Eixample, Barcelona

Eixample is the area where I lived and of which I grew extremely fond. What is really interesting about this area are its origins: Eixample means ‘expansion’ or in Catalan. It is a district of Barcelona between the old city (Ciutat Vella) and what were once surrounding small towns (Sants, Gràcia, etc.), constructed in the 19th and early 20th centuries. It was born from an architectural plan made by Ildefons Cerdá who wanted to make the expansion as functional as possible. As a matter of fact, the area is characterized by long straight streets, a strict grid pattern crossed by wide avenues, and square blocks with chamfered corners.

The view from above is amazing, everything is perfectly geometrical and makes the area look like a bee hive! Living there, I developed a love-hate relationship with Eixample’s structure. On one hand, I loved the fact that all the streets were perfectly parallel and perpendicular to each other, making it easy to find my way when I was lost. Also, all these streets are one-way, making crossing the road so much easier and safer! However, I have to say I did not enjoy the times when I had to walk a long way on the same street as every single crossing required me to walk along the chamfered corner, making it so much longer!

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Apart from this structural introduction, there are plenty of other lovely things about this area. Starting with food, as always. Eixample is home to many amazing tapas places and restaurants as well as bars and clubs for amazing nights out. Among my favourites I have to point out Lateral and Vinitus, two tapas restaurants in Carrer Consell de Cents which offer amazing food and great Sangria. I can’t even remember how many times I ate there during my stay! One thing to point out, however, is that you can only reserve tables on Monday, Tuesday or Wedsnesday meaning that, if you plan to go on any other day, you have to be ready to stand in line for quite a while before being able to eat. (But it is worth it, I promise). Still on the tapas side, Cerveceria Catalana is another must and is located right near the ferrocarril station of Provenca, in Carrer de Mallorca. (By the way, most of the streets in Eixample are named after former Catalan colonies).

As the night progresses (and remember that in Barcelona everything starts much later than in the rest of Europe so do not even think about going out for dinner before 9.30pm) Eixample offers some great bars for drinks. If you are in fancy mode I would absolutely recommend Boca Chica: a refined and elegant cocktail bar which, despite being quite expensive, is absolutely worth it. Moving to the opposite side of the spectrum, Espit Chupitos is the perfect place for you to have fun without spending too much money.

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And then…. La Fira! If you are a raggaeton lover and want to spend a fun night dancing, this is the place for you. La Fira means “the fair” and is full of fair ground and circus attraction. When you walk in you pass a corridor of crazy mirrors until you reach the dance floor which is full of museum fortune-tellers, carousel seats, slot machines, statues and posters from carnavals and fairgrounds. Again, remember to adapt to the Spanish lifestyle: nobody will be there before 2am!

Moving to a more cultural view of Eixample, there are another ton of things to say! Gaudí’s presence is everywhere. Starting from the most obvious we have La Sagrada Familia: a large Roman Catholic Church designed by the famous Catalan architect Gaudí which is now UNESCO World Heritage site and which Pope Benedict XVI consacrated as a Basilica in 2010. You can’t go to Barcelona without going to La Sagrada Familia, but make sure you book tickets to enter in advance if you want to avoid infinite queues. But Gaudí’s presence in Eixample is not limited to this, Casa Milá and Casa Battló are just as impressive and just as characteristic. Personally, Casa Battló is one of my favourite sites in the whole of Barcelona and you HAVE to do visit the inside, it is magical. What fascinated me the most was its symbolism: the roof is built to look like a huge dragon, one of the main symbols of Catalan history, linked to the legend of Saint Jordi. Anyways, the free audio-guide will tell you everything you need to know!

Lastly, shopping. Eixample is the place to be if you are on a final Christmas-gift rush or if you are just in the mood for buying something new. Strolling through Passeig de Gracia is a great way to spend the afternoon or the weekend as hosts a huge variety of different shops and bars as well as being one of the most beautiful streets in terms of art, architecture and colors.

These are just a few things I love about Eixample but I believe they are enough to convey its beauty.

-G

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