The vibrant, boho-chic neighbourhood of Gràcia sits above Eixample and was originally built as an independent village before being annexed by Barcelona’s government in 1897. While it is now central enough to walk to central Barcelona in 20 minutes (past the elegant shops that line Passeig de Gracia), it retains an air of a tight-knit village community. Ask a local, and they’ll be sure to tell you they live in Gràcia, rather than Barcelona. To their credit, there’s much to be proud about. This lovely little neighbourhood seems to strike the perfect balance between highly regarded international restaurants and organic food shops, trendy boutiques and forward-thinking child-care centres, cool co-working spaces and local grocery stores. In recent years, it has become something of a hub for chic shops stocking hand-crafted pieces showcasing local designers.
If it’s community life you are after, Gràcia is where to find it. Stop by Plaça Sol on a sunny afternoon and you’ll find it bursting with activity: someone strumming a guitar while older couples sip a vermut (Barcelona’s eternally popular local aperitif) at sun-dappled tables and families stroll to the shops swinging woven-palm baskets. Come August, the neighborhood’s lively spirit reaches fever-pitch during its Festa Mayor, the annual street party, where streets compete for who can hand-craft the most creative and - true to the barrio’s ethos - eco friendly decorations. The all night parties, tables snaking through the streets and overflowing with residents’ home-baked bread, are legendary.
As well as being something of a local secret - Gràcia’s just-out-of-the-centre location means it’s yet to be discovered by tourist hoards - it also harbours a few secrets of its own. The first is the Collserola Park, a 8000 hectare woodland set on its Western tip, that is nicknamed ‘the green lung’ of Barcelona. A playground for hikers and mountain bikers to hit a natural high without having to leave the city, the park is something of a foodie haunt, where old farm houses known as masias set in the forest cook up seasonal feasts throughout the week - Can Borell is a particular favourite. Gràcia’s second, not so secret-secret is Unesco world heritage site Park Guell, a Gaudi master-piece that epitomises Gràcia’s vibrant, creative flair. Combining beautiful views over the city with endlessly quirky design details, it’s the perfect spot to stroll to with a picnic and while away an afternoon listening to impromptu performers and artists.
Readily accessible, Gràcia is well served by a train station, as well as the metro stations of Fontana, Lesseps, and Joanic, the last of which can carry commuters straight to the city’s beaches in around 20 minutes.