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Welcome to a world of travel, entertainment and culture, curated from a global collective of writers, photojournalists and artists. Each article of our award-winning magazine is sure to inspire, no matter which of our destinations you call home.
 
 
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Gràcia, Barcelona

24 April 2016

Words: Gareth Rees / Images: Rebecca Rees

People living in other regions of Spain will often gripe that Barcelona’s aptitude for snaring tourists has diminished its charm – that its proud heritage has been overwhelmed by an incessant influx of sightseers come to gawp at iconic attractions such as distinguished Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi’s unfinished neo-gothic masterwork Sagrada Família.

Attempting a stroll down La Rambla in the centre of the city, its pedestrianised pavement unfailingly teeming with people, both holidaymakers and natives, it would be hard to argue. But there is one area of the Catalan capital that has not yet been overcome: Gràcia.

An autonomous town prior to the 20th century, Gràcia has maintained its own independent character. It is one of Barcelona’s most cosmopolitan neighbourhoods and home to an industrious community of creatives and entrepreneurs. Wandering through its narrow streets, which connect a series of leafy plazas, you will discover that Gràcia is blissfully devoid of tourists. It is unusually quiet, except during Festa Major, a weeklong neighbourhood-wide fiesta held every August.

Apart from Gaudi’s Park Güell and Plaça De La Vila De Gràcia with its striking 110ft clock tower built in 1862, Gràcia is lacking major tourist attractions and, mercifully, chain stores and coffeehouses. Instead it is home to one-off cultural institutions such as the nine-screen Cines Verdi, the small experimental theatre Sala Beckett and the alternative performance space Teatre Lliure, as well as numerous independent cafes, bars, restaurants and boutiques.

BOO

Àlex González originally opened clothing boutique Boo on Gràcia’s Carrer de la Perla in 2006, moving it to its current location in 2012. Boo offers an alternative to the big brand stores on Passeig de Gràcia. Named after Arthur “Boo” Radley, one of the central characters in Harper Lee’s classic novel To Kill A Mockingbird, who famously hides an eclectic collection of treasures in the hollow of a tree, it stocks a lovingly curated selection of items for men and women from heritage brands such as Normandy’s Saint James and up-and-coming independent labels such as Denmark’s Norse Projects and Portugal’s La Paz.

It is clear speaking with González that he adores what he does and has an authentic passion for the stories behind the clothing he chooses to stock. “Gràcia is like it’s own little town, but only a few steps away from the city centre,” he says. It’s worth taking those few steps to browse the racks of Boo.

2 Carrer de Bonavista

Gràcia

Barcelona

Tel: +34 93 368 1458

boobcn.com



Also in the area...

Gorilla Bar

A cafe-bar offering an early evening cocktail or a bottle of La Bella Lola craft beer. It regularly hosts DJs, exhibitions and other cultural events.

39 Carrer del Torrent de l’Olla
Gràcia
Barcelona
Tel: +34 67 428 8022

FULANITU I MENGANITA

If you happen to be ambling casually through Gracia’s backstreets – there are worse ways to spend an afternoon – and you find yourself on Carrer de Verdi, the entranceway to Fulanitu i Menganita is sure to catch your eye. A sign has been shunned in favour of a stack of old suitcases that hover over the doorway, painted white and printed with the shop’s name.

Meanwhile, two large cactuses and a pair of shocking pink flowers in luminous green pots guard the threshold. Inside you will find a haphazard hotchpotch of vintage furniture, bric-a-brac, upcycled items and custom-made decorative objects. When we visited, the ceilings were dripping with enamel lightshades, the walls were festooned with rhino heads in white plaster and there was a handsome mid-20th century tile-topped coffee table demanding to become the centrepiece of somebody’s living room. But Fulanitu i Menganita is the sort of place that will have something different every time you visit.

25 Carrer de Verdi

Gràcia

Barcelona

Tel: +34 93 513 1954

fulanituimenganita.blogspot.com.es



Also in the area...

The Design Hub Barcelona

A curious shop with no obviously discernable signage. Once inside you’ll find everything from ceramic plates to bespoke tables and chairs, wicker lightshades, wooden key rings, satchels and cork eco-cases for laptops.

53 Martinez de la Rosa
Gràcia
Barcelona
Tel: +34 93 315 4695
facebook.com/thedesignhubbcn

PARK GÜELL

To reach Park Güell, to the north of Gràcia, you’ll have to tackle a very steep hill (there is an escalator if you go to the entrance on Passatge de Sant Josep de la Muntanya), but when you reach the main entrance on Carrer d’Olot you’ll soon forget the effort. The park features numerous structures designed by Antoni Gaudi, including two fairy-tale gatehouses inspired by the Brothers Grimm’s Hansel And Gretel, a giant mosaic salamander and a wide esplanade known as the Plaça de la Natura (Nature Square), which sits on top of 86 Doric columns and offers a magnificent view over Barcelona.

The park is deservedly a Unesco World Heritage Site, and also home to Casa Museu Gaudi (Gaudi House Museum), where Gaudi and his family lived from 1906 to 1926. There is a charge to enter Plaça de la Natura and Casa Museu Gaudi.

Carrer d’Olot

Barcelona

Tel: +34 93 409 1831

parkguell.cat



Also in the area...

Gut

The décor is understated, the food is exceptional – simple, wholesome dishes created with carefully sourced produce.

13 Carrer Perill
Gràcia
Barcelona
Tel: +34 93 186 6360
restaurantgut.com

OSLO BARCELONA

Oslo Barcelona is indicative of the entrepreneurial and independent spirit (and nature) and dedication to localism of many of the small businesses in Gràcia. Comprising a boutique and a workshop, it provides a space for a collective of 33 Barcelona creatives and craftspeople to display their work, which includes clothing, millinery, leather goods and even self-published books.

When one of the unique pieces is sold, the money goes directly to its creator, resulting in what the collective’s members, who refer to themselves as Osloens, described as “a transaction in which you can feel there is a dialogue between maker and recipient”, an alternative to the predominant consumer system. Costs are covered by fees paid by each member and by renting exhibition space. In exchange for their time, the four Osloens who man the boutique are rewarded with use of the workshop.

164 Carrer del Torrent de l’Olla

Gràcia

Barcelona

Tel: +34 93 1056437

oslobarcelona.com



Also in the area...

La-a

From the outside La-a looks like a purveyor of houseplants, but is full of rustic artisanal treasures like furniture, jewellery, bags, homewares and textiles.

86 Carrer del Torrent de l’Olla

Gràcia

Barcelona

Tel: +34 93 284 7047

la-a.eu

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