The Ensanche (Eixample in Catalan) is divided into the Ensanche Izquierda (Left Ensanche) to the left of Paseo De Gràcia as you walk up it from Plaza Cataluña, and the Ensanche Derecha (Right Ensanche) to the right of Paseo De Gràcia. A district known as La Sagrada Familia – around the famous Sagrada Familia cathedral by Guadí – will also be considered as part of the Ensanche for the purposes of this guide.
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Property in the Barcelona Eixample
The Ensanche was built during the 19th Century in the first big expansion of Barcelona beyond its city walls. The construction of the Ensanche coincided with an explosion in local wealth earned from the industrialisation of Cataluña and repatriation of profits from places such as Cuba. Wealthy local families commissioned grand buildings from Modernist architects – the most famous of which was Gaudí – to demonstrate their wealth and social standing. This explains why the Ensanche is home to many of Barcelona’s most splendid buildings and has some of the best housing stock in Barcelona. A walk around the central parts of the Ensanche from Calle Ausiàs Marc up to Avenida Diagonal and from Calle Muntaner across to Paseo De Sant Juan will reveal many stunning beautiful façades and entrances. However beyond these streets there are few modernist buildings and the overall quality of the housing stock is lower, with many more buildings constructed between the 1960’s and 1980’s.
At the time of the Ensanche’s construction the best apartments were built on the first floor – know as ‘principal’ – as the main residence of the owners of the building. This was because lifts did not exist in those days and owners did not relish walking up several flights of stairs to reach their homes. Therefore first floor apartments in the Ensanche have the highest ceilings and most elaborate interior finishings. Servants and other employees of the family used to live on the upper floors, which therefore had the most modest apartments in the building. This meant that Barcelona’s social classes were divided by floors rather than districts. In the present day the top floors in the Ensanche are now highly sought after as residential properties because lifts make them just as easy to reach whilst they are quieter than first floor apartments and benefit from more natural light. Large roof terraces are also highly valued in a city with such a good climate.
The Ensanche has a grid system of city blocks built around large interior patios (know in Spanish as patio de manzana). The ground floors of buildings, which used to house factories, are now used as commercial premises. The large patio in the middle means that most apartments have a good natural source of light both at the front and back of the building.
The Ensanche is home to an area know locally as the ‘cuadro de oro’ or golden box in English. This expression refers to the streets between Enrique Granados, Bruc, Diagonal and Gran Via. This area is the most exclusive part of the Ensanche, home to the finest buildings and is referred to as golden because the property prices are always robust. Enrique Granados and Calle Bruc are two of the best streets to live on in all of Barcelona.
The Ensanche is one of Barcelona’s most desirable areas to live in. It is elegant, attractive, clean, central, safe, well communicated with excellent shopping and restaurants / bars and has a large housing stock of excellent quality. It attracts sophisticated buyers of all age groups (unlike the Old Town, which does not appeal to older buyers or families with children). Residents are predominantly affluent locals. Shopkeepers in the Ensanche tend to know their customers, which helps build a sense of community in the area. Everything in the Ensanche is within walking distance.
Ensanche Izquierda – Eixample Esquerra – Left Eixample
The Left Ensanche, which also includes the Gay Ensanche (the gay community helped to revitalise the area after several decades of decline during the 60’s and 70’s), is home to a wide range of bars and restaurants. Beyond Calle Muntaner the streets become shabbier and buildings less impressive but nevertheless the area is attractive from a residential perspective, though not perhaps from a short-term rental perspective. The redevelopment of the old bull-fighting ring (Plaça De Braus Les Arenes) on the corner of Plaza De España along with the proximity to Montjuïc could have a beneficial impact on property and prices in the bottom corner of the Left Ensanche.
Ensanche Derecha – Eixample Dreta – Right Eixample
The Right Ensanche below Diagonal and across to Paseo de Sant Juan is smaller than the Left Ensanche, is more upmarket, and has fewer bars and restaurants. It has some of the best buildings in Barcelona, and is one of the most exclusive residential districts in the city. Facilities are excellent (for instance fresh food markets and gyms), and the district is in the very centre of Barcelona with good access to all areas including Barcelona’s Old Town and beaches.
The Sagrada Familia district of the Ensanche is a pleasant residential area, though it does not have as many fine buildings as the more central areas of the Ensanche (with the obvious exception of the Sagrada Familia itself). It lacks a sense of sophistication but it is well located and communicated. Properties with good views of the Cathedral command a premium. The streets around Paseo De San Juan are particularly attractive.
Investors who are prepared to take on refurbishments should consider buying larger Ensanche apartments – generally bigger than 100 m2 – and converting them into stylish 2-bedroom apartments, for which there is a growing market.