Unlike many of Spain's holiday hotspots, average property prices in Barcelona were up 9.2 per cent in the first quarter of this year, compared to the same period last year, according to Tinsa, Spain’s leading appraisal company. This is due in part to Barcelona’s unique appeal – a city of culture, world-famous architecture and gastronomic innovation – along with the renovated OneOcean Port Vell marina, a 148-berth hub with space for yachts up to 190 metres, that has helped to transform the harbour and the property market.
For those looking to purchase in the city, Pedralbes is the go-to for politicians and footballers looking for luxury villas while the city centre's traditional lodgings with Gaudí-style touches and mosaic flooring, as well as pied-à-terres at the marina, start from about €2 million for a top-end pad. However it is Zona Alta, in the mountains overlooking the city centre and the location of our property of the month, that is increasingly coveted. At about €6,000 per square metre, this are is particularly in favour with those seeking lots of land as well as ex-pats keen to be close to the international schools nearby.
If you want to live in a slice of Catalonian history, this is it. High up in the mountains of Serra de Collserola Natural Park, with views of the Mediterranean, marina and Barcelona Cathedral, Villa Paula is an architectural marvel where Lluís Companys i Jover, president of Catalonia during the Spanish Civil War, is believed to have hidden when Franco’s forces invaded. The property’s current owner – only the third in its history, since he bought it from a family who had owned it since 1947 – was dubious about the legend, but when he dug down into the house’s foundations during renovations, he discovered a secret basement, with two stools still inside, that seemed to validate the story.
The owner, a former New Yorker, bought the property in 2008 without even stepping inside. “We were driving past and thought the exterior and the views were just extraordinary,” he says. “We mainly bought it for the views.”
The exterior and the views are still extraordinary, but the interior is now entirely different. The property was gutted, stripped down to its original brick, and steel beams inserted to support the original timber. The art deco-coloured glass windows were removed, restored and reinstated. Beautiful hydraulic tile floors were cleaned and put back into parquet flooring. Some stunning original features remain, including a marble and pewter standalone sink in the master en suite that some believe may have been made by or to emulate the work of Gaudi, and an original fireplace that was moved from the living room into the main bedroom and converted from woodburning into gas.
The eight-bedroom house, believed to have been built in 1890, now has four floors and a tower, a guard/guest house and an outdoor kitchen, along with a state-of-the-art indoor kitchen. Further amenities include an infinity pool, gym, sauna, wine cellar and several porches. The interior features a variety of different styles, from the unusual bright green tongue-and-groove kitchen, to the New York loft-style dining room (complete with exposed brick) to the original Spanish architecture installed by Jeroni Granell I Manresa.
Villa Paula is 765 square metres but is on a huge plot of 41,000 square metres. The landscaping is rustic, with 100-year-old pine trees and a vegetable garden (recent crops include pumpkin and courgette) modernised with a high-tech lighting and watering system.
Sarrià in Zona Alta, one of Barcelona’s oldest neighbourhoods, is especially popular with buyers looking for that extra bit of space. It is about 20 minutes from the city centre and about 30 minutes from the marina, but here you can find some of the city’s biggest villas, with extensive plots of land, from €3 million.
Here in Zona Alta, you are isolated from the hustle and bustle of the city itself but not far from all the essentials. It’s a hop, skip and a jump to the fancy neighbourhoods of Vallvidrera, where early 20th century Barcelona’s elite used to have their summer houses and from where you can catch the funicular railway all the way into the centre of the city in minutes. Sandwiched between the mountains and the marina, this is a house that combines sea, sun and mountain air in a way that few urban centres can.
On the market for €7.5m with Sotheby’s International Realty (+ 34 934 675 810, barcelona-sothebysrealty.com) and Lucas Fox (+ 34 933 562 989, www.lucasfox.com). Francesa Steele is a property writer at The Times.