SEP 24,2016 - SEP 24,2016 (1 DAYS)
Gràcia - Barcelona's village-like district (1/2 day):
Main Attractions: Palau Robert, El Palauet Living, El Jardins de Salvador Espriu, Carrer Gran de Gràcia, Mercat de Llibertat, Casa Vicens, Casa Ramos, Plaça de Lesseps, Cines Verdi, Plaça del Diamant, Plaça de la Virreina, Casa Joan Baptista Rubinat, Plaça de Sol, La Vermu, Plaça de la Vila de Gràcia.
Duration: 1/2 day. Public Transport: Metro: Fontana (Green line, L3). Start: Palau Robert. End: Palau Robert, Passeig de Gràcia, 107 x Avinguda Diagonal (FGC Provença station). Distance: 6-7 km. Circular route.
Introduction: Gràcia is located in north-central Barcelona just north of Eixample. The area is perfect for those who want something a little bit different, those who perhaps have been to Barcelona before and want a different tourist experience. One of the best features of Gràcia is that there are not so many tourists so you feel like you've discovered something a bit new and diverse. The neighbourhood of Gràcia is just one stop up from the top of Passeig de Gràcia but it feels like a whole different world. Gràcia was an independent town until the late 19th century and even now the community is small and tight. The people are exceedingly proud of their roots, they don't say they come from Barcelona, they say Gràcia. The area is popular with artists and a generally bohemian crowd, it also has a high ethnic population and the highest concentration of foreign restaurants in Barcelona. However despite the trendy nature of Gràcia it is also a traditional barrio with a large elderly population which makes for an amusing and odd mix - and entertaining people-watching. Gràcia is totally self-sufficient. The area is quite safe and away from the main squares where people drink outside until the early hours it is also quiet. That is to say you could stay in Gràcia and never have to leave, there are good amenities of every sort, bars, cosy cafes, a real Mediterranean lifestyle. Whilst everything like the buildings, streets and plaças are in much smaller scale than those in the centre of town there is some striking art nouveau architecture to be seen.
Orientation: Gràcia has four major squares: Plaça del Diamant, Plaça Rius i Taulet, Plaça de la Revolució and Plaça de la Virreina. Every square in Gràcia has it´s own charme and around these squares you won´t find just small shops but also lots of bars and cafes. This is a great area. A maze of streets and small squares with small shops, bars and restaurants. There is the odd collection of market stalls, interesting architecture, colour and graffiti.
Note: take a map- it's easy to lose your bearings !
History: Its origins date back to centuries earlier, when settlements were established around a Franciscan convent (the convent of Jesus) and another housing a community of Barefoot Carmelites (Our Lady of Gracia). It was originally a separate city, which was founded in 1626 as the Our Lady of Gracia Convent. In the early 19th century, Gràcia was a village that spread northwards from just outside the old walled city of Barcelona towards the Collserola Massif. It joined Barcelona only in the 20th Century and maintains an ambience of its own. In 1897, Barcelona, which was in the throes of large-scale expansion with the construction of its Eixample district, absorbed Gràcia and other surrounding villages and it became one of the city's new neighbourhoods. Gràcia went bohemian again in the 1960's and 70's. It's still common to see anarchist flags hanging from apartment buildings and other signs of political radicalism on the streets and in plazas, restaurants and bars. While undoubtedly more gentrified and subdued than during its rebellious past, Gràcia remains a one-of-a-kind, funky neighborhood.
Gràcia is also well-known for it's festival (Festa Major) which is held for 5 days in mid-August and sees the locals competing in street decoration (they take it quite seriously). It has become one of the city's landmark celebrations. The results are usually spectacular, and at night the festival comes alive with drinks stalls and stages of live music of every variety.
Our itinerary starts at Palau Robert, Passeig de Gràcia 107 or Avinguda Diagonal, 389 (in the intersection of Avinguda Diagonal and Passeig de Gràcia). Your best bet of public transport facilities are: Metro: lines 3 (Green) or 5 (Blue), Diagonal station. FGC: L6 and L7, and Metro del Vallès suburban metro lines S1, S2, S5 and S55 - Provença station. Bus lines stopping nearby are: 6, 7, 15, 16, 17, 22, 24, 28, 33 and 34. Opening hours: MON - SAT: 9.00 - 20.00, SUN and holidays: 9.00 - 14.30. Closed: 25-26 DEC, 1 and 6 JAN. A former private residence of Robert Robert i Surís, an influential aristocrat, politician and businessman at the turn of the 20th century. It's nowadays a Catalan government-run institution which hosts an exhibition centre with three halls, a concert hall, gardens as well as the Information Centre for Catalonia, including the city's tourism bureau. Yes, thhe building also houses a tourist office. In the 1936-1939 period it was the site of the Generalitat de Catalunya's Ministry of Culture. After the Spanish Civil War, Robert's family regained the Palau, until its second purchase by the Generalitat de Catalunya (the Catalan government) in 1981, when it became a public building. The Palau Robert was finished in 1903 under the direction of architects Henry Grandpierre and Joan Martorell i Montells. The garden was designed by Ramon Oliva, responsible for the design of Plaça Catalunya. Its palm trees were brought during the 1888 Barcelona Universal Exposition. Most of the exhibition inside - are photography ones and for FREE. Out side the building is a small garden where you can take a walk. We found this park or garden as a beautiful surprise and a peaceful oasis in the bustling city centre:
From Palau Robert we continue 110 m. northwest along Passeig de Gràcia toward Avinguda Diagonal. We see, on our left, the boutique hotel of El Palauet Living Barcelona, Passeig de Gràcia, 113 in a wonderful Modernista building. The interior lobby is breathtaking and worth daring entrance into the hotel. DO NOT MISS THIS GEM !!!
On our right extend (starting from El Palauet) El Jardins de Salvador Espriu named after one of the most famous Catalan writers who helped revitalize Catalan literature during and after the dictatorship of Franco. Also known in Catalan as Jardinets de Gràcia or "Jardincillos de Gracia". They were made in 1929 by Nicolau Maria Rubió i Tudurí:
We continue directly (north-west) to walk up Carrer Gran de Gràcia (Gran de Gràcia street). Gran de Gràcia is the main shopping street in Gràcia. The buildings around the gardens are very impressive.
Once the main road between Barcelona and Sant Cugat, Gran de Gràcia is a mix of high street names and independent shops some of which are over 100 years old, such as the Camiseteria Pons. We walk north-west along Gran de Gràcia. We pass 5 roads on our left. The fifth one is Traverssere de Gràcia. The crossing of Gran de Gràcia and Travessera is the oldest area of the neighborhood. The process of urbanization of Gràcia began precisely here, at the beginning of the 19th century. On the corner ( Gran de Gràcia, 77 ), another elegant house by Francesc Berenguer:
Gran de Gràcia is also home to one of the best seafood restaurants in Barcelona; the Botafumeiro (Gran de Gràcia, 81). Just past the Botafumeiro, in the 6th road to the left, we turn left onto Carrer del Cinge and enter, turning LEFT on the first road, onto Plaça de Llibertat. Here stands Mercat de Llibertat. Mercat de Llibertat, a market which was built in 1888 by a contemporary of Gaudí, Francesc Berenguer i Mestres. Completely refurbished in 2009. This cozy market sells all manner of Catalan produce and without the crowds of La Boqueria. Nice, Clean neighborhood market - but, nothing special.... Try the Joan Noi cafe/counter inside the market for seafood delicious portions:
El Tast de Joan Noi, Mercat de la Llibertat:
Our next destination is Casa Vicens - 600 m. from the market. From Plaça de la Llibertat we head, still, northwest on Plaça de la Llibertat back toward Carrer del Cigne, 35 m. Turn right onto Carrer del Cigne, 100 m. Turn left onto Carrer Gran de Gràcia, 260 m. Before turning left to Carrer de Bretón de los Herrero - on your right is the Fontana metro station. Fontana was one of the first metro stops opened on the first metro line from Placa Catalunya to Placa Lesseps and still maintains its original tiled decoration.
Turn left onto Carrer de Bretón de los Herreros, 85 m.
Turn right onto Carrer d'Aulèstia i Pijoan, 150 m and Casa Vicens is opposite. Casa Vicens: This house on Carrer de les Caroline, at the western side of the Gràcia neighbourhood, is one of Gaudi's early creations. There's a hint of Mudejar in its modernism. It has clear Arabesque inspiration and shows the efforts of Gaudí to create a style of his own. It is an exceptional work of Gaudi due to its obvious Moorish influence (in contrast to Gaudí’s later work). it is a private house, very beautiful from the outside BUT unfortunately NOT OPEN to the public:
We shall continue walking north-west and we'll arrive to Plaça de Lesseps. From Casa Vicens head northeast on Carrer de les Carolines toward Carrer Gran de Gràcia, 120 m. Turn left onto Carrer Gran de Gràcia, 290 m. Continue onto Pl. de Lesseps, 70 m. On your left Casa Ramos. An impressive Modernista style building built in 1906 by the architect Jaume Torres i Grau with a spectacular facade decorated with floral motifs:
Turn right to stay on Plaça de Lesseps. Named after a French diplomat, Plaça Lesseps is home to several interesting buildings. On its west side is Casa Ramos (see above). Another historical building is the Church of Josepets. The church of Our Lady of Gracia and San José, popularly known as the Josepets de Gràcia, is the church of the old convent of the barefoot Carmelites de Gràcia:
The third interesting building on Plaça Lesseps is the Jaume Fuster Library built in 2005. A strikingly modern building and extremely different to most building in Gràcia, it was designed by Josep Llinás i Carmona and won the FAD architecture prize in 2006:
Here we change direction and strive for the south-east direction.From Plaça de Lesseps we head northeast on Pl. de Lesseps toward Avinguda de Vallcarca, 150 m. Turn right to stay on Pl. de Lesseps, 60 m. Turn left onto Carrer de Santa Perpètua, 140 m. Turn right onto Carrer de Verdi. Verdi Street connects Plaça de la Revolució to Plaça del Diamant in Gràcia. This is the most famous street in in Gràcia and in which most of the business and cultural focus is. We loved this pretty tree lined street. Verdi street is full with small, middle-eastern restaurants. Walk along Verdi Street southward until #32 - where, on your left is the famous Verdi Cinema. Cines Verdi shows movies in their original version, with subtitles – unusual in Spain as all movies are dubbed. Verdi Cinema also shows, usually, independent movies (as well as the occasional commercial ones), so it gives you the chance to watch things that are a bit different. The history of Cine Verdi dates back to its opening in 1934. Since then the place was re-equipped and refurbished several times, and now it is a five screen cinema with a laid back vibe and relaxed audience. The standard ticket costs €8, from Monday to Friday for the matinee showing it is €6 аnd on Mondays, €4.90:
We loved this quaint, pastoral, rather simple road:
Head northwest on Carrer de Verdi toward Carrer de l'Or, 35 m. Turn left onto Carrer de l'Or, 30 m. and turn right onto Plaça del Diamant (Plaza del Diamante) for further 20 m. On the surface this doesn’t seem a particularly interesting plaça, it’s not the biggest or the prettiest, but underneath the paving stones there is a secret… Under Plaça Diamant there is a Civil War bomb shelter built so the residents had a safe place during the air raids that ravaged the city during the 3 years of civil war. Wait, a few seconds, and, we'll more elaborate on that and on the world-reputation of this square...
Plaça del Diamant makes reference to the Civil War through the VERY FAMOUS novel with the same name by Mercè Rodoreda (and its subsequent adaptation as a film by Francesc Betriu in 1980), features that give this square plenty of symbolism. This novel, which was initially called Colometa , focuses on the character of Natalia Colometa, a young woman who represents many others to whom did she live a period of particularly cruel history. ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS WE HAVE EVER READ. A MASTERPIECE - YOU CAN'T FORGET FOR YEARS. The book had been translated into English in 3 versions: In The Pigeon Girl. Translation by Eda O'Shiel. London: André Deutsch, 1967. The Time Of The Doves. Translation by David Rosenthal. New York: Taplinger Publishing Company, 1980. In Diamond Square. Translation by Peter Bush. London: Virago Press Ltd, 2013.
The Plaça del Diamant is located in what was formerly known as the jewellers neighbourhood. Plaça del Diamant owes its name to the Gràcia town councillor, Josep Rosell i Imbert, who engaged in the trade of precious stones. When he designed this plot in 1850, he came up with the idea of giving the streets and squares that still exist the names of precious stones: Carrer de la Perla (Pearl), Gold Street, Ruby Street, Topaci (Topaz) Street, among others. The symbology of the square took an unexpected turn in 1992, when the air-raid shelter beneath the square was discovered during the execution of road works. Built twelve metres below ground level by the residents of the neighbourhood during the Spanish Civil War, it gave shelter to more than two hundred people during the many air-raid attacks launched on the industrial district of Gràcia of that time, with its many factories that were the main target of the attacking aircraft. This shelter was one of the more than 90 in the neighbourhood, and it is one of the largest of the 1,300 that were built in Barcelona, one of the first cities bombarded systematically from the air in a war. Today, with the objective of recovering the area's historical memory, the History Workshop of Gràcia arranges guided tours to explore the site and it is well worth visiting the shelter and seeing its tunnels which saved the lives of so many people.
Statue of La Colometa - sculpture by Xavier Medina-Campeny:
From Plaça del Diamant we shall take a short detour of 200 m. to Plaça de la Virreina. Head northwest on Plaça del Diamant toward Carrer d'Astúries, 20 m. Turn right onto Carrer d'Astúries, 150 m.
Turn right onto Plaça de la Virreina, 25 m. Many people say that Plaça de la Virreina is their favourite square in Gràcia. It’s a little quieter than Plaça del sol and Plaça de la Vila de Gràcia and is flanked on one side by an imposing 19th Century church and on the others by some beautifully designed buildings. Upon returning from Peru, Viceroy Amat, in addition to a mansion on the Rambla de Barcelona, had a luxurious summer villa built in what is now the Plaza de la Virreina (1773). The place was then incomparable, since it had a splendid view over the plain of Barcelona. When the viceroy died, the palace was inherited by his wife, Maria Francesca Fivaller, the viceroy who gives the square its name. After passing through different hands and uses, the village was demolished in 1878. it’s a place out of the rest of the world, stunning and beautiful to live. A marvelous square !!! Barcelona at its best !!!
The church of Sant Joan was built in 1894, again by the incombustible Francesc Berenguer. During the Tragic Week (1909) it was set on fire, like so many convents and churches in Barcelona, and it had to be restored. Berenguer himself participated in the reconstruction of the church and the rectory, and, in addition, built a beautiful house nearby (Or street, 44) (see below). In 1936 the church burned again and, after the civil war, resurfaced again from the ashes:
Tapas i Lopez in Carrer de Torrijos near Plaça de la Virreina:
It is 550 m. walk from Plaça de la Virreina to our next destination - Plaça del Sol. From Plaça de la Virreina head southeast on Plaça de la Virreina toward Carrer de l'Or, 25 m. Turn right onto Carrer de l'Or, 220 m. Note Casa Joan Baptista Rubinat, with curved balconies and white/brown faces with vegetation/leafy motives, at Carrer de l'Or #44. The façade is adorned with sgraffito and the balconies, with forged railings and trencadís (that kind of mosaic made with cut tiles):
Turn left onto Carrer del Torrent de l'Olla, 210 m. In the crossing of Torrent de l'Olla and Montseny we will find a Modernista angel who a century ago pointed out the presence of a pharmacy (eye to the cup and the snake that holds in the hand). The building on whose facade is the Mas de Can Pardal (1875):
Turn right onto Carrer del Planeta, 45 m. Continue straight onto Plaça del Sol, 50 m. Turn left to stay on Plaça del Sol, 20 m. Plaça de Sol is the most renowned area of the Gracia neighbourhood. it's lined with terraced cafes and at night this is where the people convene to drink and be merry.
One of the best places to soak up the vibrant nightlife in Gracia. This is a meeting point for young people and an important site for botellón, which means to drink in the street. Of course, this is probably why it has now become one of the most hopping evening squares in all of Barcelona any given night of the week. Have a beer on one of the many cafe terraces or dinner at a great tapas bar like Sol Soler. If you’re up for it, you can check out the bar scene afterwards. Plaça del Sol is a good bet for lively bars any night of the week (except perhaps Mondays). Another great place to get your groove on is Mirasol, one of Gràcia's jolliest music-bars, a bar that plays great dancing music all night long. For a low-key jazzy vibe try Woody's. Be careful with the restaurants around. Most of them are touristic traps. The restaurant in the north-east corner of the square - tried to cheat us by handling us a fake (not ours) bill. Plaça del Sol also has beautiful Modernista buildings:
El astrolabi in Plaça de Sol:
From Plaça de Sol - we send you (250 m.) to a small place, a bar of Tapas, La Vermu. Head southeast on Plaça del Sol toward Carrer de Maspons, 20 m. Turn right onto Carrer de Maspons, 65 m. Turn left onto Carrer de Sant Joaquim, 65 m. Turn right onto Travessera de Gràcia, 25 m. Turn left onto Carrer de Sant Pere Màrtir, 60 m. Turn left onto Carrer de Sant Domènec and the La Vermu bar, Carrer de Sant Domènec, 1 is on your left. Come to La Vermu and enjoy delicious food and tapas with local drinks (like Vermut). In the busy hours - you might wait for your turn. English speaking staff.
We continue walking to the east. 110 m. further from the bar will bring us to Place de la Ville de Gràcia. Head northeast on Carrer de Sant Domènec toward Carrer de Matilde, 40 m. Continue straight onto Plaça de la Vila de Gràcia, 45 m. Turn right to stay on Plaça de la Vila de Gràcia, 30 m. Soak up the history of Plaça de la Vila de Gràcia or Plaça Rius i Taulet as it is also known. Plaça de la Vila de Gràcia deserves a visit because of the former city council building and the Clock Tower, designed by the same architect who was commissioned for the original Eixample design, Antoni Rovira. At the end, Ildefons Cerdà designed the plan for the urban expansion of Barcelona and Rovira became famous for some of the markets in Barcelona. The original town square, back when Gracia was just a village, was the Plaça de la Vila de Gracia. The Plaza de la Vila de Gracia is always full of terraces, children, tourists and graceful of life. Castellers, big heads, giants, Sardanas (Catalan monotonic dance), weddings, concerts and events are held throughout the year and encourage a place that is the heart and essence of the neighborhood.Home to the infamous clock tower, a sight of bombings and rebellions, as well as the baby-blue town hall, this history-filled square is definitely worth visiting:
The tower , 33 meters high, is the work of Antoni Rovira i Trias (1864), a municipal architect of Gracia. It is decorated with the shields of Gracia, Barcelona, Catalonia and Spain, and with the signs of the zodiac. The clock was conceived with four spheres so that it could be seen from all parts of Gracia.
The seat of the district (‘Casa de la Vila’), designed by Francesc Berenguer i Mestres in 1905 is a building of Francesc Berenguer, of course. It is worth remembering that this square was the seat of the town hall during the years when Gracia constituted an independent municipality (from 1821 to 1823 and from 1850 to 1897). And that Francesc de Paula Rius i Taulet was the mayor of Barcelona under whose mandate Gràcia was incorporated into the metropolis of Barcelona:
In case you decided to complete your busy half-a-day in Gràcia - it is 650 m. back to Palau Robert and Passeig de Gràcia (Barcelona city centre). From Place de la Ville de Gràcia - head southeast on Plaça de la Vila de Gràcia toward Carrer del Diluvi, 30 m. Turn right to stay on Plaça de la Vila de Gràcia, 40 m. Continue onto Carrer de Goya, 50 m. Turn left onto Carrer de Sant Pere Màrtir, 160 m. Continue onto Carrer d'Apel·les Fenosa, 90 m. Turn right onto Carrer de Bonavista, 90 m. Turn left onto Passeig de Gràcia and beyond 170 m. Palau Robert, Passeig de Gràcia, 107 is on the right.