I arrived in Barcelona, with barely enough personal space to breathe. I remember feeling completely shocked as I stood in the street staring at the people taking photographs of the Gaudí architecture or eating ice cream on the park benches.
Prior to my arrival, I had attempted to mentally prepare myself during the 17h+ flight for the chaos and crowds offered by this city. From the pictures, I knew that there would be little to no breathing room.
Walking in a straight line? That was definitely out of the question.
But despite my best efforts to mentally prepare myself, this city was going to swallow me whole. I knew that it was listed as one of the world’s hottest tourist destination, I just didn’t quite grapple how popular it was.
So there I was, standing in the streets of Barcelona and trapped in a crowd, unable to move.
Fortunately, my stay was lengthy enough to provide me with enough time to find some of the city’s hidden gems (away from tourists like myself). Plus, I had a few locals as guides.
Head further north-east from La Sagrada de la Familia to find quieter park and residential areas
During my stay in this city, I lived for two weeks with a host family a 10 minute walk away from La Sagrada de la Familia. Many of the locals recommend staying further north and more inland, which helps you get away from the traffic and tourists.
Many of my friends were surprised to learn that I was living in the neighborhood El Camp de l’Arpa del Clot. It may appear to be far away from the central hub; but, fear not, the metro system is fantastic! I was able to get from one side of the city to the other in less than 20 minutes.
Visit the Barceloneta Beach at night
One of my favorite memories of travelling to Barcelona was visiting the beach at night. With a group of friends, someone would volunteer to bring a volleyball and speakers. We would then play in the empty courts and blast reggaeton music while having our own little fiesta. (If you visit Spain in the summer, the temperature at night is also a lot more comfortable).
Just keep a careful eye on your belongings, there are many sellers walking around the beach and ready to snatch any unattended bags!
Walk along the water in Parc Fluvial de Besos
When I visited this park for the first time, I noticed that there weren’t as many tourists in this part of the city; mostly families, kids and the elderly occupy this space.
This park also provides a spectacular view of the Spanish landscape and water.
Try dining at local cafes such as Ramblero de la Boqueria
This is a chic and fun restaurant that offers amazing Spanish cuisine.
My most important suggestion for any traveler planning on visiting Barcelona is to stay away from the restaurants and clubs near the water. Not only are many of them rat-invested, but the prices are insanely high.
Try to move away from the central hub around Las Ramblas and, instead, eat at a tapas bars like this one!
Stay in L’Eixample District for the best housing options
If you want to get away from the crowds and the noise and stay in a quiet, safe neighborhood than this is the best place in Barcelona. It’s closer to the central hub of the city, but still provides affordable housing options.