The Eixample is a large district of Barcelona located north of Plaça Catalunya, stretching along both sides of the main street Passeig de Grácia. The word eixample means “extension” in Catalan. The district received its name because of its history of origin as a newer part of the city, which emerged from behind the walls of the old Gothic quarter.
It was designed by Ildefonso Cerdá Suñer, a Spanish engineer and town planner. The architect’s most important objective was to improve living conditions, hygiene and transport in the city. The houses form square neighbourhoods called “illes” or “manzanas”, creating in the middle a green courtyard isolated from the hustle and bustle for the inhabitants. The whole of the Eixample is very spacious and incredibly orderly. From an aerial viewpoint, it looks like a huge chessboard.
The centre of the Eixample is the so-called “Golden Square”, located between Passeig de Gracia, Carrer d’Aribau and Passeig de Sant Joan, which houses the most beautiful Art Nouveau buildings.
The district was built from scratch by great architects. The three most famous are probably Antoni Gaudi, already world-famous, but also the amazing Lluís Domènech and Montaner, known for buildings such as the Sant Pau hospital or the Palau de la Musica Catalana, and Josep Puig and Cadafalch. The latter created, among other things, the Casa Marti, which houses the famous restaurant Els Quatre Gats, where all of Barcelona’s artistic bohemia used to meet. The diversity and genius of these three artists can be seen in one place on the Passeig da Gràcia, where three buildings stand side by side: the Casa Batllo designed by Gaudi, the Casa Lleó Morera created by Luís Domènech and Montaner and the Casa Amatller, the work of Josep Puig and Cadafalch. The place is called “Manzana de la Discordia”, a play on words, since manzana means both neighbourhood and apple in Spanish, which can be translated as “apple of discord”.
It is also worth going to the nearby Avinguda Diagonal to see the recently opened Casa de les Punxes, designed by Cadafalch, and the Casa Comalat by Salvador Valeri and Pupurull, which was inspired by Gaudi’s work.
The beating heart of the Eixample is undoubtedly the Sagrada Familia basilica, designed by Gaudi. Heading north of the basilica, along the charming Avinguda de Gaudí promenade, you will come across another gem of Art Nouveau. It is located here, designed by Lluís Domènech and Montaner and is the Hospital de Sant Pau. The hospital is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and should not be missed.
In addition to its wonderful Art Nouveau architecture, the Eixample is full of fashion shops and boutiques, as well as pubs, bars and great restaurants. There are also some excellent tapas bars in the area.