Authored by Veronika Hradilíková
Barcelona can be tough to crack. Sorting through the tourist fluff and discovering the city from a local’s perspective can be done, but generally only if you come armed with insider knowledge from someone who actually lives there! And isn’t that what travel should be all about? Getting to know destinations as they truly are, as opposed to settling for what the tourists are shown? Where to go in Barcelona off the beaten path.
Barcelona is a city of contrasts. There are beautiful beaches, stunning modern buildings and a charming Gothic quarter. And incredible street art too! There is plenty of street art that appears, disappears and is often buried in smoke. There is a mix of classic architecture, the surrealistic heritage of Gaudí, Dalí and Picasso, world-class dining, and a kaleidoscopic cultural scene; plenty for every traveler to do. Lesser known things to do in Barcelona
Though if you’re traveling with the hope of mingling with locals rather than tourists you should spend time in Barcelona’s lesser-known quarters. You won’t find Gaudí’s masterpieces, Las Ramblas, or Parc Guell here, though what you will discover is the real Barcelona. Barcelona from a local’s point of view.
The following quarters are worth your time too.
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Images by Moyan Brenn.
El Barri Gotic
Let’s get the most touristy quarter in Barcelona out of the way first: the Gothic Quarter. This is on top of most tourists’ list, and rightfully so. With so much beautiful architecture, some genuinely old, some altered throughout the centuries, and even some outrageous buildings which pretend to be old, this is a quarter that should be explored with a knowledgeable guide.
No guidebook can do the job as well as a local history expert. The Gothic Quarter hides a lot of subtle details that can reveal a lot about the structures’ age and the stories behind them. To truly appreciate the history and architecture here, and to see the quarter from a local’s perspective, do yourself a favor and find a local guide. Guide to the quarters of Barcelona
If you get tired of all the walking, you might need a cup of hot chocolate. La Granja 1872 on Carrer dels Banys Nous 4, is a chocolate café popular among the locals (tourists typically flock to other famous chocolate bars also called Granja, it being a general name for a milk bar, so don’t get confused). Ask for churros with your hot chocolate and relax with subtle jazz music playing in the background. Authentic local experiences in Barcelona
El Raval was where Picasso used to go for a beer or two. Later, it transformed into a quarter that one wanted to stay away from after dark. And what’s it like today? Well, it’s a place hugely popular among hipsters, students and artists.
Walk through El Raval from the metro stop Plaça de Catalunya and finish off at Paral-lel. Or vice versa, of course. You’ll find it’s full of charming corners, cute bars and artsy shops. Things the locals do in Barcelona
One place we have to secretly recommend to you is a spot where you can get mesmerizing 360 views of Barcelona! On top of the hotel Barceló Raval, there’s a nice viewing deck and a rooftop bar as well in case you get thirsty. Don’t be afraid. Walk straight into the hotel and take an elevator on your right (other elevators don’t go up to the top floor). Barcelona things to do
El Born is, on the other hand, the perfect chic quarter that every Barcelonan dreams of living in. Large murals and artful graffiti decorate the walls of El Born and immediately lure you into wanting to explore more.
We recommend you just stroll through El Born – that’s how locals do it after all. Start at Parc de la Ciutadella and walk towards Via Laietana, or the other way round. Plaça de Santa Maria lies at the heart of El Born, with a large Basilica you can admire there. Experience Barcelona as a local
If you’re a real graffiti enthusiast, walk the streets of El Born after dusk when the local shops close. Many of the best pieces are on the shutters!
For real, authentic cuisine and a charming atmosphere, check out SAGÀS restaurant in Pla de Palau Square. It’s famous for its pork, so stick to that if you want to taste the best of the best. Guide to Barcelona
Barceloneta is like another world! And not just because it’s right by the beach – this is actually Barcelona’s very own fishing village! Just look around you – where else in Barcelona can you see old men wearing berets? Fishing nets, beaches, and beach bars are all common sights in Barceloneta.
If you fancy switching from walking to biking, you can easily rent a bike at ‘Rent a Bike’ shop on Passeig de Joan de Borbó 35. You’ll pay around €6 for 2 hours on a standard bike. What do the locals do in Barcelona
You can reach Barceloneta by metro, just go to the stop of the same name.
The beaches you pass along the way are Playa de Sant Sebastia, Barceloneta, Nova Icaria and Bogatell a Mar Bella. All are good and popular among the locals. We suggest you just bike through them all and on the way back decide where to crash for a while. You have to go back anyway to return your bike.
The Gràcia quarter is a paradise for shopaholics. You can shop till you drop on the main boulevard, Gran de Gràcia, or on the tiny streets behind the boulevard, where a lot of boutique shops are located; make it a point to check out Carrer d’Asturies. Don’t confuse Gran de Gràcia with Passeig de Gràcia, which is slightly more to the South.
Later, as if you needed more rewards after some heavy shopping, try out a local favorite, La Nena, a café where mouthwatering hot chocolate is served.
It’s good to start out on Plaça del Sol. If you find yourself in the area, go see Casa Vicens, Gaudí’s first masterpiece built as a family residence for a local industrialist, Manuel Vicens. Where do locals go in Barcelona?
Visiting these quarters in Barcelona will give you a far more rounded picture of what Barcelona is like than if you only saw La Rambla and Sagrada Familia. In Barceloneta, you’ll meet the really ‘old school’ locals, while in Gracia on the other hand, the young and trendy prevail. Meet Barcelona locals
So wander the streets of Barcelona and mingle with Barcelonans! After all, that’s what travel should be about – getting to know places as they truly are, not just what the tourists are shown. Local travel in Barcelona
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Photo credits: Featured photo and Pinterest Images by Moyan Brenn. Gothic Quarter Cathedral of the Holy Cross by Catalan Art & Architecture Gallery (Josep Bracons). El Born during the day by Carlos Lorenzo. Barceloneta sunset by Moyan Brenn. Close up on ship sails by Josmanu.