Looking for hidden gems in Barcelona is easy, you just have to get a little lost! Wind your way through the labyrinth of narrow alleyways in the El Born neighborhood, venture to the outer reaches of the city and skip the tourist neighbourhoods. But still, knowing where to look helps. So here’s our guide to the hidden gems in the city so you can discover the Barcelona that’s adored by its locals.
The Kissing Wall
Hidden in a tiny square that’s literally a few minutes away from the cathedral (you’ll wonder how you didn’t stumble upon it yourself) is Barcelona’s most poignantly beautiful piece of street art. The piece, entitled ‘El Món Neix en Cada Besada' (The World Begins With Every Kiss), was originally installed as as part of Barcelona’s Tricentenary celebrations, but has become such a beloved feature of the neighborhood that it was never taken down. Wander through the maze of old streets and from a distance, the mural is an intimate expression of two people kissing; get up close and you’ll see it’s made up of thousands of tiny mosaic tiles.
Photo credit: slownomads.phoosh.net
The artist, Joan Fontcuberta, asked the readers of a local newspaper to send him photos of their own personal moments of freedom, 4000 of which were printed onto the tiny tiles and arranged according their colour density. The end result features everything from faded shots of family days at the beach to politically charged graffiti, photos of locals kissing their loved ones to snapshots of their children's birthday parties alongside the reminder inscribed on the neighbouring wall that “The sound of a kiss isn’t as loud as a cannon, but its echo lasts a great deal longer.”
La Pastelería Hofmann
In life’s endless search for the best croissant in the world, you may sometimes wonder if you’ll ever find it. Visit La Pastelería Hofmann, and you very well might. This is a local institution, but in the winding alleyways of El Born, you’ll need to keep an eye out to spot it. A bakery and patisserie, they’re famed for their stuffed croissants, which are filled with a tantalizing array of flavors from classics like marzipan or mascarpone to fruity delights like mango and raspberry. The perfectly flaky, buttery croissants are the stars of the show, but you’ll be tempted by everything we’re sure! With sweet treats piled high on rustic wooden tables, farmhouse style kitchen cupboards reaching to the ceiling, and the smell of fresh bakes wafting from the ovens you’ll feel like you’re in someone’s own kitchen - just make sure you get there before 12 or the croissants will be sold out!
Bunkers del Carmel
Perched high above the Carmel neighborhood at the top of Turó de la Rovira sits an unlikely beauty spot. Scattered across the hilltop are crumbling concrete bunkers, the remnants of anti-aircraft fortifications built during the Spanish Civil War in 1938 - and whilst the canons might be gone, the 360 degree, almost bird’s-eye view of the city has not. Join the locals and head up here at sunset with a bottle of wine and some nibbles for the best views of Barcelona at golden hour (or any hour, actually). You’ll be able to spot all of the city’s most famous landmarks, as well as see the ocean as it melts into the sky on the horizon - a pretty spectacular vista. And as well as the stunning views, there’s a small museum inside one of the bunkers where you can learn about their role in the war, and about their unlikely evolution into becoming a shanty town during the 40s and 50s known as The Cannons neighbourhood.
Quimet y Quimet
Hidden in the El Poble-sec neighborhood, with only a tiny sign (and probably a queue out of the door) to indicate its existence is what is widely regarded by locals as one of the best tapas bars in the city. Swap the crowds on touristy Calle Blai for Quimet y Quimet, a tiny standing bar in the El Poble-sec neighborhood and you’ll be one of only about 15 people happily sipping vermouth and nibbling montaditos, their specialty, at the stainless steel bar or huddled around one of the tiny tables.
What to eat at Quimet y Quimet
Quimet y Quimet has been run by the same family for over a hundred years, and today’s owner is known for his skill at throwing together mouthwatering combinations of seafood and meats atop the crispy pieces of bread which serve as the vessel atop which float mouthwatering folds of smoked salmon with Greek yogurt and honey, salty tapenade with roasted sweet peppers and anchovies or smokey cured meats and shavings of sheep’s cheese. Shelves generously stacked with vermouth, wines, and seemingly any other drink you could wish for, as well as bottles, jars, and cans of olives and preserved delicacies line the walls - floor to ceiling - and atop the narrow bar sit bowls of delicious ingredients waiting to be thrown together. You’ll quickly see why it’s packed every night. Get there before doors open at 7pm (Monday to Friday only, they’re closed on weekends) to make sure you’ll get in!
Casa dels Entremesos
Another spot that really is hidden away despite being just a few minutes from the cathedral, the Casa dels Entremesos is a uniquely Catalan experience. This tiny museum is rather unusual, but that’s all the more reason to visit it and get to know more about Catalan culture. Its name means “the giants’ museum”, and you’ll find on display Els Gegants, the oversized figures which are a well known feature of the city’s festivities and parades. The original giants which first appeared in 1424 at the Corpus Christi procession were biblical figures and popular saints, but the tradition grew to include, dwarves, monsters and giant heads. Learn about this important part of Catalan heritage and folklore, and while you’re there you can check out what’s on in their programme of workshops, courses, themed exhibitions and other cultural activities.
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