City Guides

The Insider Guide to Exploring Barcelona Like a Local

Eric Aguirre
May 1, 2024

Hey! We are Eric and Marion, and we get paid to travel the world 😎

I know, lucky us, right?

Of all the places we've been, Barcelona, Spain, remains one of our favorites.

Here is our story of how this majestic city affected us, why it's awesome, and the best way to explore it.

TLDR; what are the must-see attractions when exploring Barcelona?

When exploring Barcelona, we highly recommend that you don't miss the iconic Sagrada Família, vibrant La Boqueria market, picturesque Park Guell, the Historical Gothic Quarter, and the bustling La Rambla. These attractions offer a glimpse into the city's rich culture, architecture, and culinary delights.

Eric's Barcelona Love Story


Barcelona. I remember the first time I visited the city.

I stepped off the plane, hopped in my best friend Lucas' car (who at the time was a stranger), and explored the city from the passenger seat.

It was love at first sight.

I even remember mentioning how beautiful the city looked, only for Lucas to mention this was the "ugly" part of town.

This was back in 2013.

Today, I've been traveling the world for the past year and a half. And Barcelona remains one of my favorite cities in the world.

On a personal note, Barcelona is like a second home to me. I was fortunate enough to live in the city for five months in 2013. My time living abroad sparked many of the decisions I would make later in life.

I remember when my time in Barcelona was coming to a close. I also vividly remember the fear of thinking I'd never be able to spend five months living abroad again because, you know, "real life."

That fear fueled me. I loved my time living abroad in Barcelona so much that I refused to submit to the traditional thinking of settling for 4 weeks of vacation time a year. But that's another story.

Marion’s Barcelona Love Story


My love story with Barcelona started in 2011, I was 21 years old and went to Spain for the first time to do a 6-month internship.

To be totally honest with you, I didn’t want to go to Barcelona at all. I didn’t know anything about it, but I thought it was a dirty city where the only attraction was the beach.

Well, I was wrong. SO wrong.

I had the best 6 months ever. I discovered a beautiful and dynamic city with delicious food and many cultural activities. I also immersed myself in the crazy parties with locals.

I went back to Barcelona three times after that internship, and I feel like I'm at home there.

Exploring Barcelona: Off The Beaten Path

Any good guide should include some insider information. We'll start our guide with some of our favorite spots that we discovered by knowing locals in the area and by living in this wonderful city for months.

Best View: Turó del Putxet Gardens


There are plenty of viewpoints to get some excellent pictures of the city, a few of which we'll touch upon later in the guide. Yet, my favorite by far, is El Bunker Del Carmel.

I love this spot so much that I visit it every time I go to Barcelona. I've even shown the spot to a few locals who've never been there.

El Bunker Del Carmel was an anti-aircraft defense fort during the Spanish Civil War. Today, it's a secluded and abandoned viewpoint that sees far fewer tourists than other parts of the city.

The panoramic 360-degree views of the city, coupled with its off-the-beaten-path appeal, make it one of my favorite places to visit when I'm exploring Barcelona.

To get to the site, you'll need to take a fun walk uphill for about 20 minutes from the closest metro stop, called El Carmel. The walk is well worth the payoff.

Best Experience - RCD Espanyol

Many people associate Barcelona with one of the world's biggest and best soccer teams. F.C. Barcelona certainly makes that true, but people tend to overlook their smaller neighbors to the south.

The Estadi Cornellà-El Prat is the home of RCD Espanyol, a Spanish Premier League football team that plays in the same league as its richer neighbors. Separated by only a few miles, RCD Espanyol gets far fewer tourists than FC Barcelona, making it a prime "off the beaten path" experience.

Not only will tickets be cheaper, but you'll also get more bang for your buck with where you can sit. What's more, the atmosphere at this stadium is surreal. The fans are beyond passionate about their team, and you can feel the atmosphere from the second you get off the train.

Football is an integral part of European culture. So, if you're in Europe, checking out a game and immersing yourself in the passion is a must.

I highly recommend checking out a game here and supporting the smaller team in Barcelona.

Best Meal: La Flauta


When I lived in Barcelona, one of my Spanish professors recommended I check out La Flauta. He told me about the restaurant and asked me not to tell others because he didn't want prices and wait times to rise.


Go to La Flauta! You'll find the best Spanish cuisine in one place. Tapas, fresh seafood, and so many more delicious dishes. The kicker? Fast service! Fast service in Spain is priceless for a New Yorker like me. That detail alone is worth the visit.

Best Value Meal: Bo de Be


Bo de B is the literal definition of a hole-in-the-wall. It isn’t necessarily a Spanish delicacy, but it’s a delicious meal nonetheless. When I was living in Barcelona, I was a student "Ballin' on a budget." When I found this gem, it was a game changer. They serve massive sandwiches and platters valued at around six euros a pop. 

Located right on the edge of the Gothic Quarter and across the street from the beach, this hole-in-the-wall is one of the best-valued meals in the city. You will regularly find a line stretching down the block at this place. Stop by early and enjoy the best 6-euro meal in Barcelona. 

Must See in Barcelona

Exploring Barcelona: Culture

With more than 2000 years of history, Barcelona is a little gem for everyone who wants to explore the culture of this vibrant city.

Barcelona has tons of museums covering different areas. One of my favorite ones is the Museu Picasso which has the most complete and permanent collection of Pablo Picasso, the most famous painter of the 20th century. The museum is located in five different 14th-century houses.

When I was in Barcelona, I was amazed by the architecture. The influence of the architect Antoni Gaudi almost everywhere in the city. The Sagrada Familia is probably the most impressive building, but you should also visit Casa Batlo, Casa Mila and Casa Vincens which are all World Heritage Sites.

While visiting Barcelona, you will quickly understand that it is a bilingual city. People speak Catalan and Spanish, but locals mostly speak Catalan and are sometimes unwilling to speak any Spanish. The Catalan identity in Barcelona is strong, and many Catalans have been asking for their independence for years.

Parc de Montjuic

Essentially a mountain, Montjuic is conveniently located in a corner of the city. You can easily spend a whole day exploring this beautiful mountain. Within Montjuic, you’ll find castles, palaces, gardens, museums, and incredible city and sea views.

My favorite way to visit Montjuic is by foot. I love hiking up this mountain while soaking in the gardens and views along the way. Going by foot also comes with the additional benefit of not getting packed into a tour bus with dozens of other tourists.

The views from the hike alone make this a necessary stop in Barcelona. Luckily, the Olympic stadium, castle, and botanic gardens are also found in Montjuic as an extra plus.

PS. If you’re not a hiker, you can take a fun cable car to the top of the mountain; just be prepared to wait in a long line of tourists. You can also hop in a taxi to take you up.

Barri Gotic

Also known as the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona. Barri Gotic is packed with historic wonders in a very small area. From the cobblestoned streets to the 14th-century churches, the quarter is an extremely unique part of the city.

Within the Gothic Quarter, you'll find The Palau de la Generalitat, home of the autonomous government of Catalonia; the Catedral de Santa Eulalia, one of the most beautiful cathedrals in the city; and the Museu Picasso, which we mentioned earlier.

You'll also find plenty of other churches, museums, and historically important squares within this small patch of land in the city. It’ll feel like you’ve walked back in time.

The walk around the quarter will not take long, but there is so much to see and do that you could spend half the day here. 

La Sagrada Familia

No trip to Barcelona would be complete without a visit to one of the most unique and magnificent basilicas in the world. This is easily one of the most popular destinations in Barcelona. You will see tourists, and you will see a lot of them. Yet, this is truly an absolute must.

Europe is famous for having a plethora of cathedrals throughout the continent. Don’t make the mistake of assuming this is just one more cathedral. La Sagrada Família isn’t anything like any other structure in the world.

Construction on this gorgeous behemoth began in 1882 and isn’t expected to be completed until 2040—that’s longer than it took to build the Egyptian pyramids!

Every time I visit Barcelona, I slowly walk around this marvelous structure and admire the artistic creativity that’s slowly being brought to life.

Camp Nou

Full Disclosure: I’m a huge F.C. Barcelona fan. Every time I visit the city, I make it a priority to see a game.

But, even if you have no interest in soccer, I would prioritize catching a game here simply for the atmosphere. As I mentioned earlier, watching a European soccer match is an absolute must if you're in Europe. It's unlike anything you will experience at any sporting event.

Camp Nou is one of the world's most iconic stadiums and the largest stadium in Europe. It’s been the home to some of the greatest soccer players in the world and is also the home of the greatest soccer team in the world (in my humble opinion).

If you’re visiting Barcelona in the off-season and can’t catch a game, I recommend taking a tour of the stadium. You’ll learn some of the amazing history of the game, team, and stadium. My favorite part of the tour was walking through the tunnels, locker rooms, and even on the pitch, where the players have walked thousands of times.

Parc Guell

Someone once described Park Guell as "the best of an acid trip turned to reality.". Now, I’ve never done acid, but I feel like that description is pretty accurate. 

This park showcases Gauíi's creative genius. Although it’s certainly touristy, it’s worth visiting to marvel at the artistic work of one of the most renowned architects and artists in the world. An added benefit of visiting the park is that it sits towards the city's top. You'll have an incredible view of Barcelona from inside the park.

Best Local Market: La Boqueria

Fresh fruits, seafood, meat, cheese, chocolate, candies... oh my!

If you’re a foodie like me, you will be amazed by the wide variety of food at La Boqueria!

There is everything your heart desires at an affordable price, and it’s SO delicious!

Located in the heart of Barcelona at the famous street La Rambla, this indoor market is a must-see!

Beaches in Barcelona


Barcelona attracts tourists due to its ideal location by the Mediterranean Sea.

The main beach is Barceloneta. It's a popular spot, but unfortunately, it's dirty, crowded, and full of pickpockets. Let’s avoid that!

Instead, take the train and go north or south, where other beaches are less crowded and more authentic…

Castelldelfes, Sitges, and Vilassar de Mar are all accessible by train, and it doesn’t hurt to get out of the city center for a day trip! :)

Nightlife and Live Music

Barcelona’s nightlife is legendary. The Spanish love to party; you can see this firsthand in Barcelona. The city has endless party options, and going through them all would require a separate post. The city offers every type of nightlife scene you can imagine.

  • Razzmatazz - One of the most established clubs in the city, and for good reason. The venue has five separate rooms and offers concerts ranging from electronic music to Indie pop.
  • Sutton - Another crowd favorite but be sure to dress up for this one. Sutton has a strict dress code and gives off an exclusive vibe.
  • Opium - Located right on the beach, this is one of the most popular clubs in the city. World-famous DJs stop by regularly to perform a live set here. You'll find tourists but you'll also be able to enjoy a drink on the beach.
  • Bar Llopart - This is the bar where all of my parties started. Located in Hostafrancs, it is where you’ll meet the locals and enjoy watching a soccer game while drinking beers for 1€. I love that place so much because it is authentic and has such a good vibe.
  • L'ovella Negra - Another perfect pregame spot. This place will deliver giant mini kegs right to your table and has the feel of a giant, rowdy beer hall.

Where to Stay in Barcelona


Barcelona offers a large choice of accommodations, from budget to luxury hotels and hostels.

I always recommend the Generator Hostel for those with a small budget because of its location, friendly staff, restaurant, comfy and clean rooms. There are of course plenty of hostels in Barcelona, you can check all of them on HostelWorld that will give you the best deals!

Airbnb is also a great option that I often use when I travel because it can still be cheap and you can find your perfect apartment and feel at home! I love it!å

If you’re looking for a unique and comfortable hotel in the heart of Barcelona, boutique hotels such as Hostal Grau and Sixty Two Hotel should satisfy you.

Ready to visit Barcelona with a small group of young adult travelers? Join a Spain trip with Under30Experiences.

Eric Aguirre
I'm Eric, I aim to inspire and lead fellow and future thought-provoking leaders around the world. I love geeking out on Personal Development and strive to make myself and the world around me a better place. You can find my published books and articles at


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