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Barcelona Village

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Looking in the city

Having decided to look in Barcelona itself, the next job was to pick a district of the city. One thing you perhaps don't notice as a tourist so much is that each barrio or district has it's own very strong identity.

Now we live here, you notice how much of your everyday life is centred on the district that you live in. Of course you can travel elsewhere, but the tradition of Paseo (the evening stroll) and siesta means that you often spend a lot of time in your local area.

We were recommended to look at Casteldefells and around the University area and some people had mentioned Gracia.

Casteldefells

Casteldefells is along the beach past the other side of the airport and is attractive. We were out of season though and it came across as a little empty and windswept on first view, but we did keep it in the back of our minds. One feature which appealled was that many apartment blocks seem to have communal swimming pools as part of the complex. In addition it's on the fringes of the city and so in principle closer to countryside. However, the countryside around is relatively rocky and barren (certainly compared to UK standards). You will also find some international schools in this area if your children are of that age.

University area/Pedrables and Saria

The second area was the University area which wasn't an area we looked at on our first visits - it's at one end of the Diagonal but at the time we decided we wanted to be closer to the main beach areas and at the time didn't see that much to draw us towards this area of the city. Having visited there since, I can see why it is so highly regarded having lots of space and with an airy feel compared to the more tightly packed Eixample areas for instance. It is also closer to some of the big commercial companies that have grand offices along the Diagonal and some of the more upmarket shopping areas. Again, it's another area with international schools and a few (very expensive) detached villas.

Gracia

Gracia is an area with narrow streets and is a tightly packed huddle of an area. It was touted in the guide books as having a more 'village' atmosphere and certainly the Gracia festival in August was extremely entertaining and imaginatively decorated. We haven't visited at night, but I would imagine it is quite lively. When they say village like, it's the narrow streets and lower rise housing blocks which are more of a spanish style village. However the narrow streets, narrow pavements and relatively few outdoor play areas for the children put us off as it can feel hot and dusty in the summer.

Eixample

Coming down from Gracia towards the sea/centre you run in to the Eixample areas which covers extensive area of the city, from the Sagrada Familia to the shopping district of Diagonal. It's officially split into Left and Right (Izquiera and Derecha) as you would look from the sea inland. Much of Eixample has a very similar feel with standardised blocks and often good shopping. Many areas feel quite upmarket and this is reflected in the prices. It's also the area that you find the Modernista buildings in, and it is very close to the centre, good restaurants and amenities. There is some variety - as you come left to right across the district so you almost have to look at a street-by-street level. Flats closer to the main routes through the city (eg Aragon) can feel a little run down, in other areas you find small pedestrian areas. However in general we found there was a lot of traffic at all times of day with a lot of noise and bustle nearby. The noise and vehicles tended to put us off, but if you are interested in the bustle of the streets, then it may be good.

Barri Gothic

Coming down from Eixample towards the sea you run into the old city or Barri Gothic. This area has it's attractions - it's certainly feels old and authentic and there are areas we would consider here, particularly around the Born area towards the Parc de la Cuitadella. There's a lot of life and vibrancy around this area and a chic feeling about the place. You would have to choose where to live carefully. Some of the streets are so narrow you can lean out of your window and touch your neighbours washing, but places on the many squares looked attractive. However, there are also some areas in the old city that we wouldn't go to because of their reputation. In general the right hand side of the Rambla (again looking from the sea up) has a better reputation than the left (Raval) and certainly Drassanes at the bottom of the Rambla has a poor reputation as a red light district. Having said that we have found many people living at the top of Raval near MACABE who thrive on it's cosmopolitan atmosphere.

Poble Sec and Sants

Other areas we spent some time in included Poble Sec beneath Montjuic and Sants neither of which appealed. Poble Sec is a little like Gracia and has it's own feeling caught between the hill and Paral.lel - but there's something about narrow streets with cars on them that doesn't make them attractive if you've got young children. Sants was my first experience of Barcelona and seemed noisy, smelly and full of cars and away from the main thrust of the city.

Barceloneta

Barceloneta has a growing reputation and is undergoing renovation. We had been warned off the area by someone who lived in the city 15-20 years ago but others tell us this area is also going up-market and it certainly has a good location by the sea. However, flats in this area are typically on the small side because of the way and purpose they were originally built, dropping to a bare 35m2 in many cases.

Horta and Nou Barris

We didn't really explore Nou Barris or Sant Andreu being too far away from work. Which just leaves the areas we did earmark as our best locations: Poble Nou, Vila Olimpica and the area around Estacio Nord (also known as Fort Pius).

 


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