El Poblenou | Barcelona Bus Turístic

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El Poblenou

An old industrial district transformed into a showcase for innovation

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The district once referred to as ‘Catalan Manchester’ has given way to an open, quiet seaside district that fosters innovation and creativity. The Poblenou district, the city’s largest industrial area in the 19th century, was completely overhauled for the Barcelona ’92 Olympic Games and it is now undergoing another artistic revolution.

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Why visit the Poblenou district?

The origins of Poblenou date back to the old settlement of Sant Martí de Provençals around a marsh area, whose wetland lagoons and Juncus rushes have lent their names to streets in the area such as Carrer de la Llacuna and Carrer del Joncar. In the 17th and 18th centuries its abundance of water, large open spaces and cheap land made it an ideal location for bleaching fields, where fabrics were boiled, bleached and dried. In the mid-19th century steam-powered factories rose up and were subsequently transformed into electricity-powered facilities. At the end of the 19th century, Poblenou was home to the greatest industrial concentration in Catalonia, which led to its nickname of ‘Catalan Manchester’.

In the 20th century, the district, which runs from the extreme right of Avinguda Diagonal down to the sea, consolidated its status as an industrial zone and also as a residential area thanks to a significant demographic increase. In the 1960s there was an intense deindustrialisation process that led to numerous factories being abandoned and the consequent availability of large plots. The loft apartments, studios, workshops, warehouses and corporate headquarters into which they were converted can be found alongside the apartment buildings built in the 19th and 20th centuries on and around the district’s central artery La Rambla del Poblenou.

The 1992 Olympic Games marked the start of the district’s major transformation. An area of train tracks was chosen for the construction of the Olympic Village and the Olympic Port, and the seafront was regenerated. Subsequently, in the early 21st century, Barcelona City Council implemented the 22@ project, an ambitious urban transformation plan whose objective was to convert 200 hectares of industrial land into an innovative district with a strategic concentration of knowledge society activities.

In the early years of the 21st century the district was remodelled thanks to the construction of new, modern buildings like Torre Glòries and the Design Museum of Barcelona and the renovation and repurposing of old buildings, such as the Palo Alto artistic colony. In fact, in recent years, the district has developed this creative aspect thanks to the appearance of workshops, alternative galleries, audiovisual production companies, concert halls, architecture studios, dance companies, advertising agencies, furniture shops, showrooms, artistic associations, boutique hotels, start-ups, creative schools, and many others, and it has established itself as Barcelona’s new centre for alternative arts and culture.

Now in Poblenou you can enjoy its beaches, museums and restaurants, stroll along La Rambla del Poblenou, admire restored factories and even see funeral art at its cemetery, Barcelona’s oldest, where many of the city’s most illustrious citizens are buried.


How do you get to the Poblenou district?

Hop off at the Poblenou stop on the Green Route of Barcelona Bus Turístic to explore the district.


For the most curious of you

  • Did you know? In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Poblenou was the centre of Barcelona’s graffiti culture and even now abandoned buildings and factories are the perfect canvas for spray-can artists.
  • Local’s tip: Poblenou is a district that should be explored in your own good time. Strolling along its streets you will find food trucks, an aerial dance centre, shops that specialise in Scandinavian designs from the 1960s, artist’s studios, craft beer bars and charismatic restaurants.
  • A must: To discover the trendiest area of Barcelona and a cauldron of new ideas.