El Barcelonès – Greater BarcelonaApril 21, 2021
L’Hospitalet, Badalona, Santa Coloma and Sant Adrià
El Barcelonès comarca is effectively Greater Barcelona and apart from Barcelona Capital includes L’Hospitalet de Llobregat and Badalona – Catalonia’s second and third largest cities respectively – along with Sant Coloma de Gramenet and Sant Adrià de Besòs.
With a population of 2.5 million, a third of Catalans live jampacked into in this relatively small area.
Obviously, Barcelona City Centre is the main attraction for most visitors while much of the rest of the comarca appears to be just an urban sprawl.
However,if you live and work here you’ll find that each of the different municipalities has its own unique charm.
Still strongly working class, the beach and Forum area of Sant Adrià is well-worth visiting.
Badalona’s beach and old town are also very pleasant and the town has recently gained a boost having finally been connected to the city centre by the L9 and L10 metro lines.
There are some surprisingly nice walks in the hills behind Santa Coloma and I’ve always liked the area around the Ajuntament.
Hospitalet is technically the second largest city in Catalonia and despite recent modernisation, it definitely retains its unique character.
It’s pretty obvious from the map that the City of Barcelona dominates the Barcelonès comarca, and with 1.6 million inhabitants it dominates in terms of population too.
Besides Ciutat Vella and L’Eixample, the City of Barcelona contains a number of districts that were once separate villages – Gràcia, Sarrià, Sant Andreu and Sants immediately spring to mind.
In many respects, it’s hard to see how the rest of El Barcelonès escaped annexation by the capital at the end of the 19th century.
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Santa Coloma and Sant Adrià
Located well to the north of Barcelona City Centre, Sant Adrià del Besòs and Santa Coloma de Gramenet are at times almost indistinguishable from the neighbouring Barcelona Districts of Sant Martí and Sant Andreu.
With its power station and rundown areas, if you’re walking from La Verneda or El Besòs i El Maresme in the district of Sant Martí, I’ve never been clear where Barcelona finishes and Sant Adrià starts.
Although there’s a bit more of a break, the same goes for Santa Coloma as you approach from Bon Pastor in the district of Sant Andreu.
To me, at least, both these municipalities feel like Barcelona neighbourhoods, in part because the Barcelona metro stations of Besòs and Besòs Mar in Sant Adrià de Besòs and Santa Coloma and Fondo in Santa Coloma, have long been part of the Barcelona transport system.
The two towns grew rapidly in the 1960s as they absorbed massive numbers of immigrants coming from poorer regions of Spain to find work in Catalonia and to this day, both remain largely Spanish-speaking.
As I mentioned earlier, Sant Adrià’s main attraction is the beach and forum area and I’ve always liked the old part of Santa Coloma around the Ajuntament building.
Also located to the north of Barcelona, Badalona definitely feels like a different town and in terms of population is in fact Catalonia’s third largest municipality.
The fact that it’s got a beach and an old town means that it has a stronger sense of identity, and Badalona dates back to a Roman settlement known as Baetulo,
Until recently, you could only get there by the RENFE local train service and the stops on L4, L9 and L10 metro lines are relatively new additions, which have had improved transport connections between Barcelona and the dormitory neighbourhoods of Badalona massively.
However, when you’re in the hilly inland barris of Badalona, Barcelona seems a very long way away and the Serralada de Marina looks north to the comarca of El Maresme.
Once again, the town has absorbed large numbers of immigrants over the years and Badalona is one of the few municipalities in this part of Catalonia controlled by the right-wing Partido Popular.
I’ve got a few friends in the Gorg and Singuerlin neighbourhoods but for most people the main attraction of Badalona is a visit to the beach rounded off with a menu del dia along the seafront and a walk round the old town.
L’Hospitalet de Llobregat
With a population of over 250,000, L’Hospitalet should be an important city in its own right but it also has been sucked into the Greater Barcelona urban sprawl.
Located to the south of Barcelona and packed in between the Districts of Sants-Montjuïc and Les Corts and the towns of El Prat and Cornellà in El Baix Llobregat, to me at least the town been just another series of stops on the metro for as long as I can remember.
Whilst some areas are still quite rundown, there’s been a lot of investment in recent years in new shopping malls and conference centres, and the fact that Hospitalet now stages the World Mobile Congress is considered something of a coup.
Also some of older parts, such as Santa Eulalia, retain a strong sense of identity and the area around Carrer del Xiperet in particular has some lovely old buildings .
It seems likely that investment will continue in Hospitalet in the future as the cost of real estate in Barcelona is a real incentive for both the public administration and companies to relocate there.
This means that infrastructure and transport connections can only improve so the future looks quite bright for L’Hospitalet de Llobregat.
If you understand some Catalan, you can find up to date news about El Barcelonès on the Consell Comarcal del Barcelonès Website.