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Sant Gervasi-La Bonanova

Sant Gervasi-La Bonanova, Sarrià—Sant Gervasi

Prosperity, Elegance and Intrigue: Sant Gervasi-La Bonanova in BARCELONA

22nd June 2023
Map of Sant Gervasi-La Bonanova in Barcelona

Sant Gervasi-La Bonanova

Situated between the slopes of Tibidabo and Ronda del General Mitre, La Bonanova is one of the most prosperous barrios in the city, second only to Pedralbes in terms of wealth and influence.

Sant-Gervasi, the area below Passeig de la Bonanova, existed as an independent town between 1727 and 1897.

La Bonanova, the area above Passeig de la Bonanova, was developed by wealthy families fleeing the insanitary conditions of the inner-city during the latter half of the nineteenth century.

Initially populated with grand mansions, exclusive schools and convents set in expansive gardens, housing pressures and property speculation saw many grand houses being demolished, their footprints filled with modish apartment buildings. However, a few fine Modernista buildings survive, among them Gaudi’s Torre Bellesguard, and La Rotonda, designed by Adolf Ruiz i Casamitjana in 1918.

If interested in music history then you'll likely know that the composer and pianist, Enric Granados had an apartment, composition studio, teaching rooms, and a recital room in which he gave concerts of his works at Avinguda Tibidabo, l8.

Another curious house on Avinguda Tibidabo is Number 32 — also known as The Angel of Mist, an important setting in Carlos Ruiz Zafon's novel, The Shadow of the Wind.

I've come to know the barri quite well. I used to teach fundraising for cultural organisations at the International University of Catalunya here. A good friend lives here, so I visit the area around the Market every Thursday afternoon.

It's an intriguing part of the city. I cannot think about the barri without straightaway summoning images of an urbane and elegant Cary Grant circa 1963. I find it easy to imagine him wandering these streets, clocking every detail, before hailing a taxi to go chase shadows in Barri Gòtic. Why?

Because of the presence of consulates, diplomatic officials, politicians and international business executives the neighbourhood has long been the setting for intrigue and espionage.

During the Spanish Civil War the Soviet Union had a consulate here at Avinguda Tibidabo, 17. More sinister, however, was a building situated in what is now the public park of Jardins de la Tamarita, just across the avenue from the former consulate. The building housed a cheka, a secret prison and interrogation centre wherein Soviet agents supervised the torture of anti-Stalinists. The building is now part of Blanquerna University, though you'll be lucky to find any mention of its macabre past on their website. 

During WWII Nazi agents were inserted into the barri. Their mission: strengthen trade with Franco’s Spain and disrupt the Allies’ diplomatic efforts.

One Nazi spy continued his work unmolested until 1981. A well-known figure in the area, he lived in a modest apartment above a dentist’s surgery on Carrer Muntaner. Following Nazi Germany’s defeat in 1945 he busied himself arranging the transit of Nazi SS officials, their families and their assets to Argentina, Chile, Ecuador, Panama and Paraguay. 

A very visible, and public, connection with the Nazis is Bar Victor, a few metres over the border in neighbouring Sarrià, at Passeig de La Bonanova, 105. The bar has a display of ephemera celebrating the Blue Division (División Azúl) — the 45,482 'volunteer' troops sent by Franco to the Eastern Front to aid Hitler's offensive against the Soviet Union.  

If interested in the history of the Nazis in Barcelona tap, or click, on the link below to view two maps showing the location of Nazi (and Italian Fascist) offices and facilities, and the venues of their celebrations across the city, together with a few photographs of the period.

POSTWAR BARCELONA: NAZIS & FASCISTS

Algeria, China and Rumania have their consulates here, and there are a good many more consulates, and 'unofficial' diplomatic outposts nearby. The place is probably still abuzz with espionage. Never forget that the pilots of the planes which destroyed the Twin Towers on 9/11 obtained their passports from Barcelona.

If staying here

…you'll have a great time. There's a lot to see and do, apart from trying to spot spies in local bars and restaurants. If you need a fix of regular exercise then you're not so very far from Carretera de les Aigües — great jogging, great biking, great views. If you're excited by contemporary architecture (and you should be) then you'll want to swing by the local library on Carrer de Sant Gervasi de Cassoles. 

You're only a hop and a skip from the city centre. You can use FGC trains from Avinguda Tibidabo and El Putxet or Bus V13 and Bus V15.

If staying elsewhere in the city

…then you may want to consider a trip out here to visit CosmoCaixa, the very lively, interactive science museum, complete with a chunk of Amazonian rain forest and a planetarium; and Torre Bellesguard

People

Prize-winning writer, Eduardo Mendoza, author of The City of Marvels, lives here.

Disgraced former President of Catalunya, Jordi Pujol, has an office-apartment here at Ronda del General Mitre, 96.

Composer and concert pianist, Enric Granados lived and worked here, at Avinguda Tibidabo, 18.

Legendary FC Barcelona players, Samuel Eto’o and Carles Puyol used to live here, as did revered football manager, Pep Guardiola.

Festivities & Traditions

Festa Major:

Between the second and third week of June, with a full programme of family friendly activities including parades, music, a correfoccastellers (human towers) and havaneres (Cuban-Spanish balladeers) — and the Bonanova festival of magic — worth checking out if you’re in the area.

La Diada:

June 19th, celebrated during the  Festa Major. 

Food & Drink

Tapes:

There's only one choice for serious tapes fiends — Casa Pepe, Plaça Bonanova, 4. Here's a link to their website Casa Pepe.

Culture

Cinema:

Balmes Multicine. Open every day of the year. On the boundary with neighbouring El Putxet at C/Balmes, 422—424. This modern 12 screen cinema, kitted out with 3D and Dolby Atmos surround-sound, offers most recent releases in original version with Spanish subtitles.

If you enjoy classic English and French theatre you’ll be pleased to know that they also screen Royal Shakespeare Company productions live from Stratford-on-Avon, and Comédie-Française productions live from Paris. Website: HERE

Museum:

CosmoCaixa, interactive science musem and planetarium, featuring a live chunk of Amazonian rainforest. Open every day between 10am and 8pm. C/Isaac Newton, 26. Website: HERE.

Features

The Tramvia Blau, the antique tram, in service since 1901, had a terminus here on Avinguda Tibidabo. The old Blue Tram is now out of service  with no plans of it being re-introduced to regular service.

If interested in contemporary architecture then you must visit the local library, Biblioteca Joan Maragall, at Carrer de Sant Gervasi de Cassoles, 85. A few photos HERE.

Enjoy exploring Sant Gervasi–La Bonanova.