Lately, while surfing the web, I’ve come across some of those Unusual things to do in Barcelona – Articles where self-proclaimed “locals” who spent 3 months in town for an Erasmus, reveal the supposedly totally secret Unique experiences in Barcelona – about 99% of those posts start with Bunkers del Carmel. Yes, the bunkers are great and you have a great view from there and all… But a place where tourist buses stop cannot really be described as a secret anymore. Pssst… Wanna hear another of the super unique things to do in Barcelona? Sagrada Família… Super secret gem…
But to be fair, it can be quite difficult to find alternative things to do in Barcelona, as the whole city is getting more and more adapted to mass tourism.
However, below I would like to introduce you to a few alternative activities in Barcelona that are not included in every Tour or Barcelona- Unusual things to do– kind of post yet and help you get to know the life and culture of Barna’s locals a bit better.
What to find out in this post
- 1 Unusual things to do in Barcelona
- 2 Barcelona without tourist crowds
- 3 Chinatown
- 4 See the Castellers
- 5 Visit the 13 geese of the cathedral
- 6 Casa Vicens
- 7 The world begins with every kiss
- 8 Calçotada
- 9 The Greek Theater
- 10 Meet locals
- 11 MACBA & CCCB
- 12 Nevermind – Skater Bar
- 13 Casa Amatller
- 14 Alternative Museums in Barcelona
- 15 MUHBA Augustus Temple
- 16 Cat Café Barcelona
- 17 Casa Terradas – Casa de les Punxes
- 18 Parc de les Glòries
- 19 Mercat dels Encants
- 20 Parc del Laberint d’Horta
- 21 Horchata
- 22 Mercat de la Sagrada Família
- 23 Carrer Ample
- 24 Antic Theatre
- 25 Alternative things to do in Barcelona
- 26 More Barcelona?
Unusual things to do in Barcelona
Barcelona without tourist crowds
Barcelona is a beautiful city. How nice would it be to admire it without the tourist crowds? You might just think now “I just visit Barcelona outside the high season and will be fine”, but you would surely be surprised, how many tourists there are even in January. The trick? The early bird catches the worm … or just the most beautiful photo. If you walk through the streets of Barcelona early in the morning, you can take a look around and shoot beautiful photos, even without a bunch of tourists running through your picture.
Last year, we met a photography enthusiastic couple who left the house every morning at sunrise to shoot incredible photos. But just have a look yourself and make sure to leave some love on their amazing pictures.
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Being immersed in Chinese culture, try delicious authentic Chinese food, such as a traditional hotpot (Chinese fondue) and buy Asian products in a Chinese supermarket. Does not particularly sound like an activity to do in Spain, right? But that’s exactly what you can do here in the Catalan capital. Although the area around the Arc de Triomf is not officially referred to as Chinatown, you will find mostly Chinese restaurants, businesses, and shopping. Many of these stores even have their captions in Chinese characters only, so you might wonder if you somehow find yourself in China when strolling around this area. I, as a big fan of authentic Chinese food, simply love this area (Since traveling to China, I know that the food you get served in Chinese Restaurants in Europe is most of the time not exactly authentic Chinese food (I am looking at you, fortune cookie)). In the Chinatown of Barcelona, however, you can eat like in China and when our good friend Zihan from China came to visit us, of course, we went to eat with him here.
The best time to come here is on the first Saturday after the Chinese New Year. Then, besides a big parade, there will be a whole event regarding Chinese culture. We come here every year.
See the Castellers
Another UNESCO World Heritage Site you should not miss is the Castellers. These are towers. To be precise: Human towers. Yes, that’s right, you’ve read correctly. In the eighteenth century, Catalonia’s tradition of building human towers continued to boom. It formed groups (Colles) and even competitions took place. The Castellers perform at all major festivals in Barcelona, but more often now also outside of events, especially during the summer months.
If you wonder now, what you have to imagine exactly under such Human Towers, you can find out in the following video.
If you would like to see such a show during your visit to Barcelona, have a look at the event calendar of the Castellers here.
Visit the 13 geese of the cathedral
Anyone who visits the most popular sights in Barcelona has probably heard of Barcelona Cathedral. What many don’t know, however, is that there are 13 geese in the courtyard of the famous cathedral that can be visited.
The number of geese symbolizes the age of the young patron saint of Barcelona, Eulalia, at the time of her death. Eulalia was executed in 303 for her Christian belief.
You can see the monastery of the cathedral during your visit to the cathedral. Take a short tour of the courtyard and watch the geese waddling and eating.
Opening Hours Casa Vicens: 10 am – 8 pm / October – March: Tues – Sun: 10 am – 7 pm; Mon: 10 am – 3 pm
Metro Station: Fontana (Gràcia)
Entrance Fee Casa Vicens: 15 Euro
Tickets: We recommend reserving your ticket in advance. Since there is a big discount for locals, the tickets are often sold out for certain time windows. You can reserve your ticket either on-site or online here.
Arguably every visitor to Barcelona has heard of Sagrada Família, Casa Battló, or Casa Milà (La Pedrera). But did you know that these aren’t the only buildings by popular designer Antoni Gaudí in the Catalan capital? The first building that the artist realized in Barcelona is definitely worth a visit as well. Even if it is often overlooked by visitors.
Casa Vicens has only been open to visitors as a museum since 2017 and is, therefore, one of the city’s newest attractions, even though the building was built in 1885 and has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2005.
The entry tickets, which also include a snack, a drink, and an audio guide, are particularly worthwhile.
The world begins with every kiss
El Món neix en cada besada (The world begins with every kiss). This is the name of the work of art, which is located near the popular Barcelona Cathedral, on the Plaça d’Isidre Nonell, but is overlooked by many visitors. From a distance, you might think that the picture is simple street art that displays a kiss. Anyone who comes closer, however, can recognize that this is a mosaic of many individual images that represent the subject of freedom in any sense.
The artwork was designed by Joan Fontcuberta and set up here in 2014.
On this website, you can zoom in on every one of the ceramic tiles to see the pictures.
Similar to the asparagus season in Germany, the Catalans expect their Calçotada. Only at the thought of it, my mouth is watering. In late winter or spring, the time has come: the calçots are harvested. It is a kind of spring onion. These are grilled, usually over an open fire, and then enjoyed with Romesco, or Romescu (A Catalan sauce from tomatoes, garlic, dried peppers, various nuts and more).
However, as the calçots are usually grilled until the outer layer is completely charred, it is impossible to pull them out of their skin without getting your hands super dirty. Therefore, it is usually eaten with gloves and bibs. The whole thing not only tastes incredibly good, but is also really fun. If you visit Barcelona during the spring, you should not miss a Calçotada.
The Greek Theater
Opening Hours: 10 am – sunset
Entrance fee: free of charge (as long as there is no event taking place)
Address: Passeig de Santa Madrona, 8
Later in this article, we’ll tell you where to see ancient Roman ruins in Barcelona. But first, we would like to introduce you to some greek architecture. The Greek theater, Teatre Grec is located on Montjuïc and is used for concerts and open-air events, especially in summer.
Now you are probably wondering how Greek architecture comes to Barcelona and how old this theater might be. The truth is that it wasn’t built until the 1929 World’s Fair. But even if the theater is not a real relic from ancient Greek times, that doesn’t change the classic charm of this place.
But not only the theater itself, but also the surrounding park, the Jardins del Teatre Grec, is worth a visit. The park is perfect for a little break in the green of Barcelona’s hustle and bustle.
I know that probably sounds easier said than done now but hear me out. Have you ever heard of Couchsurfing? Almost always when I travel, I use Couchsurfing to meet locals.
Especially for women traveling alone Couchsurfing often seems quite scary … But did you know that you can also use the platform without staying at someone’s house?
On Couchsurfing, you will also find many locals who just want to improve their English and who would, therefore, like to show you around their city. You can then discover the local’s things to do in Barcelona and not only what your city guide dictates. Be sure to meet in a public place so you can stay safe even as a solo female traveler.
Couchsurfing and other applications such as Meetup also offer various events such as day trips, picnics on the beach, or language exchanges, where you can meet many locals and even learn a few words in Spanish.
Couchsurfing has given me the chance to meet wonderful people during the last years, with whom I am still in touch today. Incidentally, Eduardo, my Couchsurfing host from my first trip to Barcelona, and I recently got married. So, you never know who you are going to meet …
MACBA & CCCB
If you are interested in art and culture, you should not miss these two places. MACBA, short for the Museu d ‘Art Contemporani de Barcelona, is the art museum, while the CCCB, short for Center de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona, which is next door, is the contemporary cultural center of Barcelona.
You can watch changing exhibitions in both facilities. Our favorite is the World Press Photo Exhibition, which can be admired every year for a few months at the CCCB. If you are interested in the exhibitions, have a look at the website for MACBA and for CCCB, what’s on offer at the moment.
But even those who are not interested in art or cultural exhibitions can experience something different here. At the door of the MACBA, you will find the city’s skating enthusiasts. Dozens of skaters come here every day to practice and show off what they are capable of. Therefore, this is a popular meeting place for local teenagers.
Related Article: What NOT to do in Barcelona
Nevermind – Skater Bar
Opening Hours: 07.30 pm – 02.30 am
Address: Carrer d’Escudellers Blancs, 3, 08002 Barcelona (In the neighborhood Raval)
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For all skaters, Barcelona is the perfect destination, because apart from the square in front of MACBA there is another highlight for all skaters: The Nevermind Bar.
It is located in Raval, a neighborhood that until a few years ago had a rather bad reputation. From the outside, you recognize it by the chimpanzee with lightsaber graffiti.
Inside you will find a bar and a skating rink. Yes, you heard right. A skater ramp in the interior of a bar. Even for people like me, who are not extremely interested in skateboarding in the first place, this is one of the really different things to do in Barcelona and definitely worth a visit.
Opening Hours Casa Amatller: 10 am – 6 pm
Metro Station: Passeig de Gràcia
Entrance Fee: 15-18 Euro
If you’ve already checked the city’s most popular sights, you will probably already know Casa Battló. The famous building was designed by Barcelona designer Gaudí and is considered one of the main attractions of the city. What many don’t know, however, is that there is another fantastic building right next door: Casa Amatller.
Casa Amatller was rebuilt in the modernist style at the end of the 19th century by the architect Josep Puig i Cadafalch. Since then, it has stood out from the crowd, just like Gaudí’s popular works do. Together with Casa Batlló, the neighboring building Casa Lleó Morera by the designer Lluís Domènech i Montaner and two other buildings, this block is also known by locals as Mansana de la Discòrdia (apple of discord, where “apple” is the common word used for “blocks of houses” in Barcelona).
Casa Amatller can also be visited and is really worth a look inside. Your visit will be rounded off, depending on the time of day, with a glass of sparkling wine or a chocolate pastry.
Alternative Museums in Barcelona
I’m sure you’ve heard of the Picasso Museum, which is located in Barcelona. But there are many more museums of a different kind.
How about, for example, the Chocolate Museum in El Born? You can also visit the Erotic Museum, located on the famous Las Ramblas mile. During the summer months, you recognize it by Marilyn Monroe, who stands on the balcony and calls and waves to the people passing by.
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Another extraordinary museum you can visit in Barcelona is the Hash and Marijuana Museum.
MUHBA Augustus Temple
Opening Hours: Mon: 10 am – 2 pm; Tues – Sat: 10 am – 7 pm; Sun: 10 am – 8 pm
Entrance fee: free of charge
Address: Carrer del Paradís, 10
Did you know that in the middle of the historic center of Barcelona you can visit some impressive ruins of an antique Roman temple? Even some locals don’t know this place, even though it is located right in the old town, in Barrio Gotico.
Admittedly, apart from a few columns, there isn’t much left of the former Augustus Temple. Even so, this place is one of the few Roman ruins that date back to when Barcelona was still known as the Roman settlement of Barcino.
It is definitely exciting to see how impressive this temple must have once been, just by looking at the towering pillars.
Cat Café Barcelona
Opening Hours: You can find the Opening Hours here.
Address: C/ Terol, 29-33 Bajos 08012 Barcelona (In the neighborhood Gràcia)
Entrance Fee: 2,50 Euro
Another cool activity in Barcelona is a visit to the Cat Café. As the name implies, here you can enjoy a coffee or tea while petting cats and watching them play. Especially on rainy days, this is a great alternative to sightseeing.
By the way, the cats you can play with are all looking for a home. So if you fall in love with one of those fluffy four-legged friends, you can take them home with you (it’s probably not working that fast, but you get the point).
They also keep a close eye on the animals and take good care that the kittens are not stressed and that they are all well. A win-win, then.
If you also want to visit the Cat Café, you should definitely reserve a seat first. You can do that here. (I do not get any commissions or anything along those lines)
Casa Terradas – Casa de les Punxes
Opening Hours: 10 am – 7 pm
Entrance fee: 13,50 €
Address: Avinguda Diagonal, 420
Similar to the previously presented Casa Amatller building, also Casa Terrades was designed by Modernisme architect Josep Puig i Cadafalch. Located in the Eixample district, this building is probably one of the most overlooked sights in the city.
And that, although the building with its pointed towers clearly stands out from its row of houses. For this reason, Casa Terradas is best known as Casa de les Punxes (House of Spikes).
Even if the view of the outside facade is already impressive, as the building looks a bit like a medieval palace in the modernism style, a visit inside is also worthwhile. Because here, you can discover all the details that its designer has hidden in the building.
Parc de les Glòries
Opening Hours: 24 hours
Entrance Fee: free of charge
Address: Plaça de les Glòries Catalanes, 10
Ciutadella Park is a popular meeting place and picnic spot for locals and visitors alike. But precisely because of this popularity, the park is always well attended. Especially in summer, it can be hard to find a tranquil spot to relax. If you are looking for a quieter place to relax, the park in Glòries is just right for you.
Since the park was only inaugurated in 2019, it is still a real insider tip even among locals. In addition to fantastic green spaces, there is plenty of space for the little ones to play, but also some sunbeds where you can soak up the Spanish sun.
Mercat dels Encants
Opening Hours: Mon + Wed + Fri + Sat: 9 am – 8 pm
Subasta: Mon + Wed + Fri + Sat: 07.45 am – 9 am
Entrance fee: free of charge
Address: Carrer de los Castillejos, 158
After relaxing a little in the park of Glòries, you should definitely pay a visit to the Mercat dels Encants. Because it is located right across the street from the park.
Unlike Barcelona’s most famous market, Mercado de la Boqueria, the local market doesn’t offer fresh food (apart from a few takeaways), but besides that everything else you could possibly be looking for. In addition to furniture, decorative, and household items, there is a whole lot of treasures to discover here. The market is set up like a kind of flea market, where you can also buy second-hand items.
If you are looking for a bargain, you should definitely not miss this market.
Parc del Laberint d’Horta
Opening Hours: 10 am – 05 pm
How to get there: Metro Mundet (L3)
Entrance Fee: 2,17 €
I know, I know… Before, I made fun of the “Alternative Barcelona” articles that always recommend the same places, and now I also mention this park, but hear me out: This park is really worth a visit and still not as mainstream as the Bunkers del Carmel, I promise.
Horta Park is not only special because it is simply beautiful, no, it also contains a labyrinth. If you have not gotten lost in the streets of Barcelona yet, here’s your perfect chance.
Moreover, it is much quieter here than in other parks located in Barcelona, as this is a little further out of the city center.
For many, eating ice-cream is simply part of the sunny weather in Barcelona. While I’m also a
big huge fan of ice cream, Eduardo and his friends often prefer to order Horchata instead. Horchata de Chufa is a tiger nut milk. The taste is sweet and in my opinion difficult to compare to anything I have ever tried before (Maybe a sweet and weird form of Soy milk).
Although Horchata actually comes from Valencia, it’s also an extremely popular drink here, especially in the summer months. Unfortunately, I can’t promise that you will love it as much as Eduardo does. Some love it, others hate it. While Eduardo is obsessed with Horchata, I usually stick to ice-cream. You should give it a try anyway. Maybe Horchata will be your new favorite drink.
Mercat de la Sagrada Família
Opening Hous: Tue – Thu: 7 am – 2.30 pm + 5.30 pm – 8.30 pm; Fri: 7 am – 8.30 pm; Sat: 7am – 2 pm; Sun + Mon closed
Entrance fee: free of charge
Address: Padilla, 225
Barcelona’s markets are popular with locals and tourists alike. Probably the most famous representative is the Mercat de la Boqueria, which is located on the popular Les Rambles promenade.
Many of Barcelona’s visitors hardly know that there are other fantastic markets in Barcelona besides Boqueria. One of them is the Mercat de la Sagrada Família, which, as its name suggests, is located in the Barcelona neighborhood of Sagrada Família.
Similar to the Boqueria Market, all kinds of fresh food await you here. In addition, there are also stands that sell jewelry or the like. And although the market is not far from the city’s most popular attraction, very few tourists come here.
Let us now talk about another milky drink that you can try in Barcelona. Just that maybe you should not share this alcoholic beverage with your kids. (Just saying). Since the 70s, this so-called Panther Milk (Leche de la Pantera), whose exact recipe is not known, is served in Barcelona and now offered by more and more bars and restaurants. This drink is usually served in transparent glass bottles, through which one can see the striking white or pink color of the milk. After pouring it in, add a pinch of cinnamon on top and you can enjoy it.
This and of course many more drinks, snacks, and restaurants can be found in the locals’ popular Carrer Ample (Broad Street) in the Gòtic district.
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Opening Times: Monday – Friday: 10 am – 11.30 pm; Saturday + Sunday: 05 pm – 11.30 pm
Address: c./ Verdaguer i Callís 12, 08003, Barcelona
I got to know this other insider’s tip of Barcelona on my first trip to the city when my then Couchsurfing host and now husband-to-be Eduardo led me through the streets of Barcelona. For a beer, we stopped at the Antic Theater, which is not very noticeable from the outside. Upon entering, however, you realize that this is not just an ordinary bar. Because here you can sit in this beautiful backyard where you can enjoy the time outside – like a little oasis in the middle of Barcelona.
Alternative things to do in Barcelona
In the table below you will find the most popular sights in the city and their alternative ideas for a visit.
|The most popular sights in Barcelona||Alternative Idea|
|Casa Batlló & La Pedrera||Casa Vicens, Casa Amatller, Sant Pau or Casa de les Punxes|
|Mercado de la Boqueria||Mercat de la Sagrada Família, Mercat de l'Abaceria Central (Gràcia), Mercat de Sant Antoni|
|Sagrada Família||it's truly unique and should definitely be visited|
|Ciutadella Park||Parc de les Glòries, Parc del Laberint d’Horta|
|Barceloneta Beach||Platja de Castelldefells, Bogatell Beach, Badalona Beach, Sitges|
|Montjuic||Bunkers del Carmel|
|Plaza Real||Placa de Sant Felip Neri|
|La Catedral||Church Santa Maria del Mar|
|Picasso Museum||MACBA oder CCCB|
Make sure to check some more of other Barcelona articles, so you can plan your trip perfectly.
- Barcelona 3 day Itinerary
- Romantic things to do in Barcelona as a couple
- The best Catalonia day trips
- The best places to stay in Barcelona
Which things do you like best in Barcelona? Let us know in the comments below!