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 Meet locals
- 6 The world begins with every kiss
- 7 Calçotada
- 8 MACBA & CCCB
- 9 Nevermind – Skater Bar
- 10 Museums in Barcelona
- 11 Cat Café Barcelona
- 12 Parc del Laberint d’Horta
- 13 Horchata
- 14 Carrer Ample
- 15 Antic Theatre
- 16 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.
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?
At 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 locals 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 are going to marry this summer. So, you never know who you meet … 😉
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.
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.
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 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.
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)
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 of 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 is your new favorite drink.
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.
Now that you know some great local’s secrets of Barcelona, you definitely should see the classic sights in Barcelona as well. Be sure to check out our detailed Barcelona 3 day Itinerary.
If you are traveling as a couple, you may also like our article about Romantic things to do in Barcelona as a couple.
You would like to make a few trips to the Catalan countryside? Also, check out our Catalonia day trips article.
Which things do you like best in Barcelona? Let us know in the comments below!