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This Barcelona barrio has been named the ‘world’s coolest’ in 2020

Time Out recently announced its pick for 'The world’s coolest neighbourhoods 2020' and has named Barcelona’s Eixample Esquerra as number one.

This Barcelona barrio has been named the 'world’s coolest' in 2020
Photo: Oh-Barcelona.com/Flickr

Esquerra de l’Eixample is the left side of the Eixample neighbourhood, stretching west from Passeig de Gràcia until it reaches the areas of Hospital Clinic and Sants.

The publisher said “This year of all years, it’s Esquerra de l’Eixample that points the way toward a future Barcelona where locals, not tourists, rule the roost”.

Time Out described several reasons that Eixample Esquerra was picked this year with the most important being that during Barcelona’s strict lockdown, the inner courtyards in the neighbourhood “became the focal points for the city’s energy – as in the pop-up Hidrogel Sessions, in which residents dressed up in costumes and organised mass dance parties from their balconies”.

The publisher also talked about the fact that the barrio was the centre for the Mutual Support Network, which was created to help the most vulnerable during the Covid-19 crisis, and that local chef Ada Parellada started cooking for health workers.

Eixample Esquerra. Photo: Oh-Barcelona.com/Flickr

But, the neighbourhood is not only known for its social projects during the pandemic. Long before this, Eixample Esquerra was known (and still is) as Gayxample, because of its gay friendly atmosphere and number of LGBTQ+ businesses that have been set up here.

Gayexample sits at the heart of Eixample Esquerra and includes the area in between Carrer Balmes, Gran Vía de Les Corts Catalanes, Carrer de Comte d’Urgell and Carrer d’Aragó.

The Eixample neighbourhood is also one of the most attractive in the city, known for its grand Catalan Modernista architecture. Apartment blocks are tall and elegant, often adorned with typical Modernista elements such as bright floral patterns, ornate window trimmings and fancy wrought-iron balconies. Don't forget to look up, when walking around the neighbourhood. 

Where to stay

Axel Hotel – Axel Hotel was the first gay business to set up in the area and launched the start of Gayexample. The hotel is fun and flamboyant with chic interior design, and describes itself as ‘heterofriendly’. It also boasts a rooftop pool and bar area, which plays host to numerous wild parties. 

Hotel Axel Barcelona. Photo: Axelhotels

Where to drink

Dietrich – One of the most famous gay bars in the barrio, Dietrich is a Gayexample classic with a sophisticated design, as well as cabaret-style shows. 

Brilli Brilli – One of Gayexample's most popular cocktail bars, Brilli Brilli also hosts late night drag queen shows. 

Gingin Gay Bar – Across the road from the Axel Hotel, Gingin is a fun and lively hangout spot. As the name suggests, it specialises in gin and tonics. 

Where to eat 

Boraz – This smart fusion restaurant serves beautifully presented dishes, pairing local Catalan ingredients with Japanese and Mexican style cooking. Think prawn dim sum with butifarra (Catalan sausage), cod fillet with noodles and seafood pesto or pork taco made with blue corn. 

Semproniana – Chef Ada Parellada's restaurant is housed in an old publishing house and book shop and is full of colour, knick knacks, history and mismatched furniture. Dishes focus on local Catalan ingredients and include things such as octopus with spicy vegetables, black rice and pasta shells filled with black pudding. 

What to see

Mercat del Ninot. Photo: Jordiferrer/Wikicommons

Surprisingly for a barrio that has been named 'World's Coolest' there are very few actual sites for visitors to see. Here it's more about the atmosphere, the businesses and the clientele than anything else. A few places that should be on your radar however are Fábrica Lehmann, Espai Germanetes and the Mercat del Ninot. 

Fábrica Lehmann is set in the patio of an old factory and features 20 different workshops and creative spaces. It occasionally holds various open days and events, while Espai Germanetes is an urban garden, where various social projects take place. Lastly, if you're looking for somewhere to shop and pick up some local Catalan ingredients, then the barrio's Ninot market is the place to go. 

In 2018, Time Out named Madrid’s barrio of Embajadores as the world’s coolest.

 

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MOVING TO SPAIN

How to find temporary accommodation in Spain when you first arrive

One of the most common questions people moving to Spain ask is where they can rent temporary accommodation while looking for somewhere more permanent. This can be particularly tricky, but we've found some of the best places to look.

How to find temporary accommodation in Spain when you first arrive

So you’ve sorted out your visas, you’ve done all your packing and have either sold or moved out of your home, but when you arrive in Spain you’re not exactly sure where you’re going to stay.  

Of course, it’s not the best idea to sign a contract ahead of time for a more permanent place before you’ve actually seen it in person. Photos don’t always accurately represent what the house or apartment looks like in reality and you won’t really be able to get a feel for the neighbourhood without being there. 

On top of this, rental scams are rife in some places in Spain, particularly in the bigger more popular cities like Barcelona. Often people will place an ad (which usually looks too good to be true) and get you to wire over a deposit to secure it in advance, but here’s the catch – the place doesn’t usually exist.

This is why it’s important to never hand over money to secure a place to live in Spain before you’ve actually seen it in person and you can get the keys as soon as you sign the contract.

But, finding a place to live in a new country can be difficult and it can take time, so while you look for somewhere, you’re going to need temporary accommodation for a couple of months. This can be tricky too because often temporary accommodation is geared towards tourists and you’ll be paying tourist prices too.

While Idealista and Fotocasa are two of the most popular sites to look for accommodation in Spain, when you only want somewhere for a couple of months, there’s no point looking there, as most places will have yearly contracts.

Keep in mind with short-term rentals for a couple of months, you’re going to be paying higher than the average monthly rent, however, for this, the apartments are usually fully furnished, including kitchen utensils, wi-fi already connected and offer you the flexibility of shorter contracts.

Short-term rental agencies

Specialised short-term rental agencies are the best way to go, which will allow you to sign contacts for less than the typical one year. These types of agencies are usually found in Spain’s big cities that are popular with foreigners, such as Madrid and Barcelona.

Trying searching in Spanish too by typing alquiler de temporada or alquiler temporal plus the name of the city or town you’re looking in. This way you may be able to find places that offer better value. 

Barcelona

In Barcelona, check out aTemporal an agency that started up precisely to fix the problem of trying to find accommodation in-between tourist accommodation and long-term rentals. They rent out apartments for anywhere from 32 days to 11 months.

ShBarcelona is another agency that specialises in these types of rentals and have properties all over the city.

READ ALSO – Moving to Barcelona: A guide to the best neighbourhoods to live in

Madrid

In Madrid, try DFLAT, which was created by two professionals from the Instituto de Empresa University after discovering the difficulties professionals and foreigners found when looking for an apartment in Madrid. Sh also has a good branch in Madrid.  

Valencia

In Valencia, Dasha Living Space has both short and long-term fully furnished flats available and  Valenvi Flats also offers rentals for between three and six months.

READ ALSO – Moving to Valencia: A guide to the best neighbourhoods to live in

Airbnb

While the nightly rate of Airbnb apartments is typically too expensive to rent for a couple of months, you may be able to find some deals. Often when you input dates for a month into Airbnb, you’ll find that several places have a monthly discount offered. Also, some owners will do a deal for a couple of months. If it’s winter for example and they know they’re not going to get many tourists anyway, they may be willing to negotiate.

Vrbo

Like Airbnb, the properties on Vrbo are rented out directly by the owners. While the site is also mainly focused on tourists, some owners may negotiate outside of the tourist season.

Housesitting

If you’re willing to try something a little bit different, then housesitting could be the way to go. This is where you live in somebody’s house for free, in exchange for looking after their pets and their property.

Often people only need someone for a few days, but sometimes you’ll see house sits available for a month or longer. This is perhaps a better option for those who are flexible on where they might want to live and are trying out a few different places. It’s also better for those wanting to live in smaller towns or villages rather than the bigger cities, as there are fewer postings for these popular locations. Trusted Housesitters and Mind My House are good options. 

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