Sant Gervasi–Galvany

Smart, Assured and Chic: Sant Gervasi-Galvany in Barcelona

17th April 2017
Sant Gervasi–Galvany

Smart and Assured with Chic Uptown Shopping and Clubbing


Sant Gervasi-Galvany is situated between Avinguda Diagonal and Ronda del General Mitre and Carrer de Balmes/Via Augusta.

Development began here in 1866, spurred by the promise of a new railway station, La Bonanova, opened in 1867, and a new covered market. The market was begun in 1868 but not inaugurated until 1927.

The oldest part of the neighbourhood is the area between Carrer Sagués and Carrer Amigó but the main centre is around the covered market.

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Globally reknowned chefs, such as, Carme Ruscalleda, Carles Gaig and Jordi Vilà occasionally share their skills and secrets at gastronomic events hosted by the market.

Austria and Malta have their consulates here.

By day it's a busy commercial district, by night it's a playground for socialites and wannabe celebrities. The neighbourhood hosts several clubs, such as Otto Zutz and Cotton, venues such as Luz de Gas (where a humble bottle of Estrella will cost you at least 7€), cocktail bars, such as the legendary Gimlet, and many fine-dining restaurants such as Fermí PuigHisop and Freixa Tradició.

Given the number of young women wandering around with their knees hanging out of their jeans you could believe the neighbourhood was on its uppers. Don't be fooled. This is where local wealthy patrons do their shopping. Many tax dodging celebrities, corrupt politicians, property developers, business tycoons, fashion models, cocaine dealers, image consultants and personal shoppers all flex their platinum cards here.

The area hosts many interesting  shops, among them several fashion stores for ladies of a certain age with access to large amounts of money. There are several couture shops where you can buy gowns, dresses, elegant threads, hats and gloves — all made to measure. They'll even organise a private fashion show for you, This is where you come  when you absolutely need to buy another Rolex

It may help you to better understand this neighbourhood when you realise that many people who live/work here regard Plaça de Francesc Macià as the city centre — not Plaça Catalunya.​

I visit the neighbourhood at least twice a week, every week, as I have for the past two years, and have developed a grudging respect for how it successfully pretends to normalise new wealth.

There's an interesting building, a rather grand mansion, at Carrer de Muntaner, 282. The place is known as Casa Ramonet, or Palau del Marquès d'Alella, and, when unoccupied during an extended period of legal limbo, featured as the wicked stepmother's house in a 2013 black & white movie production of Snow White (TRAILER HERE).

The gardens are now open to the public, and there are plans to refurbish it for use as a multi-lingual library — featuring the city's collection of materials in English, French, German and Portuguese. The building has a fascinating and torrid history which you can read about below.

THE CURIOUS CASE OF CASA RAMONET


Casa Ramonet, otherwise known as Palau del Marquès d'Alella, on Carrer de Muntaner, is a building with an intriguing past. In fact, the Ramonet affair still rumbles on after 27 years.

The former owner of the building, Julio Muñoz Ramonet, made his fortune in smuggling and laundering the proceeds through his textiles factories, which employed more than 40,000 workers. He was also involved in laundering Nazi loot. Until 1981 a Nazi agent known to trade in looted artworks lived just up the road from Casa Ramonet in La Bonanova. Ramonet was also known to have had dealings with the legendary art thief, Erik el Belga.

In many ways Ramonet was typical of a certain caste of dodgy buisnessmen who thrived during the Franco regime — untouchable robber-barons who bought and sold influence and lorded it over their contemporaries — landless caciques in a sense. People in Catalunya used to say, "There's God and then there's Ramonet." 

In 1946 Ramonet married into money — lots of money. His bride was the daughter of the head of Spain's Central Bank. He had access to unlimited credit.​ In the 1960s Ramonet used his banking connections to open two banks in Switzerland — the Kredit Bank de Saint Gall and the Banque Génévoise de Comerce et de Crédit.

In 1966, despite the strict marriage laws at the time, Ramonet somehow managed to divorce his wife. He began living it large. It was said that when entertaining guests Ramonet would light his cigars with 1000 peseta notes, and, after using toilets in the city's bars, cabaret clubs and bordellos, would use a whole bottle of Chanel No5 to wash his hands. Once, when he was refused a reservation at a well-known restaurant, he called the owner to have the unfortunate who spoke with him fired, and then bought the restaurant, just so he could claim his favourite table. 

During the '70s the Swiss financial authorities began investigating Ramonet's dubious dealings.

Following the Transition (the interregnum between the end of Franco's rule in 1975 and the re-establishment of a parliamentary democracy in 1981) the State, egged on by vengeful rivals, and led by judge, Balthasar Garzón, caught up with Ramonet. He was charged with fraud, tax evasion and money laundering. He hightailed it to Switzerland. He was found guilty of all charges in absentia and ordered to pay restitution. He died in Switzerland in May, 1991, having made no effort to pay a single bean.

The authorities were fairly relaxed about this — they had a will they said, which bequeathed the mansion to the city. They also had copies of his most recent inventories which listed more than 900 works of art, including works by Botticelli, El Greco, Delacroix, FortunyGoya, Rembrandt, Renoir, Sorolla, Velázquez and Zurbarán. If push came to shove they would seize the building and all the treasures it contained. Except — Muñoz's surviving family had other ideas.

And so, one winter's night in February 1992, between the hours of 2am and 5am, two armoured trucks appeared in the grounds of the house. Curious passers by and nosey neighbours were told that the trucks' occupants were in the act of officially sequestering the artworks on behalf of the regional government. Yep…you guessed right. When government officials finally turned up one morning, in July,1993, they found the house and grounds empty — apart from a few minor artworks, pieces of antique furniture and sculptures in the gardens. An estimated 853 major artworks had dsappeared.

A long legal battle ensued. During this period artworks listed in the inventories kept surfacing in unexpected places. For example, a Goya and an El Greco were discovered by the Guardia Civil in a modest home in Alicante. As court directives for the return of the artworks went unheeded, paintings were being sold at knock-down prices in auction houses in London and Geneva. 

Finally, after 17 years of legal argument, (the family is still threatening to appeal) the case was resolved in favour of Barcelona's city authorities.

Ramonet was an unscrupulous, greedy shit who engineered protection from the Madrid government. He wasn't stupid, but he wasn't clever, and he certainly wasn't cultured — but encouraged his entourage to convince him he was (sound familiar, Trumpistas?).

For a time in the 1950s and 60s Ramonet even had his hands on what is now Palau Robert. His big mistake was to upset someone unknown to us, someone higher up in his particular foodchain. His ownership of Palau Robert was sabotaged by corrupt bank officials, obviously in the pay of a rival.

And now? The City is proceeding with its plans to install a library in the house. The library will contain around  400,000 volumes in English, French, German and Portuguese. It is hoped the library will be opened to the public in 2018. 

If staying here…

… and you've cash to splash then you'll likely have a blast. Getting to and from here to the city centre, and all the sites you may want to visit, is a breeze. L'Antiga Esquerra Eixample is just across the Diagonal. Gràcia is just along Travessera de Gràcia.

Getting to and from the Airport ​is a bit tricky. If you want to avoid stumbling up and down stairs with suitcases in the metro — probably best to take a taxi.

If you're a foodie then you've landed in the right spot — many of the city's best restaurants are within comfortable strolling distance or a short taxi ride. 

If you like to keep yourself fit during your vacation then you'll be happy — there are a good few gyms which will accommodate your fitness routine.

If staying elsewhere in the city

then the only reason you may want to visit this neighbourhood is because of the abundance of opportunities for fine dining and clubbing.

There's nothing here to see — apart from how the local wealthy, and, more particularly, how the sons and daughters of the local wealthy, indulge themselves. 

People

FCBarcelona played their first ever football match here, on December 8, 1899, against a scratch team of English players. The match was played at a disused cycle stadium, situated in the block now defined by the streets Reina Victoria, Vallmajor, Vallero and Modolell. The English team won, I-0.

Revered Catalan poet, Joan Maragall lived the last years of his life here between 1899 and 1911 in a house near Plaça Molina. The house, at Carrer d'Alfons XII, 79, is now the home of the Arxiu (archive) Joan Maragall.

Joan Maragall was the grandfather of Pasqual Maragall, the now retired socialist politician who brought the Olympic Games to Barcelona.

Festivities 

Festa Major:

Last two weeks of June, with a programme of family friendly activities including parades, music concerts, correfoc, and castellers (human towers) — worth checking out if  in the area.

La Diada:

June 19th — the day of Sant Gervasi and Sant Prostasi. 

Food & Drink

Market

Mercat de Galvany, Carrer Santaló, 65.

Arts & Entertainment

Live Music

Luz de Gas, Carrer Muntaner, 246. WEBSITE HERE

Features

If you're a petrolhead then you'll be interested to know that the Antique Car Club of Catalunya has its HQ here and has a fascinating collection of classic and vintage motors which is only open to the public on Tuesdays between 6pm and 9pm.

Enjoy exploring Sant Gervasi-Galvany

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3 Comments

  • Reply Meredith 7th May 2017 at 6:47 pm

    I’m curious to know if you know. It seems like Casa Ramonet may just have been sold?

    https://www.idealista.com/inmueble/36217201/

    • Reply Bill Sinclair 8th May 2017 at 10:29 pm

      Hi, when I last spoke to someone about this back in January this year everything was proceeding as planned. As far as I’m aware the mansion has not been sold to a private buyer.

  • Reply Meredith 9th May 2017 at 12:04 pm

    Ok, thank you. This advert isn’t crystal clear, so it must be another local place.

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