Edited by Holly Stark
There are so many great things going on in Barcelona, but many of the best are the ones undiscovered and unknown to visitors. But head into the realms of Barcelona off the beaten path which is mostly only known by its locals, and you’ll be rewarded. If you’re curious to discover something unique or special, and want to unearth some weird things to do in Barcelona, check out this unusual things to do in Barcelona guide for something different. From Gaudí structures that are unheard of, to the bunkers from the Spanish civil war on the hills, to the local obsession for charred onions (more on that later), the city has a bit of something for everyone away from Barcelona’s main attractions.
Check out this funky, curvy, organic Gaudí piece that few people know exists! Barcelona's Casa Vicens is a declared World Heritage Site; a unique oasis of peace with Moorish and eastern influences, located in the relaxing neighbourhood of Gràcia. Covered with green and white tiles, a young Gaudí built Casa Vicens as a summer home for the Vicens family. It marked the beginning of Gaudí's artistic career and is considered to be one of the first masterpieces of Modernism. The structure was considered to be highly innovative and original, completely breaking with the style of anything else built in Catalonia. Recently, it opened to public. It’s kinda freaky, like a lego house; all square and blocky. No one knows it's there; but it is the first of Gaudí's works in Barcelona in which he was able to display the full range of his talents, so well worth checking out. Seeking unusual things to do in Barcelona? With paintings, ceramics and mural decorations of the exterior and interior space of Casa Vicens, it’s well worth checking out.
Hospital de Sant Pau
The Hospital de Sant Pau is a beautiful building; another hidden gem of Barcelona, which few people know about. An explosion of color and ornaments, the Sant Pau Complex was built between 1901 and 1930 on the foundations of an old religious hospital dating back to the end of the 800’s, as a stunning garden city for nursing the sick. The center has an urban garden and modern village: streets, pavilions, and even a church and convent. Patients can also enjoy views of the Sagrada Familia. Over time, the institution has been associated with charitable work, welfare, and the latest discoveries in healthcare and is still a fully functioning hospital. Nowadays, since its refurbishment, the pavilions glow again in all their splendor. Looking for alternative things to do in Barcelona? A visit to this exceptional architectural ensemble is a truly unique experience.
Bunkers del Carmel
In the district of El Carmel, high above the on top of the Turó de la Rovira hill, sit the Bunkers del Carmel - old underground military bunkers that offer the best view of the city. Walk up the alley between houses and pop out on the old concrete platforms; here you’ll find a great view of the whole city. One of the best hidden gems in Barcelona, the bunkers were constructed in 1937 during the Spanish Civil War to defend against attacks from fascists. After the war, extreme poverty rose under the Franco regime and the bunkers became social housing and shelter for many locals. During the 40s and 50s, the area was referred to as the Cannons neighbourhood and in the 50s and 60s provided shelter for over 3000 people. During the 1992 Olympic Games, in a bid to “clean up the city”, the Barcelona City Council rehoused all the residents living there in flats within the city, abandoning the area entirely. Virtually forgotten, except besides the few locals who head up for sunset drinks, the Bunkers del Carmel is an amazing spot to visit. Don’t miss one of Barcelona’s best-kept secrets and incredible panoramic views of the city. Gather at the bunkers, watch the sunset and enjoy a night time picnic.
Of the wide variety of Catalan cuisine, who would have thought that an onion could be so cherished? One of the most-loved foods in the northern region of Spain, the calçot is a cross between a spring onion and leek. Native to Valls, Tarragona, situated about 100 kilometers from Barcelona, the calçot is a sweet, tender and delicious treat. Tradition sees a winter or spring BBQ called a calçotada, between the months of December and March, when the vegetables are in season. Once the calçot are grilled, charred and served, you put on a bib, peel back the charred layer, and dip them in a delicious, nutty, romesco sauce. A truly delicious Catalan tradition, head to a calçotada; one of the best places to eat the calçots in Barcelona. A wildly popular thing to do and one of the more unique experiences in Barcelona, as well as the tradition that comes with them, eating calçots is a cool experience not to be missed.
The Kissing Wall
Looking for free things to do in Barcelona? Tucked away in a small square just a stone’s throw from the cathedral is Barcelona’s most poignantly beautiful mural of street art. ‘El Món Neix en Cada Besada' (The World Begins With Every Kiss) is the name of the piece, and it was originally installed as part of Barcelona’s Tricentenary celebrations, but it is so well-loved among the community that it was never taken down. Zig-zag your way through the old, winding streets and stop by the art, get up close and personal with the hidden gem “kissers” who are made up of thousands of tiny, colorful mosaic tiles. Look closely and you’ll see each mosaic is actually a photograph, all of which were submitted by locals for the project - every photo shows an interpretation of love. Undiscovered Barcelona is full of little hidden spots like this to stop by and admire.
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