Cuitat Vella, grungy, multi-cultural Raval, hip Gracia or the elegant streets of Eixample, however if you’ve seen the major sights and have had enough of getting lost in the old town, here are some off-the-beaten-track districts worth exploring.
Even many Barcelona locals (apart from the ones who live there) haven’t ventured to this one, but since it’s just a 15-minute metro ride from the centre of the city, there’s no excuse. Sant Andreu de Palomar, like a few of Barcelona’s districts, used to be its own village and was swallowed up by the expanding city in 1897. Today it still retains that very village-like feel. The first thing you’ll notice when you come out of the metro station is the area’s magnificent domed church, which is unlike any other in the city. Wander the streets to see Sant Andreu’s traditional shops, its colourful cute architecture and its old market square, then head over to the Sant Pacià parish church, home to an original Antoni Gaudi mosaic.
Sarrià is an up-market district favoured by the well-heeled citizens of Barcelona, but it still retains much of its local feel. It was in fact the last of the surrounding villages to join the city, doing so in 1921. Today, Sarrià is home to elegant town houses, art nouveau villas and old traditional shops. Sights worth seeing here include its centuries-old covered market and the Torre Bellesguard – a medieval castle-like building that was designed by none other than Gaudi, and which opened up to the public for the first time in 2014.
If you’re feeling like you need to escape the city for a while and head to the peaceful surrounds of the countryside, then Horta-Guinardó is the place. Located in the north-east of the city, it is surrounded by mountains and filled with rolling green hills and wide open spaces. Here you can wander through charming old squares, including the very traditional Plaza d’Eivissa, and visit the 18th-century neo-classical Parc del Laberint, with its elegant maze.
Sitting to the east of the centre, the coastal district of Poble Nou was once just factories, textile mills and shanty towns. Today it is gradually reinventing itself – you’ll find an interesting mix of old industrial buildings and the elegant architecture for which Barcelona is famed. To really get a feel for the area, take a stroll down its tree-lined Rambla, filled with pavement cafes, then head over to the up-and-coming area of 22@. 22@ has been compared to the new Silicon Valley, attracting new age tech-firms, exciting start-ups, design companies and funky co-working spaces.