Meet The Locals is a brand new feature on this site. I have decided to start this series with my favorite city by asking a local resident about Barcelona. I asked Meritxell who runs TourismWithMe.com about some insider tips for visitors to her hometown.
What is your favorite things about living in Barcelona? How long have you lived there?
I have almost lived all my life in Barcelona except for a couple of years abroad in London and Tours in France. It is my favorite place. I love the food and the people and miss them most when being away from home. The foods I miss the most are tapas, paella, embutidos and my loved fuet which are very typical from Catalonia.
What are your favorite attractions in Barcelona that you think every visitor should see?
I love Gaudí. You should not miss la Sagrada Família, La Pedrera and El Parc Güell. I totally recommend a guided tour so you can make the most of your time and have all the details explained to you by the guide.
If you want to visit Barcelona as local you have to get lost in two neighborhoods: Gràcia and Born. I love them! You will discover the essence of Barcelona from super chic shops to artisans. Barcelona is a city of contrast and every place has its own rhythm. Take the time to walk around or rent a bicycle to fully discover it.
What popular attractions do you think are overrated and not worth seeing?
I do not know why a lot of people go to the magic fountain on Montjuic. It is nice water, colors and music but nothing exceptional. I would rather go to other places that are worth a visit.
Another thing that is very popular among tourists that I do not really understand is going to a Flamenco show. Flamenco is not typically from Barcelona or Catalonia. I have never been to one here because they are tailored to tourists and are quite expensive.
I would save the money and do typical things from Catalonia such as Els Castellers or Human Towers. Check out Coordinadora de Castells to see if there are any Castells scheduled when you are visiting Barcelona.
What are some lesser known attractions that visitors should visit?
I love MUHBA Museu d’Història de la Ciutat museum in Plaça del Rei. It is not well known but you can go underground to walk through Barcino (Roman Barcelona) which is the old Barcelona before Christ. It is full of remains of ancient times and you can see part of the original city. I find it very interesting and part of the history of the city.
Another place that sometimes is often forgotten is Sant Pau Hospital. It is also a modernist complex that is a 10 minute walk from Sagrada Familia. You can kill two birds with one stone by visiting both on the same trip.
How much time do you recommend that visitors spend in Barcelona?
I think that a week is a good length to start because you need some time to get to know the city. There are great day trips to do as well if you get tired of city attractions. Some of the day trips I recommend are Sitges, a beautiful coast town; Montserrat, our black virgin in great country side; and Rupit, a beautiful town with houses made from stone and a hanging bridge ( but you need to rent a car to go).
What is the best time of year to visit Barcelona?
Barcelona has a mild weather because of the sea so we do not have extreme temperatures. I recommend Spring time between April and May because it is warm but not as hot as the summer. The heat in Barcelona in summer is very humid and walking around all day can be difficult.
Finding good local restaurants can be challenging for visitors especially if they are from other countries. What local food specialties should visitors try? What local restaurants would you recommend for visitors?
That is the question I was looking for. Paella is a must but not everywhere. Sometimes I get sad when I see those poor tourists having a frozen paella (called Paellador) in Las Ramblas. It is very expensive and poor quality food. For Paella I recommend Arrosseria Xativa, El Nou Ramonet and la Barca del Salamanca and the areas to go for a Paella are Poblenou and Barceloneta.
I also recommend tapas. Bravas are my favorites but not all bravas are the “Catalan Bravas” kind with a mayonnaise sauce called all i oli (sauce made of garlic and oil). Check out my recommendations on the best bravas in Barcelona. You will not regret it.
Some tapas that you must try: Bravas, Bombas (mash potato filled in with meat and spicy sauce), Chocos (fried squid), Pimientos del Padrón (fried spicy peppers) and Croquetas (croquettes).
There are lots of kinds of tapas so ask the waiter what are the most typical so they can guide you. My recommendation is always see what other tables order and order the same if it looks amazing!
Location is important when visiting an unfamiliar city. What neighborhoods/districts do you recommend that visitors stay in?
This is very personal as you know everyone looks for a different thing or style of traveling but my personal choice would be near Sagrada Familia. Although it is a busy area it is very quite and you have places to eat and things to do around the area. If you have the budget to stay in the city center is a great place but I would not stay near las Ramblas or in Raval. If you don’t know these areas very well you might be staying somewhere is not very safe or a target place for lost tourists.
If you stay in the city center I would recommend around Born or in the upper part of Plaça Catalunya.
Gràcia is a great area as well with loads of places to go to eat and amazing shops. It is not a touristy area as there are no monuments but it is very well connected by public transport.
Besides eating and seeing the sights most travelers like to shop. What local shops would you recommend where they can find unique local products?
Mmm..that’s a good one. For a quick fix at the last minute you can go to El Corte Inglés Supermarket in Plaça Catalunya but if you have more time do not go there as it will be much more expensive than locals shops.
Recommended Local Specialty Shops
Embutidos – Mas
Iberian ham – Enrique Tomás
Cheese – Formatgeria la Seu
Sweet and Pastries – Bubó
Ice cream, Turrones and Horchatas – Planelles Donat
Are there any other recommendations that you have for visitors to Barcelona?
Barcelona is a safe city but there are pickpockets so watch out and keep your belonging attended at all times. Apart from that Barcelona is a fantastic city. Take the time to enjoy the sun, eat well and go shopping.
My special recommendation for you is to try the Trikkes. I have done a tour on them and apart from being very fun is a great way to visit the city in a guided tour! Have fun!
Let me know your thoughts about Barcelona.
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THE GOOGLE MAP BELOW WILL SHOW YOU THE LOCATIONS OF ALL MERIXTELL’S RECOMMENDATIONS.