Like pale-skinned tourists flocking to Barcelona’s beaches, travel writers flock to the almighty ‘Top 10 Things To Do In Barcelona’ genre.We’re guilty of this too. We made our own list a few months ago.
What results is a congested world of Google search results rife with information both solid and seedy. And in the midst of all this written riff-raff, you might think, ‘Is there anything I shouldn’t do?’
There’s so much information out there about what you should do in Barcelona that readers have forgotten for every yin there has to be a yang and for every up there has to be a down.
In that spirit, we’ve created a list of Barcelona tourism icons that might be a little bit overrated. We’re not saying you shouldn’t do these things, but we are saying there are other options out there with stronger ties to local culture.
Top 5 Overrated Things To Do In Barcelona
Sangria: A Sweet Sip from the South
Gasp! Local travel snobs will tell you in no uncertain terms that sangria, tapas and flamenco are not! Catalan traditions. They’re right. These cultural nuances came to Barcelona by way of residents of southern Spain who came to the city in decades past looking for work
Our Take on the Purple Stuff
We admit the culture snobs are right on this one, but we also admit that these non-Barcelona cultural traditions are now solid part of the city’s culinary heritage. One of those regional imports is the almighty sangria, often served in outrageously large glasses with bright chunks of citrus. We’re not saying sangria is bad. Not by a longshot. We love sangria.
|Photo courtesy of TripAdvisor|
Vermouth: The Barcelona Alternative
But, if you want to go for a drink that has more of a local flavor try vermouth. Made by mixing wine with sugar and a blend of spices, this delicious creation is all the rage these days. The advantages to trying vermouth are numerous.
One of our favorite things about vermouth is the locations where you can get a decent glass of the stuff. The bodegas in which the drink is commonly served usually have their own unique atmosphere which includes (usually) the very barrels in which they make the vermouth.
The drink comes to your table in several different forms. Most likely you’ll receive your drink straight, or with an olive and a squirt of gassy water (sifón). If you’re lucky, they´ll bring you the sifón and you can shoot your own amount into your glass. Be carfeul…those cannisters of water can be pretty powerful!
If you must have sangria you should try it with cava, the Catalan version of Champange.
Barceloneta Beach: Bronzed Bodies and Mediterranean Sun
Nearly every list you read about Barcelona will include Barceloneta beach. It’s the place to be. The beach is easily accessible by bus and metro. It’s one of the few beaches in Europe that exists side by side with the edge of the metropolis.
Our Take On The ‘Best Beach’
Everyone knows that, too, and that’s why the stretch of sand is packed should-to-shoulder every summer.
Vendors troll the waterfront hawking beer, massages, dreadlocks, cocktails and water. Pickpockets slink around hoping to score unwatched purses and bags.
Plus, all the foot traffic and tourist troupes create sand that leaves a brown film on your legs. Part of us cringes when we write these things but they are as true as the Mediterranean is blue.
|Photo courtesy of Touristlink.com|
Head North: The Barcelona Alternative
Now, we know that many beachgoers love crowded beaches full of action. We can’t deny that. But we do recommend you head farther north to more peaceful beaches where you don’t have to hopscotch over towels and trash to find the perfect patch of sand. Less tourists means less vendors, less pickpockets and less, well, less everything!
Barcelona Aquarium: The Life Aquatic
We have to admit that Barcelona’s Port Vell aquarium is a marvel from the outside. Bold architectural designs make the aquarium’s building stand out. Many coupon booklets include discounts to the aquarium. But don’t be fooled.
Our Take on the Water Wonderland
What you find inside the walls is a big letdown. The attraction takes about 15 minutes to walk through and minus the tunnel that takes you through the shark tank there isn’t much to justify the 20 euros you’d spend to get in. We think Barcelona is an amazing city with outstanding tourist attractions. The aquarium just isn’t one of them.
|Photo courtesy of the Barcelona Aquarium|
Barcelona Zoo: The BCN Alternative
If you need to get your animal fix, head to the Barcelona Zoo. The tickets are slightly less expensive than the aquarium. The zoo’s dolphin show is a big hit. Plus, the zoo is located at the south end of Parc de la Ciutadella, the city’s biggest green space.
The Power of Paella
Ugh. Yes, we said it! And it pains us to say it because we love paella. But we have to tell it like it is. Most lists and sites will tell you paella is the heartbeat of Barcelona cuisine…the veritable Holy Grail of BCN’s food scene. The aromas are heavenly and the colors are amazing.
Our Take on the Eye-Catching Eats
Though the rice and seafood (usually) mix is a fantastic meal with its own merits, local cuisine is a Gaudi-esque mosaic of foods that goes far beyond the yellow stuff. Plus, many of the paella places you’ll encounter on Las Ramblas serve frozen — not homemade — paella.
|Photo courtesy of eatshayne.wordpress.com|
Catalán Cuisine: The Barcelona Alternative
We say expand your culinary borders and head north of Avenue Diagonal to find your food. Experiment with local eats that will offer a merry ‘Hello!’ to your tastebuds.
Scan the menu and try butifarra (Catalan sausage), torrada (toasted bread with a variety of toppings), calcots (a springtime onion roasted on a grill and usually served with selection of sausages) and any number of seafood offerings including mejillones (mussels), pescaditos fritos (tiny fish, breaded and fried) and bacalao (cod).
If you must have paella, Thursday is your best bet. This is a traditional paella day in which many local restaurants will feature paella as one of their main dishes.
Feasting on Las Ramblas
Before you light the torches and try and burn down our blog, let us explain ourselves. Las Ramblas is a pretty amazing place because it’s eastern end includes the Christopher Columbus monument, it’s western end concludes at the ever-beautiful Plaza Catalunya, it’s middle section is home to La Boqueria market and it also includes a mosaic by Joan Miró. BUT….
Our Take on the Foodie Footpath
The food along Las Ramblas while tempting is a disappointing lot of sometimes-frozen and almost always overpriced fare that you can find much cheaper and at a much higher quality just a few minutes’ walk from the ever-popular thoroughfare.
We know it’s going to be hard to say no to a terrace-style meal at any one of the hundreds of tables and chairs that line Las Ramblas. But, if you want good Spanish or Catalan food at good prices, venture out beyond the street.
|Photo courtesy of www.thetasteful.me/2013/11/las-ramblas.html|
La Boqueria & More: The Barcelona Alternative
In fact, you don’t have to go far. If you don’t mind crowds and craziness, La Boqueria market has plenty of bar-style restaurants where you can pull up a stool and have some amazing food.
Here’s our tips…tried and true — don’t eat at a place that has a poster of paella, and most of the places on Las Ramblas (minus a few exceptions) will overcharge your for drinks. You can find better!
No Worries: Say “Adios!” to Your Remorse
Do you feel a tinge of guilt about your recent Barcelona trip….like you got suckered into eating paella and washing it down with a cold glass of sangria? Don’t worry about it!
Like we said, we’re not telling you that you shouldn’t do these things. We’ve had sangria and we’ve had paella and they’re both fantastic. We’ve been to the aquarium and it was…well….it was pretty bad. Like, don’t-go-to-the-aquarium bad. Barceloneta is a spectacle and Las Ramblas is a sight to behold.
Take these suggestions with a grain of salt. We consider ourselves experts on Barcelona but we don’t consider ourselves as the guardians of the city. You don’t have to listen to us.
Enjoy Barcelona the way you want to enjoy it. If you suddenly are craving something more than what you’re finding in the top 10 lists, then you know where to find us!