Ask any Barcelonian what the most famous street in the city is and the majority will answer “Passeig de Gracià”. Connecting the historic city centre with the super modern Gracià neighbourhood, Passeig de Gracià caters for everyone from shopaholics and museum-goers to those seeking a bite to eat while enjoying splendid city views.
And its history is just as rich as its modern-day appeal.
Until 1827, Passeig de Gràcia was a road called Camí de Jesús which joined Barcelona with the neighbouring town of Gràcia. With the city walls demolished in 1854 and Eixample developing five years later, the Passeig de Gràcia became the new location for single-family homes with gardens. Soon, coffee shops, theatres and restaurants were added. This led to Passeig de Gràcia becoming the new favourite leisure area for the bourgeoisie.
Following the 1888 World Fair in Barcelona, the area’s single-family homes made way for more impressive four-storey structures with shops on the ground floors. Soon, the city’s rich and powerful moved in and commissioned some of the most famous architects to design opulent houses for them.
This resulted in Passeig de Gràcia not only becoming the new place of residence for the wealthy, but also transformed the street into a work of art with the likes of Gaudí, Domenech i Montaner, Josep Vilaseca i Casanovas, and others adding some of their most outstanding masterpieces.
The architectural highlights
Cases Antoni Rocamora
Making up one of Barcelona’s largest residential complexes on Passeig de Gràcia, the Cases Rocamora is three stone buildings with a Gothic-inspired design. Commissioned by the powerful Rocamora family, the buildings’ five domes covered in vivid orange ceramic tiles is one of its most prominent features.
Completed between 1927 and 1931 by the architect Eusebi Bona Puig and the sculptor Frederic Marés, the Unión y el Fénix building is known to all for its high-rise phoenix atop a magnificently ornamental dome.
Casa Lleo Morera
A refurbishment of the old Rocamora house, Casa Lleo Morera was designed by the architect Lluis Domènech i Montaner and won the first annual artistic buildings competition organised by the Barcelona City Council. Restoration work had to be completed following significant damage to the building during the Spanish Civil War.
Blending Catalan and Flemish Gothic, the Modernist-style Casa Amatller was commissioned by the Catalan chocolate maker Antonio Amatller (whose family ran a successful chocolate business which is still active today) to the architect Puig i Cadafalch. Constructed between 1898 and 1900, it was declared an artistic historical monument in 1976.
A prestigious work of art by the architect Antoni Gaudí, this is a remodelling of a previous building by Emili Sala. Almost entirely covered in mosaics, Casa Batlló was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2005.
The Palau Robert
French architect Henry Grandpierre designed The Palau Robert as a home for the Catalan aristocrat Robert Robert i Suris. Today, it serves as a museum, gallery, concert hall, and information office where travellers can enquire about routes around the city and/or Catalonia.
Casa Bonaventura Ferrer
Designed by the architect Pere Falqués i Urpí, Casa Bonaventura Ferrer is best known to locals as “El Palauet” (meaning ‘cute little palace’) for its astonishing beauty and reduced size. Its three-sectioned façade is also noted for the gallery with a stone-carved sculpture.
Casa Milà (‘La Pedrera’)
Gaudí’s Casa Milà is best known by its local nickname ‘La Pedrera’, which means ‘the quarry’. It gained somewhat of a notorious reputation when first constructed due to its tattered appearance and undulating stone façade.
Passeig de Gràcia’s sidewalk tiles
For another eye-catching example of Passeig de Gràcia’s unforgettable architectural designs, one only has to look down. Antoni Gaudí deserves the credit for the elaborate, swirling, and marine-themed mosaic motifs that coat the expansive sidewalks from Plaça de Catalunya to Jardinets de Gràcia. These hexagonal tiles, which require seven individual pieces to complete one perfect pattern, were originally designed and produced by Escofet in 1904 for the interiors of Casa Batlló. But after being placed inside the nearby Casa Milà (La Pedrera), the tiles were redesigned for outdoor use in 1976 to further embellish Passeig de Gràcia.
A shopper’s delight
Countless tourists flock to Passeig de Gracià every year for its collection of jewellery stores and boutiques. Compared by some to Paris’ Champs-Élysées, Passeig de Gracià is where shoppers can delight in high-retail brands like Armani, Cartier, Channel, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Sonia Rykiel, and Tiffany’s to name but a few.
But the street doesn’t only cater for those with big spending budgets, as shops like H&M, Stradivarius, and Bershka are also scattered in-between the cafés and outdoor dining/seating areas.
Al fresco fun with a view
Part of what makes Barcelona a prime tourist destination is its diversity of hotels, restaurants, and bars that cater to night-time entertainment – and some of the best are located along Passeig de Gracià.
La Dolce Vitae at the Majestic Hotel
Already an alluring attraction on its own, the 5-star Majestic Hotel & Spa is enhanced even more via its roof terrace. Here, at La Dolce Vitae, guests can soak up the long summer nights under the Mediterranean sky while tasting cocktails and champagne and listening to some of the best music in the city.
Alaire at the Condes Hotel
Situated on the eighth floor, the rooftop bar Alaire ensures prime views of La Pedrera and the Sagrada Familia. A diverse menu awaits visitors, with options ranging from daytime aperitifs and informal meals to deluxe dinners and cocktails.
83,3 Terrace bar at Royal Passeig de Gràcia Hotel
As the highest terrace of the Eixample, the 83,3 Terrace Bar affords everyone unique city views plus a splendid glimpse of the Mediterranean Sea. Surrounded by glass, the terrace is heated in winter to ensure nonstop enjoyment regardless of the season.
Blue View at Casa Fuster Hotel
As if uninterrupted views of Passeig de Gràcia weren’t enough, the Blue View panoramic terrace also allows guests to enjoy the Sagrada Familia and Tibidabo Mountain in full splendour. The fact that it offers an expansive set of first-rate cocktails is a bonus.
Housing five separate restaurants within, El Nacional is also known for its Catalan Art Nouveau style. The building’s centre is where a lively tapas bar is located, but what makes this space unique is its steak restaurant which serves heavily aged beef – quite the rarity in Barcelona.