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Microguides

How to spend a day in Poblenou, one of Barcelona’s coolest neighbourhoods

Located beachside to the northeast of the city centre, this ex-industrial area is now a creative and cultural hub and home to some of the city’s best eating and drinking spots, writes Elizabeth Bennett

Thursday 28 April 2022 21:38 BST
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<p>Rambla del Poblenou</p>

Rambla del Poblenou

Our microguides series is inspired by the slow travel movement, encouraging travellers to relax their pace and take a deep dive into one particular neighbourhood in a well-loved city. Rather than a whirlwind itinerary which aims to hit up every must-see attraction, these compact, close-up guides encourage you to zone in, take your time and truly explore like a local.

Known as the Manchester of Catalonia for its involvement in the Industrial Revolution, it wasn’t until the 1992 Olympic games and a regeneration project that built modern apartments and a number of artificial beaches that Poblenou – meaning “new village” in Catalan – became a fully integrated part of Barcelona.

Today, unused chimneys dot the grid of wide, tree-trimmed streets, where abandoned textile factories have been transformed into art schools, creative studios and co-working spaces. In the most historic part of the barrio, a 1km-long Rambla (a pedestrianised street) stretches from Glories to the beach. Lined with traditional apartment blocks, independent shops and lively tapas bars, it retains a lovely local vibe that feels worlds away from the touristy parts of town.

Here’s how to spend a few days in one of Barcelona’s most interesting barrios

Gardens in Poblenou

Do

Take a stroll down the Rambla

Barcelona’s most famous Rambla – located in the historic Gòtico quarter – may steal the limelight, but in reality it’s overrun with tourists and the accompanying tat for sale. Traditionally, every barrio in the city has a “Rambla”, and Poblenou’s is one of Barcelona’s most charming. A wander down here with a stop for a morning coffee and pan con tomate or afternoon vermouth is a must. Search “Rambla del Poblenou” on your map to find it.

Get a culture fix

Spanning 70,000 items, Disseny Hub is a design museum with a focus on Spanish and Catalan-made work. Wind your way through the four floors of fashion, home decor, decorative arts, ceramics and graphic design – before refuelling at the Cafeteria Sauleda, where you’ll find a purse-friendly lunch deal.

Alternatively, the IDEAL Centre is an old theatre that’s been transformed into southern Europe’s first space dedicated to producing and showcasing the digital arts. Essentially it’s a cultural centre meets art gallery with rotating exhibitions, covering audiovisual projections, augmented reality, virtual reality and holography. Currently on is an immersive biography of the famed Mexican artist Frida Kahlo.

Hit the beach

Barcelona is blessed with 2,500 hours of sunshine per year, and the beach is an all-year-round activity. Poblenou’s Rambla extends right to the sea, where it meets one of the city’s best beaches: Playa Mar Bella. Beyond sunbathing, strolling or soaking up the atmosphere at the string of chiringuitos (beachside restaurants), it’s a hive of sporting activity. Sign up to beachside yoga class with Barcelona Beach House or stop by the Base Náutica for a class in paddle boarding, windsurfing or sailing.

Eat

Market Cuina Fresca

Like its name suggests, Market Cuina Fresca is all about making the most of local, fresh ingredients. With 80 per cent of dishes being plant-based, it’s an ideal location for vegetarians to try the famously meaty Catalan cuisine. Only open at lunch, the menú del dia (a three-course daily set lunch) is extremely good value for €12. If you can, try and nab a table in the sun-drenched courtyard out back.

Xiringuito Escribà

This seaside institution serves up arguably the best paella in town. Located on Bogatell beach, Xiringuito Escribà has been serving the classic rice dish alongside a range of seafood and local wine since the Olympics put this area of Barcelona on the map back in 1992. Do like the locals do and book a table for Sunday lunch (paella is never a dinner dish) and enjoy your rice with a side of people-watching along the promenade.

El Abasto

Located in the pedestrian area that extends off Poblenou’s main Rambla, El Abasto’s terrace feels like a quintessential Barcelona experience. They serve up charcoal-cooked, Mediterranean-inspired dishes designed to share like tapas, and the seasonally changing menu is always inventive. Plus, the staff are friendly and the wine selection is impressive.

Little Fern

The brunch revolution is slowly starting to take off in Barcelona. On an unassuming street just off the Rambla, Little Fern is leading the way: this bright corner cafe serves up all-day dishes like sweetcorn fritters or kimchi pancakes, alongside excellent coffee and a tempting cabinet of homemade cakes.

Live jazz and a nightcap in Poblenou

Drink

Monopol

A rather faded-looking neighbourhood bar, Monopol has a lovely rooftop terrace which can be accessed via the back courtyard. Dotted with fairy lights and comfy seats, it’s a laid-back affair serving local beer, wine and vermouth alongside simple tapas dishes.

Balius Bar

With a plush, retro interior and impressive cocktail list, Balius Bar is a great spot for a nightcap. The best day to swing by? Sunday night, when you’ll find a packed crowd here for the live jazz.

Razzmatazz

Encompassing two old factories and the building that housed Sala Zeleste (a club that closed in 2000), Razzmatazz is one of the city’s biggest clubs and music venues. The venue attracts an impressive line-up of world-renowned DJs and live bands – just remember to do like the locals and not turn up before 2am.

Shop

Encants Market

With its roots going all the way back to the 14th century, Encants Market is steeped in history. Located at the Glories end of Poblenou, near the top of the Rambla, it’s easily spotted with its 25-metre high, golden mirrored roof. Inside is a warren of permanent shops and market stalls selling secondhand furniture, antiques and an array of interesting knick-knacks. Whether you’re looking to buy or just window shop, it’s an experience worth making time for.

Espai Joliu

Cosy and charming, this is a coffee shop meets homeware store. Stop by for coffee and a cinnamon bun before browsing the array of intriguing indie magazines, locally sourced homeware and handsome collection of plants.

On two weekends a month, this abandoned factory is transformed into a lively market, stocking some of Barcelona’s best independent clothes, beauty and homeware brands. With street food stands, cocktails and live music to boot, this mini shopping-festival is not to be missed.

240 rooms and a rooftop view of the Sagrada Familia

Stay

The Hoxton

The beloved, affordable London hotel chain just opened its first Spanish outpost in the Poblenou district. Hoxton Barcelona’s 240 rooms are Mediterranean-inspired with terracotta tiles, floor-to-ceiling windows and Catalan art; the rooftop has views looking over to the Sagrada Familia as well as a pool, bar and taqueria.

Hostal Poblenou

A stone’s throw from the sea (two blocks, to be precise) and just off the Rambla, Hostal Poblenou’s location is unbeatable for enjoying both hip Poblenou and beach life. Set in a pretty yellow 1930s building, it has just 11 rooms – each individually decorated with tiled floors, local ceramics and wooden furniture. Many with come classic Barcelona balconies for watching city life flow by and there’s a shady rooftop where you can take breakfast.

Getting there

Trying to fly less?

It’s straightforward to get to Barcelona from the UK by train. From London, take the Eurostar to Paris. Cross the city to Gare de Lyon and take the high-speed TGV train on to Barcelona.

Fine with flying?

Several airlines, including British Airways, easyJet and Ryanair, fly direct from multiple UK airports.

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