This may be the eternally elusive question: how to visit a new city without turning your time there into a cliché? In other words, how can one be a tourist without being a tourist? We have the pleasure of living in one of the most visited cities on earth. Along the years, we’ve managed to carve out a way around the city that manages to avoid most of the tourist traffic. We’ve managed to create our little secret Barcelona; a quieter, gentler Barcelona far from the chaos of La Rambla or the Barceloneta beach where sun-burned tourists pack together in the sand like sardines.
First we’ll start with the neighbourhood of Gracia, about a 15 minute metro ride from the city centre. Long before the medieval walls encircling Barcelona came down, Gracia was its own little village and has always retained its independence, both ideologically as well as geographically. Many of those that live in this neighbourhood are proudly Catalan and there are a few important community centres for the Catalan independence movement. This neighbourhood has many indie eateries, bars, and boutique design shops with an interesting artisanal vibe. The centre of the neighbourhood has many pedestrian or quasi-pedestrian streets, and is filled with pedestrian only plazas. You can wander around the tree lined streets like Carrer Asturies, and end up in laid-back Plaça de la Virreina for a drink on one of the terraces. Then walk down Carrer Verdi toward Plaça de la Vila de Gracia for a slightly more grown-up crowd.
If you’re beat from strolling around the cute streets of Gracia and want to head out to the beach, Mar Bella is your best bet for not feeling like a sardine. As it makes perfect sense, the further you go from the city centre, the cleaner and less crowded the beaches are. And while you’re in Mar Bella, you can take a walk down to the futuristic looking structures of the Forum, a really interesting outdoor theatre. Or if a green surrealist oasis is more your thing, walk on over to El Parc Central del Poblenou. This park is a bit of magic realism as plants and flowers run wild over metal structures, making you feel as if nature’s architectural hands are reaching out to give you a cozy embrace.
Now, for nighttime tapas and drinks, your best bet for the local vibe is Poble Sec / Sant Antoni. In the last few months a smattering of really interesting and unique spaces have popped up in this area. There are neat little initiatives like the tapas Thursday nights when you can weave in and out of hip tapas bars on Carrer Blai and get a drink and something to munch on for less than 2€. You can hop over to the other side of Paral.lel and into Sant Antoni and you’ll find the current in-the-know spots on Carrer del Parlament. Both Gracia and Poble Sec being very ‘neighbourhood’ neighbourhoods, don’t be surprised to find yourself in the middle of a street party complete with handmade recycled decorations hanging in the narrow alleyways between buildings. And if you are lucky enough to stumble upon such a Fiesta de Barrio, then your night has only just begun.
All photos by The Love Studio
Gracia – metro stations Fontana (L3 / green line) or Joanic (L4 / yellow line). Check out Carrer D’Astúries and Carrer Verdi, Plaça de la Virreina, Plaça de la Vila.
Poble Sec – metro station Poble Sec or Paral.lel (L3 / green line), walk down the pedestrian street Carrer Blai.
Sant Antoni – metro station Poble Sec (L3 / green line) or Sant Antoni (L2 / purple line), walk down Carrer Parlament and stop of at Bar Calders (Carrer del Parlament, 25), Café Tarannà (Carrer de Viladomat, 23) or whatever sweet little place catches your eye.
About The Love Studio
We’re Andreea and Nino, the husband-and-wife team behind The Love Studio. We specialize in wedding and lifestyle photography that is spontaneous, fresh, and intimate. We often hop on planes between Barcelona and Toronto…and anywhere else our curiosity takes us! In this monthly column, we’ll take you along on our latest adventure. We’re pretty sure you haven’t been there yet, but we do know you’ll enjoy what you see.