10 hidden gems in Barcelona
There are many reasons why Barcelona is one of the most visited places in the world. Sure, the Sagrada Familia and Park Güell are unmissable (seriously, they’ll blow your mind), but there’s so much more to this spirited city than the legendary landmarks you’ve already heard about.
Here’s a list of ten hidden gems in Barcelona to discover when you want to explore why the Catalan capital is such a brilliant place to visit or study Spanish.
1. Jardins de les Tres Xemeneies
Literally translating to “Gardens of the Three Chimneys”, this awesome urban space is a former nuclear power plant turned free, open art gallery. Old industrial walls are now concrete canvases, covered in spectacular graffiti by some of Barcelona’s best local street artists and updated weekly. Ping-pong tables, playgrounds and a skate park add to the relaxed, alternative atmosphere, making Tres Xemeneies a perfect place to snap some pics before heading to the nearby Montjuic Funicular for vista views over the city.
2. Parc del Laberint d'Horta
This elaborate park is the city’s oldest conserved garden and features a cypress labyrinth that urges visitors to find their way to the center toward a statue of Eros. Traditionally, labyrinth mazes are meant to inspire deep transformation and spiritual enlightenment as they represent the journey through life in order to discover one’s destiny. Destiny aside, labyrinth mazes are a lot of fun as well and this park on the edge of a nature preserve is worth the journey.
3. Gaudí's Casa Vicens
Every native Barcelonian knows the name Antoni Gaudí — the Catalan architect is as important to locals as Barceloneta Beach or Lionel Messi. It’s slightly surprising then that his first project “Casa Vicens” only recently opened to the public in 2017. Inside you’ll find an art gallery and museum displaying the intricate patterns and surreal structural designs Gaudi became famous for, in the place where his journey first began.
4. Flamingos Vintage
Flamingos is the place to go for folks who love thrift shopping and truly unique, sustainable fashion. A firm favorite among local crowds, Flamingos has four centrally located stores across the city where savvy vintage shoppers can find some of the coolest jackets, rare t-shirts, athletic jerseys and more. Get inspired over on the Flamingos Instagram page.
5. Els Quatre Gats
Fun fact: Els Quatre Gats (or “The Four Cats”) is a Catalan expression meaning “only a few people” and refers to those who see themselves as outsiders. The atmospheric side-street café, which opened in 1897, was a favorite meeting spot for many modernist artists. One of the most noteworthy such artists is Pablo Picasso, who held his first ever exhibition here (catch a poster of his on the street corner outside).
6. Montjuïc summer screenings and stargazing
The hilltop gardens by Montjuïc Castle turn into a scenic open-air cinema over summer, screening both classic and contemporary films in their original language. With both a BYOP (bring your own picnic) policy and pop-up bar on site, it’s a great vibe to enjoy a casual communal movie night among fellow Barcelonians. Tickets are €7.50 and can be bought in advance — and don’t forget to stick around after the film for some stargazing on a clear, balmy night.
7. Palo Alto
Barcelona’s famed La Boqueria market can get pretty crowded during the high tourist season. For a similar experience with a bit more room to breathe, consider Palo Market Fest. A feast for all five senses, the stylish street market hosts live music amid stalls of local street food, books, clothes, antiques and other fascinating finds. It takes place over the weekend around once a month and costs €5 to enter, but it’s well worth it for a more authentic experience that beats the crowds.
8. Passadis del Pep
Reaching a plain, wooden door without a sign in the medieval Gothic Quarter, you push it open to find nothing but an empty corridor. Continue to the end and you’ll find a hidden restaurant with no outside indication of its existence. Passadis del Pep (literally “Joe’s Corridor”) is a secret seafood restaurant so good, that they don’t need to signpost where it is or even give you a menu. Though a little on the pricey side, the speakeasy style and high-quality Catalan cuisine make it an experience you should have at least once. Just don’t let the secret out…
9. Jamboree Jazz and Dance Club
Jazz fans will recognize the legendary names who have graced the exposed-brick stage at this intimate underground bar at Plaça Reial. Come midnight though, the place suddenly transforms. The serene, sit-down jazz spot turns to a bouncing all-night disco, covering anything from hip-hop and funk to blues and dance. Groovy.
10. City scuba-diving
As you probably know by now, Barcelona is blessed with one of the best city beaches in Europe, so an early-morning swim is easily accessible. You can also seize the chance to try undersea exploring with one of the many scuba-diving options offered to first-timers throughout the year. Friendly and experienced PADI instructors will greet you near the beachfront and guide you every step of the way as you pick up the basics and beyond in the beautiful (and warm) Balearic Sea.
With these hidden gems in Barcelona, we hope you discover the best this city has to offer.