So… you’re off to Barcelona and you’ve decided to stay in Gràcia (well you might not have decided yet, but let’s just pretend you have.) If that’s the case, then congratulations because you’ve absolutely nailed your next city break.
Why? Because Gràcia is unquestionably one of the best neighbourhoods in Barcelona, packed to the rafters with vibrant bars and restaurants yet distinctly more laid-back than much of central Barcelona. We can’t get enough of it, and we’re pretty sure you won’t be able to either.
Take a look at our recommendations for the best of this bohemian Barcelona neighbourhood.
So why should you visit or stay in Gràcia over more popular neighbourhoods like Eixample or Barri Gòtic? Because it’s the place to go if you want to see the city through the eyes of a local rather than a tourist.
Like a few of Barcelona’s other neighbourhoods, Gràcia has a village-in-a-city feel, and for good reason. The barrio was an independent town until the 19th century, until it was swamped by the rapidly expanding city centre.
In much the same way as this proudly Catalan city marches to the beat of a different drum from the rest of Spain, so too does Gràcia. Ask a Gràcia native where they’re from and you probably won’t hear “Barcelona” as a reply. Fortunately for us, the good people of Gràcia appear to live life at a different pace to the rest of the tourist-clogged city.
Many of Gràcia’s streets are pedestrianised, making it super-easy to explore the barrio’s many parks, markets and squares (the Plaza de la Vila de Gràcia is a highlight) on your own time, without having to endure busy roads and congested sidewalks. So if you like to walk, we reckon you’ll have a good time here.
If you’re like walking and shopping at the same time – or if you’re accompanying someone who likes to do that – then you should probably spend some time on Carrer de Verdi. Independent shops of all shapes and sizes line this long, central street, proving there’s more to shopping in Barcelona than Las Ramblas. Oh, and there are plenty of bars and restaurants on hand for when all that retail therapy gets a bit much.
Carrer de Verdi is also, rather conveniently, the road you’ll need to take to visit one of Barcelona’s most popular attractions: Parc Güell. Okay, you were never going to avoid the tourist hordes forever. Opened in 1926, Parc Güell is a bit of a shrine to the works of Antoni Gaudi – Barcelona’s favourite son (after Lionel Messi, but he’s adopted).
Designed by the architect himself, this hilltop park is filled with examples of his work and is a must-visit for design nuts, art fanatics, photographers and people who spend too much time on Instagram. But there’s a reason that about 2.3 million people flock here every year. You need to pay for admission to the park’s “Monumental Core” – and queues are long – but you can access free areas where you can still get a panoramic look at Gaudi’s work whilst enjoying some of Barcelona’s best views. Looking out on the sprawling city below, you’ll be glad you made the effort to hike up to this iconic park-slash-art gallery.
But Parc Güell is not the only art hotspot in Gràcia. If art gets your juices flowing, you’ll be pleased to know the entire area is essentially one big canvas. Gràcia has always been a popular destination for bohemian artists seeking inspiration, and the neighbourhood is still practically overflowing with creative spirit – a sentiment that extends to the streets themselves. Barcelona itself is a street art mecca, and Gràcia is one of the best places to see street art in Barcelona, with walking tours showing off the best graffiti the city has to offer.
But if you’d rather be at a gig than in a gallery, head to Plaça de la Virreina for a spot of live music of an evening. Film buffs should head to Carrer de Verdi to get their fix of world cinema at appropriately-named independent cinema Cine Verdi.
So, there you have it. Gràcia is officially cooler than a cucumber, encased in a block of ice and displayed in Samuel L. Jackson’s fridge-freezer.
While we would never recommend against a stroll down Las Ramblas or immersing yourself in over 110 years’ worth of football history at Camp Nou, we think you should definitely make time for – or stay in – Gràcia. A lively, bohemian village within a city, there’s nowhere else quite like it in the Catalan capital.
Oh, and if you’re visiting in August, dive in at the deep end and get yourself down to the Festa Major for the full Gràcia experience. It’s the neighbourhood’s very own festival and turns Gràcia into one huge street party.