Gaudi, Messi, La Rambla – Barcelona has plenty of heavy hitters when it comes to attracting visitors. It is also a city where it pays to get beyond the guidebooks and seek out some hidden gems to create a truly memorable travel experience. Here are a few of the New Zealand Times‘ favourites
1. Barcelo Raval
Staying at a five-star hotel while tripping though Europe is beyond most of us. However this luxurious hotel in the heart of Rambla Del Raval is worth a visit on the off-chance you can bluff your way through the spectacular lobby and make your way to the elevators and the 11th floor. There, you can find stunning 360 degree views of the city and some comfy easy chairs to relax in. It would probably pay not to linger too long, but for a short taste of how the other half live, it’s well worth the effort. Once you leave, it’s a short walk to Fernando Botero’s bronze sculpture of a very porky cat, and Madame Jasmine, a cozy bar with tasty cocktails and eclectic clientele.
2. Chocolate overload
Barcelona is well know for its culinary delights, but as a first-time visitor one thing that took me by surprise was the gusto with which its residents approach their sweet treats. Even the slimmest and most well-dressed types could be frequently seen attacking a snack of churros, molten chocolate and whipped cream with the enthusiasm of a two-year old. Two highly recommended spots are La Pallaresa Chocolate Restauant, a bustling cafe in the heart of the Gothic Quarter which despite its slightly utilitarian feel is a favourite of the locals, or La Nena, a more trendy option in the Gracia district. For those used to being disappointed with the measly amount of cocoa in a chocolate croissant, La Nena’s tradition of dumping what seems like a king-size block of chocolate over a pastry will delight.
While Barcelonate beach may not the nicest piece of coast in the region, for those on a tight schedule it is the best option for a quick dip in the sea. Once you’ve dried off and looking for somewhere to eat, avoid the tacky looking places closer to the water and head into the streets until you find Bitacora on Carrer Balboa. This traditional neighbourhood haunt is filled with locals attracted by the fresh seafood and good prices. For those who can’t get away from hot potato snacks, they also do a mean plate of bravas.
4. Castell de Montjuic
Okay, this one probably is in the guidebooks, but on a clear day, is a prime spot for one of Barcelona’s best views. Pack yourself lunch from La Boqueria market, and if you’re hardy, walk. Otherwise take the cable car from the Paral.lel metro stop, followed by a gondola. From various vantage spots you can view the port, city and distant mountains, and despite the crowds, it is possible to find a quiet spot to enjoy a snack and can of Estrella. Then walk off the excess by visiting the Olympic stadium or a gallery, or just head back down the hill past various sculptures.
Do you have any other suggestions for things to do in Barcelona? If so, let us know below.