What is La Barceloneta?
La Barceloneta is a charming seaside neighbourhood in Barcelona that was created in the mid-18th century for those left houseless by demolitions before the building of the nearby Ciutadella.
La Barceloneta History
La Barceloneta (or literally ‘Little Barcelona’) is one of the city’s most charming neighbourhoods. Its fishermen still unloading and auctioning their daily catch at sunset, this grid of streets and narrow alleyways has kept their local traditions alive for hundreds of years. Bordered by the Mediterranean, the neighbourhood still manages to escape the hustle and bustle of the big city.
The area was created in the mid-18th century to house those Barcelonans whose dwellings had been demolished to clear space in the Ribera neighbourhood for the Ciutadella, King Philip V’s large star-shaped fortress. Slowly but surely, workers and fishermen living in neighbouring areas began moving into La Barceloneta due to its proximity to the sea. By the 19th century metal, gas, and shipbuilding industries developed in the area, making La Barceloneta a solidly working-class neighbourhood. In the last hundred years, like many such neighbourhoods, the area has had to reckon more with the outside world.
In the 1930s, the city council created an aerial tramway line connecting La Barceloneta with Montjuïc Hill, making the neighbourhood Barcelona's own seaside resort. Beaches were renovated and given a new lease of life after 1992, following the Olympic Games. The Passeig Marítim (the waterfront promenade) and the port were remodelled; the Olympic Village, meanwhile, having played host to the world’s athletes became a cluster of restaurants and leisure attractions. Despite the area’s modernisation, the centre of the neighbourhood has kept its unique charm. Its narrow streets remain flanked by old buildings, churches, shops, and restaurants; their façades have darkened from the Mediterranean salt in the air, preserving the appearance they probably had hundreds of years ago.
Yet as the area opened up to the world, it brought about a change in La Barceloneta’s way of life. Originally a working-class, fishing neighbourhood, the area now survives on tourism. Sadly but typically, the rapid gentrification of La Barceloneta has created many challenges for residents: property speculation and over-intensive tourism have exacerbated inequalities. The port is the best proof of the economic contrast in the area. Residents summarise acidly that while luxury yachts arrive, life-long residents are evicted. Like most Spaniards, though, residents have taken on these challenges in their stride, while fighting to preserve their traditional calendar customs and general way of life.
At Easter, neighbours organise a parade called the ‘colla portadora de gigantes’, or the ‘line of carried giants’. Volunteers carry papier maché giants on their shoulders, representing traditional characters from the neighbourhood such as fishermen, fishmongers, and dockers. Every September, the neighbourhood comes to life as it celebrates La Barceloneta’s patron saint, Saint Michael. Residents organise a yearly festival including concerts of traditional Sardana (a Catalonian dance) and the ‘Canó’ (or ‘Cannon’) parade, where a resident dresses up as a Napoleonic general and throws out sweets for the children to fetch. Every time his cannon goes off, the participants take the opportunity to scoop up scattered sweets. At night, ‘correfocs’ (or 'fire runners') light up the streets as participants dressed as devils chase other revellers with flares.
For those arriving at La Barceloneta at other times of the year, attractions include the area’s beaches, among the largest and most renowned in the city. You’ll find in La Barceloneta a beautiful, peaceful atmosphere, perfumed everywhere with the refreshing scent of the Mediterranean Sea. Defiantly clinging to its traditional community spirit, this is a place for anyone who wishes to experience the everyday Barcelona.
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