The modern Barcelona was born in Eixample, which literally means ‘expansion’. Eixample was the result of one of the most beautiful and prosperous periods in the history of Barcelona when in the mid-19th century the city walls were demolished and the city broke with its medieval past. The square street pattern of Ildefons Cerdà and the beautiful Art Nouveau buildings (here known as ‘Modernisme Català’) are the main features of Eixample.

If you want to get to know this district, continue reading in this guide about Eixample, with all kinds of useful information, interesting sights, and the best local tips.

Why should you visit Eixample?

To see the most Modernista-style buildings per square meter, to enjoy walking on one of its many promenades, and to enjoy shopping and eating at some of the best addresses in the city. And, of course, to admire the icon of Barcelona; the Sagrada Família.

Where is Eixample located?

The Eixample district borders Ciutat Vella (the old center) and spreads across the central plain of Barcelona. Roughly, Eixample is divided into two parts: left (towards the Llobregat river) and right (towards the Besòs river), with Passeig de Gràcia in the middle.

Other important thoroughfares in the neighborhood are Avinguda Diagonal, Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes, and Passeig de Sant Joan.

Due to its central location, Eixample is well connected to the rest of the city via the bus and metro network, but Eixample is also easily navigable by bicycle: there are quite a lot of bike lanes here, and it is mainly flat.

The best metro stops to further explore the neighborhood are Passeig de Gràcia (L2, L3, and L4) and Sagrada Família (L2 and L5).

If you are coming from Barcelona airport, the easiest way is to use the Aerobús shuttle buses that take you from the airport to Plaça Catalunya, and from there take the metro to your final destination. You can also travel by metro from the airport to Eixample with a few transfers, but this will probably take longer.

Eixample - Symbolen van Barcelona

Eixample Neighborhood by Neighborhood

Eixample is formed by the following barris (neighborhoods): L’Antiga Esquerra De L’Eixample | La Nova Esquerra De L’Eixample | Dreta De L’Eixample | El Fort Pienc | Sagrada Família | Sant Antoni. It is a vibrant neighborhood with numerous attractions, especially in the field of architecture. Eixample also has an extensive hospitality and shopping offer, with some of the city’s chicest addresses.

L’Antiga Esquerra de l’Eixample: the University Building and Gayxample

L’Antiga Esquerra de l’Eixample encompasses the first built part of the neighborhood, which was already well populated in the late 19th century. The original core consists of the church of Sant Josep Oriol, between the streets Diputació and Urgell, and the University Building at Plaça de la Universitat.

From there, the neighborhood was developed over the railway line of the ferrocarrils, around the small town of Ninot, which arose in the shelter of a popular tavern where a doll was displayed (hence the name ‘ninot’, Catalan for doll).

The establishment of the Hospital Clínic, the Facultat de Medicina (Medical School), and the Mercat del Ninot, served to further improve the area and attract real estate developers in the 1930s.

Currently, the neighborhood has grown into the main entertainment and residential center of the city’s homosexual community and a reference for the whole world. The part of Eixample between the streets Balmes, Calabria, Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes, and Provença is also colloquially called Gayxample because of the large offer of gay-friendly bars, clubs, shops, and hotels. They are easy to recognize from the outside by the rainbow flags.

The pedestrian-friendly Carrer d’Enric Granados is also one of the locals’ favorite places to walk and sit on the terrace.

L'Antiga Esquerra de l'Eixample - Eixample Barcelona
The University Building

La Nova Esquerra de l’Eixample: The New Section

Before La Nova Esquerra de l’Eixample even existed, this area already housed the Can Batlló factory (now the Escola Industrial school building), the La Model prison (now closed), and the L’Escorxador slaughterhouse (now the Joan Miró Park). The neighborhood then grew with the arrival of workers for the 1929 World Fair, and was named La Nova Esquerra de l’Eixample, the new section of Eixample.

La Nova Esquerra de l’Eixample also has remarkable buildings such as Casa Golferichs by Rubió i Bellver, built as a religious school and now a community center, the old Casa de la Lactància by Pere Falqués, intended as a breastfeeding institution, and Casa Fajol (or Casa Papallona) by Josep Graner i Prat, crowned by a beautiful butterfly (hence its nickname ‘papallona’, Catalan for butterfly).

But the biggest highlight is undoubtedly the old bullfighting arena Las Arenas, now transformed into a modern shopping center with a stunning 360-degree observation deck on top.

La Nova Esquerra de l'Eixample - Eixample Barcelona
Escola Industrial

El Fort Pienc: The Old Station District

Since its inception, Fort Pienc has been a neighborhood of many industrial workers. The arrival of the train station to Lleida, at the current Estació del Nord, meant that many railway workers settled here.

The old train station has now been replaced by a bus station, but its neoclassical façade has thankfully been preserved.

The wide and sunny promenade Passeig de Sant Joan is the main meeting point for residents. In the neighborhood, you also find two important cultural temples: the Teatre Nacional de Catalunya (TNC) and the concert hall L’Auditori.

Other highlights include the old bullfighting arena La Monumental, the old power plant Central Catalana d’Electricitat, Casa Enric Laplana, and the churches and convent building of Saleses.

Fort Pienc is now also considered the Chinatown of Barcelona, due to the large Chinese community that has settled here, with its Chinese shops and restaurants. For example, they celebrate the traditional Chinese New Year every February in Parc de l’Estació Nord.

Passeig de Sant Joan

La Sagrada Família: The Magic of Gaudí

The tall towers and cranes of the Sagrada Família, the unfinished basilica of Antoni Gaudí, give a unique character to this neighborhood, formerly known as El Poblet.

El Poblet was for many years an agricultural area with a small group of low houses around the current Carrer València.

It was not until the early 20th century that the area grew due to the workers who came to work in the nearby industries, such as the Damm beer brand.

But without a doubt, the Sagrada Família is the star of the neighborhood. Millions of people visit the Sagrada Família every year, to see, photograph, and admire it.

The avenue Avinguda de Gaudí connects the Sagrada Família with another masterpiece of Catalan modernist architecture, the Hospital de Sant Pau, by Lluís Domènech i Montaner. Both buildings have been declared World Heritage Sites by UNESCO.

La Sagrada Família - Eixample Barcelona
La Sagrada Família

La Dreta de l’Eixample: Catalan Modernism

La Dreta De L’Eixample is known for its modernist buildings constructed by the Catalan bourgeoisie from the late 19th century. This is also the area where Ildefons Cerdà’s project to expand the city beyond the city walls began.

The so-called “Quadrat d’Or” (‘Golden Quadrant’), between Carrer Aribau and Passeig de Sant Joan, houses some of the most beautiful buildings in Barcelona’s Modernista style such as Casa Amatller, Casa Batlló, Casa Calvet, Casa Comalat, Casa Lleó Morera, and Casa Terradas (Casa de les Punxes).

Today, Passeig de Gràcia, along with Rambla de Catalunya and Mercat de la Concepció, is the center of the district’s commercial activities. The city’s epicenter, Plaça Catalunya, is also located here.

Interestingly, Plaça Catalunya was not envisaged in Cerdà’s plan. This oversight was corrected over time: its position as a hinge between l’Eixample and the old city quickly positioned Plaça Catalunya as the natural center of the city, a role that has been strengthened over the years.

Passeig de Gràcia

Sant Antoni: Among the Hipsters

Sant Antoni, located between Avinguda Paral.lel and Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes, rapidly grew like a spider web around its market, Mercat de Sant Antoni, where workers from El Raval would shop.

The neighborhood is named after the monastery that stood in the old walled Barcelona next to the entrance of El Raval.

Its past as a route for traders and animal feeders is still visible in the many commercial activities and during the Tres Tombs festival when animals are blessed in the church of the Escolapis on Ronda de Sant Pere.

Avinguda Mistral is now the epicenter of life in the barri, quickly becoming one of Barcelona’s hippest parts. Streets such as Carrer del Parlament and Avinguda Paral.lel now gather some of the city’s best and trendiest restaurants and are a must-see for foodies, while Ronda de Sant Antoni contains most commercial activities.

On Ronda de Sant Antoni lies the old factory of the Catalan beer brand Moritz, where you can now go for tastings and tours.

Sant Antoni - Eixample Barcelona
Sant Antoni

Guide to Eixample

Eixample is like a beautiful open-air museum where you can entertain yourself for hours. From the most beautiful architectural gems to the coolest shops and trendiest dining spots. To get to know the neighborhood like a real local, follow my tips! Visit the main attractions, eat at the trendiest eateries, shop in the most beautiful streets, and enjoy Catalan Modernism while walking.

Essential Attractions in Eixample

Since Eixample was developed in the late 19th century, it houses most buildings from Catalan Modernism, the art movement of that time, and is a fine example of planned urban development, with a chessboard pattern of straight and wide streets. The following attractions should not be missed.

  • Sagrada Família: The icon of Barcelona and Gaudí’s masterpiece, which you must visit both outside and inside.
  • Passeig de Gràcia: Barcelona’s Champs-Élysées is a paradise for shoppers. From luxury brands such as Chanel and Dior to affordable chains like Zara, Mango, and H&M. And in between, some of the most beautiful modernist buildings such as Casa Milà, Casa Lleó i Morera, Casa Batlló, and Casa Amatller, in the so-called ‘illa de la discòrdia’.
  • Universitat de Barcelona (UB): The original building of the University in Barcelona, executed in neo-Romanesque style in 1882 by architect Elies Rogent, is one of my favorite places to escape the bustle of Eixample.
  • La Carboneria: The first and thus the oldest building of l’Eixample!
  • Mercat de Sant Antoni: This beautiful market hall, designed in 1882 by Antoni Rovira i Trias. During the week, you can find stalls outside the market selling all sorts of goods, from clothing and shoes to housewares, while inside the market hall, you will find the freshest vegetables, fruits, fish, and meat. On Sundays, the emblematic second-hand market for books and stamps opens. Undoubtedly one of the most beloved places for collectors.
  • Jardins de Palau Robert: These beautifully landscaped city gardens are a good example of the life of the Catalan bourgeoisie in the late 19th century. The adjacent Palau Robert was the house of the marquis and businessman Robert Robert i Surís, which now serves as the tourist office for Catalonia.
  • Casa Terrades (Casa de les Punxes): This castle-like building, popularly known as the House of Points, by Catalan architect Josep Puig i Cadafalch, is now open as a museum. Near Casa Terrades are the equally impressive Palau Baró de Quadras and Palau Macaya, by the same architect.
  • La Monumental: The old bullfighting arena is a beautiful building constructed in 1914 in Neo-Mudéjar style by Manuel Raspall i Mallol.
  • Parc de Joan Miró: This quiet park at the foot of the Las Arenas shopping center houses Miró’s iconic sculpture ‘Woman and Bird’.
  • Las Arenas: Although this old bullfighting arena now houses a shopping center, the original details of its facade have been preserved. The view from the observation deck atop the arena is a must-see.
Casa Terrades - Wandelroute in Eixample Barcelona
Casa Terrades (Casa de les Punxes)

Fun Things to Do in Eixample

In Eixample, you quickly come into contact with the locals. Apart from the tourist hotspots like Sagrada Família, Casa Milà, and Casa Batlló, the rest of the neighborhood is largely untouched by tourism. I offer you a number of suggestions to explore Eixample and experience it like a local.

  • Follow the Ruta del Modernisme: a special route along the most important buildings in Modernist style and the Museu del Modernisme, with the world-famous Sagrada Família as the cherry on top. And to finish off all the beautiful sightseeing, have a meal at Café de la Pedrera, located at the bottom of Casa Milà and just as impressive as the rest of the house.
  • Beautiful Promenades: Eixample has many beautiful promenades, from the chic Passeig de Gràcia to the quiet and pedestrian-friendly Carrer Enric Granados. Other favorites of mine are Rambla de Catalunya, Passeig de Sant Joan, Ronda de Sant Antoni, Avinguda Gaudí, and Avinguda Diagonal.
  • Shop Among the Locals: visit, for example, Mercat de Sant Antoni on a Sunday, when the Mercat Dominical takes place, or go to Encants Nous to score nice items for not too much money. Also, Rambla de Catalunya is a pleasant promenade with numerous shops where you will find fewer tourists than on the nearby Passeig de Gràcia.
  • Delicious Food: on the foodiest streets of Barcelona, Carrer del Parlament and Passeig de Sant Joan, you can enjoy delicious meals at one of its many trendy eateries. But other places in the neighborhood also definitely deserve your attention. For example, you can find excellent restaurants for dining out at Passatge de la Concepció and Carrer Enric Granados. In Eixample, you will also find most Michelin-starred restaurants, such as Disfrutar (by Eduard Xatruch, Oriol Castro, and Mateu Casañas), Tickets (by Ferran Adrià), Moments (by Carme Ruscalleda and Raül Balam), Gaig (by Carles Gaig), and Celéri (by Xavier Pellicer). And in Fort Pienc, you can enjoy authentic Chinese cuisine at restaurants like Da Zhong and Chen Ji.
  • Drink Vermut in Sant Antoni: like the locals do, enjoy an aperitif at one of the many bars and bodegas in the trendy Sant Antoni neighborhood, such as Bodega Els Sortidors del Parlament. The barri Sant Antoni was one of the pioneers in making vermut trendy again and here you will find some of the best bars to taste it!
  • Taste Craft Beer: in Eixample, you will find a high concentration of cervecerías where high-quality craft beer is served, such as BierCab, NaparBCN, and Garage Beer Co. Two famous breweries from Barcelona, Damm and Moritz, originally had their factories in the Eixample neighborhood. These old factories now serve as museums and spaces for beer tastings.
  • Exploring the Courtyards of l’Eixample: In the somewhat busy Eixample, where there are few parks, there are hidden city gardens and squares in the courtyards of some buildings open to the public. An oasis of tranquility for the residents. One of the nicest courtyards is that of the Jardins de la Torre de les Aigües, where a city beach opens in the summer.
  • Indulging in Luxury: From the luxury boutiques and international fashion brands on Passeig de Gràcia to the emblematic five-star hotels Majestic and Palace, and chef-worthy restaurants Tickets, Disfrutar, and Moments. And don’t forget to pamper yourself at one of the many spas and beauty addresses on Rambla de Catalunya and Passeig de Gràcia.
  • Discovering Gayxample: The area between the streets Balmes, Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes, Comte d’Urgell, and Aragó is known as the ‘pink neighborhood’. Here you will find most shops, bars, and clubs catering to the gay audience. Well-known names such as the gay-friendly hotel Axel and nightclub Sala Arena are located here.

With Kids in l’Eixample

L’Eixample is a very child-friendly district. It offers many options for families to enjoy the outdoors: from playgrounds and kid-friendly restaurants to numerous shops and very interesting museums.

For example, take your kids to the Egypt museum or surprise them with the works of Gaudí on Passeig de Gràcia.

A beautiful walk can be done on Passeig de Sant Joan, where many playgrounds are located and lovely restaurants with terraces can be found.

Other fun playgrounds include Jardins d’Emma, Jardins de Laura Albéniz, and Parc de Joan Miró. Or take them to the indoor playground El Cau in bad weather.

For a meal, head to Lilo Brunch, known for its large cuddly bears. A tasty treat for the kids can be found at Boldú, a popular bakery in Barcelona known for its man-shaped donuts. Also, the ice creams from DelaCrem are delicious.

Fun shopping with the kids includes the large Lego store on Passeig de Gràcia and the books and toy store of Llibreria Alemanya Fabre.

Events in Eixample

Eixample is also the location for various fun events throughout the year. Below I have summarized some of the most important and fun events.

  • Tres Tombs de Sant Antoni: Every January, the ‘three rounds’ festival is held in Sant Antoni, where animals are blessed.
  • Passejada amb barret: At the end of April, Barcelona’s annual hat parade is held on Rambla de Catalunya.
  • Tapantoni: In spring, the tapas tour ‘Tapantoni’ is held in the bars of Sant Antoni.
  • La Pedrera ‘Nits d’Estiu’: Between June and September, various jazz concerts are held on the roof of Gaudí’s Casa Milà (La Pedrera).
  • Casa Batlló ‘Nis Màgiques’: Between June and October, various concerts are held on the roof of Gaudí’s Casa Batlló for an unforgettable evening.
  • Casa de les Punxes ‘Nits amb ritme’: The musical summer evenings with jazz music on the roof of Casa de les Punxes take place between June and September.
  • Barcelona Shopping Night: Just before the Christmas rush begins, a shopping evening is organized on Barcelona’s most luxurious street, Passeig de Gràcia.

Staying in Eixample

Eixample is the perfect base during a city trip, especially if you want to avoid the more touristy old center.

Eating in Eixample

As mentioned above, Eixample has some of the best restaurants in Barcelona. From hip cafes to Michelin-starred restaurants. Some of my favorite dining spots in Eixample are listed below.

Coffee and Bakeries in l’Eixample

  • La Donutería (Carrer del Parlament, 20): For authentic and delicious donuts.
  • Sirvent (Ronda de Sant Pau, 67): A popular address among locals for tasty horchata (almond milk) and other sweets.
  • Boldú (Carrer de Provença, 233): A bakery where you can buy bread and other sweets. Be sure to try their famous bolduman!

Lunch Spots in l’Eixample

  • Green & Berry (Carrer d’Enric Granados, 153): Vegan and healthy hotspot on the beautiful Carrer d’Enric Granados.
  • Brunch & Cake (Carrer d’Enric Granados, 19): A popular brunch spot where you can also eat delicious cakes and cupcakes.
  • Hammock Juice Station (Carrer de Mallorca, 308): For an Instagram-worthy lunch or brunch with delicious juices.

Restaurants in l’Eixample

  • La Cuina d’en Garriga (Carrer del Consell de Cent, 308): A delightful restaurant with local products. They also have a shop where you can buy their products.
  • El Nacional (Passeig de Gràcia, 24 Bis): The largest hospitality complex in Spain and a perfect place to get acquainted with Spanish gastronomy.
  • Parking Pizza (Carrer de Londres, 98): A trendy spot for some of the tastiest pizzas in the city.

Tapas Bars in l’Eixample

  • Bar El Velódromo (Carrer de Muntaner, 213): One of my favorite bars for tapas. Superb ambiance and retro decor.
  • La Flauta (Carrer d’Aribau, 23): A classic among locals that’s always packed!
  • Paco Meralgo (Carrer de Muntaner, 17): For more refined tapas in a modern setting.

Drinks and Nightlife in Eixample

Eixample has some of the chicest addresses in the city for going out, as well as numerous cool cocktail bars and breweries! In the Gayxample area, there are also many bars and clubs for the gay audience, recognizable from the outside by the rainbow flags. Some nightlife tips in Eixample include:

  • Ideal Cocktail Bar (Carrer d’Aribau, 89): A cocktail bar for connoisseurs with a long history (opened since 1931).
  • Speakeasy (Carrer d’Aribau, 162): Barcelona’s first secret restaurant also has a very good and chic cocktail bar.
  • Biercab (Carrer de Muntaner, 55): An impressive bar with various types of beers. A must for beer lovers!