Updated Jul 01 2020
The Eixample district (which translates into English as ‘widening’ or ‘expansion’), owes its name to the fact that its development, which took place in the second half of the 19th century, marked Barcelona’s expansion. In the process, some of the walls that set the limits of the city had to be destroyed, to allow for the city to spread. Nowadays it’s the most densely populated district, and for many people its best known area, together with the area surrounding the Sagrada Familia, is the so-called Quadrat d’Or (Golden Square) of the city, marked out by the Carrer Aribau, the Passeig de Sant Joan, the Avinguda Diagonal and the Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes, as it’s the area within which some of the most iconic works of Catalan Modernism can be found.
In the middle of the 19th century Barcelona went through a huge increase in its population, thanks in part to the significant improvement in living conditions for the majority of the city’s citizens. This was caused by an increase in employment opportunities offered by the new factories built during the industrial revolution, which had just begun. Because of the lack of space within Barcelona’s former city walls, many of these factories had to be constructed in nearby towns and villages, and in most cases they couldn’t be built near to the walls because these areas were strictly reserved for agricultural use. The need to improve communication links between Barcelona and these areas led to the construction of new roads, of which the Passeig de Gràcia (which links the Vila de Gràcia with Barcelona) is one. Over time, and especially thanks to the Pla Cerdà, the outskirts of the city started to develop.
Streets, squares and parks
When you walk through the modern, wide streets and squares of l’Eixample, you see a very different side to the city than that which you’ll have seen in the narrow side streets of the old town. It’s this joy of being able to enjoy ‘different cities’, each with their own characteristics, within one city, that we think is one of the greatest charms that Barcelona offers.
One of the most fashionable and well-known areas of l’Eixample is what’s known as Gayxample (also written as Gaixample in Catalan), which of course is a play on the words ‘Gay’ and ‘Eixample’. Situated in an area of the Antiga Esquerra de l’Eixample (the former left side of the Eixample), it started to receive its name at the end of the 20th century, a time at which a large amount of bars, restaurants, nightclubs, hairdressers, clothes shops and even hotels started to flourish, whose target market was the gay community. From then on, the amount of these businesses has risen, which has converted it into a 100% gay friendly area, where the heterosexual public are also of course warmly welcomed.
The Passeig de Gràcia, the Rambla Catalunya and the Plaça Catalunya are some of the most popular streets and squares with locals and tourists alike, but they are not the only areas of interest by far, and we certainly recommend enjoying a walk along some sections of the Avinguda Diagonal, or perhaps the quieter Carrer Enrique Granados, or relaxing on one of the benches in the hidden Palau Robert gardens.
Areas of l’Eixample
The development of l’Eixample has its own name, Ildefons Cerdà, as it was this Spanish engineer and town planning specialist who was in charge of designing what’s now known as Pla Cerdà in the second half of the 19th century, and who worked out how this new area of Barcelona should look. In spite of a few changes to the original design and the progressive evolution of the district, the current layout is very true to his original idea and philosophy.
Characteristics of the Pla CerdàStructure and geometry: perfect layout and controlled geometry of the blocks within the area, that although might look like perfect grids, are actually octagonal in shape. Orientation: so that the buildings could benefit from the most sunlight, some roads were built parallel to the sea, and the rest are in a perpendicular direction. Buildings: limits were set on the height of buildings (a limit that wasn’t always respected), to allow the sun to shine on the streets for as long as possible during the day. Well-being: to improve the well-being of the families who lived in the interior buildings within each block, a garden area or patio was designed for the residents’ benefit.
Historic buildings and churches
The amount of buildings of historic and architectural interest is something that makes l’Eixample worth visiting. We therefore recommend that when you visit some of the most significant buildings (Casa Batlló, Casa Milà or Casa Amatller amongst others), make sure you take the time to look up and look at so many other buildings that, in spite of not having the fame of those just mentioned, their detailed façades, curved lines and stained glass windows make them true works of outdoor art.
Catalan Modernism belongs to a common trend that emerged throughout Europe in the second half of the 19th century, that has a different name depending on the country in which the term is used (Art Nouveau, Modern Style, Jugendstil, Liberty and Floreale are all other examples). The defining qualities of Catalan Modernism in particular (1885-1920), that in spite of being applied to various art forms is particularly well known for architecture, especially as so many examples by great geniuses such as Antoni Gaudí, Lluís Domènech i Montaner, Josep Puig i Cadafalch, Enric Sangier and many others remain in existence today, have ensured that this art form of our city is still so valued and appreciated throughout the world.
The large amount of modernist buildings in l’Eixample, especially within the ‘Golden Square’ area, is due in part to the fact that the development of this area of Barcelona coincided with the birth and development of the new architectural style. In addition to this, the new-found wealth of the Catalan bourgeoisie, which was in turn thanks to the economic boom of the industrial revolution, meant that these people would not think twice about paying the best modernist architects of the time to design their homes.
Guided tours and personalised visits in l’Eixample in English
As you can see, l’Eixample is a huge area that, on top of that, is home to a range of interesting architectural and cultural places. That is why the best way to get to truly know the most popular places as well as some hidden gems that few know about, is to go on a personalised guided tour. At irBarcelona we work with the best official guides in Barcelona and Catalonia, which allows us to manage a personalised tour in English that interests you. Ideal for groups, it allows you to see everything scheduled beforehand as well as do the same with other less-known places that the guides will show you.
If you want more information, please contact us.
Nearly all of l’Eixample’s museums can be found within the most central part of the district, near the Passeig de Gràcia and the Rambla de Catalunya. The subjects of the museums varies considerably, and you’ll be able to find anything from a museum dedicated to a particular artist, such as the Fundació Antoni Tàpies, to a historical era such as the Egyptian Museum, or even something so curious and interesting, in spite of its small dimensions, as the Perfume Museum. In addition, the Museu del Modernisme Català (the Museum of Catalan Modernism) stands out, containing key works and a wealth of information about this important artistic movement. Of course it’s in the perfect place, surrounded by so many modernist relics.
For all the art-lovers amongst you, walking through the streets in the Antiga Eixample Esquerra and the Eixample Dreta neighborhoods is a real treat, because there are many art galleries, whose presence serves to augment the already extensive cultural life of the area.
Notable art galleriesDOLORS JUNYENT GALERIA D’ART
c/ Aragó, 268 GALERIA D’ART JORDI PASCUAL
c/ del Consell de Cent, 317 ESART
c/ del Consell de Cent, 188 GALERIA ESTHER MONTORIOL
c/ del Consell de Cent, 339 VÍCTOR LOPE ARTE CONTEMPORÁNEO
c/ Aribau, 75
Shops and markets
Depending on the part of the district in which you find yourself, the type of shop that you’ll find will vary. Around the Rambla de Catalunya and the Passeig de Gràcia you’ll find the well-known clothing shops, some of which are the exclusive designer shops, whereas many are much more affordable. On the contrary, in other parts of the area that are slightly further from the centre, the smaller independent shops can be found.
SOME OF THE MOST NOTABLE MARKETS AND FAIRS
The fairs and markets in L’Eixample, whether the temporary ones or those that are only set up at certain times of the year, are also important additions to the district.
The most interesting markets and fairsSagrada Familia Christmas Market: Christmas market that’s set up between the beginning of December and 23rd December.
Sale of ‘Palmas y Palmones’: A few days before ‘Domingo de Ramos’ (Palm Sunday) stalls are set up on the Rambla de Catalunya and in the Plaça de la Sagrada Familia, selling ‘palmas y palmones’, which are traditional woven crafts, made from dried palm leaves for Palm Sunday..
Vespres Inèdits: Free concerts in the gardens of the historic building of Barcelona University, throughout July.
Traditional stalls selling natural products outside the Sagrada Familia:: First and third Sunday of the month, from 09:00 to 21:00 in Avinguda Gaudí.
Bars and Restaurants
The choice of good quality places to eat is very good in many areas of l’Eixample, with some of the best places near the Rambla de Catalunya and the Passeig de Gràcia, where you’ll be able to find several bars and restaurants of all styles to suit all budgets. Another of the best areas in which to find good food is the neighborhood of Sant Antoni, where quality restaurants and especially bars can be found in abundance. In these bars you can have a typical vermouth or aperitif, as well as many other specialities in the more international Brunch.
Cafés and Bars
On the Passeig de Gràcia, very close to the central Plaça Catalunya, you’ll find El Nacional, a building that houses four gastronomic spaces with a common aim of providing local cuisine. Its iconic, modern and attractive décor sets the scene for a quality menu, which makes a visit compulsory if you’re in the area.
Its four gastronomic spacesLa Braseria: specialising in all types of meat.
La Llotja: to enjoy high quality fresh fish and seafood.
La Taperia: where tapas are the true stars of the show.
La Paradeta: delicatessen plates, and sandwiches that are ideal if you’re in a hurry. Passeig de Gràcia, 24 bis, Barcelona.
Non-stop service between 12:00 and 01:00.
Bars and nightclubs
L’Eixample is one of the best-served districts of Barcelona for pubs, bars and discos, so you’ll find a great variety, and it’ll be easy for you to find the establishment that best suits your tastes, whether it’s your choice of music or simply the style of the bar. Of course in the Gayxample area, the vast majority of the nightclubs and bars are favourites with the gay community.
Hotels and other accommodation in l’Eixample
The area of l’Eixample has a good variety of hotels, and you’ll be able to find anything from the luxury 4 or 5 star hotels to the more budget 2 and 3 star options, that are usually good value for money. There are also several apartments, B&Bs and hostels, the latter of which can often be the cheapest option. The price of your accommodation will therefore vary according to the type of accommodation you choose, as well as its location within the district. Below we have given you a list of our recommended accommodation in the l’Eixample district.
Bed & Breakfasts and Guest Houses
Fiestas and Events
It’s very common to see celebratory cultural events taking place within the district, whether it’s during the general celebrations that take place throughout the city (for example the Festa de La Mercè or the International Museum Day), or the fiestas that are specific to each area of l’Eixample. We have picked out some of the best, and have listed them for you below.
Stalls in the streets and many different activities.
End of May or beginning of June.
Carrer Girona (from Avinguda Diagonal to Consell de Cent) and Avinguda Diagonal (between Carrer Bruc and Carrer Girona).
In streets and squares throughout the l’Esquerra de l’Eixample district.
Parade in honour of Sant Antoni Abat.
Around 17th January.
Streets within the Sant Antoni district.