- The origins of Barcelona’s ‘new town’ go right back to the industrial age, when its mills and factories earned Poble Nou the nickname of the Catalan Manchester. If you’ve been to Manchester, you might be struggling to see the comparison – especially nowadays, with the factories and fumes having given way to a high-tech business hub and prime seaside real estate.
The district enjoys an enviable location; close enough to the city centre to be convenient, but far enough away to retain its village-like feel. And with access to three of Barcelona’s beaches, it’s definitely a contender when you’re choosing a base to stay in the city.
From marsh to marine village to modern Mediterranean magnet
One thing Barcelona’s never been short of is ambitious urban regeneration projects, and Poble Nou, originally a bog on the outskirts of the old city, is a stellar example. In the late 20th century, the district’s metamorphosis went hand-in-hand with the money that poured into Barcelona in preparation for the 1992 Olympics, as the city’s waterfront was given a much needed facelift. Factories were converted into studios and loft apartments, while the area’s famous red-brick chimneys achieved ‘listed building’ status. Gradually, the old warehouses have been replaced by trendy hotels and Silicon Valley-like business premises. The district has even acquired a brand-new landmark – the brazen-bright bullet that is the Torre Agbar.
Know your neighbours
At the heart of community life is the 19th-century Rambla de Poble Nou – a long, pedestrianised street that’s lined with sociable benches and trees that seem to provide just the right amount of shade. Poble Nou residents gravitate here, whether it’s to shop, walk the dog, chat with friends or knock back an espresso on the sunny terraces.
The area has historically been a working-class neighbourhood, peopled by workers in the textile manufacturing industry, and a blue-collar trend is still evident today. But plenty of newcomers have also made Poble Nou their own, including the hundreds of employees of high-tech companies that make up the ground-breaking ‘22@’ business district.
Thankfully, the transformations Poble Nou has experienced haven’t stripped it of its atmosphere. The old factories have put to good use as lofts and galleries for artists and designers, lending the place a creative, productive buzz.
Poble Nou’s main commercial street is its Rambla. Its shops, like so much of the district itself, are a mixture of old and new – fashion, jewellery and the more mundane. Another street with a lot of character is Carrer de Marià Aguiló, which is also worth setting aside some time to explore.
The nearest large shopping centre is the modern Les Glòries complex on Diagonal Avenue, which has over 150 shops, seven cinema screens and umpteen cafes and restaurants. For grocery shopping, you’ve got a branch of the Mercadona supermarket chain right on the Rambla, which is ideal for stocking up your holiday apartment. There are also countless little local shops, from delis to doughnut bars, scattered around.
If you fancy trying your luck at a flea market, you might like to have a hunt around the bustling Mercat Els Encants. Dating from the 14th century, this is one of the oldest flea markets in Europe. Open Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 7am to 3pm, it really does have everything under the sun. Including kitchen sinks.
The main metro line that serves Poble Nou is the yellow line 4, with its stations of Bogatell, Llacuna and Poble Nou itself. You can be in the city centre (the Ramblas, or Plaça Catalunya) in around 10 to 15 minutes. The yellow line is also directly connected to Barceloneta, by the beach, and Passeig de Gràcia, for Gaudí`s Modernista masterpieces. Up in the top corner of Poble Nou is the Glòries metro station, on the red line.
Barcelona’s tram network also cuts through Poble Nou. You can catch one from Pere IV and Fluvia stations on Diagonal Avenue to Vila Olímpica or the Glòries shopping centre. Otherwise, Poble Nou is a pleasant area to stroll about. Locals make full use of the many cycle lanes and flat areas down by the shore, to jog, rollerblade or just walk the dog.
- 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.
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’.
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.
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.
VideosNo videos right now.
Got an opinion about this neighbourhood? Any burning questions about staying here?
Let us know below and we'll be in touch faster than you can say Cava Sangría. For full information on our approach to users’ comments on our site, please see our publishing policy. Please feel free to contact us by phone or email if you have any questions about it.
Our policy on publishing comments
Why we want your comments
On various pages throughout this site we invite you to leave comments and ask questions about places and subjects of interest and on the accommodation that we provide.
We believe that your opinion is always worth hearing and your ability to share insights, stories, tips and suggestions through our comments function is an important part of the online service that we offer.
We will always provide a response to any comment that requires one – so feel free to ask questions or raise issues.
How comments are moderated
The last thing we want to do is censor your opinions or to prevent posts appearing about negative aspects of the city or activities and locations that we feature. Comments will only be taken down if:
- They contain swear words or insults.
- They advertise a business or service (we are however happy to consider covering services provided in Barcelona on our blog).
- They break the law.
- They are off-topic or have been left for malicious reasons by an anonymous source (spam).
In short our policy is to publish comments unless they are at risk of damaging the quality of our website or are likely to result in legal or technical difficulties.
Transparency will always be one of our most important values and we go to great efforts to ensure your feedback remains at the heart of what we do – so please don´t hesitate to get in touch!