WHAT TO SEE IN SANT ANDREU
Getting to Sant Andreu de Palomar is easy: just hop on the L1 (red) subway line and get off on Sant Andreu station, right in the heart of this off the beaten path district with its own personality: Plaça Orfila, presided by the eclectic building of the Sant Andreu del Palomar church, from the 1800’s (although there are documents from the 900’s that already mention a church in the very same spot.
If you want to get a peek into the “real Barcelona”, this area used to be an independent village that became full of factories during the Industrial Revolution and is still proud of its village feel and revolutionary working class past. The Sant Andreu Jazz Festival is just one example of the active cultural life of the district.
These are our favorite things to do in Sant Andreu del Palomar:
A stop for contemporary architecture and history lovers
In 1932 the architect Lluís Sert planned quality working class social housing supported by the Republican Catalan Government and inspired by Le Corbusier. Casa Bloc was one of the very few examples of racionalist architecture built before the Spanish civil war. One of the apartments is now a house-museum that can be visited on Saturdays at 11AM.
Plaça del Mercadal
If you like unique hidden urban landscapes, then you can’t miss this spot. A porched plaza that can be only be accessed via some alleys that get you there via pitturesque arches. The center of the Plaza is now occupied by a covered farmers market, and under the surrounding porticoes you’ll find local cafés and shops. This is not the only porched square of the district: 20 minutes walk from there you’ll find Plaça Masadas, whose 2-storey buildings, trees and fountain will make you think for a moment that you aren’t in Barcelona anymore but in a countryside village.
A coffee break in the main street
Very close to the Plaça del Mercadal you’ll find a famous meeting point for the locals. Bar Versalles has been open since 1915 and its modernist decoration pays tribute to the French palace of Versailles where it takes its name from. Any time of the day is a good time to go: they serve breakfast, Catalan vermuts (pre-lunch snacks), lunches and dinners offering traditional Catalan recipes as well as vegetarian options, sandwiches and kid-friendly food.
An industrial past
Sant Andreu is proud of its industrial past, where lots of factories populated the land and attracted workers and their families in need of a job. Some of those factory buildings have survived years after the businesses closed, and the city has adopted them for new uses. It is hard to just pick one for this post, so I’ll be sharing a few of my favorite: the former truck factory La Pegaso is now a quaint public garden that has included industrial elements into its design. The spinning factory Fabra i Coats is now a cultural center owned by the city council specializing mostly in Contemporary Art – the building refurbishment is worth seeing as the mirror glasses of the windows create a cool optical effect that will make you think it’s an aqueduct rather than a building. And finally, if you like street art head to Nau Bostik, an industrial nave offered to resident artists and often used for festivals and cultural activities, whose outside walls are covered in wonderful graffitti.
Shopping in Sant Andreu
Local shops and stores line up the main street, Gran de Sant Andreu, but shopaholics can’t miss two shopping destinations where even Barcelonans from other districts will flock in the weekends. One of them is La Maquinista, a huge shopping mall (one of the largest in Spain, actually), built in the grounds of another former factory – La Maquinista Terrestre y Marítima that produced metal components for train, ship and factory engines. The other shopping destination is Heron City, the only shopping mall specialzing in outlet stores within the city of Barcelona (the other one, La Roca Village, is located 30 minutes drive out of town).
And BONUS! There is a hidden GAUDI work in Sant Andreu:
Antoni Gaudí in Sant Andreu
When Gaudi’s sister died, Gaudi decided to send his only niece to a religious boarding school, and the contact with the nuns soon resulted in small projects. For the chapel of the Jesus Maria school in Sant Andreu (now Sant Pacià Parish Church) he designed a neo-gothic altarpiece, a mosaic of Roman inspiration, a relicar and some chandeliers. Unfortunately, the altarpiece and the relicar were lost during the Spanish Civil War, and the chandeliers were moved to another school run by the same religious order. But part of the mosaic can still be seen in its original place. Nearby, the Memorial Manyanet is a small museum dedicated to the founder of the Maristes order, who was a friend of Gaudi and instigator of the construction of the Sagrada Familia, and some personal objects of Antoni Gaudi are displayed as part of the collection, as well (it can only be visited on request by calling the community to the phone displayed in their website).
So what about you? Head to the comments below and tells us: did we inspire you to go off the beaten path and visit the neighborhood of Sant Andreu? What site would you like to visit the most and why?