El Poble Sec

Between Montjuic and Barcelona City Centre

Separated from El Raval by El Paral.lel, El Poble Sec is a long thin neighbourhood that runs along the foot of Montjuïc Mountain.

Defined by Passeig de Josep Carner and the Port at one end and Carrer de Lleida, the Poble Sec is a working class barri in an envidiable location on the edge of Barcelona City Centre.

The area began to be developed in 1858, just a year before the plan for the Eixample was approved, and throughout the second half of the 19th century three workers' barris were built -  França Xica, Santa Madrona and les Hortes de Sant Bertran - which became known generically as Poble Sec.

The area was originally an agricultural area between the mountain and the city walls that encircled El Raval and the rest of Barcelona's Old City.


Getting to Know El Poble Sec

After Barcelona's capitulation to the Castilians in the War of the Spanish Succession in 1714, the area was declared a military zone and building was prohibited so as not to obstruct the cannon balls fired at the city of Barcelona from the Spanish-controlled Castle on Montjuïc.

However, its proximity to the Port meant that the area began to be industrialised throughout the early 19th century and coal deposits for the port and areas for drying textiles were located here, and similarly,
the stone quarry on Montjuic was exploited for city building projects.

Despite its grid format, the neighbourhood was urbanised in a rather disorganised fashion and the name Poble Sec, which means Dry Village, came about because the barri had no running water until 1894.

Electric light was installed along El Paral.lel in 1882 and by the early 20th century, the area was a centre of nightlife with cabarets, theatres and café-concert halls as well as large number of brothels.

These days the prostitutes are not quite as visible but celebrated Barcelona Theatres, such as El Molino, Teatre Apolo, Teatre Victoria, Teatre Condal and many others, remain symbols of a gayer more debauched Barcelona.

In fact, El Paral.lel remains a centre for Barcelona nightlife and today is home to some of the city's best music venues, including Sala Apolo and BARTS.

The residential part of El Poble Sec, though, has always been a working-class destination for immigrants.

In the lead up to the 1929 Universal Exposition shanty towns grew up on this side of Montjuic to house new arrivals who had come to work on the building of the Metro.

Given its proximity to the City Centre, the barri received mass immigration from other parts of Spain in the 1940s and 1950s and to this day Poble Sec retains its multicultural atmosphere as newcomers arrive from Latin America and Asia.

Despite its hills, it's a good place to live and retains a strong identity as a working class Barcelona neighbourhood.

Obviously, being so close to the mountain of Montjuïc there are plenty of green spaces.

I particularly like the Parc del Mirador de Poble Sec on the mountain and closer to town the Jardins de les Tres Xemeneies provides a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of the city centre.

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