Barcelona's Eixample is one of the most ambitious and arguably most successful examples of modern urban planning. By the 1850s, the city of Barcelona was confined by the walls surrounding what we now call the "Gothic", or the old town, and was getting dangerously and uncomfortably overcrowded because there simply wasn't enough space for the growing population.
The decision was taken to bring down the walls and for the city to extend upwards and outwards, connecting it with nearby towns such as Gracia and Sants. A design for Barcelona’s expansion was put forward by architect Ildefons Cerdá. It's ordered grid-like pattern reflects the era's predominant desire for efficient and rational structure. It comprises of two distinct areas; Eixample Dreta to the right and Eixample Esquerra to the left, they are divided by Passeig de Gracia and Rambla de Catlaunya which in turn are intersected by Avinguda Diagonal and Carrer d'Aribau all of which are prime real estate areas.
The architects' original vision was to build the district's apartment blocks to only two storeys height, and to only build on two sides of the blocks. This would leave a significant amount of open space for large public gardens, and would create an open atmosphere, which due to the high demand for housing, in the end was not achieved and property was snapped up by the bourgeois elite. The project was lifted up to a new level by coinciding with a generation of very creative and active modernist architects who seized this perfect opportunity to materialise their visions within the framework of this urban expansion. Each trying to outdo each other, the results can best be appreciated in the area known as the "Quadrat d'Or", around Passeig de Gracia between C/ Muntaner and C/ Roger de Flor. One of the most important buildings in this area is Gaudí's magnificent Casa Milá, also known as the Pedrera. Within the Quadrat d'Or section there is the block known as the Manzana de la Discordia, or apple of discord, named for the clash of styles of its four main houses. There is the Casa Lleó Morera (1906) by Lluís Doménech i Muntaner, the Casa Bonet, which is now the Perfume Museum, the Casa Amatller (1900), by Josep Puig i Cadafalch, and of course the Casa Batlló (1906) by Antonio Gaudí.
Visiting Eixample by day
The area around Passeig de Gracia is a shopaholics dream! There is everything from designer brands such as YSL and Doir to high street shops such as Zara and Mango, as well as everything in between including furniture, shoes and gourmet food.
Visiting Eixample by night
There are also many top quality restaurants and tapas bars. At night Eixample takes on a different air as many bars and clubs open up around Carrer d'Aribau many of which home to a vibrant gay scene.
The Eixample district takes time to discover, but it is well worth doing so as it is home to some of the most special little jewels in the Barcelona… whether architecture, eating out, nightlife, or shopping.
How to get there
There are many transport links traversing the district of Eixample. If using the metro L2, L3 and L4 all pass through Passeig de Gracia whilst L2 and L5 pass through Sagrada Familia. Alternatively, the FGC lines go from Plaça de Catalunya to Provença in the heart of Eixample. If you would rather stay above ground there are also many bus routes with access to the rest of the town.