Un poquito de Gracia

See some superb architecture while stepping out on Barcelona's most famous shopping street

by 01 October 2010

Barcelona is a city that has it all: a Medieval downtown, Olympic installations, the Mediterranean, green landscape, modern infrastructure, unique architecture and delectable cuisine. Most of these can be seen on one street, Passeig de Gràcia or Paseo de Gracia.

The beautiful tree-lined avenue is located in the central Eixample district. It is 42 meters wide and extends over 9 blocks. This street alone has more than enough for a fascinating day of visits, shopping and culinary pleasures. Passeig de Gràcia is Barcelona’s equivalent of New York’s Fifth Avenue, and it has everything you could desire for a perfect shopping day: the most important international brands, unique Spanish labels, food specialties, and cultural wonders.

The street was originally completed in 1827, built to link Barcelona with what at that time was the town of Gràcia, and it was known as Camí de Jesús (Path of Jesus). By 1906, it had become Barcelona’s trendiest street, with its artistic benches and its decorated streetlights. Today, its architectural gems include works by Pere Falqués, Lluís Domènech I Montaner, Josep Puig I Cadafalch, and of course Antoni Gaudí. Passeig de Gràcia is now considered as Spain’s most expensive street, in terms of real estate.

You could begin your tour with a café con leche on Plaza Cataluña, Barcelona’s largest square, before starting on your way up Passeig de Gràcia. You will soon discover that the street is packed with prestige brand stores. While shopping is a question of personal taste, I would like to mention the Adolfo Domínguez boutique, an important Spanish brand. It’s worth stopping at the Ermenegildo Zegna boutique, to discover their latest collections in the brand’s 100th anniversary year. In the same block, you will also find Cartier and Brioni boutiques.

Further up, you will reach Manzana de la Discordia, which literally translates as “Apple of Discord” (the English equivalent would be “bone of contention”). The name is derived from the fact that the block has three buildings in contrasting styles, by three of Barcelona’s most illustrious architects: Lluís Domènech i Montaner’s Casa Lleó Morera, the beautiful Casa Amatller by Josep Puig I Cadafalch, and Antoni Gaudí’s Casa Battló. In Spanish the name works very well because manzana means both apple and street block. Manzana de la Discordia is the block on Passeig de Gràcia between Carrer de Consell de Cent and Carrer d’Arago.

Casa Lleó Morera is easy to find, as it is the location of Loewe, the Spanish brand famous for its fine leather goods. Casa Amatller, recognizable for its intricately decorated stepped pediment, currently houses the Hispanic Art Foundation. Antoni Gaudi’s building has a colorful façade and playful rooftops.

In the vicinity you will also find the Museu del Perfum, Perfume Museum (Passeig de Gràcia 39), with an impressive collection of 5,000 perfumes bottles, covering a span of history from the Ancient Egyptians right through to modern times.

However, the fascination of shopping is ever present as you carry on up the street. Some of the names that you will see are Burberry, Bulgari and Chopard. The latter brand also celebrates an important anniversary this year – 150 years.

At this point you will find yourself in front of the Majestic Hotel, with its imposing Neo-Classical façade. The Majestic Hotel is also known as ‘The Art Hotel,’ partly for its own extensive contemporary art collection, and partly because it hosted the style-setting ‘New Art’ shows in 1996 and 1997. However, another good reason for stopping here is for the food, and more specifically, the culinary delights created by chef Fermí Puig at the hotel’s Drolma Restaurant. If on the other hand, time is pressing and you prefer a quick bite, head to the Pool Bar on the top floor and enjoy a delicious lunch with a glorious view.

From here, you can take your pick from a host of brands, including Armani, Trussardi, Chanel, Escada, and many more. One quick tip: before entering the Hugo Boss boutique, take a moment to admire the wavy façade.

Crossing Carrer de Provença, you reach Casa Mila, also known as La Pedrera, at Passeig de Gràcia 92. This building, with its undulating exterior, was designed by Antoni Gaudí, and it is well worth a quick detour from shopping to visit it. Although it is a private apartment building, you can visit the Gaudí museum located on the top floor, where you can also enjoy a drink amidst Gaudí’s ‘surreal’ rooftop with a magnificent view of the street below. Entrance to La Pedrera is at Carrer de Provença, and reservations are recommended (Tel. +34 (0)90 2400 973).

In the same block, you will also find one of Barcelona’s unique design concept stores, Vinçon, at Passeig de Gràcia 96. Shopping continues with Dolce & Gabbana, Pomellato, Yves Saint Laurent and the Salvatore Ferragamo boutique, an ideal stop at which to discover this season’s trend bags and shoes.

If you still have some energy left, right at the end of Passeig de Gràcia is the imposing Casa Fuster, which currently houses a five-star hotel. Casa Fuster was built in 1908 by Lluís Domènech i Montaner, commissioned as a gift from Mr. Fuster to his wife. The beauty of the building is such that it can also be considered as a gift to the entire city of Barcelona.

You can top off the day with dinner at Moo Restaurant, in Hotel Omm, or a drink in one of the many bars. Alternatively, head to Mon Key Club (Mon Key/Monkey, brilliant!) and begin the party: after all, you’re in Barcelona’s movida district. However, if you just want to kick back and relax, my suggestion would be Spaciomm, where the signature spa treatments will set you up for the evening… or the next shopping spree!

Luxos Guide for Barcelona

Spain FW 2010