Non-Touristy things to do in Barcelona, by locals!
Non-Touristy things to do in Barcelona, by locals!
Date: 22 January, 2020
Barcelona is an ultra-touristy city, and it’s little wonder why; the enchanting cityscape, punctuated with fascinating Modernist architecture, vibrant atmosphere and intriguing history of this colourful sea-side city has long-since lured travellers, and captured the imaginations of visitors. Since it hosted the Olympics in 1992, however, Barcelona’s popularity as a must-visit city has steadily and rapidly grown – so much so that the term ‘over-tourism’ and Barcelona are now frequently mentioned in the same breath.
So, we thought that you might fancy some tips on non-touristy things to do in Barcelona, where to seek out more authentic experiences, eat where the locals eat, and other ways to avoid tourists in Barcelona. And who better to shed some light on things that most tourists won’t know about than our very own lovely local Barcelona free tour guides?!
Here’s some exclusive tips and local insights on budget-friendly, non-touristy things to do in Barcelona, from some of our local guides. You’re welcome.
Gracia neighbourhood, Barcelona
Sara, one of our lovely local free walking tour guides in Barcelona, praises the Gracia neighborhood for a more authentic feel of real local Barcelona.
“Before the transformation of the city (in 1860), Gracia is where people had their "masías" or little farms. Nowadays, this ‘little town’ atmosphere is still preserved somewhat as this is the area where locals prefer to live in the city centre. In Gracia, you can visit Plaça del Diamant, a public square with an underground shelter built by the local inhabitants to defend themselves from bomb attacks during the Spanish civil war”.
The square also shares its name with the English translated version of one of Catalonia’s most important novels, In Diamond Square, also known as In the time of the doves. A beautiful sculpture in the square, known locally as the ‘pigeon girl statue’, represents the protagonist of the novel, Natalia, which tells a story of life lived in Barcelona during the civil war, a period in which the city was bombed more than 190 times and saw more than 2,500 people killed. Keep in mind you need to book in advance to visit the shelter.
Sara’s other tips for less-touristy things to do in Barcelona include “eating at LA BICICLETA, a small tapas bar which is mostly visited by locals” and “visiting Parque del Laberinto in Horta, it includes the oldest garden in the city and an amazing green labyrinth where you can have a lot of fun”.
Montjuic Hill, Barcelona
Another of our Barcelona free walking tours guides, Jana, can happily spend an entire day on Montjuic, and recommends it as an authentic local thing to do in Barcelona which is not too busy with tourists.
“One of my favourite places in Barcelona is the hill of Montjuic. Close to the city center, but still far enough to provide an escape to beautiful nature away from the busy bustling city. There are parks, gardens, restaurants and some of the best views of the city”.
“And if you come to Barcelona in the summer, there is an open-air cinema at the top of Montjuic, in the gardens of the Montjuic Castle. This is something I love doing every summer, getting together with friends for a picnic and movie under the open sky.”
“There are outdoor escalators that take you to the top of Montjuic, completely free! There is also one of the best art museums in the city, the MNAC, including works of Picasso, Dali and Miro, and you can visit for free every Saturday afternoon.”
“And to top it off, just under the museum, you can watch the Magic Fountain water show, with colours and music, for free, in the evenings from Thursday to Saturday”.
For Katty, one of our energetic Barcelona bar crawl guides, Montjuic is also a must-visit for a non-touristy itinerary in Barcelona.
“Get up early and see the sunrise from Montjuic hill before taking a walk through the surrounding gardens. Then, you must go to go to eat delicious skewers on the terraces of Carrer de Blai”.
“When the sun goes down, head to Plaza España to see the light show of the magic fountains of Montjuic - take the opportunity to go through the mall arenas and former bullring to the viewing deck!”
El Raval district, Barcelona
Katty also highly recommends checking out the El Raval neighbourhood when seeking a more authentic and less-touristy time in Barcelona. “Then continue to the city center, it is time to visit the great hybrid El Barrio del Raval, with its factory houses and former industrial heritage.”
The El Raval district has undergone a significant transformation in recent years, from a barrio infamous for being the ‘seedier’ side of Barcelona to one of vibrant culture, hip bars & nightlife, and boutique cafes & shops. As such, it is steadily becoming more popular among visitors, but is still much less congested with tourists than many other parts of Barcelona.
El Raval is home to a number of interesting attractions, including the Maritime museum and the famous La Boqueria market, though it still retains certain aspects of its gritty vibe and character. It is still very much a less-polished, more authentic and real representation of urban Barcelona.
El Carmen – Carmel Bunkers, Barcelona
“An authentic experience in Barcelona begins with watching the sunset in the Bunker del Carmel, according to Katty, “where the resistance occupied and had lots of guns during the civil war”.
And another of our lovely free tour of Barcelona guides, Sari, counts El Carmen as a must visit place in the city for a less-touristy Barcelona experience; “…the bunkers of Carmel, a place with the best views and where you can take a bottle of wine and watch the sunset”.
Whether it be at sunrise or sunset, there’s no denying that the Carmel bunkers atop Turó de la Rovira offer the best viewpoint across beautiful Barcelona. Locals come here to socialise, have some beers and picnics, and enjoy the spectacular 360º panoramic views over the city from 262 metres up.
These bunkers have a fascinating history beyond their military function during the civil war too. From the 1940s through to the 60s, it became known as the cannons neighbourhood where thousands of people lived in what was essentially a shanty town. Indeed, people still lived here right up until the start of the ’92 Olympics, when the council re-homed inhabitants as part of the ‘pregames clean up’ of the city.
More non-touristy things to do in Barcelona
Here’s a few quick-fire suggestions from our tour guide team for things to do in Barcelona that most tourists don’t know about. From parks, museums, cafes, where to eat, party and hear live music – these are some of the things that real locals in Barcelona like to do.
“One of my favourite gardens is Parc Central del Poblenou, with the art gallery MUhba Oliva Artés, where you can do a picnic and visit different exhibitions. This parc was recovered by Jean Nouvelle”, says Sari. “Another of my favourite places is el Forum de Barcelona, the building was design by Herzog & De Meuron a sculptural building amazing for pictures!”
Best viewpoints in Barcelona, according to locals
Mirador - Collserola Tower
Tibidabo viewpoint (cost approx. 3.5 euros)
MNAC (Located in Plaza España)
Montjuïc’s Cactus Garden (Around 800 cactus species reside here, some with sprouting flowers and some over ten feet high)
Barcelona Museums locals love
MNAC ( Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya )
Museo de las Ilusiones (Optical illusions - become part of large paintings at this playful museum.)
Museu Egipci de Barcelona (Museum of ancient Egyptian culture, jewellery, sarcophaguses & artworks.)
CosmoCaixa Barcelona (Science museum in Barcelona run by "la Caixa" Community Projects, designed to stimulate people's knowledge)
Where locals eat in Barcelona
Restaurante O'Retorno (We recommend the Octopus!)
La Mestressa (Delicious Patatas Bravas)
Bar el Tomás (Best Bravas in Barcelona!)
Morryssom (Try day Menu)
Churrería Laietana for the best Churros in Barcelona
El Xalet de Montjuïc
La font del Gat
Bars & clubs where locals go to party in Barcelona
Bling Bling (A ‘fancier’ kind of place)
Sutton (for over 25-year olds)
Razzmatazz (Multiple floors with lots of different music genres)
El bombom (Latino Bar)
Craft Barcelona (Pub)
DioBar (Alternative music from Latin America/ afro)
Marula Café bar
La taverna de Barcelona
La Ovella Negra de Marina/ Raval (Underground tavern)
Nevermind (totally alternative)
Paradiso (Best cocktails)
Other tips for non-touristy Barcelona experiences
Listen to live Jazz Music at Jazz Sí in Raval, and they also have Flamenco Show. You can also find free live Jazz shows at the cafe of Liceo School on Thursdays.
Casa Almirall - drink vermut and spend a few hours with friends at this bar dating from 1860.
Chocolatería Valor, even though it is in the city center, local people love eating churros with hot chocolate here in the afternoons.
For a day trip outside of the city, head to El Congost de Mont Rebei.
And that's your lot for now, dear Barcelona-bound travellers. We hope our local insider tips will serve you well when seeking out non-touristy things to do in Barcelona, if even just for a few hours or a day, it's a great idea to get off of the beaten path and get a sense of what us locals like to do in Barcelona and a more authentic impression of life lived here. You can also follow us @generationtours for more great tips and helpful content. We hope to see you soon on our excellent free walking tours of Barcelona, we meet every day at 10:30 A.M. by the steps of the Gothic Cathedral on Pla de la Seu.