Gràcia is one of Barcelona's hippest districts with a bohemian atmosphere, bustling squares, and a vibrant bar and cafe life. It is a hub of youthful energy with a village-within-a-city feel.
The district got its name in the 17th century when nuns established Our Lady of Grace convent there. Today it is home to the most high-end international fashion brands and posh hotels—much like the Paris's Champs-Elysees, New York's Fifth Avenue, or Los Angeles' Rodeo Drive.
Some of Gràcia's biggest highlights include Gaudi's Park Guell and the riotous, week-long Gràcia Festival in August, but we've rounded up nine great things to do in this exciting neighborhood.
Not content with building mere palaces and churches, eclectic Spanish architect Antoni Gaudí also turned his hand to landscape gardening. With phallic mushrooms, mosaic lizards, and gingerbread houses, Park Guell should be a stop on your tour of Gaudí's constructions of sheer hallucinatory wonder. Also, the park has great views of the city. Once you've covered the park, head over to Gaudi's La Sagrada Familia basilica, a towering work of wonder about a mile away in the Eixample district.
The Fiesta de Gràcia is loud, it's raucous, and it should be treated as a marathon: It goes on all day, every day, for a whole week in mid-August. This street festival features a competition between streets to see who can win the prize of being the best-decorated street. You will be amazed by the canopies of colorful decoration from above and the creativity and originality that each street demonstrates. There is food and rides and activities for children, too.
Casa Vicens is considered the first masterwork by the famed Antoni Gaudí. The house was built in the late 19th century as a family's summer home and showcases the eclectic, colorful trademarks that Gaudí later become known for. Now, the house, which is situated on Carrer de les Carolines, is a museum and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Don't miss the views from the roof—Gaudí's first accessible rooftop, and an incredible spot to take in the sights of Gràcia.
Cines Verdi is undoubtedly Barcelona's coolest cinema, showing independent and art-house movies, many in English, across its nine screens. The theater also has other programming throughout the year, including the Verdi French Film Sessions, where they show French films that are not yet released in Spain. Cines Verdi is also surrounded by great bars for a post-movie debate—our favorite is Elephanta, a gin and cocktail bar.
Shop Along Calle Verdi
Calle Verdi, the neighborhood's trendiest street, is irresistible if you want to feel the vibe of Gràcia. It is lined with exotic restaurants, buzzing bars, and independent outlets. Some of the shops may be very pricey, but you'll find some shops that are like hidden gems, like
Philo Boutique, stocked with upscale European brands at reasonable prices, and the unique Nostàlgic, an analog-inspired camera shop that photography buffs will adore. The window shopping alone is worth a visit to this walking thoroughfare.
Experience Nightlife on Plaza del Sol
Plaza del Sol, which translates to "sun plaza," is a good bet for lively bars any night of the week (except perhaps Mondays). First, grab some tapas at Sol Soler. This cozy, wood-beamed tapas bar is a neighborhood favorite, serving classics like patatas bravas, but also modern favorites, like vegetable lasagna. Continue your evening with vermut (vermouth) at Café del Sol, and then head over to the fun-loving, open-until-3-a.m. El Dorado disco bar for dancing. For a low-key jazzy, bluesy vibe try Woody Bar.
For a taste of contemporary Spanish architecture head to Placa Lesseps and see this innovative, award-winning library designed by Joan Vera and Josep Llimona. If you have a bucket list of world libraries to see before you kick it, this should be on the list. Once a vacant lot, the bright and airy building is a nice respite from the neighborhood's hustle and bustle.
Sitting on a café terrace in the shadow of Sant Joan Church in the stupendously pretty Placa de la Virreina, it's easy to imagine you're in an idyllic, independent village, which is precisely what Gràcia was before Barcelona annexed it. One of the square's best-known landmarks is the fountain of Ruth, dedicated in 1949 and flanked by a bronze sculpture by Josep M. Camps Arnau. On Sundays, impromptu swing dance classes sometimes break out.
Known as the "Diamond Square," Gràcia's Placa del Diamant is worth exploring for its turbulent political history and unique military features. The plaza is home to a subterranean air-raid shelter, built by the locals during the Spanish Civil War. (You can tour it with a guide.) This square was also crucial in the work of Merce Rodoreda, one of Catalonia's foremost Civil War novelists, Merce Rodoreda, and is a focal point for political activism during August's Fiesta de Gràcia.