This former industrial district in Barcelona was abandoned for much of the 20th century, before being given a new lease of life during the 1992 Olympic Games. It has since continued to attract forward-thinking entrepreneurs and today houses cool cafés, trendy boutiques and world-class street art. But despite the palpable sense of progress that permeates Poblenou’s leafy streets and squares, its slightly secluded location means that it still exudes an authentic and close-knit sense of community.
Director, Palo Alto Market
If one were to pinpoint the factor that cemented Poblenou’s status as one of Barcelona’s hippest barrios, it would have to be the arrival of the innovative Palo Alto Market, which pops up for one weekend each month. Located on the grounds of a historic red-brick factory, it was set up to “promote the new trends that designers, chefs, musicians and contemporary artisans are generating in Barcelona, because young entrepreneurs need platforms to [showcase] their creations,” says director Pedrín Mariscal. The market’s organisers felt that Poblenou was the perfect setting to launch the concept back in 2014. “It was an emerging neighbourhood for young creators and artists and… has become one of the most dynamic areas in the city,” explains Mariscal.
“You can take a walk by the sea, eat a delicious paella or fresh seafood at a chiringuito (bar) on the beach – I personally recommend Xiringuito Escribà and Can Fisher.” To explore the area’s cultural charms, Mariscal recommends the Design Museum of Barcelona, which celebrates the fashion, graphic and industrial design movements that have shaped modern society.
Melina Ramirez and Daragh O’Donnell
Owners, Madame George
According to Daragh O’Donnell and Melina Ramirez, Madame George offers “good music and a place for conversation… [with] the sophistication of a cocktail bar that you might find in New York or London”. It’s easy to see what they mean when you step inside this sumptuous Rococo-style space kitted out with antique chandeliers, silken armchairs and plush fabric wallpaper. “We were the first proper bar to open in Poblenou [four years ago]. It had a certain risk, but we firmly believed in the idea,” Ramirez explains.
Inspired by their success, other new bars have followed suit. “Balius Bar across the street is housed in an old pharmacy and is a great place for cocktails,” says Ramirez, who also suggests enjoying a beer at Chiringuito BeGay. Poblenou is also evolving into a foodie hub, and the couple likes the cool but casual Minyam tapas bar a few doors down from Madame George. Despite its thriving F&B scene, though, Poblenou still flies under the radar. “It’s a place where you can switch off and escape the crowds, while still having the buzz of the city centre just beside you,” O’Donnell concludes.
Born and raised in Poblenou, Gemma Cardiel is one of the entrepreneurs who typifies the barrio’s unique brand of ambition. Located on the idyllic main artery of Rambla del Poblenou, her boutique, Festuk, stocks ethical fashion from Iberian brands, with items made from natural, organic or recycled fabrics. “When it was clear the style of store that we wanted to open, the location was not open for discussion. It simply had to be Poblenou,” declares Cardiel. She goes on to explain that there is a shared vision among the local business community. “I know practically all of the local shop owners. All of them reside in the neighbourhood and manage their own stores with soul and personality.”
Cardiel recommends patronising her “biggest competitors” Aimada and Bagoa, which she praises for their excellent collection of European brands and quality customer service. For those who want to pair their perusing with a little carousing, she suggests popping into wine bar Més de Vi, which serves up a range of local labels and tapas. The long-time resident also implores her customers to make a visit to Horchatería El Tío Che, a local institution that’s been serving up Spain’s beloved horchata (a beverage made from tiger nuts) for over a century. “[Owner] Tere captains the fourth generation of the original family that set it up. You simply can’t leave without sampling a homemade ice cream and horchata on their sunny terrace.”
Owner, Steel Donkey Bike Tours
“I was keen to show visitors a side of Barcelona completely different to the mass tourism of Las Ramblas, Antoni Gaudí and the Gothic Quarter,” explains Duncan Rhodes of his decision to put Poblenou on the itinerary for his alternative bike tours. “It’s full of surprising treasures like a Neoclassical cemetery, the charming Plaça de Prim square and its own tree-lined rambla (avenue).
It’s perfect for exploring by bike.” Though you can never be sure where to find the freshest murals, Rhodes says the best place to discover street art here is in the triangle created between Avinguda Diagonal, Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes and Rambla del Prim. “In particular, the interior of La Escocesa cultural space is a living art canvas,” he shares.
As an aficionado of la fiesta (party), Rhodes recommends dropping by Razzmatazz, one of Barcelona’s central music venues that plays host to a rotating cast of performers. And for an introduction to the neighbourhood’s famed cafés, Rhodes suggests Carrot Café and Skye Coffee Co. “They’re two of the haunts that really started drawing [people away] from the city centre,” he reveals.
Photography by Ricard Lope
Singapore Airlines flies to Barcelona five times weekly. To book a flight, visit singaporeair.com
This article was originally published in the October 2018 issue of SilverKris magazine