Non-Touristy Things to Do in Barcelona Like a Local

Barcelona is one of the most visited cities in Europe, so to find somewhere without tourists isn’t easy.  However, if you want a more authentic visit and to experience Barcelona like a local then there are plenty of places to explore that are firmly off the tourist trail.  Here are some of the best non-touristy things to do in Barcelona for you to go beyond the typical and uncover the unique and amazing parts of Barcelona you never knew existed!

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The Best Time to Visit Barcelona for a More Authentic Experience

Barcelona is an extremely popular destination, especially during the summer and holiday periods when the city is flooded with visitors.  If you can avoid the busiest times, you will have a much more enjoyable and peaceful experience.

Winter is a great time to visit when (aside from Christmas and New Year celebrations) Barcelona is relatively quiet.

However, the weather can be cool and wet, so early spring and late autumn are probably the best times to visit Barcelona, for the combination of relatively few crowds but with pleasant enough weather that you can enjoy the outdoors.

Know Before You Go to Barcelona

Before travelling to Barcelona, make sure you book accommodation and popular attractions ASAP as hotels and tickets can sell out.


1: Sagrada Familia Skip the Line Ticket - a must-see in Barcelona!

2: Park Guell Admission Ticket - colourful mosaic terraces and gorgeous views

3: Casa Batlló Entry with Self-Audioguide Tour - stunning Modernist Building & rooftop


$$: Sercotel Hotel Rosellon - Incredible view of the Sagrada Familia from some rooms and the terrace

$$: H10 Madison 4* Sup - top location with rooftop pool & view of the Gothic Cathedral

$: Chic & Basic Lemon Boutique Hotel - great value hotel near Plaça Catalunya


Although Barcelona is a safe city, pickpockets are a problem here, particularly in popular tourist areas and on the metro.  Use a theft-proof backpack and consider getting some hidden-pocket clothing to keep your belongings safe.

Find Deals to Book Your Trip

Defining Non-Touristy Things to Do in Barcelona

This article isn’t really about hidden gems in Barcelona, it is more about getting under the skin of the city, so while some of these suggestions are definitely hidden gems that tourists can enjoy, most are things that tourists usually wouldn’t do at all in Barcelona.

With these travel tips and recommendations, you can learn about Catalan culture and spend time with the people who live in the city to give you an insight into Barcelona beyond what tourists usually see.  It is a wonderful way to visit Barcelona responsibly as you are not contributing to the crowds of people at the same top attractions!

The Moll de Gregal - Concrete boardwalk next to the sea
Moll de Gregal & Views of the Sea – A Peaceful Hidden Gem in Barcelona

The Best Non-Touristy Things to Do in Barcelona

I’ve split these into three main sections; meeting local people, exploring Barcelona & Catalonia, and eating the food.

Meet Local People

How many times have you been to a destination and the only people you have spoken to are staff in the hotel?  It can be hard to chat to locals in a natural situation, especially if you don’t speak the language, but try and strike up conversations with everyone you meet.

Learn Spanish or Catalan

It does help of course if you can speak some Spanish or Catalan, which is the best way to start a conversation and even a few words can break the ice.  Catalan people often prefer to speak English instead of Spanish, so that is the best option if you can learn it, although Spanish is better than nothing.

Hola is hello in both Spanish and Catalan, which is an easy win, but a couple of classes or a try on duolingo before you go to Barcelona can really help.  If you plan to spend a long time in Barcelona then the council offer free Catalan classes, and there are regular language exchange groups you can join.

Join a Social Group

Have a look at social groups to see if there is an event you’d like to join, Meet-Up is an active platform in Barcelona so you could join a group and meet people for a meal or game of beach volleyball, a hike or a language exchange meetup to name a few.

Other social apps for solo travellers can be useful too, Couchsurfing has social events as well as sleeping arrangements, and Facebook groups or solo travel apps can be good sources of advice and ways to meet people too.

Go on a Date

Dating apps could also be a possibility, but if you only want some company and nothing more then be sure to make that clear on your profile.  It can get tiring when you live in Barcelona to get messages all the time about showing around tourists, but if locals want to meet people from around the world then you might get lucky!

Attend a Local Festival

Barcelona has many festivals and events throughout the year, and attending one can be a great way to immerse yourself in the local culture and experience more non touristy activities in Barcelona.

There are festivals celebrating everything from film and music to food and drink and the fantastic Festes de Gràcia which sees the streets of Gràcia decorated according to a theme, with street parties and events throughout the week of the festival.

Cultural festivals like La Merce in September and Santa Eulalia in February are a wonderful chance to see Catalan culture close up, from Castellers making human towers, to sardana dancing and the giants parading through the streets.

At night a correfoc fire run in Barcelona with people dressed as devils holding sticks with fireworks as they dance through the crowd
The Excitement and Chaos of a Correfoc Fire Run

Join a Correfoc

A favourite festival activity with locals and visitors alike is the correfoc, which is often part of a larger program of events.  Devils dance through the streets spraying fireworks at the people who line the streets, in a crazy and fun celebration – which isn’t as dangerous as it first sounds, but do cover up and wear non-flammable clothes just in case!!

Watch & Take Part in Events

Cultural, sporting and musical events can be a great way to mix with local people and learn more about Barcelona and Catalonia while you are here.  Barcelona Turisme lists most of the events on their website so you can take a look and see what is happening during your visit.

Events like concerts, theatre performances and sports events like marathons or sailing competitions allow you to get involved just like everyone else.  Barcelona has an exceptional live music scene, and there are plenty of local venues that offer live music, including the nightclubs Sala Apolo and Razzmatazz.

Unique cultural experiences include watching the Castellers (human towers) either for a festival or during their practise sessions is an incredible spectacle, whereas sardana dancing is more sedate but just as fascinating.

The Sardana is a traditional Catalan dance that was banned during the Franco dictatorship, along with the Catalan language.  Despite the ban, Catalans continued to dance in defiance, and now the Sardana is a symbol of Catalan culture and pride.

During the summer in the early evening you can catch a performance in the square in front of the cathedral on Saturdays, or in Plaça Jaume 1 on Sundays, when groups of locals young and old form circles and dance to the sound of a live band.

Casteller Human Tower at a Barcelona Festival
A Casteller Human Tower at a Barcelona Festival

Get to Know Barcelona & Beyond

Visit Barcelona’s Hidden Gems

I know I said this wasn’t really about hidden gems, but there are some secret places in Barcelona that don’t get the attention they deserve but are just as beautiful and special as the top attractions.  This article about the best hidden gems in Barcelona will help you find them.

Visiting the Labyrinth at Horta (a park and garden with a maze), the Hospital de Sant Pau (modernist style hospital not far from Sagrada Familia) and seeing a performance at the Palau de la Musica is well worth it for any visitor to Barcelona.

Other places like the previously unknown Bunkers at Carmel are now firmly on the tourist trail but are still worth a trip.

Explore the Lesser-Known Neighbourhoods of Barcelona

In general, tourists congregate around the neighbourhoods where the top attractions in Barcelona are, so the Gothic Quarter and Eixample around the Sagrada Familia and Passeig de Gracia are tourist central.

Barceloneta and El Born are also popular, and well worth a visit, but take time to explore some of the other neighbourhoods in Barcelona for a more non-touristy experience.


Poblenou is a neighbourhood that has undergone a lot of change in recent years, with old factory buildings being transformed into art galleries and start-up office spaces, and there are a lot of new cafes, bars, and restaurants popping up alongside the classic local favourites.

Poblenou is also home to some amazing street art, and you can find murals and graffiti all over the metal grills that cover entrances to shops and businesses. An added bonus is the proximity to the beach, which is usually quieter and cleaner than Barceloneta which is packed during the summer.

Poblenou cemetery is a peaceful place for reflection and paying your respects, and has some beautiful tombs to admire – including the Kiss of Death, where a sculpture of a winged skeleton cradles a young man, leaning over him and kissing him on the forehead.

The Kiss of Death at Poblenou Cemetary - Statue of a winged skeleton kissing a young man on the head
The Kiss of Death at Poble Nou Cemetary


Gràcia is a bohemian district known for its narrow streets, local boutiques, and unique atmosphere.  It used to be a village completely separate from Barcelona until the city expanded and It’s a great place to wander around, enjoy street art, and have a drink at a bar in one of the squares.

While Gràcia is a popular neighbourhood, it’s often overlooked by tourists in favour of more well-known areas. Take a stroll through the streets and you’ll find lots of bars, restaurants, and independent boutiques.

Poble Sec and Sant Antoni

These neighbouring districts have relatively few tourist attractions, so visitors don’t often come here, and it is where locals live and socialize. Visit local cafes, bars, and shops to get a feel for daily life in Barcelona and enjoy the non-touristy things to do in Barcelona.

Sant Antoni market is a much more local affair than the famous Boqueria Market on La Rambla, and you can find all sorts of fresh produce here to cook at your accommodation, as well as plenty of excellent cafes and restaurants.

The Jardins de les Tres Xemeneies is a street art hub in Poble Sec where you can usually find graffiti artists working on their next piece, or just admire the creations that are already there.  There is a play area for kids and a basketball court as well as being a favourite place for skateboarders.

Street Art in Poble Sec with three old factory chimneys in the background
Street Art in Poble Sec

El Raval

El Raval is an interesting neighbourhood which is usually said to be the most dangerous place in Barcelona.  I have never had any problems here, but I would advise against walking around alone at night.

It’s an area where prostitutes ply their trade, but it’s also a multicultural melting pot where you can find some of the coolest bars and restaurants in town, with food from all over the world.  The Rambla del Raval is also home to the Cat statue by Colombian sculptor Botero.

Shop Local

Whether you are looking for souvenirs or anything to buy from Barcelona, head for markets and independent shops over the bigger chains and stores on the high street.

Flea markets such as Els Encants are where locals buy and sell vintage clothing, antiques, and other unique items.  Browse a local bookstore and have a coffee in the store café, and look out for pop-up markets and events where you can find handmade items from food and drink to pottery, cosmetics, jewellery and clothing.

Discover the Street Art Scene

Barcelona has some incredible street at, with many different artists leaving their mark all over the city. You can take a street art tour or simply explore on your own to see some of the amazing pieces.

The Jardins de les Tres Xemeneies in Poble Sec is a great place to start, but Gracia, the Gothic Quarter and Poblenou all have lots of street art, from full sized colourful murals to smaller stencils and cheeky additions to street signs and walls.

Sunset in Barcelona from the Temple of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Tibidabo
Sunset in Barcelona from the Temple of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Tibidabo

Hike to Tibidabo

In the hills surrounding Barcelona you can escape the city and enjoy the countryside.  Collserola Natural Park has multiple hiking trails and panoramic views of Barcelona. It’s a great way to enjoy nature without venturing too far from the city.

You can also hike up to Tibidabo (or take public transport) to the old theme park at the top of the mountain, and visit the Church of the Sacred Heart for incredible views of the city, especially at sunset.

Walk or Cycle Along the Beachfront

One of the huge benefits of living in Barcelona is being next to the sea, and locals love it as much as the tourists.  No matter what time of year you come to Barcelona, a walk along the beachfront is a must.

Hiring a bike will get you further along the coast where it is quieter, and you can make the most of the sea breeze and beautiful views without the crowds.

If it’s open the Moll de Gregal walkway goes around Port Olympic which is lovely and peaceful (although it was closed for renovation works last time I tried to go).

Relax in Barcelona’s Parks and Gardens

Barcelona has many beautiful parks that are great to visit in the evening, when the temperatures cool down, or during the day for a picnic. Parc de la Ciutadella is a popular option for locals and tourists, but you can also explore other parks for a more peaceful experience.

The Jardins de Mossèn Costa i Llobera are beautiful gardens on the slopes of Montjuïc and offer stunning views of the city. The gardens are home to a wide variety of cacti and other succulents, and it’s a great place to relax and enjoy the surroundings.

Ciutadella Park in Barcelona with a pond and fountain in the background
Ciutadella Park – Non-Touristy Things to do in Barcelona

Explore Catalonia

Catalonia is a varied region and there is much more to explore here outside of Barcelona.  Take a day trip from Barcelona to enjoy the countryside and medieval towns, the beautiful beaches and coves of the Costa Brava, wine regions surrounding Barcelona, and more.

Some of the most popular day trips from Barcelona include Girona, which is a lovely city and a Game of Thrones filming location, Montserrat Mountain for hiking, mountain views and a monastery visit, and Cava tasting in Sant Sadurni at Codorniu or any of the wineries there.

If you have the time in your Barcelona itinerary you can also hire a car from Barcelona to get off the beaten path and plan a road trip around Catalonia.

Try Spanish & Catalan Food

Food is such an important part of culture, and sampling the incredible food in Barcelona is a great way to learn more about the city, its residents and its history.  I have a whole list of fun and delicious ways to explore the cuisine and food culture here!

Devour Food Tours in Barcelona

While joining a food tour is a tourist activity, you will meet local chefs and food producers and have the benefit of a local guide sharing all their culinary secrets with you.

Devour have some fantastic food tours to choose from, each one focussing on a different style of food and drink in Barcelona, and with a different neighbourhood to explore.  These two are my personal favourites as they have a wider variety of food options to try, but you can browse all of their food tours here.

Tastes and Traditions of Barcelona Food Tour by Devour Tours combines a market visit with tapas tastings in El Born neighbourhood and ends with a traditional paella in Barceloneta so you get to try a wide range of foods.  It’s quite rare to have paella included on a food tour so I love how this one combines tapas and paella in one food-filled adventure! Check prices and availability here.

The Gracia Neighbourhood Food Tour is a great way to explore Gracia and discover a less-touristy side of Barcelona’s food scene.  You’ll visit local bodegas, a pastry shop and a xarcuteria for cured ham and cheese tastings, and try some vermouth and cava.  Fideua is served for lunch, and you’ll get to try some delicious hot chocolate and churro doughnuts too.  Check prices and availability here.

A Selection of Tapas - Non-Touristy Things to do in Barcelona Like a Local
A Selection of Tapas – Non-Touristy Things to do in Barcelona Like a Local

Cooking Classes in Barcelona

Similarly, while you’re unlikely to meet other locals in a cooking class apart from the staff, classes are still a great way to learn about Spanish & Catalan cuisine and discover how to cook up some delicious Catalan dishes yourself.

Once you’ve learned how to make a couple of recipes, a Catalan cookbook is a lovely souvenir from Barcelona to take home, as well as ingredients like olive oil or paella rice, or even a paella pan if you can fit it in your luggage!

These are some more of my favourite food tours and cooking classes in Barcelona:

Breakfast Like a Local

While I love a good brunch in Barcelona, brunch is an American concept that many locals don’t really embrace.  You’re more likely to find them at a local bakery or café having a croissant or a bocadillo sandwich with a coffee in the morning.

Enjoy a Late Lunch

Spanish and Catalans love to eat late.  I’m talking 2pm for a lunch reservation, and 10pm for dinner (9pm at the earliest).  And it is not to be rushed.  Take your time and enjoy a menu del día at a local restaurant, which is significantly cheaper than a la carte but no less delicious.

There are too many excellent Catalan restaurants to list here, but if you see a sign outside for the daily menu (menu del día) that’s a good sign it’s more of a local place than a tourist trap.  The set menus usually include a choice of two or three options for each course, plus dessert, a drink and coffee to finish.

Outside Santa Caterina Market in El Born
Outside Santa Caterina Market in El Born

Shop and Eat at a Local Market

Forget La Boqueria, there are lots of other local markets in Barcelona where you can buy cheaper produce and get a great meal at one of the tapas bars inside the market.  Mercat is the Catalan word for Market, but you’ll spot these large indoor markets easily:

Mercat de Santa Caterina

Known for its modern architecture, Santa Caterina Market is located in the Born neighbourhood, not far from the Gothic Cathedral. The food market offers a wide selection of fresh produce, seafood, meats, and artisanal products. It’s a popular spot for both locals and tourists looking for high-quality ingredients and a great place to eat too.  Bar Joan is one of my favourites.

Mercat de Sant Antoni

The Mercat de Sant Antoni is one of Barcelona’s historic markets and is particularly known for its architectural significance and diverse stalls. The market first opened in 1882 and underwent a major renovation before reopening in 2018.  You can find some excellent local produce and some great tapas bars too like Bar Restaurant Pinotxo.

Mercat de la Llibertat

This market in the Gràcia neighbourhood is a great place to immerse yourself in local life. You can find fresh produce, meats, and fish, as well as local speciality products.  Hermós is a great place to eat seafood inside the market or go to La Pubilla across the street for a  delicious Catalan lunch.

Mercat de la Concepció

This is a local market in the Eixample district that offers a variety of fresh produce, meats, and seafood, as well as the impressive flower and plant stalls of Flors Navarro which are a welcome flash of greenery in the city centre!

Go Bar Hopping on Carrer de Blai

This is one of my favourite places to have a few drinks and some tasty snacks.  Carrer Blai in Poble Sec is a whole street that is full of pincho bars.  Pinchos are a traditional type of tapas originally from the Basque Country, which are chunks of bread with a variety of tasty toppings that cost a couple of euros each.

Here you can move from bar to bar where you order a drink and a couple of pinchos in each place.  My personal favourite pincho bars are La Tasqueta de Blai and Taberna Blai Tonight, but Blai 9 and L’Atelier de Blai are also excellent.

A Pincho Bar on Carrer de Blai
A Pincho Bar on Carrer de Blai – Non Touristy Places to Eat in Barcelona

Try a Vermouth in a Local Bodega

While I love Catalan wine, there is another, more unusual drink that is popular with locals in Barcelona: vermouth.  This fortified wine is usually enjoyed in the afternoon or early evening and often served with some light tapas like a banderilla – pickled onions and peppers served on a toothpick, and some boquerones (white anchovies).

You can find vermouth in lots of traditional bodegas, and each place has their own recipe for making vermouth so it is always slightly different each time.  If it is too strong for you, add a squirt of spritz soda water.

Visit a Local Craft Brewery

Barcelona has a growing craft beer scene, and many locals love to support local breweries such as La Pirata, Garage Beer Co., and Edge Brewing, as well as numerous smaller micro-breweries. Enjoy a pint or two and chat with the friendly locals.  If beer isn’t your thing then check out a gin distillery like Corpen.

More Insider Tips for Exploring Barcelona Like a Local

Take Public Transportation

Locals in Barcelona rarely use taxis or private cars, as public transport is efficient and affordable. Take the metro, bus or tram to get around the city, but do watch out for pickpockets, especially on the metro.

Embrace the Barcelona Lifestyle

Despite being so busy, Barcelona is a relaxed city.  Don’t rush through your trip, actually trying to rush anywhere in Barcelona is difficult, so take the time to enjoy the experience by stopping at a café for a coffee and watching the world go by.

Take a siesta in the afternoon, stay out late at night, and be part of the relaxed pace of life in Barcelona.

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