Striking a balance and striking a pose – the new and original Poble Nou.

Vibe on the street: village-like, relaxed, affable, commercial, aspirational.
Famous for: a little bit of everything – its own charming Rambla, being by the beach, Modernista façades, lovely parks, a strangely compelling cemetery.
Striking a balance and striking a pose – the new and original Poble Nou.
  • September can be a good time to stay in Poble Nou, when the district’s annual Festa Major takes place. It has all the usual ingredients of a good Catalan knees-up, with human pyramids, pageants of giants and the inimitable ‘correfoc’ (fire-runs). But the area is a pleasant place to stay all year round, what with its tranquil pace of life and easy access to both the city centre and the beaches.

    To get oriented, start off with a walk along the Rambla de Poble Nou. Civilised and without the incessant traffic of the city centre, it feels a million miles away from its famous namesake. From there you can head north towards the designer Parc Central de Poble Nou, on Diagonal Avenue, or south to the marina and beaches.

    Nearby sights

    The beaches of Bogatell (popular with an older crowd) and Mar Bella (meaning the ‘beautiful sea’) border the east side of Poble Nou, and are a major appeal of choosing to stay in this district. Away from the shore, though, there are some other places of interest.

    Parks and gardens

    There are actually two parks in the area – double check their names on the map to make sure you’re heading to the right one. The original Parc de Poble Nou is right across from the sea, but the more interesting one is the walled Parc Central del Poble Nou, which was opened in 2008.

    The park was designed by Jean Nouvel, who is the French architect behind the Torre Agbar. It’s an incredibly peaceful spot, insulated from the traffic noise by the buffer of walls of flowers. Its layout is made up of different zones or habitats, including a square for sardana dancing and a lunar landscape, as well as hundreds of weeping willows throughout. Locals make full use of it – chances are you’ll see parents out strolling with prams, men playing ping pong and young couples smelling the roses in the perfumed flower gardens.

    Mausoleums and monuments

    For a tour through outstanding examples of funerary art, as well as insights into the social and political events of Barcelona’s history, take some time to visit Poble Nou’s neoclassical cemetery. A handful of famous Catalans are buried here, alongside some anonymous tombs. The most visited is the shrine of ‘el santet’ – a popular saint who died young, and still inspires locals to leave gifts, candles and even cuddly toys. By the end of the 19th century, Barcelona’s burgeoning bourgeoisie had started to commission the leading architects of the day to design ostentatious resting places, and the cemetery acquired its highly artistic mausoleums and pavilions. A particularly poignant sculpture is ‘El Beso de la Muerte (the Kiss of Death); an arresting scene of a winged skeleton embracing a young man whose time has come.

    For a 180° change of pace, you could take a stroll up to see the controversial Torre Agbar. A modern addition to Barcelona’s skyline, it looks a bit like London’s ‘Gherkin’, and is most impressive when lit up at night. The skyscraper has divided public opinion, though – don’t be surprised if you hear locals referring to it as ‘the suppository’.

    Eating out

    As a seaside neighbourhood, it’s not surprising that Poble Nou has a good range of fish and seafood restaurants. One favourite is Els Pescadors, set in the quaint little square of Plaça de Prim. It serves up just about every type of fish dish you can imagine, and although the prices are a bit steep, locals keep coming back. Another place we can highly recommend is L’Aliança de Poble Nou, which is located right on the Rambla. More of a tapas restaurant, the food is a never a let-down and the service is fast and attentive.

    During the day, you might like to try Cala Blanca, which is a small place close to the Rambla. For just under 12 euros you can eat like a king, with quality Catalan cooking all put together from fresh market produce. At lunch times it’s always stowed with hungry locals. It’s also got a lovely terrace, if you fancy dining al fresco. Another option for eating out in the open is the beach bar Escribà ‘Il Chiringuito di Bogatell’, which is perfect for scoffing a paella and quaffing some wine by the shore. Book ahead, though, so you’re not disappointed.

    Nightlife

    Poble Nou has a good few options if you’re up for partying after your paella. There are several bars and clubs spread along the waterfront, and several of the area’s former factory spaces have been converted into clubbing venues. Sala Razzmatazz is the stand-out here. It hosts weekly concerts of international acts, and is laid out across loads of different floors offering a choice of musical genres. It’s popular with both a local and international crowd. A spin-off of Razzmatazz is Loft, which specialises is techno and electro music. If live music is more your thing, there’s the renowned BeGood, near to the Marina metro station. Although it’s not big, the atmosphere is always good, and the music varies – bound to be a memorable way to end your evening.

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