From Barcelona: Poblenou vs. Poble Sec
Venturing to a different Barcelona neighborhood? Read about these off-the-beat boroughs any local should try out for tapas and a taste of Catalan culture.
For much of its history, Poblenou (or new town), had been an afterthought when people thought of Barcelona. For the locals it was known more for its rundown industrial zone and gypsies than a place to live or go out. Starting in the late '90s this began to change, and nowadays it's a bustling barrio. Luckily, however, it still maintains a village feel and can be a nice respite from the chaos of the center.
The heart of the neighborhood is La Rambla Poblenou which runs from Gran Via down to the beaches; the closer to the water the more popular it is. Like most of the ramblas found throughout the city, it's a wide, tree-lined promenade with enough terrace to sit outside and enjoy a coffee or a beer while watching people leisurely stroll by.
Most of these places offer the traditional Spanish and Catalan fare of tapas, paella and sangria at prices that vary from inexpensive to a little pricey. But if your in the mood for something different there's a great Lebanese restaurant called Arwad that's also known to have belly dancing on weekend nights.
On the corner of Rambla Poblenou and Carrer del Joncar is Casino de l'Aliança which offers no games where you can win or lose your money, but instead it provides a locale for shows and concerts, including local try outs for Eurovision contestants. It's also supposedly haunted. But before on the opposite corner is Tio Che -- a place famous for its ice cream and horchatas, which is a milky, vanilla type drink and popular on hot, summer days. Personally my favorite ice cream spot is the Italian further down past Doctor Trueta.
But if you really want to eat and drink well, it's better to venture off the rambla onto the side streets. Between Carrer del Joncar and Carrer del Taulat is a small square with quite possibly the ugliest church I've ever seen, but if you walk past it and cross Maria Aguilo you'll find La Pubilla de Taulat. A small local bar with white walls, the cook whips up whatever tapas he feels like that day, but almost always includes patatas bravas.
Next door to it is the bodega run by his brother offering a wide selection of wines, beers and liquors.
For rices and huevos fritos con jamon, a Crema Catalan mousse, there's Vell Poblenou. For a menu del dia there are a few places along Carrer Llull and Pujades for good quality to price ratio in an authentic Barcelona setting -- a dive restaurant with metal stools and colorful ceramics. And every two doors there's either a bakery or a pharmacy just in case you need anything.
Of course, it's Poblenou's close proximity to the beaches that has seen it grow and it has a bit more of a lazier feel than say, Barceloneta. Across the green park and la Ronda Litoral are the Bogatell and Mar Bella playas that are just a little less crowded than the one on the other side of the twin towers.
Stretching from Plaza Espanya to the Port, with Avinguda Parallel on one side and Montjuic mountain on the other, Poble Sec (Dry Town) is one of Barcelona's smaller and, in all honesty, least attractive neighborhoods. Still, while it may lack in the beauty department, it more than makes up for it with a lively nightlife, great restaurants and the largest park in Barcelona.
Originally a shanty town that rested outside the city's walls, it grew into an industrial area in the beginning of the 20th century and is now a diverse and multicultural neighborhood, which is both walking distance (30 minutes) to the city center and the beach.
Start your day at Plaza Espanya and ride the escalator up to the impressive buildings that house the National Catalan Museum of Art, in addition to roving art and cultural exhibitions, before taking the time to explore the mountain and its many gardens. Definitely check out Poble Espanyol, and if you're an art aficionado there's the Joan Miro Museum. The further you walk up the gradual but windy slope the better the view of Barcelona, with the best coming from the castle that sits ominously on its top.
Coming down will bring you to the tight, narrow, busy streets, and gray buildings of Poble Sec. Hungry after all that walking? There's a Kebab on every corner for if you're running low on funds, and a local Spanish bar every two doors with tapas, menus and sandwiches for a mid-price meal (and one of Barcelona's better Italian restaurants if you feel like a bit of luxury).
After, in the summer, sit outside at one of the hundreds of terraces that line the sidewalks and small squares, relax and people watch. One of the better streets is Calle Blai with its crazy French poodle and hip local bars, restaurants and Vermut spots.
At the bottom of Avinguda Parallel is Barcelona's theatre district and El Molino, which was known as Barcelona's "Tiny Moulin Rouge" during the early part of the 20th century before closing its doors and falling into disrepair by the mid '90s. Still, there are plenty of great bars like la Tinta Roja to grab a drink and recap the day, and afterward there's the Apollo night club for a little dancing.
Jeremy Holland / Expatica
Written by an American expat, From Barcelona is a blog dedicated to the city, the life and the people of the capital of Catalunya (Catalonia). He's the author of From Barcelona: Stories Behind The City Vol 1.
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