A Barcelona local shows us around the Catalan capital sharing his insider tips on the best places to go.
BARCELONA has a love-hate relationship with tourism. With millions of people crowding its best known streets all year around, it is difficult to find places off the beaten track but a little local expertise goes a long way.
1. Have dinner in Gràcia
Gràcia used to be a village that was separate from Barcelona until 1897, when the capital of Catalonia swallowed it together with other surrounding villages.
This can be spotted looking at the map, where the narrow streets of Gràcia can be easily distinguished from the otherwise perfect square grid which dominates Barcelona.
Today, Gràcia is a ‘barrio’ with a different personality and a rich cultural scene, which ranges from alternative cinemas to fashion stores. But if Gràcia has one thing I love, it’s the thriving restaurants. From Lebanese to Catalan cuisine, the diversity of restaurants seems endless. Tourists have overlooked this district, making it more affordable and free of tourist-traps. Go there!
2. Hunt bargains at the flea market of Els Encants
Despite the temporary air to the Els Encants, the market has been held here since the 14th century making it one of Europe’s oldest.
Up until today, the market remains a popular space, where locals can find what can’t easily be found elsewhere: from used furniture, antiques and rare books and records to DIY equipment and clothing. A picturesque load of old junk or an ocean of hidden treasures? You decide.
Els Encants market is located north of Glòries square and it is open every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 9am-5pm.
By Metro: L1 <M> Glòries
3. Dare to explore El Raval
El Raval is located in the very centre of Barcelona, to the right of the famous Les Rambles street as you head towards the sea, which cuts into two the Ciutat Vella or old town.
4. Engage with the Can Masdeu social centre
Those interested in healthy and eco lifestyles could well pay a visit to Can Masdeu, a social centre located in the Collserola Park, on the outskirts of Barcelona. As they put it, they ‘defy the world of money, smoke, noise and speed’. On Sundays, Can Masdeu is open to visitors. You can discover the organic garden and take part in the workshops related to ecology, activism, and permaculture.
Parc de Collserola
By Metro: L3 (the green line) <M> Canyelles
5. Enjoy 360º views from the anti-aircraft bunker of El Carmel
Yes, there is a bunker you can visit in the middle of Barcelona. It was built in 1937 during the Spanish Civil war. Today, it is a cultural heritage icon under protection. However, the highlight of this place is the great views it offers. From here, one can contemplate the whole of Barcelona, from the mountains to the sea – and again it is free!
Marià Lavernia, 59
By Metro: L5 <M> El Coll-La Teixonera, L4 <M> Guinardó
By Bus 114, 119, 86 and 28
6. Daydream at Sant Felip Neri square
There is an oasis of peace in the middle of Barcelona but, like most oases, it is difficult to find. Hidden in Barri Gotic, this square has a special, melancholic atmosphere.
Although in the heart of the old city, the square has an air of solitary silence. The damaged façade of the church reminds us of the bombings the square suffered in 1938 during the Spanish civil war and provides an opportunity for reflection.
Plaça Sant Felip Neri
By metro: L1 <M> Jaume I