“Visiting Barcelona is not just going to touristic places but discovering the hidden corners not listed in the travel guides” – SecretsOfBarcelona.com
Things to do in Barcelona Spain
I haven’t met a single person who has visited Barcelona, and not fallen in love with it. There is a vibrancy, a life in the air. In the warmer months, people are out in the streets eating and drinking, laughing with friends and family. Kids are in the squares practicing their best football moves. And the aroma of food is in the air.
And good food is everywhere, but it can sometimes feel a little difficult to find. These days more and more ‘touristy’ restaurants are popping up offering below par local cuisine. So how do you find the good, traditional, Catalonian cuisine?
I don’t think you can ever go wrong with a food tour. A person who lives and breathes the local food and culture of a particular city, takes you, a newbie who’s knowledge of local food extends as far as what wiki travel told you (not the most reliable info – just sayin’). On a tour around some of the best local haunts, in order to taste and experience local food – like a true local.
And if there’s one place that you MUST do a food tour – it’s in Spain. In particular Catalonia.
As Barcelona is huge, it’s not possible to do a ‘Barcelona’ food tour – so the guys at Devour Barcelona focus on the new up and coming area of Gracia. This area was actually a separate village to Barcelona until it was engulfed by expansion in the 18th and 19th centuries, this is why it has a different, unique, feel to the rest of Barcelona. Today Gracia offers an eclectic mix of old and new that has something to offer foodies from all walks of life.
Booze: Cava is a locally made alcohol that is exceptionally popular with the Catalonian people. While very similar to champagne, it is often seen to be the lesser in quality because it’s cheaper. However we learned that the only difference is the grapes.
The methods used in making the drinks are exactly the same. In fact the growing conditions in Catalonia are much better than those in France…so they can produce much more, thus making it less expensive. I’m sure the French will vehemently disagree with this, or perhaps a champagne connoisseur could explain the subtle differences. I am neither – it seriously all tastes the same to me. What I do know is you can score cava in some bars for as little as 89 cents a glass – a win for all the budget travellers of the world!
History: Gracia’s bell tower is a monument that the local people are particularly proud of. Many years ago the Spanish were conscripting young men into the army, in a particularly unfair way. So, the local mothers of the village rigged up the bells so they would ring constantly to piss off the Spanish. It rang for 6 days straight – until the Spanish got the shits and bombed it. These days the bell tower has been rebuilt and there is a particularly tasty dish called the bomb in it’s honour, which you get to try during the tour.
The bomb is a potato ball stuffed with mince beef and served with spicy brava sauce and ali oli. The spicy sauce actually has a nice kick to it. This turned out to be a favourite dish for almost everyone on the tour.
Food: Pan Con Tomate is a dish you will see served everywhere in Catalonia. The tradition of spreading tomato on bread with olive oil and salt, came out of poverty. The people would spread the tomato on old bread to make it softer and easier to eat. There is a running joke with the Spanish who say it’s eaten because catalonians are cheap. Today they generally use fresh bread so it’s just super tasty for all.
If you have more of a sweet tooth (or even if you don’t) you must try is the Creme de Catalan. It’s the first ever custard desert in Europe dating back to the 14th century – you might find it similar to the French creme brule, but they apparently stole the idea from the Catalonians in the 17th century.
Things to note about this tour:
- Wear comfortable shoes. It is a 4 hour tour and does involve a bit of walking
- Bring a bottle of water as Barcelona can get very hot, especially in the summer
- Let Devour Barcelona know well in advance if you have any food allergies or aversions and they will try and accommodate you as best they can. We had a lady on our tour who was lactose intolerant, and they surprised her with lactose free cheese. Needless to say she was incredibly impressed and pleased that she could join in on the tasting. Cheese is awesome.
There is so much history and architecture in the Barcelona, you could spend days – weeks even, wandering the streets in awe of it’s Gaudi buildings, cathedrals and alleyways. But there is a lot you can miss if you don’t know what you’re looking for.
This is why we hooked up with a good friend of ours Veronica so we could discover what see in Barcelona off the tourist trail. Veronica is a Barcelona tourist guide that has lived in Barcelona for the past 14 years, and is an expert in the history and architecture of the lesser visited sites of Barcelona. She took us on her Gothic to Modern tour (which we did backwards), and told us some seriously random things about the history of Barcelona.
Did you know…
1. Barcelona was originally a retirement village for old Roman soldiers – this is why there are Roman Ruins under the city
2. The actual gothic quarter is a 19th century re-creation. Most of the buildings that we see today were brought from elsewhere in the city and redesigned to make a more interesting ‘medieval’ city. You can even see the mish mash of stones in the re-constructed buildings.
3. There is a medieval street that is still marked as being one way only – for horses
4. The Cathedral of Barcelona is occupied by 13 geese. This is because Santa Euralia was martyred here when she was 13 years old, and she used to herd geese. On a side note geese are also better at guarding the cathedral than guard dogs as they hate everyone and are vicious little SOB’s. Plus, they don’t bark at night, so locals can get some sleep.
- If you are wanting to visit this exquisite cathedral and it’s grumpy geese then visit for FREE from 08:00am – 12:30pm or 5:00pm – 10:30 pm.
- You must be dressed appropriately to get inside – no short skirts or shorts allowed. Cover shoulders and knees.
We had a great time on tour with Veronica, who is full of seemingly endless, fascinating, and random information about Barcelona.
Our fantastic guide: Verónica Montuenga
Blog: Her tour website is still under construction, but you can check her out here Viajandopor.com
If you’ve ever wanted to experience the thrill of hot air ballooning hundreds of meters above the ground, then the town of Vic, just outside of Barcelona, is the place for you.
Flying high over this medieval town, you not only get spectacular views of the city and surrounding farmland, but on a clear day, the view of the snow-capped Pyrenees mountains is breathtaking.
The hot air balloon ride lasted for over an hour and where you go, and what you see, varies greatly depending on the wind. Sometimes you don’t have much of a choice of where the wind decides to take you. This is why you will rarely (or never) land in the same spot you took off from. And finding a spare piece of ground to land on during crop season can be even more of an adventure than the flight itself.
Things to note:
- The heat from the balloon can be a bit uncomfortable. It’s best to wear something that covers your arms and shoulders and even your head. They did supply hats for everyone to wear, but you may wish to bring your own.
- Balloons in this area can legally go as high as 2000 meters off the ground, depending on the weather. We went as high as 700 / 800 meters on our flight. Even at that height looking on the tiny model like houses below you is an engaging experience. You may have seen views from an airplane window, this is a whole different experience.
- You may be required to help pack up the balloon after you land. If everyone gets in and helps out it takes next to no time to get it all packed up and back on the truck.
With any adventure activity make sure you are completely covered by your travel insurance before you book your tour. Also, Barcelona has a bit of a reputation for pickpockets these days, keep yourself and your stuff safe. We recommend World Nomads as they cover over 200 different adventure activities! And, as a reader of this site, you’ll get 5% off your insurance policy with the code FOOD5
Looking for more day trips from Barcelona? Click here.
Accommodation: Where to stay in Barcelona
Budget Stay – Airbnb
Barcelona is exploding with tourists and there are tons of hotels & hostels everywhere you turn. However, even just a single dorm bed can cost you 30 euro or more in high season. Some of these hostels are modern, funky and a great place to meet people. But if you are more interested in saving money on accommodation, so you can splurge elsewhere, we recommend checking out the budget options on airbnb.
There are many options in central Barcelona with private double bedrooms starting from about 25 euros. But double check the area before you book to make sure that the area is safe. There is a growing issue with pickpocketing in Barcelona, and you need to always be on your guard. Some areas of town are worse than others – do your research before booking a room.
Get $25 off your first booking by using this link: AIRBNB DISCOUNT
TREAT YOURSELF – Amister Art Hotel
This swanky new hotel is part of the Sercotel hotel chain. The rooms are comfortable, clean and offer a special treat in the form of a pillow menu. Like your pillow to be a soft down, stuffed full of feathers? Then choose the Picasso. Or perhaps a firm, hypoallergenic pillow is more your style? Then the Tapies is for you. I thought this was a fantastic inclusion, one that more hotels should adopt.
Outside of the room, you can spend time wandering around soaking in the featured art or perhaps head up to the terrace to enjoy the Barcelona sunshine and a dip in their pool. It’s only a small pool so remember – no bomb diving ;-).
Continental breakfast can be also included for an additional price, where you will be treated to a selection of fresh cut ham, cheese, fresh fruit and local pastries.
The only downside is that the hotel isn’t really located conveniently close to anything. Metro and buses to Placa de Catalunya are within about 500m-700m of the hotel. But if you want a peaceful, arty interior away from the centre in a safe area, this is a good option.
Amister Art Hotel
Address: Av. Rome, 93-95 – HB-004 243 – Barcelona – Spain
For more information or to book: CLICK HERE
Transport – Getting in and out of Barcelona
Have you been to Barcelona? Do you have a Food Fun or Adventure tips to share? Let us know in the comments.
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Disclaimer: We received the tours above complimentary and a 2-night stay at the Amister art hotel. We are affiliated with World Nomads as they are our preferred insurance company. As always opinions are our own.