The 13 Best Things to See and Do in Gràcia, Barcelona

| Heather Lo / Unsplash
Mark Nayler

You’ve marvelled at the Sagrada Família and soaked in the atmosphere of Las Ramblas. If you’re ready for a change of scenery on your next visit to Barcelona, head to the friendly district of Gràcia, just outside the city centre. Here’s our run-down of the top things to see and do here.

Just north of the main city centre, Gràcia has managed to keep its villagey feel, despite increasing interest in the area. The relaxed, bohemian atmosphere – it’s dotted with eco-shops, yoga studios and vegan-friendly cafes – makes it a great neighbourhood to explore.

The history of Gràcia

If Gràcia is considered one of the best neighbourhoods to live in Barcelona today, once upon a time, it wasn’t part of Barcelona at all. Inhabited by Carmelite nuns back in the 17th century, it retained the status of an independent municipality for centuries.
However, this changed in the 19th century during the time of the Industrial Revolution; when faced with a rapidly growing population size – and the associated housing and sanitation problems – the council of Barcelona commissioned Catalan architect and urban planner Ildefons Cerdà to design a new layout for the city. Cerdà proposed expanding the city by building an extension, or ‘eixample’ in Catalan, to connect the existing neighbourhoods.
Even though it is now part of the city of Barcelona, Gràcia has long retained its own unique character and has evolved at a different pace than the rest of the city. Despite being easily reached from the city centre, the area is generally less frequented by tourists than other places such as the Gothic Quarter or el Born – a characteristic that draws many locals to live there and helps preserve its unique identity. Summary by Tara Jessop.

Things to See and Do in Gràcia

1. Park Güell

Park

Park Güell, Barcelona, Spain
Martijn Vonk / Unsplash
Catalan industrialist and entrepreneur Eusebi Güell commissioned Antoni Gaudí to design this park in 1900, by which point the architect had already built a house, winery and church for his wealthy friend. Gaudí standouts include the 3D dragon mosaic at the entrance, the serpent-shaped bench on the main terrace and the colonnades and corridors carved from locally sourced stone. Its highest point is a stone hill featuring three large crosses, from where you can enjoy panoramic views of Barcelona and spot birds such as parrots and eagles.

2. Marvel at Plaça de la Virreina

Building

Plaça de la Virreina is one of Gràcia’s main squares and extends northwards, on a slight ascent, from Carrer de l’Or to the late 19th-century Iglesia Saint Joan. It was developed at the same time as the church, on the site of the 18th-century La Virreina mansion, the summer residence of a Catalan aristocrat and military leader. There are a few cafes with terraces out on the square and a fountain topped by a bronze statue of the biblical character Ruth by artist Josep Maria Camps.

3. Get close to Gaudí at Casa Vicens

Architectural Landmark

The wonderful Art Nouveau architecture style of Antonio Gaudis Casa Vicens, Barcelona, Spain
Kristijan Arsov / Unsplash

In 1883, Catalan businessman Manuel Vicens asked Gaudí, then 31, to build his family a summer residence in Barcelona. When it was completed two years later, the architect’s first house established itself at the vanguard of European modernism, displaying an audacious fusion of raw materials and a playful mixture of neo-mudejar and oriental features. In the second floor museum there’s a reproduction of a document in which Gaudí sketches his plans for Casa Vicens, as well as expressing his opinions on architecture and design.

4. Catch a film at the Verdi

Cinema, Theater

Most foreign-language films in Spain are dubbed, but the blockbusters and independent movies at the Verdi are shown in their original language. Viewer comfort is enhanced by big chairs, inexpensive refreshments and discounted tickets on Sunday evenings and Mondays. The cinema also runs opera matinees of legendary performances, kids’ programmes and themed festivals throughout the year. Post-film, there are plenty of places nearby to eat and drink.

5. Shop sustainably at Olokuti

Shop

The range of products available at Olokuti – a champion of ecofriendly, sustainable consumerism in the heart of Gràcia – makes it absolutely impossible to categorise. As well as kids’ and adults’ clothing, yoga gear and homeware, its colourful shelves contain books, woven baskets and organic ingredients. Drift towards the back of the store and you’ll find yet another surprise – a small, walled garden in which to enjoy a responsibly produced drink or participate in the frequently organised cultural events, discussions and workshops.

6. Find some shade at Rabipelao

Bar, Venezuelan

Featuring walls of psychedelic wallpaper decorated with FBI wanted posters, vinyl records and gothic candlestick holders, Venezuelan bar Rabipelao wears its Gràcia credentials proudly. Tuck into South American dishes such as empanadas, arepas (crispy discs of cornbread with a variety of fillings) and deep-fried cheese sticks known as tequeños. The bar’s also sought out for its cocktails, especially its powerful mojitos, and for its shaded garden out back – a rarity in densely packed Gràcia.

7. Watch live music at El Col.leccionista

Bar, Spanish

Tiny El Col.leccionista is one of the best spots in Barcelona for live indie, acoustic and rock music. Artists perform their sets on a sparsely lit stage that would fit in your bedroom, surrounded by vintage fridges, typewriters and wall-mounted instruments. It’s a great spot for the midpoint of a Spanish night out – after dinner, but before the nightclub where you’ll stay until breakfast – and its reasonably priced beers and copas (spirits and mixers) draw in plenty of students and travellers on a budget.

8. Browse the shops on Carrer Verdi

Architectural Landmark

If you’ve only time to stroll one street in Gràcia, make it Carrer Verdi. Running straight from south to north through the heart of the barrio, it’s lined with vintage clothing stores, independent bars, restaurants and second-hand bookshops. Must-visits include La Trini for tapas and vermouth (no 30), Taifa Llibres for new and used books across all genres (no 12) and the Mercat de Lesseps to browse some of Catalonia’s finest produce (nos 200-210).

9. Go to a yoga class at Yoga Con Gràcia

Yoga Studio

This non-profit studio is one of the top spots in Barcelona for learning and practising yoga, especially if you’re after pre- or postnatal classes. In light, airy rooms with polished wooden floors, a team of volunteer instructors also lead workshops in hatha (both fluid and classic) and yin styles, which can be adapted to all levels of experience. Once your session’s over, stay in the chillout zone with a stroll around Gaudí’s Park Güell, just a 10-minute walk away.

10. Visit Mercat de la Llibertat

Market

Opened in 1883 and substantially renovated in 2009, the Mercat de Llibertat is Gràcia’s premier food market. Within a cavernous, echoing structure of exposed brick and iron, dozens of stall owners loudly tout goods such as cured and fresh meat, cheeses, fruits, vegetables and spices. Rather than just passing through, set yourself up with a small beer and fresh prawn tapas at El Tast de Joan Noi (no 111) and watch Gràcia’s street life at its very best.

11. Discover some of the best restaurants in Barcelona

Restaurant, Mediterranean, European, Spanish

The advantage of being out of the main visitor hot spots is that Gràcia’s restaurants have largely resisted the temptation to cater to the tourist trade. As a result, there are a number of great eateries that attract a mostly local crowd and often offer a more laid-back atmosphere than some of the more up-market restaurants in Eixample. Located near the Mercat de la Llibertat fresh food market, La Pubilla is a casual restaurant offering excellent contemporary Catalan cuisine. At lunchtime, the menú del día is great value for money at just €16 for three courses and a drink. On the other side of the neighbourhood, Chivuo’s offers ‘slow street food’, meaning a choice of sandwiches and sides prepared using local produce.

12. Festa Major de Gràcia

Architectural Landmark

Last but not least, if you happen to be in Gràcia in August, be sure to catch some of the celebrations of the Festa Major de Gràcia. The largest and most popular festival of its kind in Barcelona, the Festa Major is a weeklong street-party during which there are concerts and performances every night. The neighbourhood completely transforms every year as each street is decorated according to a particular theme, with neighbours competing for the best decorations. Recommended by Tara Jessop.

13. Dance the night away!

Cocktail Bar, Contemporary

The nightlife in Gràcia is highly recommendable, boasting everything from hip cocktail places to gritty dive bars, and an altogether more casual and more laid-back atmosphere than that of the nearby Eixample nightclubs. The Carrer Torrent de l’Olla and the Carrer de Torrijos are usually bustling with people in the evenings and on weekends when the crowd is generally young and local. For great cocktails and a quirky décor, try El Ciclista – a bicycle-themed bar with an extensive drinks list – or for something more traditional, visit Old Fashioned. Recommended by Tara Jessop.

This is an updated rewrite of an article originally by Mirva Kemppainen.

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