Life in Poble Sec is laid-back, low-key and lovely. Originally built beyond the Medieval city walls in the mid-19th century, it still retains a local village vibe – even though only a small portion of the wall still remains. A breeding-ground for the city’s theatre performers in the 50’s thanks to the music halls that lined the artery of Av. del Paral-lel , Poble Sec still hums with this artistic heart. On weekends, bars erupt with live music shows from emerging talents, while summer nights sees art-house movies screened under the stars and electronic festivals pulse through Montjuic park. Spread over a steep hill and housing the elegant Joan Miró museum (a stunning piece of architecture in itself), this expansive stretch of green adds to the pervading atmosphere of a Spanish Montmartre. Make sure you climb to the top – or take the funicular part way if you are feeling lazy – the views over the city are well worth it (as pictured above). Rooted in a tight-knit community and a growing selection of hip, low-key local bars (check out Quimet Quimet), on top of great value restaurants, services and schools, locals joke, quite rightly, that they need never leave. Mulling over a classic cortado coffee along the Carrer Blai, a pedestrianised street where tables spill out along the pavement, is a wonderful way to watch the world go by, while Catalan flags fluttering from windows leave little doubt to Poble Sec’s deep-rooted sense of tradition.
One of the many benefits of Poble Sec’s unassuming attitude is that it still flies comfortably under the radar of both tourists and Barcelona’s smart set. That was until the Adría brothers of El Bullí fame opened their latest restaurant, Tickets here in 2016. Quickly considered one of the hottest (and hardest to get) tables to come by, it put Poble Sec on the map. Scattered around Poble Sec and Sant Antoni, the brothers are now in the process of opening a further 5 restaurants, which, combined with a new bike path and revitalisation of Av. del Paral-lel, has given the area a real boost. Its evolution into one of the city’s newest foodie hubs will be cemented in late 2017 with the opening of the Sant Antoni market. The pace of change remains leisurely and for now, prices remain very good value, which makes the neighborhood a real favourite among young families – both local and international – looking for a calm, quiet place to raise children. Location wise, it’s pretty perfect – leading down to the port and bordering El Raval, you can walk to central Barcelona in 15 minutes and the neighbourhood is well-served by 3 metro stops.
Set on the ocean, this sunny seaside town is regarded as Spain’s second capital. A city of many faces, it dances between staunch traditionalism and a new wave of entrepreneurial Catalan creatives who, combined with the recent influx of global innovators, are shaking things up. Ask each one what’s to love about Barcelona, and the answer will be the same – its exceptional lifestyle culture. Nowhere else can you sip speciality ales at a craft beer festival in laid-back family hotspot Poblenou, slip in a spot of paddle-boarding on your lunch-break, then parade through the streets in one of the many cultural festivals before michelin-starred midnight tapas. In recent years, Barcelona has begun to shake off its boho-roots and step up in sophistication. This has been helped by a gourmet food-scene considered to be amongst the world’s best, coupled with the opening of a new spat of hip hotels and private members clubs, such as Soho House, One Ocean Club and Casa Bonay.
For the city’s long-time bohemians and locals, this evolution has come at a cost: while life here is still around half the cost of London, rental prices have risen 11% in the past year and will continue to do so. From a property perspective, foreign demand from mid-to-high earning entrepreneurs and global nomads continues to rise, along with non-eu resident investors investors attracted to Spain’s Golden Visa program. The city also continues to attract international students and their families, who are drawn to Barcelona’s wealth of excellent schools and universities. There’s so much fun to be had in Barcelona, so much culture to soak up, that the city’s tourism continues to skyrocket. While most municipal governments brainstorm how to boost figures, here the challenge is how to manage them, with numbers climbing to 9 million in 2016 alone for a population of 1.6 million.
Yet however chic the city gets, it is rooted at its core in a strong sense of community combined with a die-hard pride in the Catalan culture. Each neighbourhood feels like a village within itself, where local characters and residents of all ages converge daily on small squares and grand plazas and there’s almost always something to celebrate. Stroll its streets, and what abounds is a vibrant cultural heritage that darts between medieval facades and the eclectic, enigmatic architecture of Gaudi, modernist curves and revered museums that honour home-grown masters from Picasso to Miró.
While nature lovers praise the city’s proximity to both world-class beaches and wild mountain terrain, where you can spend a morning hiking or mountain biking before sundowners by the sea, it’s an equal mecca for foodies. Now with over 20 michelin starred restaurants, the general standard is applaudingly high, helped by the genius of local chefs such as the Adría brothers of El Bulli fame, and the abundance of spectacular local produce. Chefs now come from all over the world to train under Barcelona’s masters and find inspiration. Head along stunning coastline of the Costa Brava towards France, and explore spectacular Mediterranean seaside towns such as Cadaques, where PIcasso and Salvador Dalí sought inspiration.
Here in Barcelona, life after dark is as important as daytime, with siestas ensuring that locals stock up on the stamina needed to hop from award-winning tapas to pulsingly hip salsa clubs, live music shows and late-night cocktail dens. The summer months see a vibrant roster of world-class music events, from Sonar and Off-Sonar, to Primavera and Cap Roig on the Costa Brava. Underlying it all is a deep-rooted touch of irreverence, a love of the eclectic and the avant-garde, that has evolved into a unique sense of style and an independence that has set the city in a light of its own.
The property market in Barcelona
In recent years, Barcelona’s property market has evolved into one of the global hotspots of Europe, as both local and international buyers catch on to the opportunities on offer in one of Europe’s most attractive cities. In 2016, prices rose an average of 14.36%, with neighbourhoods like well-heeled Eixample reaching almost 20%, and the number of annual transactions in Barcelona’s for-sale property market rising by 26.7%. While this is no small jump, prices remain approximately 3.5 times cheaper than London and are still well below their 2007 highs by around 20-30%. This is an especially appealing time for investors thanks to historically low mortgage rates, pegged to the Euribor which is in its 12th consecutive negative month.
There are a few other factors to consider when looking ahead at the future of Barcelona’s property market
- Spain’s economy grew 3.2% in 2016 and predictions are that it will continue to do so, helped by the property market.
- The city is evolving beyond its bohemian roots into a chicer lifestyle destination, demonstrated by the recent opening of global trendsetters such as Soho House.
- With a wealth of excellent international schools and universities, Barcelona is becoming a place for families seeking a higher quality of life for their children to move who seek (link to section in Buying Guide on Schools)
- The tourism market is changing from a bohemian holiday-spot, considered a cheap destination for booze-fuelled weekends in the sun, to a luxury destination with a world-class gourmet scene and fabulous beaches.
- Spain’s Golden Visa continues to prove very attractive for foreign investors seeking European residency, particularly for Latin American buyers who can benefit from a 2 year fast-track process to citizenship, although interest from China and the Middle-East remains strong and consistent.