Barcelona Hidden Gems

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Barcelona is a big city and there’s so much to see and do. Every street is lined with endless bars, clubs, restaurants and cafes. There are also endless amount of travel guides, Trip Advisor reviews and blogs to tell you where to go.

Ignore them all.

I was lucky enough to meet an amazing group of Barcelona locals this year who took Gav and I under their cultural wings and showed us the real side of the city. Money can be an issue for many young people living in Spain, so not only did we go to lots of hidden gems that we never ever would have found without our trusty tour guides, they were also cheap and I mean really cheap. Before I share these secrets with you, I’ll tell you a few easy rules to follow when in Barcelona.

1)   Never eat or drink near the main tourist spots including Barceloneta Beach, La Ramblas, Sagrada Familia and Placa Catalunya. They tend to be ridiculously over priced (I was charged 12 euros for a water and an orange juice on Barceloneta). The food is also really low quality and generic. Just off La Ramblas you have an area called Raval to your right and Gotic and Born to your left. These areas are an absolute dream to explore and packed with foodie hotspots and bars galore.

2)   As with anywhere, go to an authentic restaurant i.e. Chinese food made by Chinese people. A ‘paella’ made by Italians who also serve pizza, steak and fish is going to be no good.

3)   Try to avoid restaurants with pictures of the menus outside. A personal rule of mine that generally works. I mean do we really need to see what a plate of chicken and rice looks like on a badly laminated card?!

4)   Busy restaurants don’t always mean good and quiet ones don’t always mean bad. On our last night in Barcelona we found a Peruvian restaurant that had 2 other people in it and we had one of the best meals of our trip.

5)   Get chatting to locals in bars or on the street and ask them where the good spots are. Spanish people are so friendly and if you make an effort to talk even a little Spanish they are happy to engage in conversation.

6)   Finally try something new and different, even if you don’t like it just keep looking and ask!

So here are a few of my favourite spots if you are heading to the Catalan Capital any time soon. Note that these are not by any means fancy sit down restaurants or cocktail bars – these are cool, laid back spots where the tourists don’t go. If that’s your kinda thing then read on…

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Come una Volta  - Roger de Flor

One of the best Italian meals I have EVER had. It’s tiny and totally unassuming on the corner of Carrer de Roger de Flor, but when I passed it one afternoon I could see it was packed with Italian people which generally means it’s going to be good. I went back several times during my trip and had lots of different pasta dishes, pizza and lasagne. Top red wine too.

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Gasterea – Gracia

This is one of the best tapas places in the city as they don’t just serve the usual chorizo and patata bravas. Suggest you go around 8.30pm so that you get in as it’s very small and the locals eat around 10pm. We had mini burgers, brie with cranberry, stuffed peppers, sausage and quail egg, mini curry dishes and tonnes more (too much!) It came to 15 euros each and we had a lot of wine – can’t get better than that

La Bodegueta del Poble Sec

Another amazing tapas place – they only serve pinxos (small tapas bites on little sticks) and they count the sticks at the end. You pay 1 euro a stick and only need 3 or 4, cheap date or what?! Poble Sec is one of my favourite areas to explore.

Kapadokya - Raval

This place is in Rambla de Raval and serves incredible Turkish food. I had a halloumi wrap and Gav had a slow roasted chicken one and they were so tasty and 2 euros each. Rambla de Raval is a wicked little spot to sit and watch the world go by – some strange characters roam around this part of town.

Foxy Bar - Raval

Foxy is an intimidate bar situated between Sant Antoni and Raval. It used to be called Foxy Lady as a tribute to Jimi Hendrix but more recently became just Foxy. The main man is still featured on the walls along with loads of other rock n roll greats, random clocks, books, ornaments and the like. It’s sort of like an organized jumble sale. Great drinks and good prices.

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L’antic Teatre – El Born

This place was such a surprise! A friend took me here for a few drinks one afternoon and I loved it. It’s quite hidden and unassuming but when you go out the back it has a fairytale courtyard with tonnes of plants and tables packed with groups of friends. Big trees help to create shade on a hot afternoon.

Club Weirdo, Freedonia - Raval

Weirdo is a monthly club night at Freedonia for unsigned bands and music lovers. The caliber of bands is really high – we watched a few awesome bands from Madrid with a psychedelic vibe. Once the bands finish up around midnight, the resident DJs Edu and Serge play the best in rock and roll and indie music which keeps everyone dancing until the club closes.

La Hacienda – Born

If you’re sick of tapas and fancy something different, I can highly recommend La Hacienda for some authentic Mexican food. Classic Mexican dishes but cooked well and a great upbeat atmosphere.

Lima e Limon – Carrer de Rossello

This was the Peruvian restaurant I mentioned earlier. Gav suggested this place because it was literally 2 mins walk from our apartment – I wasn’t so sure but he proved my wrong with his confident choice. A lovely Purivian guy welcomed us in and we chose some dishes from a simple but delicious menu. A great find!

The Veggie Garden – Raval

Something a little different, this is an Indian Vegan restaurant in the centre of Raval. I had the thali which was incredible washed down with a pineapple, mango and pear juice.

Other bars I suggest:

-       Psycho bar

-       Pony Club

-       Manchester

-       Olimpic

-       Kino

-       Marseille

So head of the tourist track and check out some of these places , just don’t tell everyone :)

Author Jenny Emslie Photograph

Jenny Emslie

Founder and Managing Director