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The Eixample, Sagrada Família, aerial view
Photograph: Shutterstock The Eixample, Sagrada Família, aerial view

The Eixample neighbourhood guide

Get to know Barcelona’s sprawling Eixample neighbourhood, and explore its best restaurants, bars, shops and attractions

By Time Out Barcelona editors
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The Eixample (which literally means ‘Expansion’) is a result of urban planning by Idelfons Cerdà. The whole sprawling area is laid out in a grid plan that Cerdà employed in the mid-1800s in order to make the most out of natural light and sanitation and bring efficiency and livability to the residents. Today the Eixample district is made up of the neighbourhoods Fort Pienc, Sagrada Família, the Dreta de l’Eixample, the Antiga Esquerra de l’Eixample, the Nova Esquerra de l’Eixample and Sant Antoni. The Eixample is a Modernista showcase – although you will find traces of the avant-garde from GATCPAC in the 1930s and new architecture from the 1950s. The Eixample is also the result of residents fighting to keep or restore emblematic spaces such as Casa Golferichs, and the outdoor courtyards in the middle of city blocks of flats that have always been the fabric used to weave community ties, made even stronger in recent times with the health crisis when neighbours could still socialise from their balconies.

The Eixample is its businesses and establishments as well: the landmark ones that stick around and adapt to changes in how and what we consume, and the specialised businesses that fill the neighbourhood with life and richness. The Eixample is also its venues and cultural gems, and the demands its residents and business owners make, for more green spaces and also for sexual diversity. Read on for just a sample of what you won’t want to miss in this neighbourhood of neighbourhoods in Barcelona.

If you only do one thing
Get yourself over to the Illa de la Discòrdia (Block of Discord), which is a strip of Passeig de Gràcia between Consell de Cent and Aragó where big names in Modernista architecture left their mark. You can admire Casa Lleó Morera by Domènech i Muntaner, Puig i Cadafalch’s Casa Amatller and Casa Batlló by Gaudí. All are well worth the visit, even if you just stand outside and admire their impressive facades.

Go off the beaten track
You won’t find many guidebooks sending you to Fábrica Lehmann, but that’s just what we’re doing. If you go on a Saturday you might come across the farmer’s market held on Consell de Cent, which itself is very near the Espai Germanetes, a green oasis in the area. If you’re around Fábrica Lehmann in the evening when the patio lights are on, it makes for an even lovelier visit.

On a sunny day
There’s nothing like a space where you can walk, run, skate, kick a ball around... And there’s no space for all that quite like the Joan Miró park, where there’s also a playground for kids and a grassy area to have a picnic or rest under a tree while you admire the enormous Miró sculpture ‘Dona i Ocell’ (‘Woman and Bird’).

On a rainy day
Exploring the ‘French Eixample’ is a good way to take refuge on a wet day. After a good meal, you can browse bookshops such as Jaimes or Documenta, which are nearby.

Get cultured
Among the museums in the Eixample are the Antoni Tàpies Foundation, the Espai VolART of the Vila Casas Foundation and the Egyptian Museum. Plus some of Barcelona’s best galleries are in the Eixample. And the neighbourhood of neighbourhoods also boasts loads of bookshops for all tastes and budgets – some with a good selection in English.

Nearest metro stations
You can get from one side of the Eixample to the other and make stops in between using these metro stations: Passèig de Gràcia (L2, L3, L4), Universitat (L1), Arc de Triomf (L1), Tetuan (L2), Sant Antoni (L2), Sagrada Família (L5) and Hospital Clínic (L5).

 

Restaurants in the Eixample

Portolés
© Maria Dias

Portolés

Restaurants Dreta de l'Eixample

This popular restaurant epitomises, as few do, the midday meal. The whole menu is written on a blackboard. There’s quite a variety as well, including starters like a sound gazpacho, ‘fideuá', steamed artichokes and an authentic Cuban-style rice, and mains that feature well-crafted hearty and traditional dishes, such oven-baked pork cheeks, escalope with balsamic vinegar, duck magret, cod with tomato, fried red mullet, and Navarran trout. You always get fresh fish and lean meat. When it comes to dessert, check the board again and choose from a selection of flans, goat’s cheese yogurt with honey, or ‘músico’ (usually dried fruit and nuts). 

Hawker 45
© Irene Fernández

Hawker 45

Restaurants Haute cuisine Dreta de l'Eixample

The daughter of a Filipina mother and a Brazilian father has created this space where she cooks up a fusion of Southeast Asian and Latin American street food. The menu isn’t lengthy but the plates are unusual for these parts, and a total hit: among them you’ll find Philippine adobo mixed with pork jowls, or a pho soup made with oxtail. There is a set lunch menu, and it features delicacies such as ‘malay redang’, a Malaysian stew made into a street sandwich with ‘roti paratha’, which is a soft Singapore bread similar to Indian naan. The space itself is minimalist and spacious while still managing to be cosy.

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Ramen-Ya Hiro

Restaurants Japanese Dreta de l'Eixample

The kitchen at at Ramen-Ya Hiro is like a steam train, with its perpetual triple boiling going on. The other side of the bar boils with customers slurping up broths that have spent ten hours on low heat overnight. Hiroki specifies that they only make three varieties of ramen because they want to specialise in quality and speed. The menu features the classic ramen recipes: soy (with a broth made of chicken and pork, with soya sauce), miso (the same but with miso instead of soya), and seafood. The home-made noodles are a marvel: you can put them on your plate and swirl them around your chopsticks tightly until the broth escapes, and they’re still perfectly elastic. 

Entrepanes Díaz
©IvanGiménez

Entrepanes Díaz

Restaurants Sandwich shop Dreta de l'Eixample

The vision that Bar Mutis and Bar Mut factotum Kim Díaz has of the humble sandwich has come to life in an elegant vintage-style bar in a restaurant that has a menu of around ten surprising sandwiches made with meats and fish along with traditional Spanish and Catalan styles: try the Basque-style ‘kokotxas al pil-pil’ (fish ‘jowls’ in a sauce of olive oil, garlic and chilli), the calamari cooked in its ink, or the excellent Jaén ‘botifarró’ blood sausage. These are quality, cooked sandwiches with an emphasis on fish as the star of the show. They’ve also got really popular Càdiz-style fried tapas, and they pour a good beer.

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El Japonés

Restaurants Japanese Eixample

This informal and minimalist tavern concept with long sharing tables (plus individual ones for more intimacy) has been a  hit since it opened in 2000. El Japonés is a pioneer among Japanese restaurants in Barcelona and has managed to keep itself fresh and popular thanks to its open show kitchen, its sushi and the Japanese charcoal grill used to make kusiyaki (skewers). The secret to its success? Quality raw materials that are always fresh.

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Bars in the Eixample

Fàbrica Moritz
© Raul Tejero

Fàbrica Moritz

Restaurants Creative contemporary Eixample

The gourmet area of Cervesa Moritz, in what used to be the old factory, is a non-stop food and drink extravaganza. In the brewery area, which has the longest bar in the city, you can try unpasteurised beer from a beer tap connected directly to a barrel in a microbrewery. You can also choose from a long menu of tapas from around the world, devised by by Jordi Vilà, which fuses the cuisines of Alsace and Spain. There is also a wine bar, and a French-style brasserie will soon be opening, as well as a gourmet restaurant. In this building, which was completely renovated by Jean Nouvel, you can also visit the microbrewery, but the best thing is to just take a stroll around and discover the little architectural details – the plant-lined walls, the periscope windows – that make the Fàbrica Moritz one of the city’s most amazing public buildings.

Bitter
© Maria Dias

Bitter Cocktail Bar

Bars and pubs Cocktail bars Sant Antoni

The Sant Antoni neighbourhood was crying out for a cocktail bar like Bitter (all apologies to XIX Bar). When you cross the threshold, something might cross your mind like 'I praise the new and fall in love with the old'. Because Nacho, one of the three owners, has a background in places like Milano, Caribbean and Negroni, that old-school cocktail bar spirit that he also wanted in Bitter, but also showing off how much he loves the modern.

This is not a place where you'll find molecular cocktails but those made with natural herbs (rosemary, thyme, basil and lavendar are favourites) in delicate and sensual concoctions that might be a few steps from the classics but are still well rooted in them and have a deep respect for them. You'll also find cocktails made with mezcal – a clear sign that Bitter is on trend – as well as a drinks menu that says, 'Hey, how's it going? Would you like to see the menu or would you prefer to chat about what you like?' You see, Nacho's also one of those old-school waiters whose value is more in what they don't say than what they do, the kind who just has to look at you to know, before you even know yourself, exactly what you want.

All that in a space that mixes the sobriety of old cocktail bars with the warmth of an interior with Nordic touches – very right now. White shirt, but no bowtie. Serious but not rigid. Jazz, but not always. Gourmet sandwiches but no peanuts. And with loads of spirit.

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Bar Calders
©Ivan Moreno

Bar Calders

Restaurants Mediterranean Sant Antoni

For all Pere Calders fans – God has heard your prayers. The cul-de-sac named after the writer has recently become home to one of the loveliest spots in Sant Antoni. They have books by the Catalan author, the draught beer flows freely and there’s a selection of tapas that sends shivers of pleasure through the district. Obviously, the best thing to try is the vermouth. They stock four brands, but if you want to try a Priorat, then you should go for the one from Falset. Incidentally, the outdoor terrace is one of the district’s best kept secrets: You’ll just keep coming back.

Tarambana
©IvanGiménez

Malasang

Bars and pubs Tapas bars La Nova Esquerra de l'Eixample

Full of light, this space is like a caress on the back of the neck: daylight streams through the entrance window and bounces off the soaring ceiling and white walls. The wood in all the furniture and the floor fits like a puzzle piece with the Scandinavian touches of the interior design. Restored furniture, vintage chairs, retro tables, hanging light bulbs, exposed brick, cool music at a silky volume ... All the exquisite details have been painstakingly selected to offer the clientele a most pleasant experience that nourishes the soul. In other words: you'll need to be pried off your chair when it's time to go home. 

If the decor doesn't convince you because you're 50 years ahead of the rest of humanity, the food and drinks menus should do the trick (that's what you're there for, after all). Malasang takes vermouth seriously. A glass of Estrella Galicia beer on tap goes down like cold water on a hot day, the selection of wines and cavas by the glass is impeccable, and the light bites, such as anchovies and cockles, mean business. If you want a bit more in your belly, the tasty food mostly speaks Catalan (good sausages!) with an international accent. Be sure to ask for the gin and tonic of the night.

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BierCab
© Maria Dias

BierCab

Bars and pubs L'Antiga Esquerra de l'Eixample

This monumental brewery boasts 30 taps, 10 of them dedicated to the house beer, Naparbier. The other 20 are all international and feature every style of beer, lager, ale, stout, etc., on the market. If you love curiosities, BierCab's cellar has a selection of bottles that will leave you stunned.

They also serve good food, with dishes like sea bass ceviche, Wagyu tartare with Naparbier beer sorbet, and Belgian-style mussels. For other more traditional Catalan fare, try the hand-cut ham or some nicely spicy patatas bravas.

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Shopping in the Eixample

The Outpost

Shopping Dreta de l'Eixample

The latest trends for the modern man, right on the line that runs between the classic and the innovative. This is The Outpost, a shop that has become a point of reference for men who like brands such as Maison Martin Margiela, Neil Barret for Palladium shoes and Maquedano hats. If you want to do some fun and no-pressure shopping, you've come to the right place.

Flors Navarro
© Irene Fernández

Flores Navarro

Shopping Florists Dreta de l'Eixample

A gift for your granny, a floral centrepiece to add colour to a business meeting, a last-minute bouquet to make up with your partner... Navarro, one of the city's most reliable florists, has a huge catalog of products to fit all the needs and budgets of all kinds of clients. Sylvia Navarro represents the third generation of this floral empire, the mother of all flower shops, which is open 24 hours a day.

They've had this non-stop timetable for some 30 years now, and it came almost naturally to them. 'At first we closed at 9pm, then we moved it to 10pm, and while we were cleaning and tidying up, people would still come in,' says Navarro. 'We'd open back up at 5 in the morning, so we thought it was better to just stay open the whole time.'

When you think about people who buy flowers in the wee hours of the morning, you might imagine scenes of excited granddads, regretful husbands and determined lovers. 'We get them too,' says Navarro, 'but most of the late-hour clients are regular people. Taxi drivers, police officers, couples on their way home from dinner, and people who work at night. I remember one guy with insomnia who bought flowers for his garden at three in the morning.'

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Ailanto
Foto: Maria Dias

Ailanto

Shopping Eixample

The Ailanto brand, created by the brothers Iñaki and Aitor Muñoz, is recognised and admired for its prints, fine materials and its patterns based on geometrical shapes and artistic forms. Visit their exclusive boutique and you will find it difficult not to walk away owning one of their timeless pieces of haute couture. 

Cortana
©Cortana

Cortana

Shopping Bridal shops Dreta de l'Eixample

Cortana, the clothing line by Rosa Esteban, is synonymous with romanticism, versatility and timeless and ethereal beauty, qualities that take their earthly form in elegant prêt-à-porter collections and designs for brides looking for something different. The house also prides itself on using natural materials: silk, satin and organza muslins, and cotton tulle paint the feminine figure at Cortana.

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Masscob
© Maria Dias

Masscob

Shopping Barcelona

Masscob is a brand that wants you to explore with all five senses. The adventure started out in 2003 in a flat in La Coruña (Galicia), and has since expanded internationally while maintaining its personality and creative independence. Marga Massanet and Jacobo Cobián find themselves inspired by colours and natural fabrics, and they put a lot of value in cuts: in their workshops they study coats, skirts and jeans in great detail so that the garments lend themselves perfectly to the female form.

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What to see & do in the Eixample

Basílica de la Sagrada Família

Attractions Religious buildings and sites Sagrada Família

'Send Gaudí and the Sagrada Família to hell,' wrote Picasso. While it is easy to see how some of the religious clichés of the building and the devotional fervour of its creator might annoy an angry young Cubist, Barcelona's iconic temple still manages to inspire delight in equal measure. Gaudí dedicated more than 40 years (the last 14 of them exclusively) to the project, and is buried beneath the nave. Many consider the crypt and the Nativity façade, which were completed in his lifetime, as the most beautiful elements of the church. The latter, facing C/Marina, looks at first glance as though some careless giant has poured candle wax over a Gothic cathedral, but closer inspection shows every protuberance to be an intricate sculpture of flora, fauna or human figure, combining to form an astonishingly moving stone tapestry depicting scenes from Christ's early years. Providing a grim counterpoint to the excesses of the Nativity façade is the Passion façade on C/Sardenya, with bone-shaped columns and haunting, angular sculptures by Josep Maria Subirachs showing the 12 stations of the cross. The vast metal doors, set behind the sculpture of the flagellation of Jesus, are particularly arresting, covered in quotations from the Bible in various languages. The Glory façade on C/Mallorca, the final side to be built and the eventual main entrance, is currently shooting up behind the scaffolding and is devoted to the Resurrection, a mass of stone clouds and trumpets emblazoned with words

La Pedrera

Attractions Sightseeing Dreta de l'Eixample

Described variously as rising dough, molten lava and a stone lung, the last secular building designed by Antoni Gaudí, the Casa Milà (popularly known as La Pedrera, 'the stone quarry') has no straight lines. It is a stupendous and daring feat of architecture, and the culmination of the architect's experimental attempts to recreate natural forms with bricks and mortar (not to mention ceramics and even smashed-up cava bottles). Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it appears to have been washed up on shore, its marine feel complemented by collaborator Josep Maria Jujol's tangled balconies, doors of twisted kelp ribbon, sea-foamy ceilings and interior patios as blue as a mermaid's cave.When it was completed in 1912, it was so far ahead of its time that the woman who financed it as her dream home, Roser Segimon, became the laughing stock of the city - hence the 'stone quarry' tag. Its rippling façade led local painter Santiago Rusiñol to quip that a snake would be a better pet than a dog for the inhabitants. But La Pedrera has become one of Barcelona's best-loved buildings, and is adored by architects for its extraordinary structure: it is supported entirely by pillars, without a single master wall, allowing the vast, asymmetrical windows of the façade to invite in great swathes of natural light.There are three exhibition spaces. The first-floor art gallery hosts free shows of eminent artists, while the upstairs space is dedicated to giving visitors a finer appreciation of Gaudí: ac

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Casa Batlló

Attractions Dreta de l'Eixample

In one of the most extreme architectural makeovers ever seen, Gaudí and his long-time collaborator Josep Maria Jujol took an ordinary apartment block and remodelled it inside and out for textile tycoon Josep Batlló between 1902 and 1906. The result was one of the most impressive and admired of all Gaudí's creations. Opinions differ on what the building's remarkable façade represents, particularly its polychrome shimmering walls, its sinister skeletal balconies and its humpbacked scaly roof. Some say it's the spirit of carnival, others a Costa Brava cove. However, the most popular theory, which takes into account the architect's deeply patriotic feelings, is that it depicts Sant Jordi and the dragon – the idea being that the cross on top is the knight's lance, the roof is the back of the beast, and the balconies below are the skulls and bones of its hapless victims.The chance to explore the interior (at a cost) offers the best opportunity of understanding how Gaudí, sometimes considered the lord of the bombastic and overblown, was really the master of tiny details - from the ingenious ventilation in the doors to the amazing natural light reflecting off the inner courtyard's azure walls, and the way the brass window handles are curved so as to fit the shape of a hand. An apartment is open to the public, and access has been granted to the attic and roof terrace: the whitewashed arched rooms of the top floor, originally used for laundering and hanging clothes, are among the maste

Casa Amatller
Foto: Casa Amatller

Casa Amatller

Attractions Dreta de l'Eixample

Built for chocolate baron Antoni Amatller, this playful building is one of Puig i Cadafalch's finest creations. Inspired by 17th-century Dutch townhouses, it has a distinctive stepped Flemish pediment covered in shiny ceramics, while the lower façade and doorway are decorated with lively sculptures by Eusebi Arnau. These include chocolatiers at work, almond trees and blossoms (in reference to the family name) and Sant Jordi slaying the dragon.Besides chocolate, Amatller's other great love was photography. His daughter later converted the family home into an art institute and archive for her father's vast collections, from which excellent selections are on display in the ground floor exhibition space.

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