Eixample, the unique Barcelona neighborhood situated roughly between Placa Catalunya and Diagonal, is any architecture lover’s top destination in the city. Even if you are not that interested in building design, it is a sight not to be missed by anyone visiting Barcelona.
Characterized by its fabulous large Art Nouveau (or its Spanish equivalent, modernismo) era buildings and a symmetrical rectangular structure, Eixample does not have any of the narrow, dark and twisting streets otherwise so typical of Barcelona. The hundreds of amazing early 20th century houses were made with such detail and beauty that even after countless visits to the neighborhood, Eixample will still manage to take your breath away.
It shows an era so different, yet so modern in the striking details and bright colours. Looking at the extensive floral ornaments, balconies and meticulously painted entrances, you can only try to guess the amount of work hours spent on these masterpieces.
But who are the people behind the uniqueness of this “outdoor museum” made of houses? Eixample was built largely for the Catalan bourgeoisie during the Art Nouveau phase, and its main creators were Ildefonso Cerdá and Antoni Rovira i Trias. The imaginative and floral yet geometrical style makes Eixample different from corresponding areas in other countries.
The area’s original planning took into consideration the health and well-being of the inhabitants, since the engineer Cerdá was deeply interested in this theme. The idea was that Eixample would be a space that respects the human need for space, green areas and light, and where sanitary issues and the flow of goods and traffic would be easy. However, the early planning did not proceed as such, and the final plan for Eixample was made by the architect Rovira i Trias.
The brightest – and most peculiar – gems of the modernista style in Eixample are without a doubt the fascinating creations of Antoni Gaudí. These include Passeig de Gràcia’s Casa Batlló and La Pedrera, two of the biggest tourist spots in the city. However, there is a lot more to be seen in this neighborhood, as practically all of it is worthy of closer examination. Eixample stretches far to the left and right of Passeig de Gràcia.
On the left side, on the pedestrian street Carrer d’Enric Granados, you can sit in the many cafeterias and take your time looking at this historically and visually priceless neighborhood. One tip can be given concerning sightseeing in Eixample: the touristic bus. This may be too cliché for some, but it actually offers the best views of this enchanting old world, since rooftops are often the most idyllic parts of Eixample’s buildings.