Saying that Barcelona is one of the greatest cities on the planet isn’t too far away from the truth. From architectural gems, vibrant streets, grandiose cathedrals, and interesting museums beautiful parks, stunning beaches, and amazing food, this Mediterranean pearl has it all and it’s no wonder it’s not only the most popular city on Spain’s east coast but also one of the most visited cities on Earth. And with more tourists flocking in every day, it’s natural to want to get away from the crowds and discover some of the best-hidden gems Barcelona has to offer. This article can certainly help you with that!
Where to stay in Barcelona?
There are plenty of accommodation options in Barcelona but staying near the center is always a good idea. Many people opt-in for beach apartments in Barcelona although there are good city center options as well. If you want to stay near the beach, the Lugaris Rambla hotel has a great reputation, affordable prices, and most importantly, a great location. It’s close to the main attractions in the city and to most of the places on this list.
If you want to join the crowds, you can always head to Sant Sebastià or La Barceloneta Beach. These beaches have great bars, restaurants, and trendy shops geared towards tourists. However, if you’re looking for a more peaceful beach, check out some of the beaches near the Olympic Port or my personal favorite- Bogatell Beach. The best thing about Bogatell is that it’s only a 10-minute-walk away from Barceloneta Beach but somehow remains blissfully unfrequented. This is one of the places locals go to to get away from the tourist crowds.
Refugio antiaéreo 307
When talking about hidden gems in Barcelona, we simply can’t forget to mention this place. Originally named Refugi 307, this is one of the last surviving bomb shelters in Barcelona. During the Spanish Civil War, the city was constantly bombed and this shelter with its capacity of 2,000 people saved the lives of a lot of refugees. If getting a slice of Barcelona’s dark history sounds interesting, I strongly suggest you visit this place.
Montjuïc is home for several of the most famous museums in Spain including, the National Museum of Catalan Art, the Museum of Archaeology and the Ethnology Museum. And with so many interesting sights to see around, it’s no surprise that only a handful of people visit Montjuic Cemetery. This is actually the biggest cemetery in Barcelona. Here, you can find the graves of some of the city’s most famous historical figures. The most fascinating part about the cemetery are the modernist quirky statues that decorate some of the graves. If you’re looking for some unusual things to do in Barcelona, this is one place you really shouldn’t miss visiting.
Ancient Synagogue of Barcelona
The Ancient Synagogue is one of the oldest synagogues in Europe according to numerous historical sources. The synagogue was closed during the Spanish Inquisition and the building has been used for several different purposes during the Middle Ages. In 2002, the synagogue was reopened and today, it’s the headquarters of the Jewish Association of Barcelona. In addition to the synagogue, there’s also a museum on-site where you can learn about the dark history of the Jewish population of Barcelona during the Spanish Inquisition.
Even though it’s in the heart of the city, the old Roman Aqueduct is oftentimes overlooked by most tourists. For centuries, this aqueduct brought water to Barcino (the old Roman settlement) from the Besos River. Today, the remnants of the aqueduct are integrated into the surrounding modern buildings and if you’re not aware that this aqueduct existed, it’s quite easy to miss it while you’re wandering around the streets of Barcelona. Talking about remains, another place you should also visit is…
The remains of the Temple of Augustus
The Gothic Quarter is one of the most beautiful historic parts of Barcelona that attracts a lot of visitors but also hides a lot of hidden gems. One such example are the remains of the Temple of Augustus; a 2,000-years-old Roman temple that even historians don’t know a lot about. According to estimates, the temple was demolished during the persecution of pagans under the Christian emperors in the 4th century. The remnants that consist of four columns that measure 9 meters high were discovered in the late 19th century. According to estimates, they are at least 2,000 years old.
Palau Baró de Quadras
A lot of Barcelona’s modernista buildings are attention-grabbing and attract millions of tourists every day but there are still a few that most tourists don’t know about. One such hidden gem is Palau Baró de Quadras; a small modernista building on Avinguda Diagonal that was designed by Catalan architect Josep Puig I Cadafalch. The palace is an unusual yet fascinating mix of Gothic and Islamic influences. This unusual mix gives the palace a special charm and making it very different than all other modernista buildings you might come across in Barcelona.
Photo by Jordiferrer CC by SA 4.0
Arus Public Library is one of the most beautiful libraries in Europe. The library has been around since 1895 and houses more than 80,000 books and manuscripts. This sure sounds impressive but for Barcelona, Arus is much more than just a library. It’s a place where all significant social movements in Barcelona of the late 19th and 20th centuries were shaped. If you can, take a guided tour and learn about the history of the library and its most prominent visitors; it’s definitely worth it.
Jardines de la Tamarita
Photo by Canaan CC by SA 3.0
If you decide you had enough of Barcelona’s busy streets and over-visited monuments and want to get some peace, Jardines de la Tamarita is the perfect place. With all of its beautiful fountains, flower beds, and landscaped hedges, this secret garden is Barcelona’s ultimate green oasis of calm and one of the locals’ favorite getaway places. If this sounds nice, you should also check out…
Jardins de Rubió i Lluch
Photo by Enfo CC by SA 3.0
This beautiful garden might look like a regular park where you can spend some time to relax before heading to the next sight, but Jardins de Rubió i Lluch is a lot more than that. This “medieval hideaway” is home to several high-vaulted hallways; remnants of the old Antic Hospital de la Santa Creu that hasn’t been operational since the 1930s. This is the main reason this park is an Artistic Landmark of National Interest. The garden was also one of Antonio Gaudi’s favorite places a spot where he spent most of his last days.
Carretera de las Aguas
If you like trekking and spending time in nature, visiting Carretera de las Aguas is one of the best Barcelona tips I can give you. This 10km-long trail rises 450 meters above sea level and culminates in one of the most spectacular views in Barcelona. Why rub elbows with hundreds of other tourists at Tibidabo, Torre de Collserola or Turó de la Rovira when you can enjoy equally beautiful views while being surrounded by nature and only a handful of other curious explorers.
The easiest way to reach Carretera de las Aguas is to take the funicular de Vallvidrera.
Are you thinking of a solo trip to Spain? Check out our ultimate guide to Spain for solo travelers.
Taller d’Oleguer Junyent
In a city with so many interesting museums, it’s no wonder that this tiny studio remains under most people’s radars. The studio belonged to Oleguer Junyent, one of the most famous theatrical designers in Catalonia. Junyent was one of Catalonia’s modernist movement and a contemporary of Pablo Picasso and Ramon Casas. Inside the studio, you’ll find a lot of his sculptures, paintings, stage dolls, and other stage design artworks. The Junyent family actually still resides in this building but recently decided to share this gem with the public. If you want to join one of these tours, check out Cases Singulars.
If you want to get a cheap flight to Barcelona, use this special offer by Air France to save up to 15% on your flight.
Muzeo Carrozas Fúnebres
Photo by Canaan CC by SA 4.0
Even though you’re probably not a fan of hearses, you shouldn’t miss one of the most unusual museums in Barcelona. El Museum of Carrozas Funebres has been around since the 1970s and displays some of Europe’s most beautiful hearses. Here, you can see all kinds of hearses; from ones in which regular people’s corpses were transported to “VIP hearses” reserved for some of the most prominent people in Barcelona. With such an unusual collection, this is one of the quirkiest museums not only in Barcelona but also in Europe.
Talking about quirky museums…
Hemp Museum Gallery
Amidst the spectacular historic buildings of Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter, you’ll find the largest cannabis museum in the world. The museum is located in Palau Mornau; a beautiful modernist structure that showcases a lot of history. In this case, the history of weed. The palace was built in the 16th century and changed ownership several times throughout the years. By 2001, the building was falling apart when it was discovered by a Dutch entrepreneur who decided to repurpose the building into a museum devoted to the history of marijuana. The museum has been officially opened since 2012. Today, it houses more than 8,000 objects, including prescription bottles, interesting paintings, sculptures, etc.
And if that sounds quirky, how about…
A Baby drop-off station?
This seemingly insignificant wooden inlet in the heart of el Raval looks like a small shrine but it actually has a very unusual story behind it. Once upon a time, this inlet was a rotating wooden turntable in which people were placing their donations for the church. However, these donations sometimes included unwanted infants. After some time, the building was turned into an orphanage and during its “heydays” saw hundreds of babies coming in through this wooden inlet/portal.
Plaza de San Felipe Neri
Plaza de San Felipe Neri is a small, unnoticeable square in the Gothic Quarter surrounded by gorgeous baroque buildings. You can still notice scars from the 1938 bombings that took the lives of more than 30 people, but that doesn’t take away from the square’s charm and historic importance. My favorite thing about this charming little square is that it’s located near some of the busiest streets of the Gothic Quarter and thousands of people pass by it every day without even noticing it.
Casino de la Rabassada
If you like visiting abandoned places around the world, this once-grandiose casino should be on the top of your bucket-list. This was once one of the most famous buildings in Barcelona and home to one of the most glamorous casino-hotels in the region. The building was abandoned in the 1930s’ and the Civil War bombings worsened the conditions of the building even more. Today, the best-preserved part of the property are the majestic lion gates, but most of the ruins are covered in street art, graffiti, and wild vegetation.
If you want to visit this old abandoned casino, as well as more places in Barcelona off the beaten track, it’s probably a good idea to rent a car. If this is something you’re interested in, you can use this link to get up to 30% on car rentals in Barcelona.
A Soviet Bunker in the heart of Barcelona
Dr. Salvador Andreu was one of the most prominent physicians of his time and one of the wealthiest people in Barcelona in the 1920s. His house at Tibidabo Avenue near the highest peak of the city is one of the most elegant houses in Barcelona but most people don’t know what hides inside it. The doctor passed away in 1928 and later, his empty residence was used by the Soviet Union as a consulate. During the Spanish Civil War, the Soviet Union was aiding the Republican forces and their consulate was under constant surveillance. And with the constant bombings of the 1930s, it’s no surprise that the Soviets chose to build a secret bunker below the property.
The bunker has with all modern amenities, including a power generator and a kitchen, and of course, an emergency exit. During the short time in which the Soviets took control of Barcelona, their agents were using the mansion (and the bunker) as a communication center. After the war, the property was sold to private investors but curios visitors can still sign up for guided tours.
Looking to discover some more hidden gems in Barcelona? Check out some of these GetYourGuide tours. They cover some more untouristy places with knowledgeable and professional guides, and their prices are more than affordable.
Alternatively, you can always rent a car and explore on your own. When renting cars abroad, my favorite choice is always AutoEurope. You can use this link to get up to 30% on car rentals in Barcelona.
Are you planning to visit some famous tourist attractions? Opt-in for an IVenture card; if you’re spending more than a few days in Barcelona, this can help you save a significant amount of money on sightseeing.
If you want to get a cheap flight to Barcelona, use this special offer by Air France to save up to 15% on your flight.
To save on your accommodation in Barcelona, this Booking.com voucher gets you 10% off on all properties in town.
Last but not least, don’t forget about the most important thing about traveling; travel insurance. For some great deals for you trip to Barcelona, check out World Nomads.
Did you ever visit any of these hidden gems in Barcelona? Which one was your favorite? Which one would you visit first? Do you think there are some places we didn’t mention but we should have? Let us know in the comments!
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