15 Mar Off the beaten track in Barcelona – Non Touristy Tips
We’ve all been there. You finally arrive at the destination of your long-awaited (and much needed) city break to find that you’ve seen it all before. I’m not talking about the actual place, of course, but the feeling of déjà vu as you’re jostling for space to snap a shot of that building without 4 million other camera phones in the frame, or waiting in line to be herded like cattle through a narrow, rope-boarded corridor just to catch a glimpse of that statue. Even the mediocre ‘traditional food’ tastes like the stuff you get on theme nights down the local pub.
So why not try something different in Barcelona? Experience the real city, away from those overcrowded hotspots and delve deep into the lesser known secrets of the Catalan capital, discovering plenty of hidden gems along the way. In this article, you’ll find a few places where you can escape the tourists and feel like you’re finally living like a local in Barcelona.
It might seem like an obvious one, but taking a stroll around the city is the best way to get to know Barcelona. Exploring each neighborhood on foot allows you to get a real taste of the culture here, and also leaves plenty of opportunity to stumble upon some hidden gems. While you’re in the Gothic Quarter, make sure to look out for the Roman ruins dotted around, and see if you can find your way to Plaça Sant Felip Neri, which still bears the scars of the Spanish Civil War.
Avoid the long lines and entry fees of Park Güell and visit Parc del Guinardó, a recently renovated park with outstanding views of the landscape. The bunkers of Parc del Guinardó offer arguably even better panoramic vistas than Park Güell, without the hassle of the crowds. Another less well known park, Parc del Laberint d’Horta is home to Barcelona’s oldest preserved garden. Be sure to explore the life-size maze, which you may recognize from scenes of the film adaptation of Patrick Süskind’s novel Perfume.
Once you’ve gained somewhat of a sense of direction, visit some of Barcelona’s most authentic markets and grab a bite of fresh, energizing food. Try Mercat de Santa Caterina located in El Born, an indoor market with some amazing tapas stalls that is always booming with activity. This market is famous for its quality produce and traditional vendors, without the crowds that the better known Boqueria Market draws.
A big part of Barcelona’s culture lies within its street art, from poignant graffiti to unusual statues and sculptures. If you’re looking for another photo op (which, let’s face it, who isn’t?), be sure to check out the unique piece of outdoor art by Joan Fontcuberta. Located in the historical center o f Barcelona, in Plaça d’Isidre Nonell, you’ll find Fontcuberta’s most famous piece, El món neix en cada besada (The world begins with every kiss). What you’ll be surprised to notice is that this piece of art is actually a mosaic made up of 4,000 photographs, each representing the concept of freedom. This work is a must-see off the beaten path in Barcelona, and one that you won’t find a million tourists crowding in front of.
This neighborhood has become Barcelona’s hipster centre packed to the brim with coffee spots, quirky eateries and curiosity shops. Think chai tea and red velvet cake, beautiful squares bordered by Vermouth bars and shops selling anything from fresh herbs to vintage clothing and you’ve got Gràcia sussed. Full of locals and young expats, this pretty neighborhood has a lively, arty atmosphere and a truly Catalan-meets-cosmopolitan feel to it. Despite its proximity to the city center however, for tourists Gràcia is generally an unknown side of Barcelona and has a real village-like ambiance, ideal to while away a few hours.
When it’s time to relax, Barcelona has plenty of places which you won’t have to push through crowds of tourists in order to reach. Famous for its beaches, the city specializes in warm weather activities. Try Playa de Llevant, Barcelona’s easternmost beach. This less touristy stretch of sand is still close to central Barcelona, but it doesn’t have the intense bustle of the Barceloneta beach. Come to Llevant for some beach volleyball, sailing or lounging by the shore.
What’s your tipple?
When the evening rolls around, it might be time for a light drink, and what’s better than enjoying a glass of wine while you watch the sunset? We recommend heading to Terraza La Isabela, at Hotel 1898 on Las Ramblas, for amazing rooftop views and delicious cocktails.
If you’re looking for somewhere to kick-start your night on the town, then take a trip to The Lime House (C/ Carders, 31) in El Born. This laid-back joint has the biggest selection of gins you’ll ever see, with over 70 flavors including roast potato and wasabi. The mojitos here are pretty good, too.
A bite to eat
Spanish dishes are known the world over to be flavoursome and fresh, so it’s definitely a crime not to sink your teeth into some tapas while you’re in Barcelona. But whatever you do, don’t get sucked into working your way through overpriced ‘Paella with Sangria’ on Las Ramblas. Take one step closer to becoming a local and try one of Barcelona’s cooking classes. Fun, tasty and informative, Barcelona Cooking offers classes in preparing both Spanish and Catalan cuisine, taught in English or Spanish. They take you to the market so you can pick your ingredients, learn about local produce, and then show you exactly what to do with them.
Finally, if you’re in the mood for an authentic churro, visit Comaxurros in El Putxet. Renowned amongst locals, this mini restaurant serves up the tastiest of churros and will have your mouth watering as soon as you walk through the door. Savory or sweet, you can’t go wrong here!
This post was written by Sophie Cheston, a student from New York currently loving life in Barcelona. She is a writer for AB Apartment Barcelona, a company that specializes in apartment rentals. For more information on how to make the most of your time in Barcelona, visit their blog.