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Poble Sec, Sants and Montjuïc

Sants

Sants was born as the group of houses that sprung up around the church of Santa María dels Sants in the 10th Century. During the next few centuries the little town lived mainly on agriculture and had a small claim to fame as the town on the ‘Carretera Reial’ where the Barcelona city councillors would come to greet the distinguished guests visiting the city.

vapor vell

In the 18th century Sants began to attract the first industrialists who started to set up textile factories in the town, and throughout the next two centuries Sants grew and grew, boasting 3 large factories and enjoying the benefits of the newly built railway and the businessmen fleeing Barcelona taxes. Sants’ population rose from 1700 to 20000 in just twenty years and it became not just a hub of industry but also of trade union movements.

In 1897 Sants was annexed to Barcelona but a visit to this barri shows it still retains its independent, working class air, quite distinctive to many other neighbourhoods in the city.

Montjuïc

strong>Montjuïc has had a chequered history to say the very least. Originally part of the mountain was used for Jewish burials as, at the time, Jews had to be buried outside the city walls. The name ‘Montjuïc’, literally translates as ‘Jewish mountain’ and it is still used as a cemetery today. In fact the cemetery of Montjuïc is so big you can take a bus to get from one end to another!

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Due to its position, looking out over Barcelona harbour, it was often used for defensive purposes with the first fortification being built in 1640 to protect the city. After the Spanish War of Succession Felipe V turned the castle into an army base where they could surveille and control the city that had fought against them. To this end the Castle of Montjuïc was built in 1751 and became synonymous with repression and torture, having later been used as a jail during the dictatorship where many, including the President of Catalonia, Lluís Companys, were executed.

The International Exhibition of 1929 did bring some changes to Montjuïc with the building of el Palau Nacional, el Poble Espanyol and the ‘Magic fountains’ but the area continued to be blighted with difficulties, now the slopes were covered in types of shanty towns housing workers who had come to find a better life in the city.

The 1992 Olympic Games were a spectacular event for Montjuïc. Many of the sporting facilities were built in the neighbourhood including the swimming pool that gave the world that memorable shot of a diver falling through the air with the whole city of Barcelona as their backdrop. Now with beautiful gardens and breathtaking views Montjuïc is a fantastic place to visit.

Poble Sec

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Poble Sec was once just a small agricultural area outside the city walls, occasionally used as a leisure area thanks to its beautiful views over the city and the sea. With the pulling down of the old city walls and ‘el plan Cerdà’ which would extend the city, Poble Sec became a focus for building work, first houses then a Spanish Electricity Board power plant which was still in use until 1987. In 1894 Avinguda Paral•lel opened marking the border between Raval and the old town and the relatively new neighbourhoods of Poble Sec and Montjuic. Paral•lel became a focal point of theatre, cabaret and activism, but more of that later…

Poble Sec was the birthplace of ‘el noi de Poble Sec’ Joan Manuel Serrat,  and the working class and immigrant make up of the barrio had a profound effect on his songwriting and continues to provide the neighbourhood with a very different air to other parts of the city. Fun fact! Poble Sec (literally ‘dry town’) gets its name from not having any water pumps until 1894.

Barcelona, Spain, Catalonia, Poble Sec, Montjüic, Sants, history, travel, tourism, holidays

Lorna

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