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

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.

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:

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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