I have kind of a love-hate relationship with Barcelona; though I have been there four times, I never really loved it. There are many things I like about Barcelona: the Gaudi architecture, the great amount of things to do, the food, the beach, the weather and affordable and short flights from Germany. And everybody’s been there and everybody loves it, so you can spent hours talking about Barcelona with almost anyone you meet and I sure do love talking about my travels!
But on the down side: Barcelona can be quite overwhelming, so many things to do and so many different styles of art and architecture. There is everything from mountains to the beach, from the gothic quarter to the modern olympic village, from small alleys to big avenues, it’s difficult to figure out what Barcelona is really like. And the tourists! Soooo many tourists, everywhere, all the time!
But the main problem was: I hadn’t found “my” neighborhood, a place where I feel save and “at home”, where I can have an easy and quick breakfast in the morning, from where I can get to all the sights easily by public transport, where I can have my afternoon coffee, people watch and read and where I can find simple and affordable accommodation. Somewhere I’d like to live if I were to move to the city.
I usually find those places pretty quickly, for example Bairro Alto & Principe Real in Lisbon, Venice Beach or Downtown in Los Angeles or Kreuzberg/Neukölln in Berlin, but in Barcelona I had never found it.
Until my last visit in March 2013 when I spent a sunny afternoon in Gracia, an neighborhood between the Passeig Gracia, the Sagrada Familia and Parc Güell, which used to be an independent town until the end of the 19th century. And despite its central location and new hip residents, it still has the charme of an little village with its narrow streets, sunny squares and little shops and cafes. I loved walking around there, having lunch at Plaza del Sol and coffee at Plaza de la Vila de Gracia and just relaxed and people watched.
Next time I’m in Barcelona -and there will definitely be a next time- I’ll hopefully stay in Gracia and will start to love Barcelona as much as everyone else does.