Clot neighborhood, Sant Martí and the future of Barcelona

January 5, 2024

Looking for info about the Clot neighborhood in Barcelona?

Maybe not.

That first sentence is just for the bots anyway.

Either way, Morena and I recently moved up to Clot, a neighborhood just past Glòries, in Barcelona.

Buying the flat was a bit of an adventure, and that’s the subject of another article. Today, let’s talk about the new neighborhood.

The word “clot” doesn’t sound great in English – sounds a bit bloody, actually.

In Catalan it refers to a sort of hole or depression in the ground. Not a valley. But perhaps a grave. Calling a geographical feature “a depression” doesn’t sound great to me either. I don’t know.

The Spanish translation tends to be “hoyo”, which I don’t use too often. And it comes from clotum melis, a medieval name for the area, so called because it also had beehives, centuries ago.

In any case, the Clot neighborhood is part of the district of Sant Martí, which was once a town in its own right, called Sant Martí de Provençals.

A completely unrelated side note about Catalan spelling

The Catalans have unironically been putting tails on the letter ç since the beginning of time, presumably.

It’s only in certain words: the football club Barça has a tail on its c, and the Spanish keyboard on my MacBook has the ç prominently placed near the ñ.

In English we might use the “c cedilla” or “c trencada” in French words like façade and garçon – and then, only if we’re trying to make some sort of point about our deep knowledge of European linguistics.

According to Google, I’ve used the word “facade” in at least five separate articles on this blog, and in no case have I spelled it with a ç with a tail on it. I guess I’m not quite the grammar snob I thought I was.

Anyway, Clot is part of Sant Martí de Provençals.

Here in the greater Barcelona area, the district of Sant Martí isn’t talked about much.

It’s north of Glòries, and to the right of Avinguda Meridiana – incidentally, Barcelona’s only real north-south street. And it goes all the way out to the Besòs river on the edge of town. (The local custom of building everything on some arbitrary diagonal so that concepts like north and south are largely meaningless drives me nuts. We’ll talk more about that later.)

Sant Martí district barcelona
This looks like it may have once been the city hall for the town of Sant Martí de Provençcals.

Anyway, when we were moving, we’d tell people we were going to Clot, and they’d all say the same thing: “Oh wow, that’s cool. Clot is cool!”

Meanwhile, we were a bit puzzled – seems like a normal neighborhood. What’s so cool about it?

Time to investigate…

First cool thing: no tourists.

The first thing we realized is that Clot has virtually no tourists.

Don’t get me wrong. Unlike some people here in Barcelona, I’m not “anti-tourism“.

For me, mass tourism is something you learn to take for granted if you’re living in Barcelona – especially if you’re more central.

parc guell eixample barcelona
Parc Güell in Barcelona, one of the many tourist spots.

But Clot has almost no tourists. The nearest thing that’s a big tourist draw is the dusty wreck of a Basilica known as Sagrada Familia, and that’s about a 20-minute walk away, meaning I can live my daily life in Clot without seeing a single tour group, most of the time.

This is a big change from our old neighborhoods: previously, we lived in Barceloneta down by the beach, and later in the L’Eixample area right around the corner from Arc de Triomf and the big bus station.

Barceloneta gets wild every time there’s a bit of sun and the whole population (plus half a million tourists) head to the beach. And on weekends you barely want to be out around Arc de Triomf, La Rambla and Plaça de Catalunya. There are just too many people milling around.

So for a more “authentic” vida de barrio you have to head outside the center – for example, up to Clot, which isn’t on anyone’s tourist itinerary.

Moving on…

Clot neighborhood has some excellent restaurants

We’ve only been here for a month or so, but for the first few weeks we didn’t have a working stove. So we’ve already tried several of the local restaurants, and I’m impressed!

cityscape glories barcelona
A dark winter morning near Plaça de Glòries, Barcelona.

Back in the Arc de Triomf area we were close to “Chinatown” – which isn’t anything like the Chinatowns in London or Bangkok, for example, but which has a lot of good Asian restaurants.

Up here, we were originally worried we’d have to go back downtown for lunch, but as it turns out, there are some very good restaurants in Clot as well.

If you’re looking for Chinese, check out Edifici Dengyun on Meridiana. We’ve just been once, but so far the quality of the food seems more than adequate. I’ll report back.

Good Thai food can be hard to find in Barcelona. We’ve been everywhere, and so far it would seem that, Khao Thai, right off the edge of the Merado de Clot is as good as any of them.

Otherwise, if you’re looking for Peruvian food, the Clot area has a bunch of options.

I love a good ceviche, and so does the United Nations – apparently, in December 2023, the UNESCO added the preparation and consumption of ceviche to it’s list of “intangible cultural heritage”. So far, the best Peruvian restaurant we’ve found in the neighborhood is Sabor Trujillano, on calle Felip II.

And for upscale Colombian, check out Muysca on Carrer del Clot – it’s a small place, so it’s better to get a reservation, but everything we’ve had there has been great.

I’m sure I’ll be able to add more to this list soon. For now, I’ve got a long “want to go” list on Google Maps, and I’m waiting for more excuses to head out to a restaurant instead of cooking.

Other than that…

What’s so cool about the Clot neighborhood?

I’m still not sure.

It’s got a lot of “vida de barrio” in the non-touristy sense, which is nice. The shops actually exist to serve the local population, not the conspicuous consumption of people who are only in town for a weekend.

The crowd is diverse – there are a lot more Latin people here than in our previous neighborhoods, for example. And fewer wealthy Germans and Dutch folk. I’m not the type of American expat who’s always seeking out other Americans, or trying to avoid other Americans for some reason… in any case, I haven’t found any in Clot yet.

Some people up here are a bit more insistent about speaking Catalan to me, as well. Almost nobody speaks Catalan to a guiri-looking guy like myself in the center, but out here some people will actually start a conversation in Catalan as if they’re expecting me to understand them – and sometimes even continue speaking Catalan even though I’m answering in Spanish.

You know, real “authentic” Catalan lifestyles, just like in the mountains of Girona.

I’m joking, of course.

The quest for “authenticity” is dumb…

I usually write the word “authentic” in quotes, because frankly, the quest for authenticity is mostly bullshit. But here’s an anecdote.

Our first week here I was excited to buy yogurt in bulk at the municipal market. Bring your own jar to the shop, and a girl in a track suit will fill it for you and charge you for the weight.

(Now that I’m an insufferable health nut, I get about half my calories from yogurt, so this was going to be a big step up in my quality of life.)

clot market in barcelona
Mercat de Clot, Barcelona.

On the way to the lleteria – that’s the Catalan word for the milk shop – I stopped off to throw some old electronic stuff out at the punto limpio – that’s the Spanish word for the place where City Hall collects exotic and dangerous garbage.

A couple of old ladies were standing there talking to the city worker – the exotic garbage woman – about garbage, and about death. It was in Catalan, but the gist of it was that in a society based on disposable single-use products, City Hall would soon have to offer a place where you can throw away people.

Mighty philosophical, it was.

Anyway, one of the old ladies eventually noticed me standing there, old electronics in hand. And (not wanting me to feel left out) she turned to me.

She said something in Catalan.

I smiled and nodded.

She continued the same thought, also in Catalan.

“Yup”, I commented, trying to look harmless. Just some guy out buying a jar of yogurt.

At this point she realized I wasn’t understanding her, and she turned to her friend. “Luisa! Let’s go…” she said, in Spanish. “This gentleman is waiting in line.”

El Clot, Glòries and the future of Barcelona

You can’t read a single article about city planning in Barcelona without hearing about Ildefonso Cerdà, the engineer and urban planner. His 1860 plan for L’Eixample – the expansion of the city beyond Gótico and Born – is responsible for much of what we today consider to be Barcelona.

Cerdà laid down Avenida Diagonal, and Meridiana. The town of Sant Martí de Provençals was annexed as part of his expansion of the street grid, and now it’s just another Barcelona district.

Interestingly, in the orignial Plan Cerdà, Plaça de Glòries was set to be the new city center, and Barcelona was to be a city full of parks. Neither of those things came to pass. Perhaps the most notable thing about the Plan Cerdà is how much of it is still a work in progress, even now, 160 years later.

Plaça de Glòries – there’s that ç with a tail on it again – has now been under construction for the last decade, and it looks like the work is set to finish this year, in 2024.

Glòries isn’t yet the city center, but it might be some day – it’s the meeting point of Barcelona’s three main streets: Gran Vía, Diagonal, and Meridiana. Avinguda Meridiana in particular has some “Main Street” vibes that are still underdeveloped.

I’m looking forward to seeing what happens when the “obras” are done, but I’m not holding my breath.

Map of Plan Cerdà, with Glòries in the center.

There’s also a lot of construction going on nearby in La Sagrera, where the government is (allegedly) building one of the largest train stations in Europe, which will someday replace Sants as the main node for the high speed trains connecting Spain with France.

I say allegedly because all this has been happening for more than a decade now, and nobody wants to venture a guess as to when it’s going to be finished.

The new station will also bring with it a new park – Barcelona’s largest green space – which will follow the train tracks for 4 kilometers. Parc del Camí Comtal – now nothing but a giant hole in the ground with the rail lines along the bottom – might be pretty nice, some day.

For now, though, this is all hypothetical. Ildefonso Cerdà died in 1876. His tomb, out in the cemetery at Montjuic, is adorned with his famous octagonal street grid. And slowly, his plan moves forward.

Authentically yours,

Daniel AKA Mr Chorizo.

P.S. Nearly everything in Barcelona has both a Catalan name and a Spanish name. So Plaça de Catalunya is also Plaza de Cataluña, Glòries is also Glorias, Avinguda Meridiana is Avenida Meridiana. Most of the time the spelling changes more than the pronunciation, and I tend to use whichever one first pops into my head, without any real system. In this article I’ve used more Catalan spellings, and anyway, Clot is always Clot. Nobody’s calling it “El Hoyo” or anything like that.

P.P.S. Have you been to the Clot neighborhood? Is it super cool? Is Glòries set to be the new center of Barcelona? Do you ever wish that Cerdà had made his street grid follow a north-south orientation so we could say “head north three blocks” like people in other cities do? Let me know what you think, right here in the comments…

P.P.P.S. I’m trying to write every day, with no real expectations other than that I’ll add something to the text daily. Some days, this ends up being a meaningful experience; other days, I end up writing a few paragraphs about Cs with little tails on them. That’s the writer’s life, though. Also, while we’re here, I’ve got a page for donations to the blog. So definitely check that out. Thanks!

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About the Author Daniel

How did I end up in Spain? Why am I still here almost 20 years later? Excellent questions. With no good answer... Anyway, at some point I became a blogger, bestselling author and contributor to Lonely Planet. So there's that. Drop me a line, I'm happy to hear from you.

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  1. My family and I just bought a place in Badalona so I am having similar thoughts about our neighborhood – lots of undiscovered gems and it's nice to be close to the beach in the summer, which is crowded if not touristy… hope you'll do a post in the future about Encants market because that's also a fascinating place.

    1. Hey Rachel, I walked through Encants market a week or two ago and wasn’t really sure what the deal was. Is there a story behind it?

      Also, I’m happy to say that the closest beach to my new house is now Badalona, it’s only two stops on the Rodalies. So I’ll probably be spending more time out there in the coming months. We actually started our flat search out in Gorg, but decided to stay in the “big city” in the end. How’s life out there?

      1. Badalona is pretty cool! We are closer to the Pompeu-Fabra metro and it's a nice area as far as I can tell. We looked in Gorg but I didn't like that area as much, felt too much like a concrete jungle in the central areas. I have a family member who works at the Encants market and I believe there has been a flea market located there for 700 years in the same location, although the current building is new. The ground floor is dedicated to selling people's estates after they die and apparently the market was started for that purpose during plague times… people will bid on estates and then have a certain number of days to occupy the ground floor space trying to sell what they can… although the shops in the rest of the building are owned and more permanent. Now there are also lots of other shops and even restaurants for random things ranging from luggage to fabrics. I just find the entire place fascinating and it seems like there is a crazy amount of construction going on around it.

        1. Oh okay, actually I was confused by Encants Nous which is apparently a different thing, closer to my new house. I’ll check out Encants as well. Thanks for reading!

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