- Crammed between Parallel Avenue and the green spaces of Montjuïc, and topped by the Plaça Espanya, is the residential area of Poble Sec (‘dry town’ in Catalan). It’s an authentic corner of the city that’s managed to retain a strong sense of identity and community spirit, despite its increasingly multi-cultural make-up. In fact, it’s not unusual to catch the locals dancing the sardana in one of the little plazas on a Friday night.
Poble Sec itself isn’t home to any of the cultural landmarks Barcelona is famous for, but it has the advantage of being a quiet corner to retreat to after a hard day’s sightseeing. Parallel Avenue is a thundering thoroughfare, but the narrow streets of Poble Sec are much more sedate, so there’s thankfully no roar of traffic outside your window at night. As you get into the area closer to the port, many of the tree-lined streets become narrower and not so well-lit – the atmosphere here may not be for everyone.
The area abounds with little shops, supermarkets, restaurants, bars and cafés, giving you plenty of choice if you fancy getting out and socialising with the locals. Plaça Sortidor and the pedestrianised Carrer de Blai are two of the most popular spots, where residents frequently hang out and enjoy al fresco drinks and snacks.
Public transport within the neighbourhood is another plus – metro stations Parallel, Poble Sec and Plaça Espanya are dotted along line 3, and line 2 from Parallel will take you directly to the Sagrada Família and Passeig de Gràcia. Lots of buses run along Parallel Avenue, and the Aerobus directly to El Prat airport stops off conveniently at Plaça Espanya – a great help when you’re coming and going to your Poble Sec flat.
- One of the best things about being based in Poble Sec is having easy access to the slopes and sights of Montjuïc. Take an evening stroll up to the impressive Magic Fountain display, relax in the serene Laribal gardens, or go for a swim in the Olympic-sized swimming pools of Bernat Picornell.
Poble Sec is also famous for having more than its fair share of theatres, and is trying to revive its reputation as the hub of variety shows and vaudeville. ‘El Molino’ (think Moulin Rouge) on Parallel Avenue is the most famous theatre, but you’ll also be within comfortable walking distance of the Teatre Grec. This is the flagship venue for a renowned international festival of theatre, dance and music that takes place every summer.
When it comes to local options for eating out, there’s a fair choice on offer. At the top end of the scale (and the barrio) is the Rías de Galicia, serving fresh seafood straight from the Spanish seas. A little easier on the wallet is La Bella Napoli, a Poble Sec stalwart, which is family-run and always gets a good review. If you’re more interested in tracking down some traditional Catalan cuisine, you can’t do better than La Tomaquera – a down-to-earth restaurant (cash only, no bookings) that’s often packed with locals. Just along from it is a surprising find; the attractively decorated Luki, which specialises in traditional, Aragonese cuisine.
Luckily, the ‘dry town’ of Poble Sec isn’t short of a few watering holes. Ring the doorbell to get into Barcelona Rouge; an intimate, opulent, velvet-clad setting that packs a mean cocktail. Then there’s the colourful old bar of Gran Bodega Saltó - a former wine store decorated with quirky sculptures and rows of barrels. For an even more rustic feel, you could try Quimet i Quimet, which is run by the fourth generation of the same family. Bordered by wine-lined walls, this small venue (standing room only) has established a name for itself as one of the best tapas bars in Barcelona.
If you fancy a nightclub later on, Poble Sec’s most (in)famous spot is La Sala Apolo, whose ‘Anti-Karaoke’ nights on Mondays (followed by ‘Crappy Tuesdays’ the next night) are legendary. It’s frequented by both locals and tourists alike, who make full use of its ballroom-sized dance floor. Being based in Poble Sec also means you’re just an avenue crossing away from the barrio of Raval, which is a brilliant area for bar hopping.
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