By Jen Lai-Lyn
Barcelona…the place of art and culture which is loved by so many!
There are so many hidden gems of Barcelona and the most exciting thing for me was finding them! I’m exhausted just thinking about all the beautiful things to see, but for all of you lucky people planning to visit – I have no doubt you will fall in love with the city just as much as I have! Here are my must sees of Barcelona;
1. Tuk Tuk Ride Through the City
One of the first things you’ll notice in the centre of Barcelona is the tuk tuk’s. With all the walking you’ll probably be doing, its the perfect way to give your feet a rest and take in the views and culture of the city. There’s so many of them riding around that no matter where you are, you’ll be sure to hitch a ride!
Tip: We ended up getting it cheaper than the original price as we haggled. The man was so nice that we ended up tipping him with his original price anyway, but if you are on a budget you can definitely get some money off.
2. The Parc de la Ciutadella
We stumbled across this one by accident as I have an annoyingly weak bladder and needed to get off the bus ASAP, but for the first time ever – I’m thankful for it! This is home of the obviously beautiful Arco de Triunfo de Barcelona but we wasn’t expecting to fall in love with the area as much as we did! Surrounded by cute little coffee shops, local traditional streets and endless amounts of culture, we thought we’d go off and explore! When we first walked through the big metal gates, guarded by statues and greenery, we were blown away by just how groomed it looked. There was a surprise on every corner and so much to see! Couples from far and wide learning salsa in the pagoda that over looks the momument with smiles so big that you couldn’t help but clap along and get stuck in! A beautiful lake with row boats and wildlife which you can relax or pedal in. Huge areas of grass to sunbath or picnic. And of course, the breathtaking views of the Cascada Monumental waterfall and architecture. Oh, and incase that isn’t enough, there is also a Zoo!
Tip: There is also a children’s outdoor play area and people selling huge bunches of balloons, just like the movie Up! So if you’re looking for a day out with the kids and not sure where to take them as an all-rounder for adults and young ones, I would definitely recommend Parc de la Ciutadella.
3. Barceló Raval Hotel – 360 View of Barcelona
Raval Hotel was another one we found on a whim. I think this is what made the trip so special to us, we found all the hidden gems of Barcelona just by being curious! It’s in a bit of a weird area, as it doesn’t look like it should be there but once you get inside and to top floor you will be instantly blown away! We ended up coming back twice for evening drinks, as it was just so spectacular. You can sit anywhere on the terrace, meaning each night or hour is a different view. There’s binoculars all the way round, so you can see W Hotel, Segarda Familia and so much up close!
Price: Drinks were around €10 euros each and we arrived around 10pm till late, so it was reasonably quiet and the view of Barcelona at night was unreal!
4. Dinner at Sky Bar
If you’re looking for beautiful views, good food and endless bar snacks then this is the place for you. It is perfect for date night or drinks with friends, as there’s the option to drink or dine the night away!
We got the set menu which was €35 euros each, this didn’t include drinks but we got a bottle of wine which was around 20 euros. It was a three course set menu which included; starter, main and dessert each. Although the portion sizes weren’t huge, the food was clearly of quality and it was definitely worth the experience of wining and dining whilst floating in the Barcelona sky.
Tip: We booked online before as it gets quite busy in peak times. The hotel is actually called Grand Hotel, so when booking online ensure you are booking the Sky Bar and not the hotel restaurant.
5. Dinner at El Nacional
El Nacional was recommended to us by one of the locals when we asked them where to eat. Not only is it one of the most instagrammable restaurants in Barcelona (other than Sky Bar and Raval Hotel), but it is the perfect place for drinks and dinner. It’s filled with lots of independent restaurants, so you have the excitement of picking somewhere to eat when you get there. We ate at La Taperia, in which the queue seemed to be really long but it actually moved really quick so don’t be put off!
It’s basically the Spanish version of traditional Dim Sum, where the waiters come out with a tray of dishes and you raise your hand if you would like it. They mark it off on your tab and you just pay at the end, simple!
Tip: We went in blind and didn’t know what many of the dishes were called so ended up with around 5 portions of Patatas Bravas and an array of everything. I would recommend either googling some dishes before, or just doing what we did and raise your hand every time…you may find your perfect dish you never knew existed!
6. Explore the cobbled streets of Gothic Quarter
If you’re heading to Barcelona, Gothic Quarter is probably one of those things you’ve heard you need to visit but have no idea what to expect! This was my exact thought process as we walked down the enchantingly eerie cobbled streets. When we first arrived it was turning to night time, all the bars had started to come alive and floods of people roaming the streets looking for a spot to settle down for the night.
We found Plaça Reial (the main square just off Gothic Quarter) to be the most lively and nicest atmosphere for drinks. Although it was a little bit pricier than the other quaint places of Gothic Quarter, it was filled with street performers and there was lots going on throughout the night to keep you entertained.
Tip: We ate in the Gothic Quarter on our first night and the food wasn’t great and was also quite pricey. I would avoid eating there unless you have been recommended a place. One place we was recommended was ‘Sensi’. So if you’re getting lost in the streets of the Gothic Quarter and happen to stumble across it, be sure to pop in and have traditional food that won’t disappoint.
7. Shopping – Tourist Market & Local Flea Market
To find the local tourist market you’ll need to walk to the end of the harbour as if heading towards the beach. Here, you’ll see a never-ending row of local street sellers all set up from early hours till late at night. They sell everything from knock off trainers to little fridge magnets. It’s the perfect place to pick up any souvenirs at the end of your trip and any items you just can’t afford in the UK!
We also stumbled across a local car boot! This was right next to our hotel which is around a 5 minute walk from the Columbus Monument. I’m a huge lover of car boot sales in the UK as I love all the hidden gems you can find; from vintage pearl jumpers to old fashioned suitcases, I just love the story that comes with each item! So, when we stumbled across this in Barcelona I was so excited to see how Spanish vintage compare to our vintage! This is the perfect way to spend your morning before hopping on the bus just five mins walk away from the harbour.
How to find it: It’s official name is El Flea Market Barcelona and the address is Carrer del Portal de Santa Madrona, 22, 08001 Barcelona – which you can pop into google maps. Opening times Mon-Fri 10:00-14:00/16:30- 20:30 Sat: 10:00- 14:00 so be sure to get there in the morning for the best bargains!
8. Segarda Familia
This one is not so hidden, but it is definitely a gem! In fact, it’s that important that it is officially a UNESCO World Heritage Site
If you’re heading to Barcelona, I’m sure this is one of the top things on your list. But what may not be so top is the Audio Tour. We originally got told to get the entrance only tickets which you can get online for much cheaper and skip the queue. We wasn’t sure what time we would get there as we used the Hop On Hop Off Bus as transportation so we decided we go with the wind and try to get tickets when we arrived if we could.
As soon as we turned the corner on the bus and saw the Segarda we were instantly blown away! Nothing could prepare us for the intricate carvings and architecture that seemed to capture every single person as if it casted a spell on whoever looked at it. We got online straight away to get tickets and found that entrance only tickets were sold out, so we had to get the Audio Tour for €37 each. Once we got in there and began the tour we were so glad we got the Audio. We learnt so much about Gaudi and the meaning behind every detail; from the beautifully stained windows to the structures and how Gaudi’s work represented something so much more than just architecture.
Not only is the Audio Tour easy to use, but you can take your time and listen if and when you please! It was the perfect way to not only fully immerse yourself in the Barcelona culture, but really fall in love with its story and all the art that still carries on to live throughout the city.
Tip: You can buy your tickets online for a discounted rate at least 24hours before you plan to visit. Also, make sure you take a stroll down to the basement museum. Here you can find out so much more about Gaudi and the reason behind all the different art forms and structures which you will definitely notice as you stroll through the city.
9. Cable Car Montjuic
When we hopped off the bus at Montjuic we thought nothing could ever top this view. The huge regal-looking steps and statues which tower over the city and the breathtaking building that makes you feel like a mere mortal. Just when you think nothing can top it, the views from the cable car of Montjuic makes everything else seem so mediocre! Stretching across the whole of Barcelona, you literally feel like you are flying above the city. A 360 panoramic view of the city that you just spent days falling in love with.
We finished our trip doing this, and it was perfect timing for us to take in all that we had seen and just let our minds run away with us, as we saw all the highlights again but in birds eye view.
Tip: Follow the path around the castle at the top and find a pathway with amazing views of the harbour, ocean and city…the view that keeps on giving!
10. Use the Hop on Hop Off Bus to find places you’ve never heard of!
We used Barcelona Turistic as our mode of transport. It was €30 each euros for one day or €40 euros for two days. It was the perfect way to see all of what we wanted to and more, and the open roof meant you could get up-close to some of the most beautiful buildings when commuting from place to place!
Tip: Be sure to hop on and off as much as you can, even if it doesn’t look like much, you never know what you might find. Some of our most memorable moments were found by doing this, and its the perfect way to find those hidden gems of Barcelona which may not be found other wise!
Most people visit Barcelona as a weekend getaway, me being one of them. It’s definitely a tight squeeze trying to fit in all that Barcelona has to offer into a few days, but I am so glad we managed to fit in what we wanted to see and more!