A step away from the Cathedral of Barcelona and across Via Laietana, Sant Pere and Santa Caterina is arguably Barcelona’s most unappreciated neighborhood. Bordered with artistic La Ribera (and in fact merged with the latter into a larger district of Sant Pere, Santa Caterina i la Ribera), Sant Pere and Santa Caterina is often overlooked by tourists – until the 1990s the neighborhood was among the poorest areas of Barcelona; with elevated crime rates and pitiful living conditions. And yet the remains of medieval walls, crackled cobblestones and centuries-old gateways are much more evident here, than in any other part of the city.
The neighborhood had become a part of Barcelona in the 11th century – when the growing city sought to expand beyond the borders of ancient Roman walls. Around the church of Sant Pere de les Puel·les a new urban core was established. The area soon accounted for a large part of textile production, along with the bordering Ribera, which also had an advantage of its proximity to the sea and maritime trade. And although the district’s economy clearly benefited from textile industry, newly founded mills and manufactories attracted numerous migrant workers, many of whom had very low income. At some point during the 19th century, the neighborhood was among the most densely populated in whole Europe – with working-class members being its principal residents.
In 1835 the construction of Carrer de la Princesa completely separated Sant Pere and Santa Caterina from La Ribera. Located north of the street, the barrio of Sant Pere and Santa Caterina is less popular with tourists – and migrants still constitute a dominant part of population. Despite the City Council’s numerous attempts to revitalize the area, including a complete renovation of the 19th century Santa Caterina Market, and also located here the Palau de la Música Catalana – the modernista gem designed by Lluís Domènech i Montaner, the streets of the barrio remain almost desolate during the day.
On the other hand, as soon as the evening settles in, plentiful bars open up their doors and invite in the casual passer-by and locals; and the neighborhood’s dainty squares, particularly Plaça de Sant Pere (right below mentioned earlier Romanesque Sant Pere de les Puel·les church) and narrow medieval alleys, no longer seem as silent.
For best cheap eats, no place would be as good as Santa Piadina (Plaça de Sant Pere, 11). Piadina, an Italian flat-bread filled with basically whatever you’ve got on hand, may be traditionally just a type of street food but this tiny bar gives a whole new perspective on the concept – with dozens of mouthwatering fillings, and piadinas made also of whole wheat and spelt flours, the street food never tasted this good!
En Aparté (Carrer LluÍs el Piadós, 2), basically across the street, is a splendid venue to enjoy an evening in romantic ambiance –menu includes classic French appetizers, which go exceptionally good with wine; they also have a lunch special for only 11.90 € and weekend brunch.
Menu at Le Cucine Mandarosso (Carrer de Verdaguer i Callís, 4) features homemade Italian fare and superb choice of wine; an impeccable service and cozy atmosphere makes the restaurant a must-stop on a gourmet’s list.
And of course, the highlight of the neighborhood’s dining scene is the Santa Caterina Market (Av. de Francesc Cambó, 16). The design only – a sheer beauty by world famous architects Enric Miralles and Benedetta Tagliabue – is worth the visit; inside you’d find countless food stalls, bursting with fresh local produce, golden-brown pastries and traditional Spanish delicacies. The market is also a home to the Cuines de Santa Caterina restaurant, offering a pleasant fusion of Mediterranean and Asian flavors. Much more affordable the restaurant’s bar has a nice selection of tapas and open-air terrace.
Metro: Jaume I (line 4)