District of Sant AndreuApril 21, 2021
The Heart of the City
Most of the District of Sant Andreu is hidden behind the large blocks of flats that you see on your left as you drive into Barcelona along La Meridiana main road, and you might be forgiven for thinking that what lies behind them is just another part of the urban sprawl on the outskirts of the big city.
However, the buildings conceal a district with a fierce sense of its own history and identity that sees itself as something quite separate from the rest of Barcelona.
The district’s centre is Sant Andreu de Palomar, which whilst classified as a neighbourhood by the City Council, woe betide you if you refer it as anything less than a town or village when speaking to the locals.
This is the historic centre of a municipality of the same name, which in the 19th century covered an area as big as Barcelona itself, comprising what are now the districts of Sant Andreu and Nou Barris.
Further away from town, you will find the working class neighbourhood of Trinitat Vella trapped between La Meridiana and the River Besòs.
Also hugging the banks of the river are the slightly isolated Baró de Viver and Bon Pastor neighbourhoods.
Closer to town, we have La Sagrera, which was once part of Sant Martí, El Congrés i Els Indians on the Nou Barris side of La Meridiana and Navas.
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Sant Andreu de Palomar
The district’s historic centre starts at Plaça del Comerç hugging Carrer Gran as far as Fabra i Puig and is one of the nicest parts of Barcelona.
The old two and three storey houses are set on narrow tree-lined streets and surrounded by the administrative centre at Plaça Orfila and a library and recreational area at Can Fabra.
Carrer Gran is an excellent shopping street whilst the rambla along Fabra i Puig and Onze de Setembre has some great bars and restaurants and is a particularly pleasant place to sit out in summer.
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La Trinitat Vella
Separated from the rest of the district by the Ronda de Dalt and the Nus de la Trinitat, a small scale spaguetti junction that connects all the motorways and rings roads to the north of Barcelona, Trinitat Vella was jerry-built in the early 1950s to house immigrants arriving in Barcelona from the rest of Spain.
It still has a large immigrant population and as it was also home to the city’s juvenile prison until recently, the neighbourhood doesn’t have a great reputation.
Local facilities have greatly improved in recent years, though, and the area has a very strong sense of community but to be honest, it is a neighbourhood that is difficult to enthuse about..
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Baró de Viver
The tiny Baró de Viver neighbourhood was originally a Cases Barates, literally cheap Housing, Estate built at the end of the dictatorship of Miguel Primo de Rivera in 1929 to house new arrivals from other parts of Spain.
The Cases Barates have since been demolished and replaced with modern flats and Baró de Viver retains its working class atmosphere.
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Although much larger, Bon Pastor is the sister neighbourhood to Baró de Viver as it is also centred on a Cases Barates Estate built at the same time.
Surrounded by a factories and warehouses and cut off from Santa Coloma by the River Besòs, the neighbourhood’s strong Spanish-speaking and gitano population are very much a law unto themselves.
The Cases Barates are in process of demolition and replacement but the locals are not always keen to lose their heritage.
On the border with Sant Andreu de Palomar, La Maquinista shopping centre is one of the best in Barcelona and a complete renovation of the abandoned industrial areas is planned.
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Starting just the other side of Rambla Fabra i Puig, La Sagrera feels almost an extension of Sant Andreu de Palomar particularly if you follow Carrer Gran as it becomes Carrer de la Sagrera.
It does, however, have its own old part centred on the lovely porticoed Plaça Massades and is home to the Parc de la Pegaso.
The Hipercor hypermarket, site of an infamous ETA bombing in 1988, is located on La Meridiana, which divides La Sagrera in two.
On the other side is the disused Canòdrom greyhound track that is expected to become a contemporary art centre when funding is available.
The neighbourhood is also going to be home to Barcelona’s new high-speed AVE station taking trains north into France and the rest of Europe.
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El Congrés i Els Indians
El Congrés i Els Indians are two neighbourhoods both located on the other side of La Meridiana above La Sagrera.
El Congrés comprises standard inner city blocks and was built to house Spanish immigrant families as a commemoration of a Catholic congress held in Barcelona in 1953, which with 300,000 attendees was one of the most important religious events of its day.
The other part of the neighbourhood, Els Indians was built at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries by rich Barcelonans who had made their fortunes in the Americas.
However, very few fine houses remain and it is difficult to distinguish from El Congrés.
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Although it has always been part of Sant Andreu de Palomar, Navas feels much more akin to Clot to me, perhaps because my main reason for passing through is to turn into Carrer Mallorca and cross La Meridiana on my way to the Eixample.
The neighbourhood is now very ‘inner city’ but began life as the Cases del Gobernador Housing Project in the 1950s.
It has two main squares – Plaça d’Islandia and Plaça Ferran Reyes with its modern Sant Joan Bosco parish church.
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