Gràcia is perhaps Barcelona’s most popular neighborhood. It is known for being fiercely Catalan in its identity, for its progressive values, and for having some of the nicest plazas and coolest bars in the city. It is a place to spend an afternoon exploring, visiting its many interesting boutiques, drinking wine in the shade on a Plaza, and eating top notch Middle-Eastern food (Gracia is known for its many Middle-Eastern restaurants). And if you’re town in August, don’t miss the Festes de Gràcia, the neighborhood’s yearly festival, which gathers tens of thousands of people for live music, drinking, and dancing in the streets.
Go for a walk in Park Güell
What can be said of the Park Güell? famous worldwide, is it one of Barcelona’s most important landmarks. If it’s your first time in the Catalan capital, you can’t leave without visiting its most important park. Originally planned as a housing development for the local bourgeoisie, after its commercial failure the city ended up acquiring it and turning into a public park. Its main highlights are the mosaic dragon fountain that commands the park’s central staircase, the Sala Hipóstila, and the stone pillared archways and columns that support the winding, suspended paths that criss-cross the park. Also make sure to climb the Turó de les 3 Creus for a magnificent view of the city. Find more information and tickets for Park Güell here.
Tip from Matthias: A large part of Park Güell is free, so you don’t need a ticket. However we recommend paying the €7 entry fee to see the entire park.
Visit the first house Gaudí designed
La Casa Vicens is one of Antoni Gaudí’s lesser known works, and one of Barcelona’s first Art Nouveau buildings. In a sense, it could be said to be the project that kicked off the golden age of Barcelona architecture because it is the first house Gaudí designed. The building also pioneered the Mudejar style that became highly popular among local modernist architects, inspired by Moorish and Oriental elements. You’ll find it on Carrer Carolines, a five-minute walk from Fontana metro station. The building has been undergoing reforms for the last few years, and it is scheduled to open to visitors in October 2017.
Relax in Gracia’s many plazas
For many locals, social life in Gràcia centers around the neighborhood’s plazas. People meet on bar terraces, benches, and sometimes even on the floor for food and drinks and just to hang out. Every plaza has a slightly different atmosphere: Plaça del Diamant has good food, Plaça Virreina is a popular gathering spot for a beer, Plaça del Sol is festive and animated, and Plaça de la Vila is more like the town square of a village. At night, Gracia’s squares become gathering spots for young people, who like to hang out and drink and socialize. There are also many good (and cheap!) restaurants and take-out places all over the neighborhood, so you can sit down for a meal indoors or go full local style and get a slice of pizza to eat in one of the plazas.
Tip from Matthias: Gracia has some great ice cream places — try La Gelateria Italiana on Plaça de la Revolució. The dark chololate ice cream is especially good.
Gracia is one of Barcelona’s hippest neighborhoods, so it follows that it would have some of the city’s hippest shops. Walk along Carrer Verdi, the neighborhood’s most important pedestrian artery, and you’ll find alternative clothing stores, shoe shops, jewelry, wine shops, vintage furniture and decoration, and much more. Gracia is also home to a growing number of artists, some of which have open studios and showrooms you can visit.
Hit Gracia’s street parties!
Unique to Catalunya are the festes de barri – neighborhood festivals. The biggest and most popular in Barcelona are the Festes de Gràcia, set in the eponymous Gracia neighborhood. For one week in mid to late August (dates vary slightly each year) the entire neighborhood is a non-stop party. Concert stages are set up in the streets and plazas, with live music playing late into the night, and each street in the neighborhood is decorated thematically. Come during the day to walk around and view the elaborate decorations, all made from recycled materials, and stay well into the night for drinks and dancing.
Visit an old neighborhood market
For many years, Barcelona’s neighborhood markets weren’t doing so well, but recently they have experienced a surge in popularity, with many conscientious eaters choosing to do their shopping at these old neighborhood establishments, purveyors of high quality products, often organic and grown locally. El Mercat de l’Abaceria Central, on Travessera de Gràcia, is the go-to place to find the best produce, fish, meats, charcuterie, and cheeses in the neighborhood. Pay it a visit, explore the stalls, and take in the smells and colors of all the delicious things on sale. Make sure you try some good ibérico (cured Spanish ham), llom embutxat, and Spanish cheeses such as Manchego and Idiazabal.
Locals often refer to Gràcia as “un poble en mig de la ciutat” –a village in the middle of the city— due to its unique atmosphere and its architecture, which in some respects are closer to those of a small village than a large European capital. One of the most interesting things to do is to just explore its streets and squares and see what you turn up. The neighborhood has a special charm that makes it a great place to just go wandering.