Undiscovered Barcelona: the textile town of Sants

Plot the story of my life through the places I’ve lived, and you can see a  theme.  Textile towns.

I went to university in Manchester, sometimes known as Cottonopolis because of the cotton industry that thrived there throughout the 19th century.

One of the  cities at the forefront of the cloth-making industrial revolution – wool and flax in this case – was Leeds.  I’ve lived there too.

Then in France, we lived in Laroque d’Olmes, a town whose prosperity depended on the woollen textile trade, snatched from it in the twentieth century as wool lost out to more modern fibres which were in any case increasingly manufactured in Asia.

And last week, in Barcelona, we stayed in Sants.  In the 19th century this area, like so many others in Catalonia, turned out the cotton-printed calicoes so popular in Paris at the time.  It was a busy industrial town that only became part of Barcelona towards the end of the 19th century.  Now much of its industrial past has been re-purposed or flattened.  Here’s the Parc de l’España Industrial – once an enormous textile mill.

We loved being here.  Though so near one of Barcelona’s main stations it’s assertively non-touristy.  People live, work, shop and enjoy themselves without having to tussle for space with a whole lot of trippers rubbernecking their way along the crowded thoroughfares.

We don’t want tourist apartments here!

Our street had everything from a fish restaurant (choose your own fish from the marble slab), an alternative book shop, a handy mini-mart, a design studio to – inevitably – several bars.

Every morning we did as the Catalans do before they set off for office, market or shop and had breakfast in one of them.  I developed a passion for wholewheat croissants, which are light, flaky and utterly delicious.

Breakfast in our bakery of choice, appropriately called CroisSants.

Neighbourhood restaurants made few concessions to Spaniards, let alone foreigners, displaying their menus in Catalan: this is a separatist area.

We shopped in the independent shops (the only surrender to globalisation that we could find in the entire area was a solitary Burger King: it was refreshingly under-populated) and sauntered round its two thriving markets.  We’ll be back.


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Author: margaret21

I'm retired and living in North Yorkshire, where I walk as often as I can, write, volunteer, and travel as often as I can.

25 thoughts on “Undiscovered Barcelona: the textile town of Sants”

  1. It looks utterly fantastic and not unlike a part of Rome where we stayed some years ago. It also looks very different from an unknown part of Barcelona where we found ourselves while looking for a restaurant. We had obviously gone in the wrong direction because it was certainly not the best part of town nor did it feel particularly safe and we don’t scare easily!

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    1. I wonder if you were in Raval? Emily wouldn’t happily go there at night, and some of her friends have had unfortunate experiences there. Normally Spanish streets, as you know, are alive and lively till quite late.


    1. Yes, it’s hard to see it as the ‘umble working man’s’ area as described in the guidebooks. We found a lively, socially mixed area with a good deal of pride in the community, often refleected in the clean and tidy appearance of streets both big and small.

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  2. Wonderful photographs again, Margaret. The croissant does look good (I’m hungry and trying to resist food this late at night!) Is that sunset or sunrise through the trees? Very pretty!

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  3. Oh sod it; now I also want to visit your Spanish towns……
    I particularly love the croissant COFFEE pic – makes me walk to my kitchen for the 2nd espresso this morning 🙂

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  4. All those textile towns in your DNA . . . and you aren’t one who sews! That just seems wrong, somehow. Beautiful photos although i got kind of obsessed with the croissant . . .

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