Horta is nowadays a neighbourhood belonging to Barcelona, but until 1904 it was an independent town called Sant Joan d'Horta and it was located 6km far from the old Barcelona. Horta has always been rich in water and that is why it had in roman times its own town, there were many "masies" -Catalan rural houses- due to its main activity in the area that it was farming and also industries that required water such as dying leather, a starch factory or a brick factory.
Horta used to be as well a place to spend the summer for those families from Barcelona that had enough money to buy a house in the area, this is why there are some elegant houses and palaces such as The Palace of palau del marquès d'Alfarràs (Laberint), la Granja Vella (Seminari de Martí-Codolar) o can Gallart (el Palau de les Heures). We will show you around the most interesting spots in the Horta neighbourhood.
Aiguafreda street: water wells and little houses
Aiguafreda is one of these streets that makes you travel in time, this street is a unique space in Horta nowadays, it used to be a style of house that was found in many areas but due to urbanistic changes they disappeared and those are the only ones that remain. There are 8 houses that create a compact group of houses that have a common passageway and in front, most of the houses have its own patio or even a garden.
Each house has a well, most of them right in front of the house as it used to be something basic to wash the clothes at the time and followed by a washing site on the side -what we call "safareig"-. Actually, these houses are called the houses of "les bugaderes", a "bugadera" is someone who does the laundry. It is not that women in those houses did the laundry as a full-time job, they did all the housework and apart from that they earned some money washing clothes from others in exchange of money.
In Horta it existed an industry coming from these women washing clothes for other families, as they had direct access to the water and infrastructure to do it, they earned some money doing it and those rich that could pay to externalise that were happy for the service. The upper-class from Barcelona started to use the "bugaderes d'Horta" at the beginning of XVII until XX century.They picked up the dirty clothes on Monday and they came back with the clean batch on Saturdays.
It is interesting to know that Horta became very famous among the rich in Barcelona due to the washing service. Barcelona had mainly what is now the street Rec Comtal where the water came into town and they could wash the clothes in this flow of water. The problem was that in this water they used to throw away food or waste products as well. The rec Comtal not being as clean as it could be it was not the perfect choice for the rich, Horta instead had water coming from Collserola hill. You can see nowadays between Passeig Maragall and Tajo street the old bridge where the water flowed into town.
Please note that people live in carrer Aiguafreda, is not a museum neither a theme park, I would totally recommend you to go but tourist groups are forbidden (20/30 pax with a guide). For obvious reasons, the neighbours want to keep their quietness and incredible area as it is, if you go on your own no one will tell you anything. Use common sense and be respectful, don't touch anything on the street, are someone belongings in there and we all want to keep these places as they are with the help of everyone.
Els mistos and "masies"
In Horta if you walk in the upper part you will bump into an interesting sculpture called els mistos, that are literally matches to light up your cigarette. They are 20m high approximately and are painted in yellow, black, red and blue, the artists were Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen that was inaugurated during in 1992, the Olympics year for Barcelona.
You will see different "masies" due to the past of having orchards and vegetable gardens in the town of Sant Joan d'Horta, some of those masies have been converted into restaurants, as an example Can Cortada and Can Travi Nou.
Can Travi Nou is located in the old street of San Cebrià, the house is from XVIII century and the main product they cultivated it was the vineyard because they didn't discover the richness that existed in the land yet -the flow of water-. Can Travi had a rural activity until XX century when it was a more a house for the rich and then it became a restaurant of Catalan cuisine. If you have time, pay them a visit for lunch, you won't be disappointed.
Can Cortada is an authentic masia, a Catalan farmhouse. The restaurant opened its doors in 1994 and offers a Catalan cuisine specialised in top-quality meats, a la brasa as we cal grilled meat. Another restaurant to try out, and it is full of history in its walls you can still find inside the house a defense tower.
If you would like to visit the centre of Horta you should go to Plaça Eivissa, the main square in the area where you will see that is surrounded by terraces and bars where to eat or drink something. We recommend you to stop by for a snack or tapas for lunch at Quimet Quimet or a sandwich at Luis se va bar. Another option is the bar Tipi tapa, and as you can imagine the tapas are the star dish.
We have gone through together the history of Horta and now is the time of what is now in the neighbourhood that might catch your eye, some sites I will show you might have its history behind but those are the current attractions in the area.
It is a masia of thousand years old, its gardens disappeared due to the urbanization of the area but the house is still there now reconverted into a public library. The entrance is free of course and you can get inside and see how the farmhouse is nowadays.
The bell tower at Horta street
It is interesting to see right above La Caixa bank in Horta street a bell tower, it comes from XIX century when there was a church in that very same location and having a bell tower was important for the town to know the time and here the bells. The tower had an important moment in the Civil War as well as it was the highest point in town and they could control the surroundings. The bell tower though is not the original, as in 1945 they decided to demolish it due to the danger it could cause because of its state. When Caixa Bank bought the land where it used to be they decided to rebuild it and Horta had again its bell tower, and when they did that the Town Hall gave back the original bells to the tower so it could ring the bells again. At the moment the bell tower doesnt ring anymore but it is curious to see this pieces of history of the town.
Laberint d'Horta- Horta maze
The Horta maze is located in a park, it was designed by an Italian engineer called Domenica Bagutti in 1792 and it is of course, the oldest park in Barcelona. The park has 55 hectares of gardens and some of it preserves the neoclassical style of the time when they were created. It is a romantic park full of hidden corners to discover and it has as decoration mythological sculptures. The important part is the vegetal maze done with cypress trees, a magic and fun place for kids and adults, will you find the exit?
MUHBA - Turó de la Rovira
The Turó de la Rovira or the Carmel bunkers as locals call i, is a viewpoint 360º at 262 metres above sea level that was a strategic point of defense for Barcelona during the Civil War. It is a very recommended visit to see Barcelona from above and discover part of its history related to the war and the post-war.
Visual poem by Joan Brossa at Jardins de Marià Cañardo i Lacasta
Joan Brossa was a Catalan poet and Joan Brossa gardens we can find his visual poem, a garden full of A letters, broken or the full letter, punctuation signs spread in the grass that become a poem in nature.
The start of the poem is a big letter A of 12 metres high that is actually the entrance to the poem, after that there are commas, points, parenthesis, question marks among others that are spread in the grass until you get to the end of the poem that is again a capital A destroyed.
Find the Horta walking route in google maps so you can see the stops of the route and where are the points located.