The Manchester of Catalonia

Once dubbed 'the Manchester of Catalonia', Poblenou is famous in Barcelona's history as the city's industrial zone, drawing water from the sea and river Besos and belching fumes into the air above the Mediterranean. This part of Barcelona, outside of the Old Town, really grew in the 19th century as industrial tycoons set up factories on cheap land and workers from the impoverished South of Spain made the pilgrimmage to Catalonia in search of a better life.

As Barcelona's textile industry waned so did the district's fortunes... the vast majority of the factories were abandoned and fell into disrepair and the 'New Village' (as 'Poblenou' means in Catalan) became something of a ghost town - albeit quite a hip ghost town in more recent years, owing to the large number of squatters and artists who saw seized on the disused spaces for housing, street art and raves.

In the early 1990s the winds of change game blowing in preparation for the 1992 Olympic Games, the sporting event that changed the face of Barcelona - and Poblenou in particular. The biggest change for both the city and the district was the ripping up of a train track that ran along the coast, separating Poblenou from the sea, and the creation of a string of beaches from the newly-constructed Olympic Port and Village right up to El Campo de la Bota. Barcelona was suddenly a coastal resort par excellence, and Poblenou the site of prime real estate potential!

Since the developments for the '92 Games, there have been a number of new urban regeneration projects that have - and still are - changing this former-industrial district into a very desirable neighbourhood. The former execution ground of Campo de la Bota was transformed in the Parc del Forum for the Universal Forum of Cultures in 2004, whilst the Diagonal Mar shopping centre and park sprung up alongside a slew of five star hotels... such as the hip Hotel Me. Meanwhile French architect Jean Nouvel was commissioned to create one of Barcelona's most iconic buildings in the Torre Agbar, and soon afterwards drafted up his plans for the Parc Central del Poblenou. The phrase on everyone's lips right now however is @22, the ambitious renovation programme that will see Poblenou changed into a technological hub and office zone, surrounded by luxury flats. Indeed futuristic labs and workspaces are being built as we speak as Barcelona's very own silicon valley slowly takes shape! Nightowls may want to investigate the area come evening, as a number of old factories have been put to better use and now function as bars, pubs and clubs. Sala Razzmatazz being a prime example!

Overall Poblenou is well worth an afternoon of the discerning tourist's time for its charming mix of Modernista blocks and houses, redbrick factories (some decaying, some renovated) and gleaming skyscrapers. At the heart of the 'New Village' is the Rambla de Poblenou, a delightful boulevard as relaxing and serene as La Rambla proper is hectic and overpowering.

Accommodation in Poblenou Barcelona

For hotels in Poblenou head to our Sleep page and search by district. Alternatively you could try contacting a reliable apartment rental agency and ask for a the perfect place by the sea. For attractions check out our Play and Culture sections, for nightlife swing by our Drink section, and if you fancy taking an interactive tour of the Poblenou district we can recommend our amigos at Steel Donkeys bike tours!

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Nice article. Poblenou goes unnoticed by most tourists, but it's got a lot to offer. ALso a good place to invest in real estate.

reviewed by Hazza from Bahrain on Apr.07.2010