Today we’ll take a tour of hidden Barcelona, the city Christopher Columbus returned to after “discovering” the Americas.
I’m going to skip the Barri Gotic, La Rambla, Barceloneta, Sagrada Família, Casa Battló and such. If your time in BCN is short take a half-day tour on a double-decker to see these tourist attractions. Wave as you pass.
This tour also ignores the haute cuisine palaces where tweezers pose as kitchen tools and foam constitutes nourishment. If that’s your bag consult Anthony Bourdain. He has a little man crush on the Adrià brothers
The first stop is Vinçon at Passeig de Gràcia 96 next door to Casa Milà, La Pedrera. Ramble through the store to see the latest in modern European design. Buy hip souvenirs that capture the city’s contemporary flair. Then continue north on Passeig de Gràcia until you reach Avinguda de Diagonal.
Turn left and walk northwest along Diagonal in the direction of Plaça Francesc Macià and leave the tourists behind. Begin your walk on the south side of the street.
As soon as you’ve turned onto Diagonal the Jardins del Palau Robert will be on your left, a peaceful pocket garden where you can sit and get your bearings.
If you’re hungry cross Diagonal to the north side and continue to Mussol at Diagonal 488. Mussol offers Catalan country cooking. I watched a table of office workers devour untold bowls of snails but if mollusks aren’t your thing Mussol offers grilled meats, fish and vegetables. It’s a chain place but quite good. Mussol brags that their macaroni and cheese tastes like grandma’s. Skip dessert since cookies and pistachio gelato are coming up.
Continue northwest on Diagonal until you reach Carrer de Mutaner. Turn left on Mutaner. Now we will enter the heart of a neighborhood known as L’Esquerra de L’Eixample, the left side of the extension. Sagrada Família is located in the right side of L’Eixample.
At Mutaner 213 you’ll find another dining choice, El Bar Velódromo. Again this is a casual and fun spot with hearty food that is owned by the Moritz brewery. Velódromo is a Catalan version of the American brewpub. You may want to drop in just for a beer and tapas. If not continue south on Mutaner until you reach Cremeria Toscana at #161. I highly recommend the pistachio gelato. Not to be missed. Buy the large size.
When you step out of the ice cream shop turn left on Carrer de Còrsega. At the next intersection on your left you’ll see a white monstrosity that houses the Mercat del Ninot. By no means as fabulous as La Boqueria on La Rambla the Ninot offers a glimpse into an authentic neighborhood food market sans tourists. Many of Barcelona’s marvelous old markets are “closed for renovation” as is the building that originally housed the Ninot. Regrettably the Ninot is now housed in a quonset hut.
Now backtrack to the ice cream shop on Còrsega and continue past the Toscana, or not, until you reach Carrer d’Aribau. Cross Aribau and then turn right to #158 where you’ll find scrumptious cookies and pastries at Les Galetes Turris. I’m partial to the savory crackers you’ll find by the front door. The cheese straws are killer.
There’s one more stop on this tour and then you’re on your own. Continue south on Aribau to the intersection of Carrer de Rosselló and gaze at the Mantequería La Sierra Colmado at Rosselló 160. The gentleman behind the counter, Señor Ramón La Sierra, is an expert on wines, cheeses, coffee and other gourmet foodstuffs but the shop itself is the treat.
You’re now free to wander around L’Eixample on your own. I recommend that you stroll up and down Carrer d’Enric Granados. If you haven’t found anything to eat there are many great choices of restaurants along this tree-lined street. I became a regular at La Palmera, the tiny family eatery at the corner of Granados and Mallorca. Try the tasting menu (degustacíon).
As you stroll through L’Eixample notice the grid patterns and the xamfrá, the chamfered street corners that widen the intersections and bring greater light and visibility.
Have fun. Step inside the shops and chat. If you don’t speak Castellano or Catalan strike up a conversation in English. The shopkeepers are full of local insight. Grab a sidewalk table and have a gin and tonic (very Spanish, more about that another day). Drop in a real tapas bar like Colmado at Provença 236. This is where and how the people of Barcelona live.
Casa Milà, Provença 261-265
Vinçon, Passeig de Gràcia 96
Jardins de Palau Robert, Passeig de Gràcia 107 (entrance on Diagonal)
Mussol, Diagonal 488
Velódromo, Mutaner 213
Cremeria Toscana, Mutaner 161
Mercat del Ninot, Casanova b/ Còsega and Provença
Les Galetes Turris, Aribau 158
Mantequería La Sierra Colmado, Rossellò 160
La Palmera, Enric Granados 57
Colmado, Provença 96