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!

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.

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.

Day Trip to Dalí Museum from Barcelona

North of Barcelona lies the sleepy town of Figueres. On first glance it may not seem that different to other Catalan towns, with its quaint squares and local cafés and restaurants. Yet this seemingly normal town is the birthplace of the master of surrealism: Salvador Dalí.

For visitors to Barcelona who wish to escape the crowds and delve into Dalí’s sublime mind, we’ve put together this small guide for a surreal day-trip for the whole family.

History of the Dalí Theatre-Museum

Dalí travelled the world as an artist, conquering Spain, France and the US, yet Figueres always held a place in his heart. It was this reason that he chose it as the home for his museum.

It was in 1974 that the town’s old theatre – which was destroyed in the Civil War – was reopened to showcase a large selection of his art. Dalí wanted a place where visitors could immerse themselves in his diverse range of work. He supervised the entire design and reconstruction to ensure his wishes were fulfilled, staying at a nearby hotel.

The result, as you will discover, was a flamboyant, indescribable space that goes beyond what any other local artist achieved. This is Dalí’s legacy as a surrealist and will surely be the most original and unique museum you ever visit.

Visiting the Dalí Theatre-Museum

From the famous eggs perched on the museum’s rooftops to Dalí’s very own black Cadillac where it rains, Dalí’s aim was to astound, amaze and amuse. 

Every room and every piece proposes a question to the visitor and we are sure you will come up with your own conclusions about Dalí’s works. Discover the Mae West room designed with the actress’s facial features. Look out for pieces dedicated to Gala, the love of his life. Stare in wonder at the Oscar statues.

A ticket to the museum cost €14 for adults and are free for under 8s. We’d recommend saving 2–3 hours for the visit to ensure you make the most of this surreal experience. Museum opening times vary depending on the season (peak season 9:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.) and exhibition rooms close around 15 minutes before the actual closing time. There is also the option to book a guided tour with an expert guide, who will share stories about Dalí’s life, the inspiration behind his theatre-museum and its most eccentric and bizarre pieces.

Exploring Figueres

Aside from the town’s top attraction, Figueres itself is also worth exploring. Look a little closer and you might be surprised – there is a little bit of Dalí to be found on every street corner. If you decide to stay a little longer after your surreal trip, take a wander through its cobbled streets and discover its emblematic churches, the Plaça de Gala y Salvador Dalí and the Rambla de Figueres, and the Toy Museum of Catalonia (where you will get 30% discount on entry with your Dalí theatre-museum ticket). You won’t be disappointed!

How to get there

Figueres is located close to the city of Girona and around 140 km away from Barcelona.

Getting there by public transport is relatively easy. Take the train to the Figueres-Vilafant railway station from Barcelona Sants station and, in a short journey of 55 minutes, you’ll be in Figueres. Return tickets start from €30 depending on the train service (Ave or Avant). The museum is about 10 minutes walking distance from the station.

If you prefer to take the bus, Sagalés coaches offer services from Barcelona El Prat Airport or Barcelona Estació del Nord, which take just under 3 hours. Tickets cost €20 each way and you’ll take either bus 602 or 603.

If you’ve hired a car, take motorway AP-7 towards France and take the Figueres exit. Then head towards Figueres city centre.

Check out the opening times and ticket prices, book online and find out all you need before you visit the Dalí theatre-museum here.

The Dalí museum is a flamboyant and spectacular experience not to be missed!

Read this before making a calçotada at home

’Tis the season of eating onions charred over live fire… In a previous post, we talked about the best places around Barcelona to find a calçotada. Yet, in a quarter century of at least one or two calçotades a year, I probably only have ever had 2-3 in a restaurant. Funny thing was that I would just order off the regular menu while the rest of the party would eat the calçotada menu, like I was purposely avoiding it. More about this later.

From humble beginnings in the “Golden Triangle” of Valls, Reus and Tarragona, the tradition has now spread through most of Catalonia, in restaurants, and more important, at home. It has even reached further afield with calçotades available in Madrid, London or Rotterdam; even Anthony Bourdain featured a calçotada on his “No Reservations” tv show.

https://dailymotion.com/video/x2iprlx

A dear friend went as far as to throw a big calçotada party for all his friends in Orange County, USA to celebrate his 50th birthday! Nowadays, every company, social club or group of friends worth its salt has its yearly calçotada – the social aspects of the calçotada are key to its success – if you are a  new arrival in Catalonia, no doubt you’ll get an invite to a calçotada – go for it!

Calçotada

Back to the real calçotada, the homemade – the feast lends itself quite well to doing it at home in an outdoor setting. First time I was ever invited for a calçotada, it was in Sitges at the home of my parent’s friends, and it was a friend of theirs from Valls who came over as the expert – an early sign that the ritual was expanding outside its homeland. He brought the equipment, a large reversible grill with different length legs allowing the grill to be higher for flaming the calçots and lower for grilling meat over coals. However, the most important bit of kit that he brought along was the recipe for the sauce: salsa de calçots. Any veteran will tell you it’s the heart and soul of the calçotada, getting it right is an art, too runny and it doesn’t stick to the calçots, too thick and it takes forever to dip. Starting from the basics of almonds and hazelnuts, roasted tomato, raw and roasted garlic and nyora (a type of slightly hot pepper), each chef adds their own touch, and the recipe becomes a closely guarded secret. 

Just last week, with a group of friends we had a calçotada out in the country, very near my hometown of Artesa de Segre, just under the village of Montsonís with its castle looming over us. It was a perfect spring day, kids roaming freely all over the  fields, making friends with random dog who just appeared, adults poking fun at a neighbour who was air-drying her multi-coloured thongs, and of course, grilling those calçots on a very original barbecue pit. It was a perfect day, but I still couldn’t get Agnès to tell me the (secret) recipe for the salsa de calçots.

Calçots: Ranking of the best restaurants in Barcelona

Perhaps you don’t know yet what calçots are, but you’ve almost certainly smelled them if you’ve been walking in the streets of Catalonia lately and caught a whiff of burnt onions. Don’t worry, nobody has left the stove on, we’re just cooking calçots! It is known that us Catalans love any reason to host a get-together with friends and family, and in the winter months, calçots are why people come together and eat. To visitors of Barcelona, this may seem baffling: how can there be so much excitement behind a scorched onion? Well, read on to learn more about this distinctly Catalan tradition!

Calçots

What are calçots?

Calçots (pronounced: kal-SOTS) are a Catalan delicacy originating from Tarragona, and is somewhat of a cross between a scallion and a leek, that can grow to about 25 cm long. The annual harvest is during the winter season, from January to April, and is celebrated with “calçotadas”, where friends and family gather around to eat this wildly popular dish.

The calçots are bundled tight onto an open-fire grill, and charred for about five minutes on each side until blackened, then wrapped in newspaper to keep warm and served on a red terracotta roof tile – an absolutely humble and no frills dish, and oh so tasty.

Calçots - How to eat them

The ritual of eating calçots is messy business, but that’s half the fun! Roll up your sleeves, put on your paper bib (yes you’ll look a bit funny but so will everyone else) and get started by peeling the charred black layers of the calçot off piece by piece, until you get to the tender sweet pearly white center. Dunk it generously into the bright red romescu sauce, dangle it over your head, open wide, and chomp right into it. By the end of it, you’ll smell of onions, and have dirty black hands, plus a messy red-stained bib to wear as your badge of honour!

Find your Menu Calçotada in Barcelona 

To make a full “calçotada” feast out of it, some restaurants offer a “Menu Calçotada” option, here you get calçots with romescu, plus a choice of barbequed meats like “butifarra” sausages, lamb or veal. Some establishments include toast, white beans, potatoes, and maybe even desserts like catalan cream, or honey with cottage cheese. All of the above is usually offered for a very reasonable price of 25 – 35 euros per person, which will leave your belly full and satisfied. Wash it all down with a “porró” or two of local red wine too.

Menú calçotada barcelona

Best restaurants near Barcelona to eat calçots – Countryside farms

The most authentic way to enjoy calçots is at rural restaurants or countryside farms, which also makes for a fun mountain getaway. Be sure to book ahead as it can get busy. Here are our top three recommendations:

  1. Masia Can Vilallonga (Carrer Oceà Atlàntic, 80, 08173 Sant Cugat del Vallès, Barcelona)
    Located off the beaten path near an equestrian club in Sant Cugat del Vallès, this family farmhouse dates from the 14th century and has a wonderful mix of modern and rustic design, with a backdrop of beautiful green fields and countryside. Outdoor seating available.
  2. Can Carbonell (Carrer Muntanya, s/n, 08960 Sant Just Desvern, Barcelona)
    Offering rustic and hearty Catalan fare, this typical Masía catalane specializes in calçots. It’s charming fireplaces and wooden ceilings will transport you back in time to the 13th Just a 15 minute drive from Barcelona.
  3. Can Borrell (Carretera d’Horta a Cerdanyola BV-1415, Km 3, 08171 Cerdanyola del Vallès, Barcelona)
    Catalan cuisine with an idyllic setting in the heart of the Collserola National Park. Oak embers are used in their open-fire grills to give the calçots a wonderful smoky flavor.

Best restaurants in Barcelona to eat calçots – Restaurants in Barcelona

If you haven’t got an entire day to spare, there are some great restaurants in Barcelona city center which offer calçots too. Here are our rankings:

  1. El Jardí de l’Àpat (Carrer d’Albert Llanas, 2, 08024 Barcelona)
    Their elevated terrace offers a magnificent view, and is surrounded by ancient trees and garden, giving a sense of privacy and serenity in the hustle and bustle of the city. Park Güell is nearby for an after dinner stroll.
  2. Taverna El Glop (Carrer de Sant Lluís, 24, 08012 Barcelona)
    Opened since 1970s, their checkered tablecloths, and wooden chairs will have you feeling just as if you’re in the countryside, with the convenience of being located in Gràcia neighbourhood.
  3. L’Antic Forn (Carrer del Pintor Fortuny, 28, 08001 Barcelona)
    Just two blocks from Las Ramblas, this is a wonderful little restaurant tucked away in a side alley, with affordable prices and friendly service the establishment is frequented by locals.

Have you tried calçots yet? Let us know what you think in the comments below!