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Why is Barcelona one big construction site right now?

Esme Fox
Esme Fox - [email protected]
Why is Barcelona one big construction site right now?
Construction workers at work as they build the new tramway lane in Barcelona on July 18th 2023. (Photo by Pau BARRENA / AFP)

Tourists in Barcelona this summer may be surprised to find that much of the Catalan capital is like a giant building site. Roads are being dug up, pedestrian areas being created and renovations are underway.

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Barcelona is undergoing a lot of urban changes currently and while it may be making the city noisier, dirtier and less attractive for tourists as well as locals, it’s all in a bid to improve Spain's second biggest city.

There are 47 sizable public construction projects underway in Barcelona during the summer of 2023, affecting pedestrians as well as public transport users and drivers, as a new tramway is being built and line 4 of the metro system is being refurbished.

The overall objective is two-fold – to include more green areas in the city and to reclaim part of Barcelona for residents to enjoy.

Barcelona has long suffered from overtourism and this summer the number of tourists could exceed the record-breaking year of 2019 before the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The city council wants to transform areas taken over by holidaymakers and hand them back to the residents by making them nicer places to spend time in with friends and family, not just places packed full of souvenir shops and tourist bars.

These are some of the main areas currently undergoing a makeover and what the plans are to change them.

Port Olímpic

The Olympic Port sits around the marina area between two of the city’s main beaches - Somorrostro and Nova Icaria. 

The first stage of this transformation began in 2020 with getting rid of the nightclubs that used to line the water's edge, somewhat seedy establishments that were mainly only frequented by tourists, after hours they gave the area a bad name.

Nightclubs will be replaced with maritime shops and businesses. Photo: Esme Fox

 

Construction, however, didn’t start until March of this year and the whole promenade has been dug up. The idea is to create an accessible space for citizens, boost economic activity, create more areas for walking and a new viewpoint will be built.

So far €28 million has been invested in the area, which directly connects the Paseo Marítimo with Port Olímpic, with the aim of integrating it more into the city.

It will also coincide with the completion of the maritime works that will make it possible to recover the marine biodiversity of the area and in turn protect the port from any future storms. 

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La Rambla

The city's iconic La Rambla pedestrian street is also being dug up and refurbished, with fences and drilling everywhere. Construction work was delayed for three years and finally began in October 2022.

The redevelopment has a total budget of €44.56 million and will be carried out in stages. Currently, the final part of the famous boulevard is being transformed between the Maritime Museum and the Wax Museum.

La Rambla is currently being transformed. Photo: Esme Fox
 

 

The aim of the project is to modernise La Rambla, whilst at the same time, enhancing its historic elements and reactivating local commerce, as well as creating more space for pedestrians.

Barcelona City Council also wants to make it a greener and more pleasant space for locals to use, as well as turning it into a cultural hub, rather than just somewhere for tourists.

The city’s new mayor, Jaume Collboni only came into office in May but has already made ambitious promises regarding the plan. He has pledged to reduce the number of years it will take to transform by half, from six to three years. 

IN PICS: How Barcelona's La Rambla is set to be transformed

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Eixample neighbourhood

For several years there's been talk of further developing Barcelona’s superblocks in Eixample by creating more pedestrianised streets in between the neighbourhood's main blocks, essentially creating one giant superblock.

During most of 2022 several streets in this neighbourhood were in various states of disarray having been dug up and cordoned off, but at the beginning of this year, the first of these pedestrianised streets was finally completed.

By April, all four streets - Consell de Cent, Rocafort, Comte Borrell and Girona were partly open. The works consisted of removing tarmac meant for cars and adding vegetation and benches for pedestrians. While work on these streets is mainly complete and they're now open for use, the city council is still carrying out minor works to finish them off.

The office of the previous city mayor Ada Colau planned on creating 21 "green axes" for the creation of superblocks. If these plans go ahead, it would increase the wooded area of the city by 5.6 percent, making the city a greener and healthier place. This could mean that there is still more construction yet to come in this neighbourhood though.

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Camp Nou

Anyone planning of visiting Barça's emblematic Camp Nou stadium will also find that it is under construction.

FC Barcelona's stadium is being renovated to reopen completely at full capacity in 2026. This means that the stadium is currently closed and it is only possible to visit the FC Barcelona Museum.

The renovation is part of a €1.5 billion renovation project, which will involve increasing the capacity of the stadium from 99,354 seats to 105,000. 

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