13 Secret Spots in Barcelona You Won't Read About in Guidebooks

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Tara Jessop

In the age of Facebook and Instagram it seems everywhere that’s worth visiting is already in guide books before you’ve even had chance to visit. Fortunately, in a city like Barcelona, there’s so much on offer that it’s possible to find hidden gems before they become victims of their own success. Here are 13 of our favourite spots in Barcelona which you need to check out now.

La Bodega d'en Rafael

Bar, Market, Bodega

La Bodega d’en Rafael

A warm welcome, a real neighbourhood feel and incredibly cheap prices are what make La Bodega d’en Rafael a real local favourite. Located just opposite the Sant Antoni market, this cozy tapas bar serves a variety of humble every day dishes and serves as the neighbourhood meeting point from first thing in the morning to late at night.

La Bodega d’en Rafael, Carrer de Manso, 52, Barcelona, Spain

Mossèn Costa i Llobera Gardens

Mossèn Costa i Llobera Gardens

While green spaces are not abundant in Barcelona, there are nevertheless some remarkable public gardens. If the Park Ciutadella is the most famous – and consequently the busiest – others such as the Mossèn Costa i Lobrera gardens are often overlooked. The gardens are populated with hundreds of varieties of cacti and succulent plants and is one of the largest of its kind in Europe.

The Mossèn Costa i Lobrera Gardens, Ctra. de Miramar, 50-58, Barcelona, Spain

Carrer Peu de la Creu

If El Born is known as the place to shop for independent designers and artisan boutiques, there is a handful of fantastic stores located around the Carrer Peu de la Creu in El Raval. Grey Street is an independently run boutique concept store which sells everything from jewellery to underwear, crockery and posters. While across the road at Antique Store you’ll find original vintage and retro furniture from the fifties, sixties and seventies.

Can Margarit

Restaurant, Spanish

Artichokes cooked on the grill © Joselu Blanco
© Joselu Blanco / Flickr
Open only at night, Can Margarit is a Poble Sec institution that serves traditional Catalan food in a remarkable setting. Step through the door and you’ll first be invited to help yourself to a glass of local wine or an aperitif, before being showed through to the back which is reminiscient of an old cellar with its large wooden barrels and stone walls. This is the kind of place which serves snails in sauce and grilled rabbit in generous portions.

The Arús Public Library

The Arús Public Library

These days public buildings often prioritise functionality over aesthetics which makes the Arús public library all the more remarkable. Originally a private home and a Freemason lodge and library, the building was saved from destruction during the Franco dictatorship only to be opened to the public as a library after Franco’s death. It’s wooden shelves and glass-fronted cabinets are filled with ancient manuscripts and the whole thing feels as if it were taken straight out of a Harry Potter novel.

Arús public library, Passeig de Sant Joan, 26, Barcelona, Spain

Bodega La General

Bar, Cafe, Bodega, Mediterranean, Spanish, Vegetarian

The reading room of the Arùs public library
© Kippelboy/Wikipedia
A neighbourhood which has so far eluded the guidebooks is that of Sants, located past Plaça Espanya on the way out of the city. Here you’ll find authentic bodegas which draw the crowds during lunchtime every Saturday for vermouth or the mid-morning crowd after a café con leche and a chat with the barman. The Bodega La General is an altogether more recent addition to the scene, with a fresher, more stylised décor but all the warmth and familiarity of an old neighbourhood haunt.

Els Sortidors del Parlament

Bar, Bodega

Els Sortidors del Parlament

If superlatives are what you’re after when assessing a place then look away: Els Sortidors del Parlament is neither the oldest, nor the coolest, nor the cheapest. It is however a respectable tapas bar serving quality cured meats and cheeses, with a wide range of wines by the bottle and beers on tap, all in a warm, inviting setting with friendly staff. A combination of elements which isn’t always that easy to find in Barcelona these days.

Els Sortidors del Parlament, Carrer del Parlament, 53, Barcelona, Spain

The Can Deu Civic Centre

The Can Deu Civic Centre

Another public building which packs a stylistic punch, the Can Deu Civic Centre is a sumptuous Modernist mansion which was erected in the 19th century. Commissioned by local spirit distiller and merchant Josep Deu i Estacó, the building was briefly occupied by militias during the Spanish Civil War before later coming under ownership of the local council in 1984. As well as organising events, workshops and shows, there is also a café located on the ground floor with a leafy courtyard.

Can Deu Civic Centre, Plaça de la Concòrdia, 13, Barcelona, Spain

Bodega J. Cala

Bar, Bodega

Bodega J. Cala

Once the industrial heart of Barcelona, today Poblenou’s warehouses are more likely to be home to artists’ studios than sweatshops. Yet it’s not all art galleries and concepts stores, with places like the Bodega J Cala seeming firmly grounded in the time of days gone by. Open only during lunchtime, the bodega specialises in vermouth, which is stored in wooden barrels behind the bar, and serves marinated anchovies that have people coming from far and wide to this often overlooked part of town.

Bodega J. Cala, Carrer de Pere IV, 460, Barcelona, Spain

Piramidón Art Centre

Piramidón Art Centre

As you approach this high-rise building located on the far north edge of Barcelona, you wouldn’t expect to find a cutting-edge art centre located on the 16th floor of the building. Piramidón was founded with the mission of giving artists a space to work within Barcelona and to help promote their work to a wider audience – a studio and an art gallery. Visitors can admire a collection of resident artists’ work on show but also get to know the artists themselves through public talks and events.

Piramidón Art Centre, C/ Concili de Trento, 313, Barcelona, Spain

1ª Salon

5º 1ª Salon

Named quite simply after its location in the first flat of the fifth floor of an apartment block round the corner from Plaça Catalunya, 5º1ª is unlike any hair salon you’ll find in the city. Walk through the door on a Friday or Saturday and you’re more than likely to have a cocktail thrust upon you in minutes. Possibly the most exclusive salon in Barcelona, the price list is fully disclosed on the website so there are no unpleasant surprises.

5º1ª salon, Ronda de la Universitat, 20, Barcelona, Spain

Granja Petitbo

Granja Petitbo

Old leather sofas, wooden floors, a rocking chair that looks like it’s been here forever, an old school map on the wall… sounds like every millenial’s dream, right? Located on Passeig Sant Joan, not far from Plaça Tetuan, Granja Petitbo is an all-day café and eatery serving contemporary home-cooking from breakfast to dinnertime, including plenty of eggs and hearty pasta dishes as well home-made cakes.

Granja Petitbo, Passeig de Sant Joan, 82, Barcelona, Spain

Bar La Plata

Bar, Spanish, Tapas, Pub Grub

Fried anchovies
© Javier Lastras

If you’re going to have only four tapas on your menu then you’re going to want to make sure they’re good. The fact that the likes of great catalan chef Ferran Adrià have patronised the Bar La Plata can only attest to the fact that they’re on to something good. Possibly one of the few remaining authentic tapas bars in the Gothic Quarter, the Bar La Plata may not be the best kept secret in town but does considerably well at retaining its authentic spirit and charm considering its location.

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