Barcelona is popular, and with the Easter break, sunny weather and longer days don’t be surprised to find tourists everywhere you go. Many people arrive with a list of things: Gaudi church, Barceloneta beach, las Ramblas, Camp Nou. Great start…but let’s go beyond the top sites to escape the hordes.
What can you do?
- If you want to see some of the top attractions – the Gaudi buildings in particular, book ahead. There are companies offering fast track visits, for example.
- Go to places where there is more space and freedom. For modernist architecture the buildings at Hospital Sant Pau can be recommended, or a visit to the Parc Guell.
- Go to places where others don’t go. There are many modernist buildings scattered around the Exiample. Take a slow walk down Career Enric Granados, for example. Or stroll along Av. Diagonal and then turn down Passeig Sant Joan and wander all the way down to the Parc de Ciutadella.
- You might be tempted to join a bicycle tour. If you want to be free…just rent a bike and set your own route.
- Try booking tickets to see a concert in the main concert hall (Sala de concerts) at the Palau de la Musica or see what concerts are on elsewhere.
There are many ways to get lost in Barcelona, but your stay will feel much more authentic if you find ways to mingle with the local population. Whilst the Ramblas is well worth visiting…take a stroll and then explore the side streets when looking for a place to eat, or a bar.
Take a walk alongside the old harbour (Port Vell) and wander around to Barceloneta. As the weather gets warmer the beach gets busier. Locals and tourists mingle together here, but if you want the beach but this is all too much you will need to jump on a train and head north or south.
Visit some of the neighbourhoods in and around Barcelona. Sarria has a beautiful old town and is reached easily by ferrocarril (train) from Plaza Catalunya. Gracia has some enchanting squares and lots of quaint shops, great places to eat and many cafes and bars. Poble Nou provides a mixture of old and new, close to the 22@ district – Barcelona’s tech hub.
Explore Montjuic…take the cable car up from Parallel metro station or the escalators near Plaza Espanya. Enjoy the views over the city, the gardens and parks, the museums and the space.
Most importantly, try to fit in with the habits of the local population. During weekdays you will find many cafes do a great trade in the morning as people leave their offices for a short break to take a coffee and a bread roll. Lunch menus in restaurants offer good value for money…but plan on sitting down around 13.30…or even later. If you are dinning out in the evening….don’t sit down before 9pm. The city streets are usually full of people and this is what everyone loves about Barcelona. Mingle and enjoy.
Want to try something different
Detour – is an audio tour. You get the commentary through an application on your phone and the tour guides you around a neighbourhood. GPS tracking, a great soundtrack and well researched stories help make this a unique way to experience the city. I have done the Summer of Anarchy tour and saw streets that I had walked through many times with different eyes. Detour have now released another 7 tours for Barcelona. Try one – you may get addicted and want to do them all.
The subject matter of each tour is different: history, literature, dancing, food, vermouth, FC Barca and even skateboarding. A great way to explore different neighbourhoods and get off the beaten track.