Travel Spotlight

Neighborhood Watch: Barcelona’s Gràcia

Situated roughly midway between the top of Las Ramblas and the bottom of Gaudi’s glorious Parc Güell, Gràcia is a charming barri featuring narrow tree-lined streets, sunny café-ringed plazas, and Catalan art nouveau architecture.

Founded by Carmelites in the 17th century, the village of Gràcia only officially became part of Barcelona in the 19th century. To this day, the neighborhood—whose impressive modernist monuments include Casa Vicens (Gaudí's first major commission) and Casa Fuster (once a private residence, now a five-star luxury hotel)—maintains an independent flair, largely thanks to a vibrant community of artists and intellectuals. Recently, Gràcia’s bohemian vibe has made it popular with Barcelona’s young creative professionals who appreciate its burgeoning crop of chic restaurants, boutiques and bars.

Poised to become the “Brooklyn of Barcelona,” Gràcia is a haven of independent clothing labels, gluten-free bakeries, hip wine bars, yoga studios and organic markets. Though its physical landscape recalls parts of Barcelona’s Gothic quarter with its small streets and low-rise buildings, Gràcia, which sits just above the modern district of Eixample, is not an obvious tourist destination. But for visitors looking for an authentic and stylish Barcelona experience, Gràcia is a lovely area to while away an afternoon, an evening or even a weekend. Providing a welcome alternative to the old town’s plastic menu restaurants and T-shirt stores, Gràcia is home to charming cafés where chalkboard specials are often written in Catalan and shops that are stocked with one-of-a-kind, artisanal goods. On the weekends, families flock to Gràcia’s numerous playgrounds. Morning, noon, and night, neighbors—hipsters and old-timers alike—congregate over coffee or beer in the many picturesque plazas.

Gràcia Itinerary

Gràcia’s best boutiques can be found on two small parallel streets: Carrer Verdi and Carrer Torrent de l'Olla. Starting at Plaça del Diamant or Plaça de la Virreina (both plazas are charming spots to enjoy hot chocolate and churros or an apéritif), walk south and pop into D Lirio for lovely, locally made leather accessories and jewelry and La A for artisanal textiles and pottery. A bit further south, heading towards Casa Fuster and the Passeig de Gràcia, is Boo, a not-to-be-missed concept store selling limited edition fashions by local and international designers, decorative objects, books and perfumes.

Should shopping leave you peckish, Gràcia is loaded with dining options from casual cafés to white tablecloth restaurants. Sugar cravings are easily satisfied at one of Gràcia’s many mouthwatering cake shops or chocolaterías. Children will adore La Nena, where the hot chocolate made with fresh whole milk is thick and rich. The hippest (and perhaps healthiest) bakery, the beautiful, blue-tiled La Bésneta, serves homemade organic, vegan, gluten-free pastries.

Owing to its newfound popularity among Barcelona’s young fashion-forward crowd, Gràcia seems to spawn a new “it” restaurant every month. Come 10pm, it is not uncommon to see lines forming outside of the latest hot spot. (As in the rest of the city, evenings start late and run into the wee hours. If you want to eat before midnight on a weekend, it is necessary to make a reservation). Considering the neighborhood’s relatively small size, Gràcia offers great culinary diversity. With  a gastronomic tasting menu that blends Mediterranean and Asian flavors (Con Gràcia) and other hot spots, the district caters to a range of culinary cravings.

Another reflection of Gràcia’s changing demographics is the dynamic bar scene. Two of the neighborhood’s best watering holes can be found on opposite ends of the central Plaça de la Vila de Gràcia. The reliably crowded and cheery La Vermu pairs exquisite vermouth aperitifs with salted meats and olives. Night owls and G&T aficionados, meanwhile, flock to hipster hideaway Bobby Gin, a vest-pocket bar and restaurant known to have some of the best gin cocktails in all of Barcelona.

Come August, Gràcia hosts Barcelona’s biggest street party. Part art exhibition, part dance party, the Festa Major is an over-the-top showcase of the neighborhood’s lively spirit and close-knit community. Each year local organizations compete to create ever-increasingly elaborate street decorations that become the backdrops for day-into-night celebrations. Depending on your energy level (and need for sleep), the annual weeklong fiesta is either the best or the worst time to visit Gràcia.

Published onApril 28, 2016

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