Spain is one of the most touristy destinations in Europe. But with these 7 tips, you can enjoy Barcelona like a local!
By Chere Di Boscio
Barcelona is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, and regularly ranks as one of the best holiday destinations in Europe. And no wonder! There’s so much on offer here, from the architecture of Gaudi and incredible food to chic art galleries and sprawling beaches. However, there’s a downside, too.
The rise of direct flights from many South American and European capitals to Madrid means most visitors arrive in the Spanish capital, then take a train from Madrid to Barcelona. And with that increased ease of travel, like many European hotspots, including Paris, Ibiza, Venice and Amsterdam, Barcelona has now become overwhelmed by tourists. And the locals hate it.
They complain that tourists drive prices up, dominate the most beautiful parts of the city, and bring noise, pollution, and overcrowding. Which is why if you want to enjoy Barcelona like a local, you really need to know where to go.
If you’re looking for some non-touristy things to do here, I’ve spent quite a lot of time in this city, and have a few suggestions on how to enjoy Barcelona like a local.
How To See Barcelona In A Non-Touristy Way
1. See The City From The Carmel Bunkers
To start with, if you want to enjoy Barcelona like a local, you need to check out the right areas. And the Carmel neighbourhood is definitely one of them!
Located at the top of Turo de la Rovira, Carmel Bunkers are a viewpoint opening your eyes to the whole of Barcelona’s panorama.
It’s quite a hike up here if you want to walk, but there are plenty of water-bottle filling stations along the way. Or, take a taxi from downtown (it should be around 15 Euros). When you arrive to the top, crack open a bottle of wine and admire the beautiful sunset and panoramic views of Barcelona. Very Instagrammable!
2. Visit La Gracia Neighborhood
This quiet and charming neighbourhood is one of the best ways to get to know Barcelona from a local perspective. With lovely surroundings and laid-back people, a visit to La Gracia is a must. I’d even suggest getting accommodation here!
Walk through the narrow streets and admire the quaint architecture. Go to the Mercat de l’Abaceria indoor market, where you’ll find all kinds of Spanish culinary goodies. Make the most of Gaudi’s influence and see his Casa Mila, Casa Batllo, and Casa Vicens, which is the first house the artist designed.
3. Check Out The El Raval District
Once upon a time, El Raval, near the port, used to be famous as the city’s red-light district and Chinatown. However, in 1988, the government started a huge urban regeneration project and invested a lot of money in cleaning up the area. Now, it has become more modern, racially diverse, and much safer. That being said, you’ll still need to watch out for petty crime like pickpocketing in this area. (And in most touristy parts of the city, too.)
Still, El Raval is a great place to go if you want to enjoy Barcelona like a local! There are a wide array of restaurants, offering Spanish and international cuisines. You’ll also fine plenty of hip bars, cozy pubs, and unique shops. El Raval is vibrant and fun, and really comes alive in the evenings.
4. Rent A Bike
Be a more sustainable traveller and enjoy Barcelona like a local by seeing the city by bike!
Bicing is a public bike-sharing scheme that makes 6,000 mechanical and 300 electric bikes available to the public for journeys around the city.
Bicing is fully integrated into the city’s transport system and is easy to use. This is because it has been designed to ensure public transport access close to bicycle pick-up and drop-off points, based on intermodal criteria for connections between bicycles and other means of transport.
The system operates on the basis of a personal, non-transferable subscription card bearing the user’s name. This card identifies the user in the system and must be used at the pick-up and drop-off points, to take out and return bicycles. You can find out how to sign up before your trip, here.
5. Throw Yourself On Llevant Beach
Most people know that Spain is all about the beaches. And even cities, like Barcelona, have a few great ones! Barceloneta, Playa de Bogatell, or Nova Icaria are all stunning, sure. The downside? The crowds, of course. Which is why those in the know head to Llevant Beach.
The beach has none of the cons and all of the pros of any other Barcelona beach. With its gorgeous shoreline, multiple restaurants and endless opportunities to play with pets and kids here, Llevant is one of my favourite places in the city.
Enjoy the warm waters in summer, the year-round Mediterranean sun, and dreamy views. For me, this beach is the perfect place to set up and easel and do some painting or sketching!
6. Check Out Torre Baro
Since it’s so hilly, Barcelona is a city with incredible views. And you’ll find some of the best up at Torre Baro. This hill overlooks several different districts and is very unpopular. For all the right reasons, though!
An iconic symbol of this region, Torre Baro hill and castle aren’t super touristy due to the fact that they’re far from the city centre. But locals love making the trip up here. Why? Well, it’s only from here can you see the charming regions of Nou Barris, Horta, Sant Andreu, Sant Marti, and, most importantly, the River Besos, with three different towns around it.
The castle was actually originally planned as a hotel in order to urbanise Torre Baro. However, it was never finished and was publicly regarded as a castle, so the moniker stuck.
7. Hang Out In El Born
Whilst tourists flood Las Ramblas in search for bars and restaurants, locals know better! One district they tend to frequent is El Born.
This trendy neighbourhood features twisting, turning Medieval streets and is packed with stylish cafes, boutiques and tapas bars. Why not visit some local art galleries, grab some lunch, hit the shops, then finish off the day with a glass or two of wine and some tapas?
Hopefully now, you have a better idea as to how to enjoy Barcelona like a local. You’ll be able to avoid crowds. have the best time, and see this amazing city in a quieter way.