Poblenou District Guide
A look at the resurgent barrio by the beach
By Duncan Rhodes
Transformed by the 22@ project, the former industrial district of Poblenou is one of the hottest barrios in Barcelona right now, thanks to its proximity to both the city centre and the beach. We take a look at some of the fun things to do in the district, plus hotels and where to stay.
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 pilgrimage 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 into 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 has seen 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. Night owls 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
Tours & Attractions
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.
More Things To Do
You can see more things to see and do on our Poblenou region page.
About the Author
Duncan established Barcelona Life in 2009, whilst freelancing for the likes of Conde Nast, The Guardian, Easyjet Magazine, CNN Traveller and many more. From interviews with Ferran Adria to revealing the secrets of the city’s poetry brothels, he knows the city inside out… and shares all his best tips right here.