Gracia Barcelona is a district of the city that used to be a separate and independent village before it was absorbed by the rapidly expanding city. Today, the Vila de Gracia (Gracia Village) is a pleasant quiet neighborhood located just half a mile north of downtown Barcelona at the upper end of Passeig de Gracia, with an atmosphere that is more local than the rest of the city. Vila de Gracia has a bohemian feel and attracts many artists and students, which gives the district a vibrant ambience, especially when you pass through the many plazas throbbing with local life. Many of these plazas are the perfect place to enjoy a cup of coffee on the open air terrace while people-watching.
The plazas and streets of Gracia come to life especially during the Festa Major de Gracia in August of every year. Many towns and cities in Spain host a major town festival every year, but the Festa Major de Gracia is especially lively as celebrants take to the streets with music, dancing, huge carnival figures, and human pyramids, among other entertainment. One of the most important events of the week-long festival is the competition for the best-decorated street. Inhabitants of Vila de Gracia use materials of all sorts to decorate their streets in themes ranging from the wacky to the beautiful. Visiting Barcelona during the Festa Major de Gracia will certainly be a highlight of your trip to Spain, and it is one of the most popular tourist events of the year in Barcelona.
If you want a little peace and quiet, head for the Parc Guell, a municipal park in Gracia Barcelona. This fantasyland of a park was designed by Antoni Gaudi and is part of the UNESCO Heritage Site that includes many of his architectural works. Here you can view some of Gaudi's outlandishly shaped buildings, which somehow manage to complement the peaceful greenery of the park's gardens. The main feature of the park is a large terrace with an organically shaped bench that winds its way around the terrace in the silhouette of a sea serpent. The bench and terrace are decorated with some of Gaudi's intricate mosaics.
Admission to the park itself is free, but if you have a hankering to visit the house where Gaudi resided with his family, you will have to pay a fee. This fee can be discounted in conjunction with a package offer that also allows admission to the Sagrada Familia, also designed by Gaudi. The house was not itself designed by Gaudi, but it contains several pieces of furniture that he designed, so it may be an interesting visit for Gaudi aficionados and other art-lovers.
Staying at a Gracia Barcelona hotel can be a great way to get away from the crowds of the downtown district, yet still stay within walking distance of many of the main attractions of the downtown. Metro stops make it convenient to go further in the city. Although the Vila de Gracia is an upscale neighborhood, there are some modestly priced hotels and apartments, such as the Aparthotel Silver and Barcelona City North. Gracia Barcelona is quite popular with students, so there are many affordable cafés, bars, and restaurants in the vicinity as well.