Gracia District, Barcelona
Gracia is a peaceful residential district. We went there one morning to see Casa Vicens but after that we decided to walk through the numerous squares of this bohemian district which is full of small stores, bars etc In most of them locals were relaxing outside (it was a bright sunny day), some students, it was a lovely stroll after all. We also passed by many small cafes. Later in the evening some parts of the districts get more lively as it’s a popular area among you people (many students at the university live here).
The first square we passed by was Placa del Diamant where we saw a weird sculpture (pic 1), some students were drinking at the corner while according to our notes here was the area where they discovered a shelter from civil war and is planned to house a museum about peace.
We walked along carrer d’Asturies slowly as the old ladies in front of us were carring the vegetables from the market but they seemed to have a serious issue on who owns what :)
We ended up at placa de la Virreina that is dominated by Sant Joan church (pic 2) on one side and a sculpture over a fountain. We walked down through an alley and saw Placa de la Revolucio de Setembre del 1868 (pic 3) which is like the heart of the district, nothing special but with some outdoor cafes on both sides. Carved on the stones are some letters, they look random but they are not, from north to sout you can read the word revolucio.
Then we walked to Placa del Sol, more outdoor café so –no surprise- more students here too, some nice colorful old buildings and a nice sculpture called Astrolabi and represents a sun clock (pic 4).
Last but not least we passed by Placa de Rius I Taulet (pic 5) where we saw the 33m high clock tower. The square officially is called Placa de la Vila de Gracia but the old name is still on most maps. The tower was built so it can be seen from every spot of Vila de Gracia when this district was just small town near Barcelona (became part of the city in 1897 but was established in 1626). As expected there are many outdoor café here too.
A good neighborhood to explore is Gracia. Many consider it "untouristy," probably because there aren't any real tourist atractions. It has a history and culture all its own. From your apt on Sant Joan walk in the direction away from the beach. Go about 10 blocks until you get to Travessera de Gracia then turn left. Walk about 6 blocks or so and turn right on Carrer Verdi. You are in the heart of it. You might be able to find some walking guides for the area or just get lost. While there look up El Glop restaurant for some great food.
You can also arrive in Gracia by Metro stations Fontana, Joanic, Lesseps or by numerous bus routes.
Another good area in Barri Gotic.
For my favourite walk in Barcelona take the following route
-Follow Las Rambas until Plaza Catalunya
-Cross the square diagonally to get to Paseig de Gracia
-Continue pass the intersection at Avenue Diagonal ' There are some amazing buildings
-Continue until you join Carrer Gran de Gracia - This has a much more village feel about it
- Turn left onto Traveserra de Gracia and spend some time exploring this wonderful area , for example take a 3rd right to get the little square Plaça de Rius i Taulet. Then follow Traveserra de Gracia again until you reach the Market ' mercato de la Abecerai Central which is at the heart of Gracia and worth exploring. At the market head north along Carrer de la Deu dels Semparats until you reach Carrer Verdi. Again, It´s worthwhile exploring some of the great little squares and streets of Gracia en route.Continue up Carrer Verdi, crossing the busy Traveserra de Dalt. After 3-400 yards of a very busy climb you will reach the escalators for Parc Guell.
Continue until you reach the park for some wonderful views and of course Gaudi´s architecture.
You must go to Gràcia. It has beautiful plazas, a very nice restaurants from all over the worlld and also very good catalonian food. The best cinemas in Bcn are here (Verdi). There´s plenty of beautiful buildings to see and bars and cultural places.
Avoid the busy tourist area around the Ramblas (once you've seen it it's enough). Not go to the left hand side of the Ramblas (El Raval) - especially in the night - and always keep on your handbag!! and go more to the right hand side to Barri Gothic (crossing the old part of the city - very small streets and little shops - not being open from 2-4pm). The Cathedral there is amazing. If you want to relax in a park after a long walk you should go to Parc de la Ciutadella at the end of BG, where also the zoo is. The sea is more ore less ***ty - dirty water and esp. on the w/e a lot of people. You can also take the cable cab at the harbor (nice view to the city) and go to the mountain (more a hill) Montjuic (nice parks there). Anyhow it is good to take a tourist bus (line blue or red starts at Pl. Catalunya) to get a quick overview of the city and its sightseeing events. Here you also pass Poble Espanyol and the big palau (get the elevators down to it from the top). If you have some time left over (you won't ;-) visit the church Tibidabo (great view down to the city) on the hill which you can see from every point of Barcelona. A very old nostalgic tram will take you there. And Gaudi is everywhere - Sagrada Familia is amazing!!
For shopping Barri Gothic (my favourite part) and Eixample (more classy) is very good as well. And if you want to go to another part for the night get the cab (very cheep) to Gracia (more catalan people there). Lovely cosy restaurants there - you don't get anything before 9pm. And visit the champagneria close to Barceloneta station (ask for it every barca person will know it) - it's a little spanish bar where you meet before you go out - always packed but a lot of fun.
PS: learn some Spanish in the plane - some Catalans (also in restaurants) refuse to speak English.