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Barcelona City Trip - Gràcia

Theater Lliure, in Gràcia, is one of the most prestigous theaters of Catalonia


DAY 2: Gràcia, Gaudí's Casa Milà and the El Born barrio

Heading north from the Plaça de Catalunya the streets and sidewalks are wide, spacious, and straight. A central esplanade divides the traffic and all the intersections are octagons. Chanel, Burberry, and the Gap have stores along the main street, Passeig de Gràcia. Before Barcelona's expansion and the building of the new city in the 1800s, this was the road to the town of Gràcia, hence the name. The famous block of discord will be the first example of the diversity in architecture that began when the wealthy started buying up space in the new Eixample and showed off by hiring the coveted architects to build ever-stranger and more opulent homes in the trendy modernist style. The Block of Discord is on the Passeig de Gràcia between Consell de Cent and Argo. Be sure to stop at Casa Batlló. The façade alone is remarkable with its skull-like window treatments, undulating serpent-like roof in shiny blue, and the enchanting, curvaceous, Art Nouveau interior.

Casa Milà

A block further is the Casa Milà, Gaudí's quintessential Catalan Art Nouveau apartment building. Its soft, drooping façade is instantly recognizable. The roller coaster of a tiled roof is dotted with mushroomy chimneys and offers a captivating 360-degree view of the city. La Pedrera is the restored attic devoted to Gaudí's life, his work, and his contribution to the identity of Barcelona. Don't miss the tour of an apartment adorned in period style. Be prepared to spend a few hours at Casa Milà.

When you land back out front in a bit of a haze, a respite just down the block is a perfect place to refuel. Cross Passeig de Gràcia and walk down Carrer de Provença towards Rambla de Catalunya (not the Ramblas). On the next corner is a charming, gourmet deli straight out of the 1940s called Mauri. Browse the warm and cold deli cases, choose a few finger sandwiches, one of the three paellas being offered and a plate of cheeses or vegetables and pick a seat in the raised cocktail style area. Waitresses will deliver your food, refill your drinks and point you in the direction of the ice cream and pastry area when you are ready.

Templo Expiatorio de la Sagrada Familia

After lunch stroll along the central, tree-lined path of Rambla de Catalunya. The walk over to the La Sagrada Familia Church, back on Carrer de Provença, passing Casa Milà, will take you about 30 minutes. Towering above the ticket entrance are the sand castle-esque spires of the still uncompleted Holy Family Church. This is surely Gaudí's most famous structure, as evidenced by the line of tour buses out front. Still the exterior is impressive. Inside, cranes continue to lift material to drop off spots amongst the scaffolding. Plaster casts still showing their rebar skeleton reveal the kind of construction that goes into a church of this size, especially one that is funded only by donations and ticket sales. In many ways it reflects the older churches in Barcelona and throughout Europe that took generations to build.

Two dinner options take you back to the burgeoning El Born neighborhood where inventive chefs are opening boutique-style restaurants with both downtown and uptown vibes. For an uptown experience check out Comerç 24. Chef Carles Abellan puts out some beautiful plates of food in the newest Spanish methods spearheaded by Ferran Adria at El Bulli in nearby Roses. Sushi arrives atop crostini, shot glasses deconstruct foams of varying temperatures, chocolate is served on an olive oil laden slice of grilled bread. All of it is so much better than it sounds. These are designer tapas, doted over and fussed with to perfection. Amazing light fixtures and high-style accents in the restaurant show off the fact that the room itself, as well as its occupants, has been treated in a similar fashion.

A downtown-style option is the hip and casual Santa Maria, located just down the street. A menu of handwritten nightly specials captures the adventurous spirit of the new breed of Spanish chefs: Sardines are served with eggplant purée and tuna tartar while frog legs slathered in a sweet dark sauce are so good you may wonder why no one back home considers eating these more often. Classics like paella and tortilla are also on offer. After dinner, slip around the corner to Gimlet, a romantic bar, perfect for lingering well into the wee hours of the morning.

Day 1: La Boqueria Market Day 3: Gaudí's Park Güell


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