The vast nineteenth-century street grid north of Plaça de Catalunya is the city’s main shopping and business district. It was designed as part of a revolutionary urban plan – the Eixample in Catalan (pronounced aye-sham-pla, the “Extension” or “Widening”) – that divided districts into regular blocks, whose characteristic wide streets and shaved corners survive today. It’s not a neighbourhood as such – and, in fact, is further split into two distinct sections, namely the Dreta de l’Eixample (ie, the right-hand side) and Esquerra de l’Eixample (left-hand side), which fall either side of the two central parallel avenues, Passeig de Gràcia and Rambla de Catalunya. It’s on and around Passeig de Gràcia, above all, that the bulk of the city’s show-stopping modernista (Catalan Art Nouveau) buildings are found, along with an array of classy galleries and some of the city’s most fashionable hotels, shops and boutiques.
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