I’ve been to Barcelona a total of five times in my life, so it’s safe to say that I’m a complete BCN addict. As an avid traveller hungry to see all corners of the globe, it’s not often that I go back to the same place twice. However, when it came to Barcelona, the city became something akin to a safety blanket. I knew where I stood with Barcelona, I knew exactly what to expect, and I knew best spots in town to hang out in. Or least I thought I did, until I moved there in January 2012.
When I started looking for a place to live in Barcelona, I realised there was so much more than just the area surrounding La Rambla, the infamous wide avenue running down the city centre. Whilst this is of course a novelty to see, as time went on in Barcelona I started to do everything in my power to avoid La Rambla and the areas that surrounded it. These neighbourhoods are stunning for a short while, but when you live in a place like this, the very last thing you want to see every minute of every day is someone else strapped to guidebook, aimlessly following a tour guide repeating the same Antoni Gaudi spiel you’ve heard a million times before. So I searched for a new spot, and that’s when I discovered Gràcia.
Gràcia is a neighbourhood that was once its own town just outside of Barcelona. Once the main city started to grow bigger, it ending up overlapping with Gràcia, and the neighbourhood got swept under the big city’s wing. However, Gràcia has definitely never lost any of that small town charm, and it feels like its very own little sub-city, filled with passionate locals and laid back vibes.
Carrer d’Astúries is the best street to start off with if you’re looking for a typical Gràcia experience. This street is the gateway to the rest of the Gràcia, tucked right beside Fontana metro station on the green line (L3), which is the best stop to get off at if you want to explore this neighbourhood. Once you start to walk down Carrer d’Astúries you’ll feel the Gràcia atmosphere right away. Little boutique stores, eco-friendly food shops, and hippie hangouts line this street, the prefect representation of what Gràcia is all about.
Just down the road from my beautiful apartment in Gràcia was a tiny bar named Timeline, one of my favourite local discoveries to date. Timeline can fit about 40 people in its tiny little box of space, and even then you would be rubbing shoulders (literally) with a local. They have drink and tapas specials Sunday to Monday, and a brunch on weekends and holidays that will forever go down in history as the best food coma-inducing brunch I will ever have. Three courses and unlimited mimosas throughout, for only 15 euros? Yes, please.
One of the best spots to go check out in the evening in Gràcia is Placa del Sol, a square that is perpetually full of locals at night. All around the square there are little bars filled with people, or you can sit right in the centre and sip on the beers from a convenience store, which most people do. Placa del Sol is the ultimate people-watching experience in Gràcia, and in my opinion, nowhere else in the city felt quite as authentically Barcelona to me.
When I return to Barcelona someday, I’ll be heading straight for this neighbourhood to relive all my happy memories, and escape the tourist trails. If my heart is anywhere in Barcelona, it’s definitely in Gràcia.