Sant Andreu may not be the first neighbourhood that springs to mind when it comes to sightseeing in Barcelona but trust us, there are some very interesting things to see...
Parroquia de Sant Andreu de Palomar
The church of Sant Andreu de Palomar is a symbol of the neighbourhood and it was around this church that the town was founded and grew. The first records of a church on this site are in the 10th century though the church was destroyed in 985 during the sacking of Barcelona by the Moors from Al-Andalus which ruled most of present day Spain and Portugal at the time. The church was rebuilt but destroyed again in the 12th Century in another battle with Moorish soldiers and rebuilt again in 1132. The church holds a special place in the history of Catalonia as it was from here on 8th June 1640 that a group of peasants left to protest against the Spanish monarchy and their unfair treatment during the Spanish wars with France which triggered the Guerra dels Segadors (Reaper’s War). In 1850 it was decided that the church should be extended and the architect of our very own El Palauet Living Barcelona and Sant Andreu native, Pere Falqués I Urpí, was chosen to carry out the work which was finished in 1881. Though suffering various fires during the Tragic Week and the Spanish civil war the church and its decoration was restored and now includes various murals depicting biblical scenes and life in Sant Andreu.
Fabra i Coats
Now holding a cultural centre, Fabra i Coats started life as one of the most important textile mills in Spain. The complex has buildings dating back to 1890 and was a joint venture between newly merged British and Catalan textile companies creating one of the leading companies in Europe at that time. The factory was the epicentre of Sant Andreu’s economic life and due to the thousands who worked there and lived nearby it was also tied to the social and cultural life of the neighbourhood. It remained central to Sant Andreu life until the 1970’s when the textile factories began closing and the workers were laid off. For some years the building lay dormant until it was suggested it should be restored as a cultural and artistic ‘factory’, a place where there would not only be exhibitions but also spaces and resources for the city’s creatives. Today the factory of Fabra I Coats is still producing, these days it isn't cloth but art, film, theatre and photography. The building has had a new lease of life and now continues to be a social and cultural centre for the people of Sant Andreu and beyond. Well worth a visit
Casa Bloc is a residential building in Sant Andreu, built with a vision. The vision, held by the architects Josep Lluís Sert, Josep Torres Clavé and Joan Baptista Subirana, was to create a new type of housing for workers,a type of housing that was decent, clean, and also fostered a community spirit and a sense of collective identity. The project was started in the working class district of Sant Andreu in 1932 and work was interrupted by the Spanish Civil War in 1936. The project was considered so important that the President of the Generalitat, Francesc Macià, came to the laying of the first stone. Many workers in Sant Andreu at the time were still living in shacks in extremely poor conditions and various groups were working at this time to improve the living standards of the socially disadvantaged. Casa Bloc’s objective was exactly this, as well as creating and maintaining a collective identity through community living, in line with the ideals of the European avant-garde of the time. Unfortunately work was stopped at the outbreak of the Civil War and the dreams of the architects were never fully realized as after the war the apartments were given to widows of those who had died fighting for Franco’s troops or the new national police instead of poor local workers. In 1992 Casa Bloc was declared a protected monument by the Generalitat de Catalunya and is now seen as a classic example of rationalist architecture. In 2012 Disseny Hub Barcelona set about transforming one of the apartments into a type of museum, restoring it to how it was meant to be in the 1930’s to show how the original designers intended it to look. Apartment-House 1/11, as it is known, is open to everyone thorough pre-booked guided tours.
Centre of the town
The original centre of Sant Andreu is also worth a visit if only to wander around and soak up the atmosphere. The centre really does feel like you're in a pueblo, a small village with its two story houses, cobbled streets lined with orange trees and market square. Take time to sit back and enjoy the slower pace of life in this village within a city.