Like its fast up-and-coming neighbour Poblenou, Diagonal Mar is a shining testament to the redevelopment of industrial Barcelona. Where factories and workers’ housing used to jostle for space and scarce fresh air, you’ll now find towering creations of glass and marble, breezy open boulevards, lush green spaces and paths that waft you down to the sea.
The redevelopment of the area has brought together all the beaches of Barcelona into one long sweeping urban marine playground, where triathletes compete for honours, sailing boats bob happily, families promenade and café society has replaced blue collar drudgery.
Small pockets of the original buildings remain – a chimney here, a brick warehouse there – but these are most likely incorporated into the new vision for the area as a trendy new suite of offices, a gathering of street food vendors and mobile barista carts or spaces such as the Palo Alto market.
Diagonal Mar is the neighbourhood at the end of Avinguda Diagonal, where the 10km long boulevard finally reaches the sea. This point is marked by a huge 16-hectare plaza, presided over by the faded space age glory of the Parc del Fòrum, an architectural legacy of the 2004 Universal Forum of Cultures.
This is a vibrant hub of activity, thanks to the retail overload of the vast Diagonal Mar shopping centre and the unavoidable visual draw of the iconic 1,700m2 photovoltaic Panel, a landmark that stands out from anywhere on the coast or from your window seat as you fly in, and that has starred of many a futuristic car advertisement.
The forest of monumental 5-star hotels may reflect the shiny new office buildings popping up in the neighbouring 22@ aspiring global business hub for technology, but the focus of Diagonal Mar is, as the same suggests, its proximity to the sea.
This makes sailing, sunbathing and all the outdoor activities a central part of life here. The long beach boulevard is one way to enjoy the surroundings, while Barcelona’s second largest park, the Parc de Diagonal Mar, is a riot of fascinating sculptures, grassy hills, hidden giant slides and a huge lake – all the brainchild of the very creative Enric Miralles and built on the site of a smelting plant.
Green spaces abound, and promenaders can easily walk from Diagonal Mar to the city’s largest park – Parc de la Ciutadella – and hardly take a step off a green space or a beach. This dedication to open spaces and proximity to the sea ensure magnificent views from the glass terraces of the glitzy apartment blocks that offer luxury living with added impressive communal pools and gyms.
This community of ‘seasiders’ is committed to enjoying life, but is also keen to preserve the environment for future residents. Many initiatives are organized by the area’s businesses including the Diagonal Mar shopping centre, which backs the Fundación Mar SILMAR project – part of a countrywide project to measure water quality looked after by volunteers and diving centres.
Having so many large open spaces also makes Diagonal Mar the perfect location for some serious partying, and it has long been home to the Primavera Sound international music festival. This globally renowned shindig brings together the coolest acts in the world for a huge annual get together to mark the hedonistic transition from warm spring to hot summer nights.
Diagonal Mar is delineated by the Besòs river. Like most industrial rivers this was for years a highly unappealing industrial wasteland, but today it is the Parc del Besòs, which takes the walkers and mountain bikers inland from the sea along generous paths on a now picturesque riverbank bordered by greenery and rich with wildlife.
Just the other side of the river stands the decommissioned power station, its three huge towers a 200m high monument to a previous age when it caused black rain to fall on the area. In its own way this controversial but undeniably impressive building is as iconic as the more famous Sagrada Família, but it is doomed to a disgraced exile, looking longingly across the border into the official municipality of a fresh, shiny new Barcelona.
The power station is an eye-catching reminder of the old city. But it is also a dinosaur from a forgotten time that will never return to Diagonal Mar now that the wonders of the 21st Century have brought a whole new meaning to urban living and global industry.
“Diagonal Mar is a fascinating blend of history and modernity, and has the atmosphere of unbridled opportunity that comes from a new age of development. The industries may have changed, but the area is enjoying a popularity that is stoked by the proximity to sea on one side and the ambitious 22@ development on the other.
This location is perfect for executives and families who want to be close to their new corporate headquarters but also enjoy the best of Barcelona’s beach life. Beautiful modern apartments offer sweeping views across the city and up and down the coast. The beach is just over the road, and parks and cafes are on the doorstep.
The freedom of total redevelopment also enables infrastructure to be incorporated into an overall plan with new town freedom. This has brought about the transformation of the area around Glòries into a cultural hub and created a tram, bus and metro system that makes it easy to connect to the rest of the city.
The roads are also growing to embrace the influx of new businesses and people. Like many areas with much-announced potential, many feel it has taken a few more years than expected for bold plans to gain traction, but as we enter 2019 Diagonal Mar is delivering on its promise to be a much sought-after area for discerning buyers.”
Francisco Nathurmal, CEO BCN Advisors
According to leading property portal Idealista sales prices in the district of Sant Martí (which includes the neighbourhood of Diagonal Mar) ended the third quarter of 2018 on €4,104 per square metre, up €119 on the price at the end of 2017 and significantly higher (31%) than the price at the end of the third quarter of 2014.