Last updated: November 2017
Barcelona, Barcelona. Everyone thinks they know you, but there are always plenty more surprises lurking around the corner, inside the bars, and beyond the top 10 tourist attractions. We’ve compiled a different top 10, with some of the non-touristy secrets of Barcelona that took us a while to clock onto and that you might also enjoy. Take a wander off the beaten track and check out these tips for visiting a more ‘local’ Barcelona.
1. Monasterio de Pedralbes
Off the tourist trail and well worth visiting, this 14th century Gothic monastery takes you right back in time. You’ll be able to see spectacular religious art and relics in the museum section. There is also a beautiful garden and impressive cloister. The address is Baixada del Monestir, 9.
2. Discover the Mercat Galvany
This is one of the oldest farmers’ markets and one of Barcelona’s best kept secrets. It existed long before the first structure to cover it was built in 1868, when it was in the middle of fields surrounded by fields! It is located in the well-to-do-neighbourhood of Sant Gervasi and is renowned for its very high quality fresh produce. You’ll find it at C/ Santaló 65, near Muntaner FGC.
3. Plaça Virreina
Just a minute’s walk from Fontana metro in the Gràcia neighbourhood, this tranquil non-touristy square has plenty of café terraces where you can relax, soak up the winter sunshine and local ambience and browse the artisan markets that occasionally pop up here at the weekends. The Cíber Virreina internet café is a handy spot for printing out last-minute boarding cards.
4. Palau Robert Gardens
This green oasis of calm is located at the busy intersection of Passeig de Gràcia with Diagonal. It’s a perfect place to stop and read the information you pick up from the Palau Robert tourist office. Look out for the photography exhibitions in the gardens, and more free exhibitions inside. Passeig de Gràcia, metro: Diagonal.
5. Can’t get hold of any Barça tickets?
An FC Barcelona home game is top of many visitors’ must-do lists. Tickets may seem to be sold out, but fret not, hold your nerve and wait until closer to the date for season ticket holders to release their passes. Get your tickets from www.fcbarcelona.com
6. Refresh yourself with a “horchata”
This traditional drink is sold in ice-cream parlours and bars throughout Barcelona. It is made from the milk of tiger nuts, which are actually the tubers of the chufa plant. Delicious and refreshing!
7. The Ramblas Dragon
Next time you get to Liceu, about half way down Las Ramblas, look down and you’ll notice a colourful mosaic by Joan Miró on the pavement. Look up at the house opposite, on Rambla 82, and you’ll see a bank which used to be an umbrella shop. This explains the art deco dragon holding an umbrella on the corner of its façade.
8. Music and artisan markets in Plaça del Pi
One of the most picturesque squares in the heart of the Gothic Quarter, Plaça del Pi is an oasis of contrasts. Spanish guitar concerts are often held at the Gothic church of Santa María del Pí, which is also famous for having one of the largest stained glass rosettes in Europe. Artisan stalls offer a range of local products such as preserves, cakes and cheese.
9. Chocolate and churros
This traditional sugar rush snack-attack is definitely recommended for satisfying any sweet tooth. Very thick hot chocolate is served with long doughnut-like fingers, which are dunked and devoured. Some of our favourites spots are the Granja Dulcinea (C/ Petrixol 2) just off the Ramblas, the Churreria Layetana (Via Laietana 46) near the Born, and la Nena (C/ Ramón y Cajals 36) in Gràcia.
10. Free entry to museums and galleries
Culture heads listen up, this is a secret worth getting in on! Sunday is museum day. Several of Barcelona’s top museums and galleries offer free entry on Sunday afternoon after 15:00. These include the Maritime Museum, CCCB and MUHBA (Museu d’Història de Barcelona). Other museums are also free all day on the first Sunday of the month. These include the Picasso museum and the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (MNAC).