6 reasons to visit the neighbourhood of Gràcia

Gràcia is a neighbourhood that has become synonymous with Barcelona and it’s most likely that if this is your second or third trip to Barcelona, you’ve already fallen under its spell.

Located in the northern part of the city, a 20-minute walk from Plaça Catalunya along the city’s famous Passeig de Gràcia will take you into the heart of this charismatic district.

For those of you that are yet to discover its charm, we’ve put together this article explaining just why we love this area of Barcelona so much. From things to see and do, to its history and local traditions, this small guide will ensure that you won’t miss out on a thing.

Its village charm

Gràcia first emerged as a small rural community with three convents and a small population. It wasn’t until around the 19thcentury that Gràcia began to grow, becoming the most important village in the area thanks to its agricultural production.

In 1850 it was established as a municipality with 13,000 habitants, but it wasn’t until 1897, with almost 67,000 habitants, that it became part of Barcelona itself. Gràcia was flourishing yet it still lacked basic services and facilities. Over the years it has become the thriving hub it is today, boasting markets, cultural, sports and historical centres, medical services and schools.

Its cobbled streets and enchanting squares

Despite being located a stone’s throw away from the centre of Barcelona, the streets of Gràcia still conserve that charming allure often only found in small villages. 

Stroll along its streets lined with flowering trees, take a break in one of its many squares with a freshly brewed cup of coffee, or explore the Plaça de la Vila square with its 19th-century bell tower and Plaça de la Virreina with its beautiful stone church.

The Festes de Gràcia

Every August the streets of Gràcia come alive with locals and tourists alike. The Festa Major de Gràcia constitutes a weeklong celebration in which the streets of this charming area are decorated with recycled materials in every colour.

Each community of neighbours chooses a different theme for their street in a fun-filled family-friendly event that cannot be missed. Read more about this tradition in one of our past articles here.

Neighborhood of Gràcia

Alternative stores and independent boutiques

Gràcia is home to a plethora of shops that sell locally made products, ethical goods and gifts galore. With something for everyone, after exploring its streets, why not browse its second-hand book stores with faded armchairs, discover its designer boutiques with clothes designed in Barcelona or choose a custom-made piece of jewellery at one of its many workshops.

Casa Vicens

Opened to the public only a few years ago, many still don’t know that Gràcia boasts its very own piece of Gaudí. Constituting great architect’s first project, Gaudí was commissioned to build Casa Vicens as a summerhouse for the family of the same name. 

This wonderful building will surprise you with its range of influences from far and wide, its varied palette of colours and its spectacular design.

Neighborhood of Gràcia - Casa Vicens

The history beneath your feet at Plaça del Diamant

On first glance, Plaça del Diamant may appear to be just your normal square, however if you look a little closer you’ll discover the history it houses. 

Underneath the square is a bomb shelter that was built during the Spanish Civil War with a capacity for 200 people. Tickets are only €3 and must be booked in advance. 

Plaça del Diamant - Neighborhood of Gràcia

We hope you love the area as much as us! Let us know, what’s your favourite thing to do in Gràcia?

Barcelona Day Trips – A day out in Cadaqués

The days are getting warmer and longer and winter is certainly on its way out. With the Easter holidays just around the corner, we’re already thinking about getting out of the city and making the most of the sunshine.

Cadaqués, located in the province of Girona, makes for the perfect springtime day trip from Barcelona. A few hours’ drive away, this picturesque seaside town is one of the Costa Brava’s best-kept secrets.

The endearing fisherman’s village is home to whitewashed houses with periwinkle-blue doors and is lapped by the Mediterranean sea. If you’re planning to visit Cadaqués on your next trip to Barcelona, we’ve put together this small guide to ensure you make the most of your day there!

Day trip to Cadaqués - Day trips from Barcelona - Barcelona Day Trips

Stroll along the seafront promenade

Soak up the tranquility of this Mediterranean village with a pleasant stroll along its seafront.  With each step you’ll spot a new delight, with plenty of opportunities for postcard-perfect photos, small, local restaurants to grab a drink or a snack in the shade, and wooden benches where you can stop and simply take in Cadaqués.

We’d recommend you follow the coastline along to Cala es Ros to enjoy the turquoise waters and escape the crowds. If you feel like walking a bit further, head on to Sa Conca, a secluded, rocky cove often only frequented by locals. 

Explore the historic centre

From the promenade, head into the heart of Cadaqués and exploring its medieval historic centre. Get lost among the narrow cobbled streets adorned with purple and pink bougainvillea. Be sure to head up to the Santa María church, which offers breathtaking views over the bay.

Visit the Casa Museu Dalí

Just outside of Cadaqués is the small village of Portlligat, where Dalí lived for a considerable number of years with his wife, Gala. Their house, which is actually several fishing huts merged together, has been preserved exactly as it was when the couple lived there together. For only 11 euros you can discover this unique museum.

With the great Catalan artist taking much inspiration from this coastline, you’ll spot his influence everywhere and see just why he fell in love with what he called the most beautiful part of the world.

Try the local food

A trip to Cadaqués would not be complete without sampling the local food. Grilled fish freshly caught that morning is a specialty, with lobster and prawns, sea urchins and fish stews being the protagonists of most menus. You also can’t leave without trying the local black rice dishes or a simple breakfast overlooking the turquoise waters.

Getting there

Don’t be put off by Cadaqués being that little bit harder to reach. Its secluded location nestled among the mountains has been a blessing, with fewer tourists than other coastal resorts.

If you have a hire car, bear in mind that parking in Cadaqués can be difficult. Follow the winding road from Barcelona and you’ll find a parking lot on the outskirts of the village, but get there early to secure a spot. The journey takes around two and a half hours.

There’s also a bus from Barcelona’s Estació Nord with tickets costing around 25 euros one-way. 

We hope you enjoy your day trip to Cadaqués! Let us know what you discover!

How is Easter Week celebrated in Barcelona?

Just like many places around the world, Easter Week in Barcelona is an important time of year at which locals get together with friends and families to celebrate many a festivity.

Easter Week is celebrated across the country, from the largest cities to the smallest villages, yet in Barcelona you’re sure to experience celebrations like no other with a long line of typical Catalan traditions.

So if you’re thinking of spending Easter in Barcelona, here are a few useful tips to make sure you don’t miss out on the most typical events and cultural traditions.

This year Holy Week starts on Palm Sunday, 5thApril, 2020 ending with Easter Sunday on 12thApril and Easter Monday on 13thApril. Restaurants and bars tend to be open to cater for family meals, but don’t forget that shops and museums will be closed over Easter weekend.

Palm Sunday is most likely the most important of all Holy Week in Barcelona. We recommend you head to the Gothic quarter and catch the “La Burreta” (donkey) procession that commemorates Jesus’s arrival in Jerusalem. 

Keep an eye out for the olive and palm branches carried by children to the local churches to be blessed. You’ll also see them hanging from doors and balconies to ward off evil spirits.

Good Friday is another important date in the liturgical calendar. The Cathedral of Barcelona, and many other local churches, will commemorate this day and the Stations of the Cross with a Via Crucis mass.

When it comes to food, Easter wouldn’t be Easter without its sweet and savoury delicacies. In between exploring the city and its Easter customs, we recommend taking a break and recharging your batteries with the best of Catalan cuisine.

“La Mona” is a local Easter cake typically made from chocolate and decorated with small figures and animals, chocolate eggs and other sweet treats. Today these cakes are true works of art, but they were originally made from a round sweet brioche and topped with hard-boiled eggs with its tradition dating back to Roman times.

Be sure to drop in to a local bakery to marvel at these fantastic creations or pick one up and try it for yourself!

What’s more, as it is Christian tradition not to eat meat on Good Friday, make sure you also try the typical cod dishes served at local restaurants. Our favourite is the salted codfish in a vegetable sauce, bacalao con sanfaina.

If you’re spending the whole week in Barcelona, we’d also recommend day trips to the villages of Cervera or Verges with processions that you won’t see anywhere else in the world. From Cervera’s skeletons that dance the “Dance of Death” to the Verges Procession in which the entire village takes part, be prepared to be amazed.

So however you decide to spend Easter Week in Barcelona, why not stay at one of our centrally located flats to make sure you don’t miss a thing!

A Guide to Barcelona’s Civil War Bomb Shelters

Almost 82 years on, you’d never know that Barcelona was once the target of repeated and systematic airstrikes during the Spanish Civil War. 

It’s 16 March, 1938, and 41 hours of non-stop bombing is about to be unleashed on the city. Over three days, there were 670 deaths and 1,200 wounded during the Bombing of Barcelona by the Italian Aviazione Legionaria Italiana, upon the orders of General Franco and Mussolini. 

With attacks every three hours, the panic and terror was real. Luckily, over 1,400 bomb shelters were constructed in the city primarily by Barcelona’s very own citizens. Men were tasked with the construction, whilst women and children excavated the labyrinth of underground tunnels.

Despite over thousands of air-raid shelters being built, still many of Barcelona’s population struggled to find shelter. In these cases, the metro tunnels and stations were also used as makeshift shelters, with the station at Universitat being an example of this. 

We propose an alternative route that is often overlooked by tourists and locals. If you’re looking for route that will open your eyes to Barcelona’s history, this is it!

Refugi 307

One of the largest and most fascinating shelters in the city, Refugi (Shelter) 307 is located at the foot of Montjuïc mountain. It was the neighbourhood of Poble Sec that was one of the city’s most badly affected areas.

Get ready to discover over 400 metres of narrow tunnels with space for up to 2,000 people, plus a kitchen, bathroom facilities and even a pharmacy.

There are guided visits ever Sunday morning at 10.30 in English, 11.30 in Spanish and 12.30 in Catalan. Tickets are €3.50 and prior booking here is necessary.

Carrer Nou de la Rambla, 175

Refugi Antiaeri de la Plaça del Diamant

Around 90 shelters were built in the neighbourhood of Gràcia, with the Plaça del Diamant Air-raid Shelter being the most well known, with 250 metres of tunnels and capacity for around 200 people. 

It was discovered in 1992 during the construction of a power station in the square, thanks to which it was restored and opened to the public in 2006. 

Guided visits include a tour of the underground shelter with actors playing the roles of locals seeking shelter in order to survive the bombing. Visits in Spanish and English (upon request) are every second Sunday of the month and can be booked here

Plaça del Diamant

Refugi del Palau de les Heures

Despite being the smallest air-raid shelter on our tour, this one is, without a doubt, the best preserved. Discover its 40 metres of tunnels lit by the same lights that were used over 80 years ago, thanks to its restored electrics system.

Located at this stunning palace in the north of the city, the shelter was constructed specifically to protect the then President of the Government of Catalonia, Lluís Companys. Visits can be arranged by contacting the University of Barcelona, the current owners of the building. 

Passeig de la Vall d’Hebron, 171

Bomb Shelter Barcelona- Palau de les Heures

An additional tip to complete the tour: One of the most devastating events during the attack was when a bomb was dropped on the corner of the streets Balmes and Gran Vía, hitting a truck filled with TNT. Today, you can visit a cross in the place where it fell in memory of those killed and wounded during these days that Barcelona will never forget. 

Let yourself be amazed by these never-ending underground tunnels beneath the streets of Barcelona.

Barcelona is replete with history, don’t miss it on your next visit!

First Dip of the Year in Barcelona

What better way to welcome in the New Year than a bracing dip in the Mediterranean? Since 1996, hundreds of bold bathers have flocked to Platja de Sant Sebastià for the first dip of the year (Primer Bany de l’Any). Why not join these brave souls on January 1st 2017 at midday as they charge into the sea, clad in only their swimming costumes and the occasional Santa hat?!

The event, organised by el Club Natació Atlètic-Barceloneta, is totally free and is a sure-fire way to rid your cobwebs from the night before! And, if the prospect of an icy dip is a little daunting, you can register at the club´s reception prior to the event for a hot shower afterwards. This is a brilliant affair and a far better alternative to a day spent hibernating under the duvet, cradling a packet of Alka-Seltzer to nurse your hangover.

Whilst not for the faint-hearted (medically speaking), proponents of icy dips claim that the health benefits are numerous. Swimming in cold water can help your immune system, improve libido and boost circulation. Some even claim to experience a natural high so surely that´s reason enough to tempt you!first-dip-of-the-year-in-barcelona

  • Join Europe´s Popular New Year´s Day Tradition

By taking part in Barcelona´s Primer Bany de l’Any, you’ll join the tradition of thousands of people who mark the start of the New Year with a dip in the sea, rivers or lakes and, with an average water temperature of 13 degrees in January, Barcelona provides a comparatively gentle winter bathing experience!

For over 30 years, bathers have braved the freezing waters off Barry Island (Wales) for a New Year´s Day swim and in Edinburgh (Scotland), locals take part in the Loony Dook –  an icy plunge into the River Forth where the water is decidedly chilly! Similarly, in Rzeszów (Poland) bathers refuse to be deterred by the bitingly cold waters year on year.

first-dip-of-the-year-in-barry-island

The Netherlands boasts over 60 locations for a New Year´s Day plunge, and insist there is no better way to start the year. With a whopping 25,000 participants each January, the Dutch are arguably the champions of this watery tradition. The largest scale event is the annual nieuwjaarsduik in Scheveningen which welcomes approximately 10,000 swimmers.

first-dip-of-the-year-in-the-netherlands

So, what are you waiting for?! Get 2020 off to a great start and make this January 1st a day to remember by heading to Barcelona for a New Year’s Day dip!

Christmas Bath in Barcelona

The Three Kings Day 2019 in Barcelona

The Three Kings Day 2019 is one of the highlights of the Barcelona Christmas Season.  Its name in Catalan is Dia dels Tres Reis d’Orient, and is also known as The Epiphany in religious terms, and happens on the sixth day of January.

It is a major event in the Catholic Church’s Nativity agenda. Three Kings Day marks the arrival of the Three Wise Men of the Orient to the birthplace of Jesus at his stable in Bethlehem.  They came bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh for the newborn messiah, but in Barcelona, they arrive to give gifts to the city’s inhabitants.

For local kids here in Barcelona, Three Kings Day is even more special, as the focus of the day is on them and not really the grown-ups.  Rather like the traditional Father Christmas character in Northern Europe, children only receive gifts if they have been good all year long!  The city’s children also have to write a letter to the King’s Pages ahead of the Three Kings arrival to ensure they get the gifts they desire.

On the 5th of January, the Three Kings arrive in Barcelona with a spectacular street parade called La Cavalcada dels Reis d’Orient – which is a procession to symbolise the arrival of the Three Kings into Bethlehem mounted on their camels, each bearing their gifts for the baby Jesus.

Three Kings Day 2018

This year, they will arrive by boat at 4:00pm at the Moll de la Fusta.  After a welcome statement by city officials, the Three Kings begin a parade along the city streets.  This year, the Three Kings parade starts on avinguda Marquès de l’Argentera at 6pm, snaking its way through the city, finishing at the Magic Fountains of Montjuïc at around 9:00pm. Check here their route.

The Three Kings parade features the Three Kings in their carnival style float among a whole collection of other floats and musical attractions, where the performers are laden with candy and sweets to throw at the children who catch them, normally in umbrellas that are held upside down.


After the parade has finished and before the children go to bed, they have to prepare some food and water for the Three Kings and their camels to take refreshment.  Normally unable to sleep with excitement, contemplating the next morning, the children will eventually settle to sleep and wake early the following morning, when they can see and open their gifts on Three Kings Day.

After the morning’s activities are over, the whole family will settle down for a very special lunch.  It is normally a four course sitting and traditional menus will begin with a buffet of tapas followed by a special soup and then a third course of meat or freshly cooked fish.

Then the pièce de résistance is served – Tortell de Reis (King’s Cake) – a puffy, circular, marzipan sponge cake filled with cream, resembling a King’s crown.  In fact there will be a crown in the centre and the cake is topped off with dried fruits symbolizing a crown’s jewels.

But the King’s Day tradition doesn’t stop there, because inserted into the cake are two objects – a bean and a figurine of the baby Jesus.  Whoever recovers the figurine gets to wear the crown and is called King for the day (also signaling that that person will have a very lucky year) and whoever gets the bean unfortunately has to pay for the cake!

As you can see, Three King’s Day 2019 will be a very special day indeed for the city’s children. So why not make your stay in Barcelona just as special by renting a luxury apartment during your stay.  We have a wide selection of apartments to rent all over the city, so why not opt for one on the Three Kings parade route?  See here for our selection of beautiful places to rent during these unique celebrations.

Festes Majors in Barcelona 2020

With another year coming to a close, we’re already thinking about 2020 and the celebrations it will bring with it. 

If you’ve not had the chance to experience a local festival in one of Barcelona’s many buzzing neighbourhoods, we’re sure that 2020 will be your year. With over 70 festivals set to be scheduled, you’ll be certainly spoilt for choice.

As 2020 is just around the corner, we’ve compiled a list of our favourite festes majorswith their preliminary dates so you can start planning your next trip!

Festa Major de Sant Antoni

Dates:17–26 January 2020

2019 was this festival’s debut year, so we’re sure its second year will be an event not to be missed. Enjoy a range of activities centred around the neighbourhood’s recently renovated market.

Festes de Santa Eulàlia

Dates:7–12 February 2020 (tbc)

Coinciding with the day of former patron saint of Barcelona (12 February), expect to see the centre of Barcelona come alive with castellers(human towers) and an array of parades in her honour.

Festa Major de la Sagrada Família

Dates: April–May 2020 (tbc)

Experience this renowned Gaudi masterpiece with over a week of various events and activities suitable for all ages. 

Festa Major del Casc Antic

Dates:June 2020 (tbc)

No one can deny that Barcelona’s old quarter has a unique charm – so why not discover its more traditional side. Head to Sant Pere and Santa Caterina i la Ribera to see castellers, parades of giant puppets and the modestsardanes dance.

Festa Major del Raval

Dates:June 2020 (tbc)

In honour of the neighbourhood’s patron saint, this bright and colourful festival in the centre of Barcelona stands out thanks to its castellers and artisans selling local craft products.

Festa Major del Poble-sec

Dates:July 2020 (tbc)

The festival of Poble-sec will take you on a journey through its most emblematic, local locations, from the Semblador square and the El Molino theatre. Be sure not to miss its blazing correfoc fire run.

Festa Major de Gràcia

Dates: 15–22August 2020

Perhaps the most eagerly awaited of all the festes majors of Barcelona, discover how the streets of Gràcia are transformed by the local residents with decorations of every colour.

Festa Major de Sants

Dates:August–September 2020 (tbc)

From concerts, decorations and correfocs, the Festa Major de Santstransforms this residential and professional district for a week of celebrations in honour of patron saint Bartholomew. 

Festa Major de Poblenou

Dates:11–20 September 2020

One of the largest of the festivals with around 500 activities, this event is not to be missed. Discover the magnificent cercavilaparade, sign up to run the 5 or 10 km race or take part in some of the artistic workshops that run alongside this celebration.

Festa Major de la Rambla

Dates:September 2020 (tbc)

This special celebration of one of Barcelona’s most renowned landmarks sees the façades of its buildings decorated with fresh flowers. What’s more, museums in the area are free during these celebratory dates.

Festes de la Mercè

Dates:18–24 September 2020

In honour of the patron saint of Barcelona, the entire city comes together to celebrate with popular culture, live music, castellers,correfocs and much more. There’s something for everyone at a range of locations throughout the city centre.

Festa Major de la Barceloneta

Dates:September 2020 (tbc)

In this beachside festival that celebrates the best of one of Barcelona’s most traditional neighbourhoods. We recommend catching a havaneresconcert (colonial songs sung by local groups) on the beach.

Is the festa majorof your favourite neighbourhood missing? Don’t worry; very soon the entire list of Barcelona’s local festivals will be published here, where you will also be able to check their exact locations on the map. 

We hope to see you there!

A Guide to Christmas Concerts in Barcelona

The nights are drawing in earlier, the mornings are chillier and soon lights of every colour will illuminate the streets of Barcelona. 

This can only mean one thing! Christmas is almost upon us.  And if you’re spending Christmas in Barcelona this year, we can recommend a different plan to ensure you make the most of time with your loved ones. Amidst the hustle and bustle of Christmas shopping and preparing for the many family gatherings and meals, take some time out to enjoy a unique musical experiences.

christmas concerts in barcelona

We’ve compiled this short guide to concerts during the festive season for you to sit back and be regaled by local choirs and orchestras. What better way to get in the festive mood!

Christmas on Broadway

Where: L’Auditori

When: Friday 20 and Saturday, 21 December 2019

Join the Symphonic Orchestra of Barcelona on a journey through the musicals of Broadway in a fantastic gala show to kick off the festive season in style. With music from works by Rodgers and Hammerstein (2015), Lloyd Webber (2017) and Bernstein (2018), there’s something for everyone.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Where: Gran Teatre del Liceu

When: Saturday, 21 and Sunday, 22 December 2019

Enjoy this Christmas classic surrounded by loved ones. Music by Albert Guinovart together with Symphony Orchestra of the Gran Teatre del Liceu and the Amics de la Unió children’s choir.

Star Wars & OCM: Original Soundtracks by John Williams

Where: El Palau de la Música Catalana

When: Thursday, 19 and Saturday, 21 December 2019

Relive some of John William’s most emblematic soundtracks from the big screen including Star Wars, E.T., Harry Potter, Jurassic Park, Schindler’s List. We’re sure that you’ll laugh, cry and be entertained by the favourites of this renowned and prize-winning composer.

Cavalleria Rusticana/Pagliacci

Where: Gran Teatre del Liceu

When: Various dates from 5–22 December 2019

This December enjoy a unique double opera session of two acclaimed Royal Opera House productions. These two Italian classics set in the 1950s will be performed side by side in what is sure to be an epic evening of emblematic opera.

The Magic World of Hans Zimmer

Where: L’Auditori

When: Wednesday, 25 December 2019

What better way to spend the most magical day of the year than enjoying music from some of the most epic films of the century. From The Lion King, Gladiator, Pearl Harbour, Pirates of the Caribbean and many more, bring this special day to a close surrounded by your loved ones.

St. Stephen’s Choral Concert: Christmas at the Palau

Where: El Palau de la Música Catalana

When: Thursday, 26 December 2019

Take part in this festive tradition of Catalonia with this unique concert held every St. Stephen’s Day. The charming melodies of the Orfeó Català and a combination of choirs are sure to bring the whole family together in an enchanting venue.

If you’re spending Christmas season in Barcelona, we’re sure one of these magical concerts will make for an unforgettable experience with your loved ones.