- The residential streets surrounding Antoni Gaudí’s unfinished masterpiece are very tranquil – a surprising contrast with the outrageously daring Gothic basilica from which the area takes its name. The area around the basilica is typical of the wider L’Eixample district; long, broad streets laid out in a grid pattern.
In this popular district you’ll find lots of typical Catalan tapas bars, cafés and souvenir shops. Away from the excessively touristy areas, you will also have plenty of contact with the locals. Its location, relative serenity and lack of traffic during the night all help make it a good choice if you’re after a peaceful stay in the city.
Laid out on the map, the barrio of Sagrada Família is almost a perfect square, with Avinguda Diagonal, Carrer del Dos de Maig and Carrer de Napols making up three of its four sides. Casting a shadow over the whole area, there’s no avoiding the fact that the basilica of the Sagrada Familia is the main reference point for you to navigate yourself around. Otherwise, Carrer D’Aragó and Carrer de Padilla are the main thoroughfares through the area.
One of the adjacent districts is L’Eixample Dreta - home to the city’s most prestigious shopping street, the Passeig de Gràcia, and the Modernista masterpieces La Pedrera and Casa Batlló. Other neighbouring regions are Clot, with its colourful local food markets, and the charming and fashionable Gràcia.
Know your neighbours
The district of Sagrada Família is a world away from the bustling streets of the old town, such as the Gothic quarter, the Raval and Born. It’s a pretty safe part of the city with peaceful streets at night and a low level of crime. Being a relatively quiet barrio, the vast majority of its population are of the older generation or are professionals. There isn’t a large student population and young families tend to live elsewhere. Nor is there a particularly strong ethnic or international presence; people tend to be Catalan locals and you won’t hear the vast array of languages you would in other parts of the city.
There’s a distinct dearth of shops in the Sagrada Família neighbourhood. You won’t find the boutique clothes stores or trinket shops that are so common in the centre. That said, the famous shopping boulevard Passeig de Gràcia is just a 15-minute walk away, and is home to the likes of Zara, Mango, Prada, El Corte Inglés and Camper.
Although not the fashion centre of Barcelona, the Sagrada Família district does boast a vast array of delicatessens, from chocolatiers to butchers. On Avinguda de Gaudí there’s a very temping sweet shop called Bomboneria that entices you in just by its delicious smell and colourful display. Try the ‘Catanias’, which are a traditional Catalan delicacy of roasted and caramelised almonds covered in chocolate.
The area also has an indoor market to rival the Boqueria, and without a tourist in sight. It’s been open since 1944 and houses various established butchers, fishmongers and fresh fruit and veg stalls. Ideal for picking up a few bits and bobs on a Saturday morning to make a picnic lunch or trying out a few local tapas in the stand-up bars.
Transport links in this neighbourhood are great and reaching the city centre from here is simple. There’s a metro station right in front of the basilica and one further uptown (Hospital de Sant Pau). You can be at Plaça Universitat in 10 minutes and on the Ramblas in 20. Getting around on foot is also fairly straightforward as the barrio is a relatively small one. You’ll never be far from a decent café or restaurants at it’s only 15 minutes to Passeig de Gràcia and its selection of snazzy shops.
- It goes without saying that the reason most people come to this neighbourhood is to appreciate the spellbinding basilica that gives it its name. With 3 million visitors each year, the Sagrada Família is the most visited attraction in Spain and completes any trip to Barcelona.
The most famous work-in-progress in the world, the ‘Holy Family’ began on a modest scale in 1882 before Gaudí took charge in 1884. The artist then devoted the rest of his life to the temple, right up to his death in 1926 when he was run over by a tram (the untimely event is still regarded as a national disaster). Work restarted after the Civil War in the 1950s using his original plans and is still ongoing today. Despite the cranes and scaffolding usually covering it, you can see that it is beginning to take shape and the project is expected to be completed in the next 20 years.
Another must-see if you’re staying in this neighbourhood is the Hospital de la Santa Creu i de Sant Pau – a Modernista hospital designed by Lluís Domènech i Montaner that has certainly earned its place next to the Sagrada Família. Bring a camera to take snaps of its whimsical pavilions, turrets and towers adorned with sculptures, mosaics, stained glass and ironwork.
The Avinguda de Gaudí is a great little spot to grab a bite to eat throughout the day. Meandering down this semi-pedestrianised avenue is a pleasure and you’re spoilt for choice in terms of eateries. There are two little tapas restaurants that are particularly cosy and inviting - Tapas Gaudí and La Llesca. Another tempting option, albeit not typically Spanish, is a Lebanese restaurant called Aladdin. It serves a delectable selection including hummus and tagines, with a 3-course lunch menu for a very reasonable 10 euros.
On the other end of the culinary scale, you have the upmarket and Michelin-starred Alkimia – the place that Catalan foodies rave about. The name means ‘alchemy’ and that’s exactly what renowned head chef Jordi Vilà delivers – think beef and gizzard with Campari sauce or pickled oysters with pork cheek and spinach. This place is not cheap (don’t expect to get much change from 100 euros per person) and booking ahead is a must.
If raucous nights out are your thing then Sagrada Familia is probably not the barrio for you. It’s a peaceful area with a distinct lack of plaças (squares), meaning there are no natural focal points where people gather and socialise compared with Plaça del Sol in Gràcia and Plaça Reial in the Gótico. Getting an undisturbed night’s sleep is pretty much guaranteed, however. With the metro open 24 hours on Saturday, connecting with lines 5 and 2, it’s really easy to get home from a big night out in the old town.
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