The Ensanche, or Eixample in Catalan, is, after the Gothic Quarters, the area where you will find most tourists in Barcelona. This is because here you will find Antoni Gaudí’s best works, and in front of each you will see a queue of people in selfie mode.
If we were to jump back a couple thousand years, in here, we would probably see Roman fortifications and a military camp following specific orders and arrangements. It was the oppidum, which would serve as the base for so many cities in Europe.
The Romans believed that they knew it all, but the empire ended up falling apart and a dark and complicated period came, which would last for a few centuries, in which one would be stabbed in the stomach for less than nothing. So, the smartest thing to do was to take shelter and sleep in places with walls; the taller and thicker they were, the better.
Barcelona had its walls. All the cities had theirs just in case, and things stayed that way until the times of Napoleon, that short and sour military man. By then, the canons were already strong enough to destroy the medieval walls and all sorts of structures. Although they were still beautiful and gave a right image, they began to become obsolete.
Also, our nineteenth-century kings decided to renovate the cities, so that in the future, people would not talk badly about them. Fernando VII is not the most beloved king in the history of Spain, but between misdeeds and wrongdoings, at least he started planning the first Eixample of Barcelona. It was 1824, and they even named a street after him: Fernando VII of Spain. Later, the name would lose a few letters until it became just Fernando and today, as you can see, is the Career de Ferran.
In any case, around that time old and dirty buildings were destroyed to be replaced by others more presentable and of elegant neoclassical style; there are a few left still. The Passeig de Gràcia was also inaugurated, which today is one of the leading roads of the city and served initially as a way for the snobs to show off their horses and flashy cars.
After Fernando, his daughter Isabel II took the throne; it seems she was les s hateful than her father. During her reign, the growth continued, and the necessity of making a General Plan of Widening (Ensanche) for Barcelona arose, and with not less than a few controversies, they began to do it in 1860. The Diagonal cut the large plot of square blocks in two, and like that, today we have almost eleven kilometres in a straight line to walk from the area of Les Corts to the sea, or vice versa.
The construction of the Paralelo (Parallel), another well-known geometric name of the Eixample, dates from the 19th century. This avenue, an emblem of Barcelona’s bustling nightlife, is named so because its layout coincides with that of a terrestrial parallel, and until the seventies, it was kind of a Broadway to the Catalan. Yes, exactly what you heard!