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Visit the Barcelona you don’t find in the guidebooks

Barcelona

Barcelona

Little-known spots in the city that are worth visiting

Maritime enclaves, romantic streets, war bunkers, sweeping views, and even the underground city… Barcelona has delightful surprises, even if you think you know it well.

The first stop is in the heart of the Gothic quarter, in a courtyard off Carrer Paradís. Here are the remains of the Temple of Augustus (about which you can learn more at the Museum of History of Barcelona), four columns that seem out of place and which directly inspired our next stop: the Parthenon Masriera (Carrer Bailén 70). This looks like a Greek temple but it was actually built in the late 19th century. Over the years it has been an artist’s studio, a theatre, and a religious residence. Today it is one of the city’s secrets and an enigma for many tourists (only the exterior may be viewed).The next discovery retains the maritime charm of the typical fishermen’s cottages by the sea. This is Plaza Prim, in the Poblenou district, a quiet enclave with a popular fish restaurant.

Temple of Augustus, Barcelona

Barcelona all at once

You’ll love this spot, a viewing point off the beaten track with a 360-degree view of the city. This is the Mirador de Turó de la Rovira, a natural balcony overlooking the city which became one of Barcelona’s defensive emplacements during the Civil War. You can see that and much more in its exhibition space.We continue with places relating to the Civil War to discover parts of Barcelona you would never have imagined. For example, you can visit air-raid shelters like the ones at Plaça del Diamant or Refugi 307 (Carrer Nou de la Rambla, 175). These tunnels are harsh but revealing reminders of Barcelona’s history. There are other such reminders that pass unnoticed in the city. Look carefully at the façade of the church of San Felipe Neri when you visit it. Although it has been restored, the scars left by bombing were kept in memory of the war.Barcelona can be visited in much more depth… from the sewers. This unique experience reveals part of the sewer system with a guided tour organised by the City Council. The tours are only available in Catalan, however (although groups can have a Spanish guide, and you can bring your own interpreter).

Turó de la Rovira. Bunkers del Carmel viewing point, Barcelona

Romantic moments?

There are plenty in Barcelona. You’ll discover this if you’re travelling as a couple, because the walks, the sunsets and the sights of the city are full of excuses for a kiss. Even so, we can show you some less-known excuses. Did you know there is a street of kisses (Carrer dels Petons)? It’s a typical old Barcelona alley, but it’s become an icon of kisses, especially on St Valentines’ day (14 February). It’s close to Parc de la Ciutadella, the perfect park for a romantic afternoon.And if you like getting a bit lost in a city… we have just the thing. Go to the Horta Maze Garden and lose yourself in its cypress hedge maze. Statues of mythological figures are scattered throughout the park, and at the centre of the maze is another excuse for a kiss: the Greek god of love, Eros.

Horta Maze Garden, Barcelona

A different culture

There is so much culture in Barcelona that it can’t be contained in its famous museums and monuments. You’ll see for yourself if you walk around the Raval, Gothic and Born districts. These areas are full of examples of street art. One of the best-known is the mural “Todos juntos podemos parar el sida” (Together We Can Stop AIDS) on the façade of MACBA, by Keith Haring. We recommend the graffiti viewing guided tours provided by the Barcelona Tourist Board. You can also take the tour on a bicycle made of bamboo.This route of less-known places also includes Art Nouveau and World Heritage sites. The Art Nouveau complex of Sant Pau, the most important work by the Catalan architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner, is often overlooked as people flock to the must-see works by Gaudí, Park Güell, Casa Batlló and La Pedrera.Finally, two delightful surprises. The first is the Biblioteca de Catalunya, a library in the historic Antic Hospital de la Santa Creu. Its reading room and courtyard are enchanting. If you happen to be in town in February, take advantage of the Festival Llum Bcn to see the garden lit up. We’re sure you weren’t expecting the second surprise: Barcelona also has a statue of liberty. You can see it in the Biblioteca Arús library - it’s a copy by the Moderniste sculptor Manel Fuxà.

Stop AIDS mural by Keith Haring, Barcelona
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