Barcelona Neighborhoods: The Passeig de Gracia
One of Barcelona’s most famous streets – and one of my favorites – is the Passeig de Gracia, which is a must-stop destination on any culinary tour of Barcelona. Named for the road (passeig means “passage,” or “way”) that connected old Barcelona to the village of Gracia to the north, this wide, ambling promenade is now one of the most known and poshest in Barcelona, and one of the favorites of our travelers doing a Barcelona foodie tour. It’s so cultured, in fact, that the stones that pave the promenade were designed by no less than the legendary architect Gaudí himself!
The Passeig de Gracia lies in the neighborhood known as “L’Eixample” (pronounced lay-ZHAHM-pluh), which means “wide” and is so-named for the fact that the growing city of Barcelona had to widen itself upward and outward from its ancient and medieval walls. (Barcelona could not grow to the south due to its border on the Mediterranean). The street is home to some of the city’s poshest shops, hotels, residences, and eateries, making it a perfect destination or home base during a cooking vacation in Spain.
What I love about the Passeig de Gracia is that it is multi-dimensional. I live in Chicago, and as fabulous as the Magnificent Mile or the Gold Coast are, they are geared toward shoppers. The Passeig de Gracia offers shopping but a lot more . And while you can find some of the top designers there – Chanel, Gucci, Prada, etc. – you can also find the shops of top quality local designers, whose unique offerings are usually produced in Spain and often at really amazing prices. Two examples I like are the jewelry store “Unode50,” whose flagship store is in the lower level of the famed Gaudí building “La Pedrera” (Casa Miló), and Uterque, a small local brand owned by the larger Zara company. The former offers bold, unique Spanish jewelry at excellent prices. And although the pieces are no longer as small batch as before (the name means “one of fifty”), they are still locally produced and wonderfully distinctive. Uterque similarly showcases really high quality materials and Spanish designers, and at prices that still manage to be affordable (without being mass produced). In addition to these you can find beauty supply stores such as Khiels Pharmacy, art stores, and speciality shops that have been lining the Passeig for over a century.
I mentioned the paving stones, which were designed by Gaudí, and whose faint, whimsical swirls resemble fossilized stones from the bottom of the sea, but the whole Passeig is an homage to Modernisme, from the distinctive street lamps to the “Illa de la Discòrdia”, or “block of discord,” one of modern architecture’s most famed blocks in which houses by top modernist architects Lluis Domènech i Montaner, Antoni Gaudí, Enric Sagnier, and Josep Puig i Cadafalch all vie for your attention. Farther up the street are the aforementioned Pedrera, as well as Gaudí’s earlier work, Casa Vicens, which just reopened to the public last year.
Of course, what is the point of a wonderful promenade without wonderful places to eat and drink? The Passeig offers these as well, making it a perfect stop on your Barcelona foodie tour, with everything from small, slow-food inspired restaurants like our favorite, La Cuina d’en Garriga , to the 3-Michelin Star La Sarte, as well as cafes and speciality food shops. So when your feet get tired from the shopping, or from visiting the excellent cultural sites, it is easy to stop for a drink and some tapas.
By Peg Kern
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