Las Ramblas, the Nou Camp, the Sagrada Familia… absolute classics in Barcelona, of course, but how many times can you really do them? There comes a time when you just can’t face being hurled and jostled amongst crowds of tourists anymore and when you seek something different, something fresh, something that other camera-clad-Joes don’t know about.
For the curious traveler, the undiscovered side of a city is an exotic lure oozing with possibilities, and Barcelona is certainly a place where these curiosities can be fulfilled. The true essence of Barcelona is far from sangria under the sun. It has a real Catalan core, an undeniable artistic flair and local cuisine that’s simply to die for. So, say so-long to Gaudí, knock the Boqueria on the head, and get to know a Barcelona far from what you may have seen before!
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A couple of blocks of goodness in Barcelona
First time visitors to Barcelona will more often than not head straight for Las Ramblas and when hunger strikes, to restaurants on said street or on those leading just off it. Those in the know however, wouldn’t dream of it, and instead of heading down from Plaça Catalunya will head directly up from it, into the swanky neighborhood of Eixample. Here you can find a stretch of blocks lined with fabulous cafés and restaurants where locals while away a few hours over a glass of wine, some top notch tapas or a slap up meal! Carrer d’Enriq Granados is one street in particular that’s not to be missed for some great local dishes.
Live like a local in Barcelona
If you’re really looking to immerse yourself in Barcelona’s rich culture then you need to get in amongst its people. And for those who want to live like a local during your stay in Barcelona, then there’s really only one choice for your accommodation: renting an apartment. Hostels are all well and good, but getting a real feel for Barcelona doesn’t have to include sharing a bathroom with 10 other people.
Choose to stay in your own, comfortable, home-from-home and soak up the real-life atmosphere of neighborhoods like Barceloneta, Gràcia and Horta-Guinardó. You can even stay in a 19th century building or simply enjoy the perks of stepping out onto the street and buying ingredients from the local market or taking a wander through reams of Catalan boutiques and quaint bars. Check out companies such as ApartmentBarcelona.com which offer rentals all over the city, not only near the main sights.
For a night of bohemian beverages
When the stars come up, those in search of a night out full of artistic fancy, bo-ho ambience and a crowd of cool cats head to Carrer de Joaquin Costa in the riotous neighborhood of Raval. Love it or hate it, the once red light district of the city has made of lot of effort to spruce itself up lately and is now home to some fantastic bars. Quirky, colorful, unique, and perfect for those who’d rather gossip than boogie, this is the ideal place for a bit of nitty gritty Barcelona.
City cycling to the ins and outs
There are endless tours available around Barcelona these days, cycling tours being particularly popular at the moment. But how about breaking free from the others and discovering the city by yourself. There are some great companies such as Green Bikes, which offer rentals on an hourly, daily or even weekly basis for very reasonable prices. You can hire yourself a pair of wheels and enjoy a leisurely tour of the Catalan capital’s beautiful neighborhoods, pausing where and when you like and discovering Barcelona off the beaten track. Cycle straight past the others and head into the unknown world of the wonderful, real Catalan capital.
If you’d rather have a guide to explain the sights, but are still looking for something a little bit different, companies such as Steel Donkey Bike Tours offer some really good trips around the lesser-known attractions of Barcelona. They can tailor a tour to you, and often stop for snacks at some local hangouts, too. This one’s great for a true taste of the real Barcelona.
Chill out with a coffee in hipster-ville
Gràcia is perhaps Barcelona’s ‘coolest’ area, with an endless supply of vintage and curiosity shops, quirky cafés and snazzy eateries. Think smoothies, think carrot cake, think cute squares surrounded by unique bars and shops selling anything from yoga mats to trinkets and you have Gràcia sussed. Full of young people, this pretty neighborhood has a lively atmosphere and a truly arty, cosmopolitan vibe. Despite its proximity to the city centre however, Gràcia is generally undiscovered by tourists and has a village-like, local feel to it, ideal for a wander and a wonder!
Barcelona A view to impress
Tibidabo and Montjuïc mountains are popular attractions with visitors to the Catalan capital thanks to their fantastic views over the city. Few tourists, however, are savvy to the existence El Carmel bunker. This secret remnant of the Spanish Civil War sits on top of one of the highest hills of the city and offers arguably the best (and calmest) views of Barcelona. Forget hoards of tourists queuing for the best photo spot, and think locals with cheese, bread and plastic cups of red wine, watching the sun go down over their beloved home town.
So next time you hit Barcelona, why not walk in the opposite direction to every other visitor? You’ll sure be in for a whole new take on the vibrant capital of Catalonia! See our Barcelona Spain Travel Video and read our Barcelona, Spain City Guide