Since 1327, and the founding of the Royal Monastery of Santa Maria at the behest of Elisenda de Montcada, wife of James II, Pedralbes has been inextricably associated with royalty, wealth and influence.
In 1926 King Alfonso XIII established a royal palace here. When the dictator, Franco visited the city he stayed here. The current King’s sister has a house here. FCBarcelona footballer, Gerard Piqué and his popstar wife, Shakira live here.
Nearly every house has a swimming pool in its backyard.
A local wag dubbed it the Beverly Hills of Catalunya.
Despite its antiquity Pedralbes has only existed in its own right since 1984, before then it was part of Sarrià.
The Royal Tennis Club, the University Polytechnic of Catalunya, and the prestigious international business schools, ESADE and IESE are all based here. The University of Barcelona has a law school here.
The Russian Consulate is here — on Avinguda Pearson, the city's millionaires' row.
The infamous Bruc Army Barracks is housed here. As is the curious barriada (an enclave within a barri), La Mercè, created in 1946 when Franco ordered the building of 123 dwellings to house army administrators and their families.
The Jardins de la Font dels Ocellets hosts free music concerts in June and July. While the Palace gardens host the not free, and very expensive, international Pedralbes Festival from mid-June to mid-July.
There’s also the Parc de Cervantes and its magnificent rose garden, featuring more than 10,000 examples of 245 varieties of that most emblematic flower. And, there is also the Jardins de William Shakespeare — which doesn't have any roses. Surely some mistake…can't recall Cervantes eulogising the rose as often, nor as eloquently, as did good ol' Will Shakespeare.
Gaudí left his mark here too with his dramatic dragon gate guarding the entrance to his patron, Eusebi Güell’s finca, (summer house), the Pabellones de Finca Güell in Parc de Pedralbes. He also designed a pergola and a fountain in the Palace gardens.
A good friend is a member of the Royal Tennis Club here; and another very good friend sends his two kids to school here, and I used to visit the Polytechnic here every week.
If staying here
…and you haven't got a car then be prepared to be buzzed by official, and not so official, plainclothes security, as they cruise the residential part of the neighbourhood (above Ronda de Dalt) scanning the sidewalks for putative kidnappers and ne'er-do-wells. You'd better have your ID with you.
And, if you do have a car, be prepared for fake passers-by snapping your number/license plate.
Getting in and out the city centre can be a bit of a faff — although once you reach the Diagonal it's all straightforward enough.
If staying elsewhere in the city
…you may want to consider a trip to the Monastery and Pabellones, or attend a gig during the Arts Festival. However, if it's your first or second visit to Barcelona, you have many more, and more worthwhile, options still to explore.
George Orwell, spent two weeks here in 1937, recovering from a bullet wound to his throat, at the former Maurin Sanatorium — now the Benjamin Franklin International School.
Woody Allen shot scenes for his movie, Vicky Cristina Barcelona in Finca Güell.
Juan Negrín, the President of Republican Spain (and Communist placeman) lived hid in Pedralbes Palace from 1937 to 1939.
Carles Reixach, former player and trainer for FCBarcelona, was born here.
Mr & Mrs Shakira live here on the famed, Avinguda de Pearson. (Although a trusted spy tells me that they have recently moved to Sant Joan Despi)
FCBarcelona mega-stars, Leo Messi and Neymar Jr. also own houses here even though they both live in Castelldefells.
BARCELONA'S DAY OF INFAMY
Barcelona's day of infamy — the Army uprising which shaped the nation for half a century— began here, in Pedralbes, at the Bruc barracks.
In the early hours of Sunday, July 19th, 1936, Major José López Amor arrested the Colonel commanding the barracks and the General in command of the 10th (Badajoz) Regiment of the 7th Infantry Brigade. López assumed command, assembled the men, and told them that their orders were to put down an anarchist insurrection.
The 600 troops, equipped with 17 machine-guns and 4 heavy mortars, and accompanied by a rabble of around 150 armed Falangists and a light cavalry escort, left the barracks and proceeded along what is now Avinguda Diagonal, toward the city centre where they were to link up with cavalry and artillery units converging on Plaça Catalunya.
At the Lepanto barracks on Carrer de Tarragona General Alvaro Fernández Burriel mustered the 3rd (Santiago) and 4th (Montesa) Regiments of the 2nd Cavalry Brigade, comprising 600 men and 6 machine-guns.
In the nearby barracks on Carrer Numància the 10th Cavalry (Montesa) Regiment also joined the rebels and prepared to link up with a battalion of army engineers in Plaça de'Espanya.
At the Girona barracks on Carrer de Lepant in El Baix Guinardó, the 9th Regiment of the 2nd Cavalry Brigade prepared to advance on the city centre and link up with the infantry en route from Pedralbes.
In Poble Nou, on Avinguda d'Icària, the 1st Mountain (Artillery) Regiment, equipped with twenty-four 10.5 Skoda guns prepared to advance on the Christopher Columbus monument at the bottom of Les Rambles.
In Sant Andreu the 7th Regiment of the Artillery Brigade, composed of two groups of three batteries, each equipped with four 10.5 Vickers guns, prepared to advance on the city centre.
In their barracks on Gran Via, very near Plaça d'Espanya, 400 men of the Engineers Battalion prepared to take control of the plaça.
At the barracks in Ciutadella only half the officers of the 34th (Alcántara) Regiment joined the insurgents.
In the docks, the Carabineros (armed customs officers) sided with the rebels, while around 400 of their colleagues kept their heads down at their HQ on Carrer Sant Pau.
The Civil Guard, the 19th Tercio (regiment) of four companies based in barracks on Carrer d'Ausias Marc, and a battalion of cavalry based in barracks on Consell de Cent, waited on orders.
Similarly 1,960 Assault Guards stationed across the city, armed with 16 machine-guns and 8 light mortars, awaited for clear, unequivocal instructions. Although several groups of Asaltos took the initiative and moved out to take control of important junctions.
At the airfield (now Prat de Llobregat international airport) most airforce personnel remained loyal to the Republic. They flew missions over the city to drop hastily printed leaflets urging residents to resist the uprising. Later during the day a few planes supported attacks on rebel held positions.
Altogether about 5,000 troops were on the move.
The infantry column from Pedralbes seized the University of Barcelona. The regiment then spilt its forces, leaving around 100 men to defend the University and guard prisoners taken en route, while around 500 men continued along Ronda de la Universitat to seize what was then the grand Hotel Colón, the building overlooking Plaça Catalunya which now houses an Apple shop and the Canadian consulate. The rebels also took control of the Central Telephone Exchange, now the Telefónica building, and also, what was until recently, the Ritz Hotel on Gran Via.
Meanwhile, three squadrons of cavalry, en route to Plaça Catalunya via Carrer Còrsega, had been held up by armed workers and loyal Assault Guards at Cinc d'Ors (the junction of Avinguda Diagonal and Passeig de Gràcia). The battle lasted two hours until the rebel cavalry retreated to the Carmelite convent on Avinguda Diagonal, where they encountered a group of recently shaved Guardia Civil dressed in nuns' habits.
Another detachment of Santiago cavalry was ambushed as it advanced along Passeig de Sant Joan. This encounter was the subject of a famous photo by Agustí Centelles. HERE.
Around the same time a squadron of the 10th (Montesa) Cavalry Regiment and a mixed group of army engineers and artillery entered Plaça de Espanya and tricked a column of loyal Assault Guards with cries of, "Visca la Repùblica! Visca Catalunya!" The artillery battery then began shelling barricades in Hostafrancs before training their guns on Hostafrancs Town Hall. The guns were soon encircled and later mobbed by outraged, unarmed civilians, supported by a few Asaltos.
On the outskirts of Barceloneta workers deployed huge rolls of newsprint to create mobile barricades to prevent the rebel artillery advance along Avinguda d'Icaria from their barracks in Poble Nou.
Major José López Amor, holed up in Hotel Colón, had intended to capture the Catalan government HQ on Plaça Jaume I before reporting to General Goded who was flying in from rebel held Mallorca. However, all his attempts to advance down the Rambles were thwarted by determined armed workers.
Rebel troops from the Atarazanas barracks at the bottom of the Rambles installed a heavy machine-gun at the top of the Christopher Columbus column. With enfilading fire from the Atarazanas barracks and the Military HQ situated on the interesection of Passeig de Colom and La Rambla de Santa Monica, they established a killi-zone.
At 8am a column of the 7th Light Infantry was pinned down by a mixed group of armed civilians and Asaltos at the junction of Carrer Balmes and Avinguda Diagonal. Another column of light infantry had been stopped at the junction of Carrer de Pau Claris and Gran Via. A company of infantry from the 34th (Alacántara) Regiment, en route to seize the radio station on Carrer Caspe, were pinned down at Arc de Triomf. Local people, enraged that priests were using their church towers to fire on people fleeing the fighting, began setting churches alight.
By 10am scores of troops, realising they had been duped by their officers, had surrenderd their arms and were fraternising with locals.
At 11am the Assault Guards were officially ordered to support local defence groups. At the same time the rebel General Goded landed in a hydroplane in the port and made his way tothe Military Government HQ near the Christopher Columbus monument.
By noon it became clear that the main concentrations of rebel forces were situated in Plaça Catalunya, Plaça de'Espanya and the Rambla Santa Monica—Ataranzas—Christopher Columbus monument—Military Government HQ area.
At 2pm the Guardia Civil finally decided to intervene on the side of local people and advanced on Plaça Catalunya.
By nightfall only the Atarazanas barracks at the bottom of Les Rambles, and the large Maestranza barracks in Sant Andreu, still held out.
The following morning, Monday, July 20th, it was all over. Local people had crushed an army uprising. The long, bloody weekend had cost 511 lives, including 300 civilians; 2000 people were seriously injured.
The Bruc Barracks in Pedralbes was renamed the Bakunin Barracks and became the HQ for the CNT/F.A.I. militia.
The Lepanto Barracks was renamed the Lenin Barracks and became the HQ for the POUM militia.
This army uprising against the elected government was to became known as the Spanish Civil War.
During the first two weeks of October the Monastery in Pedralbes hosts events, such as traditional dancing, as part of the districtwide Festa Major de Les Corts.
The barriada, La Mercè, AKA Las Cinco Rosas, (The Five Roses), in reference to one of the symbols of the Falange, have their local party on September 24th.
International Arts Festival:
From mid-June to mid-July in the Palace Gardens.
Food & Drink
You could think, given there are so many resident wealthy potential patrons, that there would be a healthy roster of opportunities for dining and drinking here. But no. Think about it. This is Upstairs-Downstairs land; many households will have live-in, or on-call, staff. Think Posh & Becks…think beck and call. Think on-demand gratification. Think the ability to sate any, every, demand and whim as and when desired.
You could think, given there are several university, polytechnic, and business school establishments here, that there would be a few budget eateries nearby. But no. Think about it. This is 'a-certain-aspiration' area. Students attending places of learning here, or their parents, are not short of a bob or two and have no need for cheap and cheerful eateries.
You could think, given there is a very large army barracks here, that hungry and thirsty square-bashers would feed a demand for locally available cheap scoff and booze. No. National Service — the 'mili' — ended years ago; current personnel habiting the barracks are relatively highly-paid technical staff, not underpaid, homesick squaddies.
Having said all that, there are two options I can suggest — though not yet recommend (I have only visited these two places once — and I only recommend places after at least three visits).
Lunch & Dinner & Drinks
El Jardí de l'Abadessa
Carrer de l'Abadessa Olzet, 26.
T: 93 280 37 54
Arts & Entertainment
The Monastery of Pedralbes — Here's their WEBSITE.
Bruc Army Barracks — if interested in the Spanish Civil War then you may want to stroll past — this is where it all kicked off in Barcelona. Have a gawk — resist taking photos — and keep walking, otherwise you may find yourself accosted by an agitated posse of gun-toting uniforms demanding to know what you're doing. Trust me. You do not want to spend four hours plus in a dull room with only a tepid cup of coffee from a machine for company while they send someone to your accommodation to check your story.