Barcelona Beyond the Tourist Zone: 12 Things to Do
What to do in Barcelona beyond the tourist zones
Nomad team, Nomad Team
May 25 · 6 min read
- Wander Through the Labyrinthine Streets of El Raval
- Uncover the Artistic Side of Poblenou
- Experience Local Life in Gràcia
- Attend a Street Art Painting Class
- Try a Cooking Class with a Local
- Visit Hospital de Sant Pau
- Attend a Flamenco Show at a Local Tablao
- Catch a Film at an Independent Cinema
- Stroll Through the Lush Gardens of Montjuïc
- Hike in the Collserola Natural Park
- Witness the Magic of the Gràcia Festival in August
- Celebrate La Mercè, the City's Biggest Festival
Barcelona. A city that attracts millions of visitors every year with its famous landmarks, stunning beaches, and vibrant nightlife. But what if you want to experience something different? What if you want to explore beyond the typical tourist destinations and discover the hidden gems of this beautiful city? Read on to discover ways to experience Barcelona in an unique way!
Wander Through the Labyrinthine Streets of El Raval
El Raval is a neighborhood that has undergone a remarkable transformation in recent years. Once considered a seedy and dangerous area, it has now become a hub for street art, alternative fashion, and multicultural cuisine. El Raval has its fair share of tourist attractions, including the very popular MACBA museum for contemporary art, and the CCCB cultural center for exhibitions and events. You can find also find a traditional market, Mercat de Sant Antoni, where locals shop for fresh produce and seafood.
But there is much more to offer and discover here. Don't miss the Rambla del Raval, a palm-lined avenue with sculptures by Botero and other artists. Or head to Carrer dels Tallers, a beautiful, hidden street just away from the main plaza, lined with eateries and bars that cater to all tastes and budgets.
Uncover the Artistic Side of Poblenou
Poblenou used to be an industrial district, but now it has become a creative and innovative hub, thanks to its proximity to the beach and its old factories turned into art studios, coworking spaces, and cultural venues. Explore its colorful streets and squares, adorned with murals, sculptures, and graffiti. Visit the Palo Alto Market, a trendy fair of design, fashion, and food. And admire the iconic Torre Agbar, a skyscraper that lights up the night sky with its colorful LEDs.
But Poblenou is not just a neighborhood for artists and hipsters. It is also a place where you can experience the authentic Barcelona life. You can have a vermouth and some tapas in one of the many bars and bodegas that dot the streets. Or you can go to the beach, which is just a few minutes away, and enjoy the Mediterranean sun and sea.
Experience Local Life in Gràcia
Gràcia is a bohemian and charming neighborhood that retains its village-like atmosphere despite being in the heart of the city. Wander around its pedestrian streets and plazas, decorated with flowers, fountains, and street performers. It is also one of the best neighbourhoods to visit for tapas. Enjoy a drink or a meal in one of the many outdoor terraces, tapas bars, or vegetarian restaurants.
More than just a neighborhood for festivals and leisure, Gràcia is also a place where you can learn about the history and culture of Barcelona. You can visit the Casa Vicens, a stunning modernist building designed by Gaudí. Or go up the hills just behind Gràcia to the Bunkers of El Carmel. Here, you will get to see the remains of the artillery battlements of Barcelona's civil war, while enjoying some of the best sunsets of the city.
Attend a Street Art Painting Class
Immerse yourself in Barcelona's dynamic and diverse street art scene, a must-have experience for art lovers and budding artists. Join a tour to explore the street art in the city, or even better, join a workshop to get hands-on experience with street art! Unleash your creativity and spray paint your masterpiece as you learn the spray paint techniques from active street artists.
Learn more bout the history, techniques, and materials used by the most revered street artists of Barcelona. And as you take a stroll through the eclectic streets of Barcelona post-class, you'll perceive the city with a new, artistic lens. There are multiple studios and tours that provide such tours and workshops, with one of the most notable ones being the Barcelona Street Style Tour.
Try a Cooking Class with a Local
Barcelona is known for its rich culinary heritage and unique flavors that have been influenced by Mediterranean, Catalan, and Spanish cultures. If you want to take your culinary experience to the next level, why not try a cooking class with a local? There are many locals that offer opportunities for you to learn and have hands-on experiences with preparing traditional dishes such as paella. And if you prefer to learn from a professional chef, there are also cooking schools and workshops in the city that offer such experiences.
You will be able to find these experiences listed on various websites like Airbnb Experiences, TripAdvisor, or EatWith. Some of the most highly rated experiences include Marta's Private Paella Cooking Class and The Paella Club.
Visit Hospital de Sant Pau
Journey through the history of medicine and marvel at the wonders of Modernista architecture by visiting the Hospital de Sant Pau, located in the Eixample district of Barcelona. This architectural gem, designed by the prominent Catalan architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner, is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of Barcelona's most prestigious landmarks. With its series of colorful pavilions adorned with mosaics, sculptures, and stained glass, this isn't just a hospital but a grand example of the artistic triumph of Modernisme. As compared to the other museums in Barcelona, the Hospital de Sant Pau is also significantly less crowded.
Immerse yourself in the fascinating guided tours that reveal the history, purpose, and restoration of the complex. Walk through the beautifully landscaped gardens connecting the pavilions, soak in the intricate design details. And admire the stunning panoramic views of the city from various points. The underground tunnels, once used to transport patients, are now open for exploration, offering a unique perspective of the hospital's past. To get the most out of your visit, don't miss the exhibition space in the Sant Salvador Pavilion that chronicles the evolution of medicine and provides a detailed account of the hospital's heritage.
Attend a Flamenco Show at a Local Tablao
Flamenco is a passionate and expressive dance that originated in Andalusia but has spread throughout Spain and beyond. In Barcelona, you can experience the power and beauty of flamenco in many tablao shows, which combine dancing, singing, and guitar playing. Some of the most famous tablao venues are El Tablao de Carmen, Palau Dalmases, and Tarantos. Sit back, admire the colorful costumes and the rhythmic clapping, and let yourself be carried away by the emotion.
Catch a Film at an Independent Cinema
Barcelona has a rich cinematic heritage and a diverse movie offer, ranging from blockbusters to arthouse films, from international festivals to local productions. If you want to avoid the crowds and enjoy a more intimate and authentic atmosphere, you can go to one of the independent cinemas that are scattered around the city. Some of the most popular ones are the Filmoteca de Catalunya, the Renoir Floridablanca, and the Verdi cinema, which hosts many premieres and retrospectives.
Stroll Through the Lush Gardens of Montjuïc
Montjuïc is a hill that overlooks the city and offers spectacular views of the skyline and the sea. It's also a natural and cultural oasis that boasts many gardens, parks, and monuments. Walk up the hill from the Plaça d'Espanya and you'll encounter the Montjuïc Castle, the Olympic Stadium, and the Joan Miró Foundation. But you can also enjoy the peace and beauty of the Botanical Garden, the Laribal Gardens, or the Mossen Costa i Llobera Garden, which showcase a wide variety of flora and fauna.
Hike in the Collserola Natural Park
Escape the bustling city life and embrace the tranquillity of nature with a hiking adventure in Collserola Natural Park, a mountainous range that surrounds Barcelona and protects it from pollution and urbanization. Located just a short distance from the city center, this expansive urban forest is a green oasis offering a plethora of trails for outdoor enthusiasts.
With over 8,000 hectares of lush Mediterranean vegetation, the park is home to a diverse range of flora and fauna, providing an authentic wilderness experience within the metropolitan area of Barcelona. The trails range from easy to moderately challenging, making it an ideal destination for both seasoned hikers and families seeking a pleasant day out.
Witness the Magic of the Gràcia Festival in August
The Festa Major de Gràcia that takes place every August is one of the most charismatic and creative festivals of Barcelona, in which the residents of the neighborhood decorate their streets and squares with fantastic themes and colors. More than just a festival, it is a social event. Each year, the festival has a different motif, chosen by the participants through a vote. You can find streets that are inspired by the jungle, the circus, the cinema, or the ocean, among others. You can also listen to live music, watch performances, taste local food and drink, and meet the friendly and proud locals who organize the festival with passion and humor.
Celebrate La Mercè, the City's Biggest Festival
La Mercè is the annual festival of Barcelona that takes place in September, the day of the patron saint of the city. It's a week-long celebration that features a diverse and colorful program of music, dance, theater, and fireworks. You can watch the correfoc, a parade of devils and pyrotechnics that runs through the streets, or the castells, a tower-building competition that requires human balance and cooperation. You can also attend concerts and shows in different venues, from the Plaça Catalunya to the beach, or enjoy traditional food and drink in the fairs and streets.