Barcelona: Poble Sec Neighbourhood Guide
Neatly tucked off the tourist trail, our fave up-coming Barcelona neighbourhood is rich with tapas treasures and cultural icons.
There’s more to powder-blue Barça than beaches, Gaudí, and well-worn Gothic alleyways. We take you on a jaunt around nouveau-industrial, hip cat haunt Poble Sec, just south of the main thrust, with tapas joints and arty attractions galore, as well lovely breezy hilltop Montjuïc on its fringes.
First, you’ll need somewhere to bed down, so bag one of only 20 minimalist nests at en-vogue Hotel Brummell, where an 1870s facade gives way to pared-back polished concrete, airy communal areas, laid-back diner Brummell Kitchen, and a rooftop flaunting a bitty lap pool and park vistas.
To kick off your day, embark on the 15-min uphill trot (or 5-min cab if you’re feeling clam lazy) to ultra-mod Corbusier-style looker Fundació Joan Miró, showcasing a comprehensive stash of the master’s works, as well as invited guest exhibitions.
Culture itch scratched, exit right and stroll down through enchanting, shady, idyllic, winding, manicured gulf of green Jardins de Laribal (not unlike the Alhambra gardens, only without the visored hordes), following the signs to fountain, Font del Gat. In summer, take the lift down for a quaff on the cafe's patio, or, veer right towards Teatre Grec and exit onto Passeig de Santa Madrona.
All that strenuous chin-stroking has earned you a jolly good feed, and jovial Venetian cucina Xemei, one of (if not the) sexiest Italians in town, is but a 3-min scoot round the corner. Arrive early to nab a chair under the red awning and indulge in tratt-style treats from slow-cooked goat to squid ink pasta. It’s even open on Sundays – a rarity in Barcelona – hallelujah!
Back on your culture crawl, fancy manse MNAC (Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya) highlights Catalan arts, spanning Romanesque to early C.20th, and is worth a quick peek for the views from shiner-diner Òleum alone. Down a few Cavas and skip down the steps out front...
Just to your left, the clean-lined Mies van der Rohe-imagined El Pabellón Alemán, is an absolute archi-buff must. A reconstruction of the pavilion originally built for the 1929 Barcelona International Exposition, this glass, steel and marble marvel is now home to the iconic Barcelona chair, occasional exhibits and special events.
If you still have the smarts for more art (we applaud you), then textile factory turned rotating contempo bunker CaixaForum is just across the road, as is its browse-worthy bookshop.
Now, eating is a serious business in the Catalan capital, but don’t stuff your pants in one sitting, rather, do as the locals do and indulge in the age-old custom of ‘pica-pica’. This gourmet bar-hop of sorts, combines grazing on small, punchy portions and diet-damning daily specials with a cheeky vermouth accompaniment.
Poble Sec’s Carrer Blai boasts more €1 tapas joints than you can shake a chorizo at, but our hands-down favourites are dim-lit, Art Deco-bent boîte Malamén, giving the traddy template a shake-up via mod twists and seasonal ingreds (just add super-niche vinos and craft beers); and cram-packed Quimet y Quimet, Senyor Quim’s popular, sublime and unusual ració concept (the carefully constructed montaditos lining the bar are da bomb).
Alternatively, if you’re overwhelmed by the choices, hook up with Context Travel for a three-hour education in eating, led by an epicurean expert or professional chef, and learn about how the historic tapa became what it is today via a tour of Poble Sec’s best foodie haunts. ¡Buen provecho!
As if we hadn’t already revealed enough of Barça's best kept secrets, here’s one last whopper... Whisper 'La Caseta' in your cab driver's ear, and up the hill and into the woods you go for barbecue and beers under the stars, plus live music (spring-summer) running the gamut from bossa nova to flamenco. Zero frills, maxi views and mucho fun!
For more neighbourhood guides and the lowdown on Barcelona's best bits, nab a copy of the LUXE Barcelona guide...
Chloe Jessica Payne
After spells spent in Mexico, Madrid, Lyon, São Paulo and Hong Kong, Chloe now lives in London with her husband and two muddy mongrels and is currently planning trips to Bruges, Paris, Alaska, SoCal, Romania and Reykjavik.
- Chloe LOVES... Baking, old movies, Graham Greene novels
- Chloe LOATHES... 4x4’s in London, visor-toting tourists, airport queuing
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