During the expansion of the city in the 19th century, former independent towns and villages were annexed to Barcelona – Grácia was one of them. Named after the 17th century convent, Nostra Senyora de Gràcia (Our Lady of Grace), the village officially became part of Barcelona in 1897. However, the change came almost unnoticed for the villagers – who historically were republicans and avid defenders of Catalanism. Even today, Gràcia feels like an entire different city – quiet and ravenous at the same time, with charming squares flooded with sunlight and narrow alleys crowded with funky crowd of both youngsters and adults carousing their way into the night.
It is not as funky as Raval, although it’s just as diverse when it comes to ethnicity, and the graffiti here is no less extraordinary. It yields to Eixample in architecture, but, on the other hand, few attractions can beat riot of colors in Parc Güell and Moorish-inspired Casa Vicens. It radiates bohemian charm – but very different from that of El Born.
Definitely not as pop and touristy; Gràcia flaunts an independent spirit, which is celebrated for one week in August, during the legendary Fiesta Major. Each street parades unique decorations; live music plays until first rays of sunshine; open-air dancing and sports; the festival’s main parade featuring giants, fire dancers and walking human tower; a small market with artisan products; cocktails and beer for takeaway, and lots of other exciting activities make the neighborhood an indispensable venue during the festival. And although the streets are somewhat overcrowded, especially during the night, when the majority of concerts and live performances take place, it is worth squeezing your way through the hordes and joining the cheerful locals on the party spree.
The dining scene in Gràcia is as vibrant as the barrio itself. Ethnic eateries neighbor upon upscale restaurants; and cheap tapas bars border with chic cafes. Japanese Kibuka (Carrer de Verdi, 64) is clearly among the finest restaurants in the whole city – you can’t go wrong with the rolls and sushi, but classis Japanese fare, like miso soup, soba noodles is also worth a shot. And don’t forget to try artisan Japanese beer and wasabi-spiked ice-cream!
With dim light and elegant décor, Gut (Carrer Perill, 13) is a perfect spot to enjoy romantic evening, but the menu is simply thrilling – grilled octopus with kamut, succulent chicken curry with mango and raita, tuna with sesame crust. Vegans have a reason to pop in as well – vegetarian wok and gyoza, tofu falafels are just as good.
Bar Bodega Quimet (Carrer de Vic, 23) is a local favorite to sip on much beloved in Catalonia vermouth – herbs-infused fortified wine. The bar also offers traditional savory bites galore: scrambled eggs with chorizo, broad beans with poached egg, or papas arrugas – so-called “wrinkly” potatoes, are boiled (left unpeeled) and then baked, receiving this way peculiar shriveled skins.
If you are still struggling to find a suitable place to have a drink or a quick bite, don’t hesitate to choose any of the neighborhood’s emblematic squares – Plaça del Sol has Café del Sol, with DJ music, simple drinks and appetizers; Plaça de la Vila de Gràcia where at Nou Candanchú you’d find a great vibe and tasty traditional tapas, say, shrimp fritters and sautéed garlicky mushrooms; Plaça de la Virreina and signature Virreina Bar, with dozens of mouthwatering sandwiches so big and delicious they might easily make up for a whole lunch. The best thing – each bar offers a splendid outdoor setting, so if you are lucky enough to visit Gràcia during the sunny weather – hopping from one square to another, getting a drink here and there, is actually a great way to discover the area.
When it comes to shopping, you will hardly find any international brands; on the other hand, tiny designer and vintage boutiques, shops with craft supplies and handmade accessories and jewelry are countless, so the opportunities for keen fashion lovers and artists are truly infinite. Just don’t be afraid to get lost crisscrossing the neighborhood back and forth.
After having a bite of local fare and checking out shopping opportunities, head to Verdi Park (Carrer Torrijos, 49) – where recently released international movies, many of them are independent productions, are shown in original language with Spanish subtitles.
Metro: Fontana (line 3)
Bus lines: 22 & 24