Left of the middle – the tree-lined riddle of L’Eixample Esquerra.

Vibe on the street: residential, modern, commercial, liberal, gay-friendly.
Famous for: octagonal ‘cut-off corner’ buildings, Barcelona University grounds, the Joan Miró Park, the former bullring-turned-shopping-centre Las Arenas, its gay-friendly quarter (nicknamed ‘Gaixample’).
Left of the middle – the tree-lined riddle of L’Eixample Esquerra.
  • Visiting the Modernista mansions on Passeig de Gràcia will probably be top of your hit list, but the area holds a few other notable sights as well. The Rambla de Catalunya is a lovely, chic street that’s as good for window shopping as it is for people watching over some refreshments. Down on the Gran Via you’ll find the beautiful buildings of Barcelona’s main university, whose cloisters and gardens are open to the public. There are also several cinemas and theatres in this area. For a break from the city, you could take a stroll to the Parc Joan Miró. Alternating between sandy ground and grassy areas, this space is a magnet for the dog walkers of the city, and you’re bound to see locals out with every breed imaginable. This is also the location of one of Miró’s most impressive sculptures – the ‘Dona i Ocell’ (‘Woman and Bird’).

    Nearby sights

    Two of L’Eixample Esquerra’s most famous sights are located on the Passeig de Gràcia (handily right next to each other) - the otherworldly Casa Batlló and its townhouse neighbour Casa Àmatller. Casa Batlló is one of two houses designed by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí on the Passeig de Gràcia (the other is La Pedrera). A paradigm of Modernista design, its reptilian façade is particularly memorable glimmering in the sunlight, and its ornate chimney stacks are among the most photographed sights in Barcelona. Next door is Casa Àmatller, designed by architect Puig I Cadalfach, and built for chocolate baron Antoni Àmatller.

    Art lovers shouldn’t miss the Fundació Antoni Tapies, set up by the Catalan artist in the mid-1980s as a space to showcase contemporary art. It’s now a cultural centre and museum paying homage to the artist himself. You can’t miss it – look out for the controversial construction on the roof known as ‘Cloud and Chair’, a mishmash of metal wires representing the cloud outline. It’s considered to be the first Modernista building in Barcelona.

    Eating out

    There’s a restaurant to suit every wallet in L’Eixample Esquerra. We’ll start off with the top-of-the range, at the Michelin-starred Cinc Sentits (Five Senses). Its mantra is that great cooking starts with premium-quality ingredients, reflected in its choice of contemporary cuisine inspired by Catalan culinary tradition. Another worthwhile venue if you’re feeling flush is Tragaluz, tucked away in a quaint little passageway off the Passeig de Gràcia. Modern Mediterranean flavours are served within a beautifully designed 20th-century villa.

    For a really authentic ‘ye-oldie’ feel, you might like to head to La Bodegueta on the Rambla de Catalunya. You can choose to eat at the tables it has on the pedestrianised street itself, but the atmosphere is even better inside, where you can sample the tapas and enjoy a reasonably priced bottle of wine. To continue the tapas tour, just behind Barcelona University on Carrer d’Aribaus is La Flauta, an enduring favourite in the neighbourhood. Veggies don’t miss out in L’Eixample Esquerra, either. Try Amaltea, which has been around for over two decades. It’s a bright and friendly place that offers a good lunchtime set menu.

    After hours

    Given L’Eixample Esquerra’s proximity to the city’s university, it’s probably not surprising that it has more than its fair share of bars and clubs on offer. Not all of them are aimed at a student audience, though, or at an exclusively gay crowd (streets such as Villarroel, Casanova and Consell de Cent have a lot of places popular with the gay community). An ever-popular bar is Espit Chupitos, which serves over 500 types of shots – some of them are even set alight along the bar. Great for starting your night with a bang. The Dry Martini is another option if you’re into cocktails. It enjoys a bit of cult reputation in Barcelona, thanks to its superb (although not especially cheap) cocktails, laid-back music and attentive staff. Another excellent cocktail bar is Milano, just off Plaça Catalunya. Despite its name, it has a bit of a Cuban vibe going on, as well as a huge choice of cocktails served by knowledge and smartly dressed bartenders.

    If you’re not ready for bed after your cocktails, the Mojito nightclub is Latin party central. By day its upstairs studios offer salsa dance classes, while by night the basement club turns into a heaving mix of bodies showing off their salsa, samba, merengue and bachata moves. Another L’Eixample institution is La Fira club, whose centerpiece is a big-top-style dance floor. It actually is a funfair inside, complete with carousels and carnival mirrors. You can even have your fortune read as you’re slugging back a vodka and coke.

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