Barcelona has a well-documented tourist trail marking out the must see highlights of the city. However there’s an abundance of interesting places in the city that visitors aren’t made aware such as the Spanish Civil War bunkers or the open-air cinema in the mountain. Here’s a round up of Barcelona’s best-hidden gems worth checking out.
El Refugi 307:
This 400-metre tunnel offers a rare experience to understand what the living conditions were like during the Spanish Civil War. Based in Poble Sec this two metre underground tunnel is where people had to live during the war for protection from the bombings. There were thousands of similar tunnels built throughout Barcelona. This particular tunnel is now part of the Museu d’Historia de la Ciutat, a project devoted to restoring and teaching the history of the city. Inside of El Refugi 307 it’s possible to see the different rooms and to walk the full length of the tunnel. Visits are assisted by a guided tour and it’s highly recommended to book tickets in advance.
This Poble Nou based industrial complex was established in 1875 by businessmen Ramon Gal and Joan Puigsech and it was designed my Antoni Vila i Bruguera. In the 1970s it was reconverted in to light creative studios. Its been used for film sets, artists work space and events and currently there’re twenty different creative companies using the space. Visitors can enjoy wandering through the beautiful gardens and have lunch at the Cantina restaurant.
Poble Nou Park:
Near by to Palo Alto lies this eco-friendly park, which was designed by French architect Jean Nouvel in 2008. Nouvel’s aim was to create a winter sunshine spot. As the park is eco-friendly weeping willow trees have been utilised to absorb water and there is an irrigation system that collects ground water. There are two islands in the park and the old factory of Oliva Artés dwells on one of them. The gardens are made up of herbs, shrubbery and interesting architecture. Another part of the park is made up of purple plants and a crater that points towards the centre of the earth and connects with Guayaquil in Ecuador.
Sala Montjuic Open Air Cinema:
This is a great spot for film lovers. It’s open annually from 4th July until 5th August on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and is set within the walls of Montjuic Castle. There is live music before film begins. The films are classics and shown in the original versions with subtitles. Most people take a picnic, which can be enjoyed on the hill where there are magnificent views of Barcelona.
El Refugi 307
Address: Carrer Nou de la Rambla, 169
Phone: 932 562 100
Address: Carrer Pellaires 30-38
Phone: 933 070 974
Metro: at Selva de Mar.
Poble Nou Park
Address: Avinguda Diagonal, 130
Metro: Poble Nou
Sala Montjuic Open Air Cinema
Address: Carretera de Montjuic, 66
* Hatty is our Been there local for Barcelona. You can read her profile here: www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/articles/barcelona-local-hatty-copeman.jsp and follow her tips here: www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/travellers/barcahiddencorners.jsp
EatWith is a company in which you can book a dining experience with your choice of style of cuisine, price, location, and more. I really enjoyed soaking up the language and helping prepare the meal. It was a completely new experience that I would not have been able to partake in without EatWith.
Carrer d'Enric Granados is a beautiful, semi- pedestrianised street in the heart of Eixample, just a hop and a skip from Passeig de Gracia and Rambla Catalunya. The street is named after the Catalan pianist and composer Enric Granados who was born in Lleida in 1867. This cultural reference laid the groundwork for what was to come as the street now has an abundance of art galleries, restaurants, cafes and boutiques.
Most tourists are largely unaware of the marvels that this street has to offer however it’s one of the most wonderful spots in Barcelona. The leafy avenue has a much needed laid back vibe, offering an oasis away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Besides the little park based at the south end of the street there are also benches scattered throughout Enric Granados and outdoor seating in most cafés and restaurants, which offer the perfect antidote to unwind without disturbance.
Among Carrer d'Enric Granados’ offerings is the café/ gallery Cosmo, which is based at number 3 in the lower part of the street. Cosmo is the epitome of its bohemian surroundings and is a fantastic place to go and relax with a coffee whilst enjoying the art on display. In addition this contemporary café has a great selection of snacks and beverages available.
A little bit up the street at number 5 is Norman Vilalta, the Argentinian shoemaker, who creates beautiful, tailored leather shoes from his artisanal workshop. Vilalta uses high quality materials that are reflected in the prices.
At number 9 is the Ego Gallery, a modern art and photography space, which displays an array of reputable work. Many of the artists are international photographers and painters.
Further up the Enric Granados at number 24 is the butchers Deli Argentino. This popular and well-thought-of butchers sells good quality Argentinian meat, empanadas, deserts and wine.
For the film boffins out there be sure to check out Video Club, the first vintage video shop to open in Barcelona. Located at number 30, the shop has a library of over 50,000 films mostly available on DVD. The majority of the films are old flicks although recent releases are also obtainable.
Another Argentinian spot on the street that’s definitely worth checking out is Hábaluc. Based at number 41 this popular restaurant serves a mean burger and other tasty Argentinian dishes and a selection of fresh fish.
Nearby at number 44 is L'appartement, which is perfect for those looking for well-sourced, unique interiors. The boutique’s beautiful furnishings range from furniture to wall decorations and other bits and bobs for the house.
For the art lovers head just a couple of doors up to Galería AND, an outstanding art gallery, based at number 49. The gallery exhibits up-and-coming, modern art from local artists.
For the carnivores El Filete Ruso based at number 95, is a must. This gourmet restaurant serves delicious hamburgers, with the specialty on the menu being the filete ruso, which is a homemade, thin burger, packed full of aromatic scrumptiousness.
Alternatively for pizza Enric Granados has one of the best pizzerias in town: Solo Pizza, the family run restaurant, located at number 108. This Italian eatery, which has a fantastic reputation, only serves pizza. The same family also own the next-door joint aptly named No Solo Pizza as it serves everything apart from pizza.
For those with a sweet tooth head further up the road to number 145 where Cup & Cake is based. This bakery is a newer addition to Enric Granados and the sight of the mouth-watering delicacies on display will lure you in quickly. The multi-coloured, liberally iced cupcakes are the specialty and there is also fresh fruitcakes and bread to choose from.
Carrer Enric Granados, 83, 08008 Barcelona, Spain
Google map: bit.ly/1bv9w0Z
Nearest station: Diagonal or Universitat
* Hatty is our Been there local for Prague. You can read her profile here: www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/articles/barcelona-local-hatty-copeman.jsp and follow her tips here: www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/travellers/barcahiddencorners.jsp
A little over hour outside Barcelona lies the picturesque Pantá de Sau, a reservoir created on the River Ter. When Franco built the dam in 1962, the village that stood nearby, Sant Roma de Sau was lost, the inhabitants given two weeks to move out. Most left the area, but some stayed behind. Among these were the grandparents of our tour guide, Marc, who own Hotel La Riba which overlooks the dam and part of the reservoir.
Meeting Marc could be a tip in itself - a 28 year-old farmer (the family farm supports the family run hotel), who spent three months in Inverness recently learning how to fell large trees in order to heat and power the hotel in a sustainable manner. When he's not busy doing these things, he'll either be kayaking on the reservoir, running the mountain paths or riding his horse-drawn carriage for a wedding. For over three hours Marc entertained us with his knowledge of and enthusiasm.
The reservoir itself is overlooked by cliffs on all sides. From memory, only three buildings were visible: the local kayaking club, the hotel and another hotel on the other side of the reservoir. After a brief explanation on how to use the kayak safely, we set off for the church of Sant Roma, which can still be seen in the middle of the water (adorned with a Catalan independence flag). After stopping for pictures, Marc explained that this was the church his grandparents married in (and while the water level was low enough a few years ago, he paddled through!)
After another 30 minutes paddling, we reached a secluded cove, where it was time to leave the kayaks and begin our hike to the top of the cliffs. The hike was approximately 30 minutes up, including a pause to take pictures. It's challenging, but most active people would be fine with the path, and it's through trees and woodland so there's no danger of taking a short-cut back to your kayak. When you emerge from the trees you're at one of the high points of the area, and the views are stunning and well worth the calories expended.
On the way back down, we reached a pool near the kayaks. Marc encouraged us to get in. Don't. There's a reason he doesn't get in himself, it's freezing. Unfortunately although I am capable of thinking and acting it's rarely in that order (it's worth noting that the lake itself was of a perfect temperature for swimming, but this pool was in the shade).
Once we reached the kayaks we headed back towards the hotel, where Marc enthusiastically showed us the pigs, cows, dogs, horses and just about everything else he had there. I'm pretty sure it wasn't part of the tour but it was interesting none-the-less. After that, we stopped for a bite to eat in the restaurant, which I highly recommend (especially the burger and the milk with rice for desert).
I've lived in Barcelona for a little more than a year and this is probably the best thing I've done since being here.
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