Barcelona’s monumental character can make visitors forget the little details – the cozy corners where you can take it easy while the rest of the city rushes along at a mad pace; the places that are a truer reflection of the local social fabric than the tourist landmarks could ever be.
None of the following streets show up in the guidebooks, and all of them will allow curious visitors to discover a Barcelona that is as vibrant as it is different.
01 Carrer Allada Vermell
Wide, tree-lined and off limits to cars, Carrer Allada Vermell seems not so much a street as a square. It is also a much quieter spot than other parts of the Born neighborhood, and a meeting place for young families – who come to the playground – urban bohemians and intrepid tourists. Two recommendations for a mid-morning bite: Pizza Paco (Allada Vermell 11) and Casa Paco (Allada Vermell 10).
02 Carrer dels Assaonadors
This winding street with a long history – tanners were already working here in medieval times – is a haven from the bustle of parallel Princesa street and boasts excellent examples of 18th- and 19th-century downtown architecture. Plaça d’en Marcus, the square where the street begins, houses the headquarters of the furriers’ guild inside a 17th-century building complete with a coat of arms and sculpture of a Saint John the Evangelist, which was destroyed at the onset of the Spanish Civil War in 1936, and finally restored in 1958.
03 Carrer Bonavista
This artery on the lower part of the Gracia neighborhood has become increasingly commercial as a result of the large number of retail stores that have recently opened up. Here you’ll find the laid-back hipster styles at shops such as Be (Bonavista 7) and Madam Pum Pum (Bonavista 16) coexisting alongside the more formal atmosphere of Boo (Bonavista 2). There are also ladies’ boutiques, such as Malahierba (Bonavista 26) and Mushi Mushi (Bonavista 12), as well as Rock 01, a shop selling offbeat children’s clothes.
04 Bória–Plaça de la Llana–Corders
Three different names for the same avenue that loses itself inside the Sant Pere neighborhood. The area is experiencing significant gentrification, but it is fortunately still possible to sense the disreputable atmosphere of its not-too-distant past. Sitting alongside the traditional neighborhood hardware and drugstores, you’ll find modern boutiques offering arts and crafts, such as La Local (Bòria 21), and designer objects, such as OMG (Plaça de la Llana 7). Hat Quarters (Plaça de la Llana 6) has hats to suit all tastes, while Wa Was (Corders 14) offers a selection of Barcelona-made alternative gifts.
05 Carrer Milans
This strangely attractive street feels like a film noir set in the heart of the city’s Barrio Gótico. Geometrically, it takes the form of an obtuse angle with a 15-side plaza at its vertex. The dark windows that seem to frown down at passers-by from the façades of the 19th-century buildings may intimidate some unwary visitors, but they never trouble the regulars at landmark indie bar Manchester (Milans 5).
06 Carrer Portal Nou
This rundown-looking street in the Sant Pere neighborhood is gaining appeal thanks to an influx of stores that make you want to purchase everything in sight. One of these is Vostok Printing Shop (Portal Nou 31), which specializes in silk-screen prints and stamps. Another is Lolita Bakery (Portal Nou 20), which has elevated the cupcake to an artform. Then there is also concept store Homevice (Portal Nou 5), which sells fascinating design, not to mention auteur jewelry stores Eugen Steier (Portal Nou 24) and Ena Macana (Portal Nou 7).
07 Plaça Osca
This is without doubt one of the jewels in the crown of the Sants neighborhood. The pedestrianized square is filled with bars and street cafés, making it a busy and dynamic spot that attracts the area’s youngsters. Eateries of note include wine and beer bar HomoSibaris (Plaça Osca 4); Som.y (Plaça Osca, 5), which offers traditional tapas; and La Mestressa (Plaça Osca 7), specializing in Catalan dishes.
08 Carrer Sèneca
Lovers of art and decoration will enjoy this pedestrianized street located near the bustling arteries of Diagonal and Vía Augusta. AOO (Sèneca 8) sells furniture and homeware that is halfway between craftsmanship and minimalism, while Antique Boutique (Sèneca 16) showcases antiques and restored furniture.