How do you choose a neighborhood in a city you’ve never visited before? How do you know whether you could fit in or will always be a stranger?
Choosing a neighborhood in Barcelona was definitely no easy decision for me. While looking for rooms on a budget and having to rely on pictures and descriptions on the internet, I admit I was worried about ending up in a rough area. Or somewhere far from all the happenings. Or what’s even worse: in the heart of all the happenings. It’s not easy to decide where to live if you haven’t visited the city before.
Of course, some research beforehand narrowed the alternatives. But at the end – What really makes me feel at home is a place that fits me. And that, I could only find out once I was in Barcelona.
Maybe I had great advisors in London, or maybe it was just damn good luck – but somehow I’ve got the feeling that, for the first time, I’ve found my place at the very first try.
Vila de Gràcia used to be the central area of an independent village called Gràcia. Barcelona slowly grew in dimensions by absorbing many of these independents villages that surrounded the city back in the XIX century. Gràcia, I was told, was one of the last villages to become part of the city – which is one of the reasons why it still has a village atmosphere. Neighbors recognize each other at the bakery and milk shops (well yes, there are milk shops!) and kids play football on their local square while their parents drink a cold caña and catch up.
In fact, you can still overhear older residents talking about baixar a Barcelona (which means going down to Barcelona in Catalan), as if they were outside the city.
Vila de Gràcia belongs to the District of Gràcia which, while being one of the smallest districts in Barcelona, is also one of the most complete ones. As a friend recently told me: there’s no reason to leave Gràcia unless you are consciously looking for it. Everything you need is at arm’s length. Fashion, sport, nature, architecture, food and culture all melt together in an area of little more than 4km².
This closeness and village feel was exactly what I loved about living in Lausanne and later on made me move from East London to the South West.
I know for certain that this place fits me and I equally fit it.