The current situation has ground travel plans to a halt. With this, we have time to pause and reflect on the trips we have made and the places we have fallen in love with. Moreover, we now have plenty of time to research places of interest to us, so that we have the perfect trip in mind for when it is safe to travel again. As Barcelona is one of the most popular cities in Europe to visit, most people come for a city break and stay near its many monuments. This is because, some people tend not to research its numerous neighbourhoods that all have a unique background and history. Meaning that they pay premium prices to stay in the city centre, missing out on some of the most charming areas of the city. Due to this lack of information, we feel that visitors of Barcelona miss out on some of the best parts of the city. Therefore, this article will reveal the story behind Barcelona’s first main residential area, Gràcia.
History of Gràcia
Gràcia began as its own municipality for many years, until being joined to the city centre of Barcelona when expansions took place in 1897. This saw growth to the largest neighbourhood, Eixample (which means “Expansion” in Catalan), and Gràcia being where the workers in the city would live. Despite losing some of its independence due to this change in urban planning, the area still maintained its unique image and feel. With plenty of housing, independent shops and bars, Gràcia is considered as an unknown spot to tourists, due to many sticking to central hot spots of Las Ramblas and the beaches around Poble Nou and Barceloneta.
From squares full of life and restaurants, to its amazing architecture that shows daring designs and traditional apartment blocks, wandering around the streets is a great way to admire the real charm of Gràcia. Of course, you can also visit its many landmarks, but we enjoy meandering around the side streets just as much!
Gaudí landmarks found in Gràcia
The relaxed neighbourhood of Gràcia is also home to two works of art by the local artist, Antoni Gaudí. They are found up the road from Passeig de Gràcia of Eixample, where Casa Batlló and Casa Milà are located. As you progress up from Eixample to the laid-back neighbourhood, you will first encounter Casa Vicens, which is situated just off the main street of Gràcia, on Carrer de les Carolines. This was the first house that Gaudí designed in Barcelona, back in 1888. 5 years prior, Gaudí received a commission from Manuel Vicens i Montaner, to design a family home for him. Like most modern-day architects, Gaudí needed building permission from the council at Vila de Gràcia. It would have been processed at the town hall on Placa Vila de Gràcia, which still stands today! Once his plans were approved, he began work on his colourful geometrically designed house. One of its most interesting facts, is that it was built using iron, glass, ceramic tiles and concrete- a revolutionary choice at the time. You can visit this wonderful monument on your next trip to Barcelona.
Another city-defining landmark found in Gràcia, is Gaudís Parc Güell. This green space is a must-see when in Gràcia, as it offers panoramic views over the city and sculptures made by Gaudí. The Catalan artists’ playground was based on British residential parks of the early 20th century. It is easy to draw parallels with British parks, such as Primrose Hill in London. In fact, the original plans for the space of the park being used to build some 60 houses! He did build one house in Parc Güell… his own house- which he moved into upon the completion of the park in 1914. On your next visit to Barcelona, you simply must visit this monument for its art and to see where Barcelona’s most famous son spent his later life.
Entertainment in Gràcia
In central Gràcia, you can find multiple sources of entertainment. From its historic Cines Verdi cinema, which shows a range of global blockbusters and unique short-films, to dining on its plazas. Firstly, at the Plaça de la Vila de Gràcia, you can enjoy a sangria beside the 19th Century clock tower that stands at 33 metres. Around the square, there are many restaurants and bars to take in the scenery in a relaxed setting. If you are looking for a quieter bar, you have a mixture of restaurants and bars situated all over the place, mainly on its side streets.
As for buying fresh food and drinks, the main street through the residential area of Gràcia, Carrer del Torrent de l’Olla, has numerous bakeries and food shops. Where you can call in, practice your Spanish or Catalan and leave with some wonderful ingredients to cook up back at your accommodation in Barcelona.
One of the best things about Gràcia is its diversity when it comes to food. You can enjoy any cuisine at all times of day. If you find yourself craving some sushi, or mexican food, this area of the city has it all. Even just for a quick coffee and a sweet treat, there are many cafés dotted around for you to call in at, with many having outdoor seating areas; a must for summer visits.
As for working up an appetite, there are many independent shops for you to look around in Gràcia. From clothing, to antiques and lamps, the shops here are unlike any other in the city. It goes to further underline the charm of this part of the city. Also, due to not being in the heart of Barcelona, the prices around Gràcia are slightly cheaper, meaning you get more food for less. It is definitely something to bear in mind when deciding between here and somewhere else in the city for where to stay.
Transport in and around Gràcia
Travelling to Gràcia is very simple. It makes for a scenic walk from La Rambla, past Plaça Catalunya, up the designer high street of Passeig de Gràcia and then into the neighbourhood itself. The way in which the place has had its housing planned, means that you can wind around the housing, away from the hustle and bustle, until you reach somewhere of interest. If you are travelling from further afield, you can catch the L3 line to Fontana, the L4 to Joanic or the L4/L5 to Verdaguer. There are also numerous bus services that run here from all over the city, such as the lines: 24, 27, A6, D40. Lastly, with its own train station, you can get here on the Rodalies train service, or travel from Gràcia to other parts of Barcelona with ease.
Sandra Roig is Marketing Director at AB Apartment Barcelona. AB Apartment Barcelona is an apartment rental agency offering over one thousand short and long term apartments across Barcelona.