Barcelona has always been one of the most popular cities to visit in Europe. Every year, millions of people visit the Catalan capital to see some of its famous tourist attractions like Guell Park, La Sagrada Familia, Casa Mila, La Rambla, Casa Batllo; the list is long but you get the point. And being a city with so much to offer, it should come as no surprise that there are also many alternative, unusual things to do in Barcelona that you won’t find in most tourist guidebooks. This post focuses will show you a few interesting but not-so-famous places in Barcelona perfect for travelers looking for a different experience in the Catalan capital.
Getting To Barcelona
If you would like to save on your flight to Barcelona, it’s probably a good idea to visit during the shoulder season (March-April and September-October). You’ll probably like Barcelona during this time of the year anyway because the city isn’t as crowded as it is during the high season. Aside from this, you can always get a great deal by using multimodal transport search engines like Rome2Rio. You can get to Barcelona by flight, train, bus, or even boat.
Josep Tarradellas Barcelona-El Prat Airport is located around 14 kilometers outside of the city but there’s a metro line that connects it to the city center. The largest train station is Barcelona Sants and it’s located near the city center. The main bus station is Barcelona Nord and it’s located around 3 kilometers from Barcelona Sants and around 5 kilometers from the city center. Lastly, Barcelona’s largest and busiest port is The Port of Barcelona located along the city’s western coast around 6.5 kilometers away from the city’s central area.
That being said, let’s cover some of the best alternative things to do in Barcelona.
Great Alternative Tours In Barcelona
Starting off this list of unusual things to do in Barcelona, we’ll share a few great alternative tours that will show you a different side of the city.
The Shadow Of The Wind Walking Tour
“The Shadow Of The Wind” is one of the most famous Spanish best-sellers written by renowned writer Carlos Ruiz Zafon. The intriguing novel takes place in the city of Barcelona in 1945 and this incredible tour helps travelers explore all locations mentioned in the book. If you had the chance to read this amazing book, I warmly recommend taking this tour.
Ghosts And Legends Tour
Just like most other large cities, Barcelona has its own dark history and if you like visiting and learning about haunted places and hearing local myths and legends, you’ll definitely love the Barcelona Ghosts and Legends Tour.
The Jewish Heritage Tour
Similar to other large European cities, Barcelona also has a rich although, often forgotten Jewish heritage. This tour allows you to explore most of Barcelona’s important Jewish heritage sites and learn little-known facts about the city’s rich Jewish heritage. The tour is guided by a local guide, it lasts for two hours and it’s one of the top-rated tours in Barcelona.
Medieval Barcelona Tour
If you’re a fan of history and enjoy tours that make you feel like you’ve traveled back in time, the Medieval Barcelona tour will be a great choice. The tour takes you to some of the city’s undiscovered streets, sites, and squares and teaches you about this part of Barcelona’s history. And if that’s not enough, you can also take this great Medieval tour of Barcelona and the surrounding villages.
Free Gaudi and modernism tour
Lastly, if you would like to learn more about Gaudi’s work and his life, you’ll probably like this free Gaudi and modernism tour. The tour covers some of Barcelona’s and Spain’s most important modernist symbols and the best part is you don’t have to pay a single cent for it!
And speaking of Gaudi…
Visit Gaudi’s Casa Vicens
Even if you never visited Barcelona before, you’ve probably heard about Park Guell and Sagrada Familia, two of Antonio Gaudi’s most famous architectural masterpieces. However, what many people often forget is that Gaudi designed more than 10 buildings in Barcelona (and a few in Northern Spain as well). One of these less-famous buildings is El Casa Vicens, the first building that Gaudi ever designed. From this building, one can see that even in his early days, Gaudi was great at combining different architectural styles.
Address: Carrer de les Carolines, 20.
Opening hours: Every day, 10 AM-8 PM
See One Of The Most Beautiful Hospitals in Europe
I know this subtitle might sound like a bad joke but that’s not the case. I’m merely referring to the beautiful design of Sant Pau Hospital which happens to be one of Europe’s premier art-nouveau sites. The building has a very easily distinguishable façade, it’s decorated with beautiful sculptures, colorful domes, stained-glass windows, and charming pavilions that are open for visitors.
Inside these pavilions, you can get a glimpse of early 20th century-style decoration and learn about some well-known medical practices that were popular in Barcelona at the time. During summers, there are also some live music events; you can check the schedule on this page.
Check Out One Of The Most Underrated Buildings In Barcelona
As you might see from the previous examples, Barcelona is a haven for architecture lovers, particularly, for fans of modern architecture. Most people are familiar with the work of the likes of Gaudi but there are dozens of other modernist buildings in Barcelona that aren’t getting as nearly enough attention as they should.
One such example is Casa de Les Punxes or House of Spikes. It’s a modernist building that resembles a medieval fortress. When visiting, you can attend one of the many multi-sensory interactive exhibitions dedicated to St George (the patron saint of Catalunya) or enjoy the views of Central Barcelona from the building’s terrace.
Explore An Ancient Roman Temple
Speaking of alternative things to do in Barcelona, we can’t leave out the often-forgotten ancient Roman temple built to honor Emperor Augustus. The construction was erected in the first century B.C. but time hasn’t been kind to this ancient temple. Today, all that is left of it are a few 9 meters high Corinthian pillars.
What’s unique about this temple is that, unlike most other Roman buildings, this temple wasn’t torn down and built on top of. Today, the area is owned by the Hiking Club of Catalonia, an organization that helped restore the columns and build an authentic-looking courtyard surrounding the pillars that’s open for visitors. The temple remains can be found at 10, Carrer Paradis in the Gothic Quarter but if you pass by it, I’m sure you won’t know its significance unless you previously read about it.
Watch The Castellers Building A Human Tower
If you’re looking for some more unusual things to do in Barcelona that you can add to your bucket list, you’ll probably enjoy watching the Castellers building a human tower. Castellers are teams of people (from different age groups and sizes) that usually perform at most street festivals in Barcelona. Their act consists of building a human tower with the largest people at the bottom and the smallest people at the top (the last layers usually consist of children).
Castellers regularly perform at different events and festivals, such as Santa Eulalia (February), the Gracia Festival (August), La Merced (September), etc. Most of the teams practice throughout the year and at the city’s major festivals, they compete with other teams trying to build the highest human tower. Regardless of who wins and who loses, their act is absolutely mesmerizing to watch.
Catch A Free Flamenco Show
No trip to Spain is complete without seeing a Flamenco show. I don’t know about you but I can listen to the sounds of Spanish guitar tunes and mesmerizing voices of the singers for hours while pure emotions spill out of the dancers’ bodies. There are many places where you buy a ticket and see a Flamenco show but sometimes, you can get a lot better experience when seeing a small, intimate show.
There are a handful of bars in Barcelona where you can frequently see a Flamenco show free of charge. I have seen a few while hunting for hidden gems in Barcelona but the one that left the strongest impression on me was the Flamenco show in the bar “Gracia Latina” (located at Carrer de l’Or). This bar frequently hosts different types of music performances and you can get information about their schedule on the official Facebook page.
Have A Drink In A Magical Forest
Alright, this one might not be one of the more authentic cultural experiences you can find in Catalunya but it’s a great fit for this list of unusual things to do in Barcelona. Bosc de les Fades is a quirky bar that has been decorated to look like a magical forest filled with fairies, gnomes, and magical trees. With its unique interior, the bar feels like an oasis in the heart of the city. Last but not least, the food is great and they have a nice assortment of cocktails and other drinks.
Address: Passatge de la Banca, 7.
Opening hours: Monday-Friday, 10 AM-1 AM, Weekends, 11 AM-1 AM.
Eat A 30-Course Meal
In the central part of Eixample (at C. de Villarroel), you’ll find an authentic two-Michelin star restaurant that serves a 30-course meal. The name of the restaurant is Disfrutar and the experience comes at a price but having in mind this is one of the finest restaurants in Barcelona, it’s totally worth it. If you’re looking for some unusual things to do in Barcelona and you’re a big-time foodie, this experience is one you wouldn’t want to miss.
The complete tasting experience will take somewhere between 3-4 hours and I’m sure you’ll enjoy every second of it. However, keep in mind that this is one of the best restaurants in town and you may need to arrange your reservation before visiting.
Get On Top Of The Columbus Monument
Located in the heart of Barcelona right in front of Barceloneta Beach, the Columbus monument is one of the city’s most prominent landmarks. However, many tourists don’t know that there’s actually an elevator inside that takes you to the top of the statue from where you can get some of the most amazing views of Barcelona’s coast.
The entrance is not very visible and if you don’t pay attention, you can easily miss it. Near the entrance at the end of La Rambla Boulevard, there are stairs that lead down to the base of the column. Here, you’ll find the information center where you can purchase your entrance tickets and be escorted to the top of the building. The entrance fee is 4,2€.
Discover Placa Sant Felip Neri
Placa Sant Felip Neri is a charming, secluded square that many tourists miss out on when visiting Barcelona despite being featured in several famous movies, such as “The Parfume” and “Vicky Christina Barcelona” and even in Evanescence’s “My Immortal”. The square is located in the Gothic Quarter but it’s not easy to find. The nearest landmark to it in the area is the Barcelona Cathedral but I suggest using Google Maps to get around the surrounding narrow streets.
In addition to being located in the Gothic Quarter that gives the area an eerie appearance, this square also has a dark history. During the Spanish Civil War, this square witnessed some of the most gruesome scenes of the war where school children were executed by General Franco’s execution squads. If you look closely, you can even see traces of bombs dating back to the war. However, don’t let these stories scare you or change your mind about visiting; today, Placa Sant Felip Neri is one of the most charming squares in Barcelona and there are no signs of the square’s dark history.
Bargain At Sant Antoni Flea Market
Barcelona has a lot of great shopping areas and malls, such as Paseo de Gracia, Plaza Catalunya, Maremagnum, Arenas de Barcelona, Les Galeries Maida, but personally, when traveling, I always like exploring the flea markets. And Sant Antoni, Barcelona’s largest flea market is a perfect fit for this list of unusual things to do in Barcelona.
At this flea market, you can find anything from cheap antiques, vintage items, and fake goods to outlets selling top designer brands like Chanel, Versace, Gucci, etc. The last time I visited, there was even a restaurant inside the market that offered a top-class menu del dia which included a bottle of wine per person.
See The Notorious Baby Drop Off
Speaking of unusual things to do in Barcelona, it doesn’t get much more unusual than a baby-drop off station. If you’re ever wandering around the streets of El Ravel, you’ll probably notice a curious-looking sealed hole in a hole. Known as The Foundling Wheel, this hole in the wall served as a station where people could drop their unwanted newborns.
This building was known under the name “Provincial House of Maternity and Foundlings of Barcelona”. The place was supposedly notorious for taking poor care of the children being dropped here, many of which died before their first birthday. Needless to say, things today are a lot better and the hole has been sealed but the building still stands serving as one of the city’s most bizarre landmarks.
Take A Look At Barcelona’s Oldest Inhabited House
The oldest house in Barcelona can be found at Salomo Ben Adret (formerly known as Carrer Sant Domenec del Call) near the Gothic Quarter. This house dates back to the 12th century and ever since it was built, it has been continuously inhabited with a brief exception during the Spanish Civil War when it was temporarily turned into a brothel.
When you look around, you can easily tell this house is older than most other houses in the area because of its tilted façade, a result of the devastating earthquake that shook Barcelona in the 15th century. Throughout the years, the house has undergone two renovations, one of which managed to revive the authentic Romanesque appearance of the house.
Visit The Hash Marijuana And Hemp Museum
Located in the heart of Barcelona’s old town (Ciutat Vella), in what was once the Palau Mornau- a fascinating Renaissance-cum-modernist building you’ll discover a museum of marijuana and hemp. In the past, this building served as a palace of the Santcliment family and was even home to honorary war commissioner Francesc Mornau and the brother of the then-current mayor of Barcelona, Joan Nadal de Vilardaga.
However, by the early 2000s, the house was abandoned and left in disrepair. In 2001, the building was bought by a Dutch entrepreneur who renovated the palace and decided to turn it into a museum of hash, marijuana, and hemp. However, he did have to face a lot of obstacles in opening the museum since the building had the status of a national monument and the authorities were not thrilled about the idea of opening a museum of this type.
However, despite everything, the museum was opened in May of 2012, and today, its permanent collection contains more than 9,000 artifacts and objects related to cannabis cultivation and consumption, as well as paintings, posters, sculptures, and more.
See Barcelona’s Skyline From Bellesguard
When translated to English (from Catalan), the phrase “bellesguard” means “beautiful view”, a name with which I have to agree. If you ever visited Barcelona, you know how difficult it might be to get a perfect, uninterrupted view of the city that stretches all the way to the Mediterranean Sea. The building was built on top of the remains of a medieval fortress where the Count of the House of Barcelona lived.
Even though this building isn’t the most famous work of Gaudi (many people don’t even know he actually designed Bellesguard), for me, this is arguably his best work because the building is a standing homage to Catalan culture and history. The house is adorned with a cross of four arms (representing the Catalan flag), on the grounds, you’ll find mosaics designed in the famed Catalan Trencadis technique, and the ceiling represents the “Catalan arch”- one that uses a structure of overlaid layers of bricks.
At the entrance, tributes to the Virgin Mary and the Holy Trinity can be noticed in the main façade, and the house is dotted with art nouveau and neo-gothic forms typical for most of Gaudi’s work.
Enjoy The Views From The Bunkers
Last but not least, we’re rounding up this list of unusual things to do in Barcelona with the Barcelona Bunkers. In the past, this was one of the most dangerous parts of the city but recently, it has been cleaned up by the local authorities and turned into a hilltop hideaway. After all, the area is home to some of the most amazing views of the city. The area is positioned on top of El Turo de la Rovira in Parc del Guinardo, 260 meters above sea level which makes it an amazing viewpoint.
Where To Stay In Barcelona?
When thinking about where to stay in Barcelona, the first place that comes to mind is Gracia. It’s conveniently located in the city’s central area, with a lot of hotels, restaurants, and bars in the area. I have stayed in many different parts of the city but I find Gracia the most convenient.
The main tourist sites like La Sagrada Familia and Park Guel are nearby but the city outskirts are also not very far and there are many hidden gems to be discovered in the area. Overall, it’s an area that can help you minimize the time (and money) spent in commuting (at least as a tourist). That being said, here are some of my favorite hotels in this part of Barcelona.
If you’re looking for some luxury on a budget, a couple of names that come to mind are Hotel Barcelona 1882 and Olivia Plaza. It’s a hotel with spacious rooms, modern amenities, and amazing views of the city. Hotel Bestprice Gracia is a great mid-range option with a rather self-explanatory name. If you’re looking for a secluded place where you can have some privacy and unwind without being far away from the city center, Hotel Casa Camper is a great choice. Lastly, if you would like to be somewhere near the beach, Occidental Atenea Mar has everything you might need for a peaceful vacation.
Don’t Forget About Travel Insurance
Last but not least, don’t forget about travel insurance. Barcelona is a safe city but you never know what might happen to you when traveling. Depending on where in the world are you coming from, travel insurance might even be mandatory before entering Spain.
Personally, I recommend you choose World Nomads. Sure, they might be more expensive than most average travel insurance providers but they will have your back no matter what happens, unlike some other travel insurance providers that offer cheap packages but don’t provide coverage for a lot of emergencies.
Are you planning a trip to Spain and are looking for some more travel inspiration? Feel free to check out some of our other posts.
Did you like our list of unusual things to do in Barcelona? Which one was your favorite? Are there any other alternative things to do in Barcelona that you think would be a good fit for this article? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below!
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