Gràcia – the closest neighbourhood to the Eixample – was a village for much of its early existence before being annexed as a city suburb in the late nineteenth century. There’s still a genuine small-town atmosphere here, very distinct from the old-town neighbourhoods, while Gràcia’s vibrant cultural scene and nightlife counters the notion that Barcelona begins and ends on the Ramblas. That said, there’s not that much to see, but wander the narrow, gridded streets, catch a film or hit one of the excellent local bars or restaurants, and you’ll soon get the feel of a neighbourhood that – unlike some in Barcelona – still has a soul. Most of the boutiques, galleries, cinemas and cafés are near pretty Plaça de la Virreina, with c/Verdi in particular always worth a stroll. A short walk to the southwest, Plaça del Sol is the beating heart of much of the district’s nightlife, while Plaça Rius i Taulet, the “clock-tower square”, a couple of minutes to the south, is another popular place to meet for brunch. However, the one unmissable attraction is just on the neighbourhood fringe, namely the surreal Parc Güell, by architectural genius Antoni Gaudí.
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