This was our third trip to Barcelona, Spain, truly one of my favorite cities in the world. But this time, it felt like it was our first.
In the past, we have always booked hotels close to Las Ramblas, the main tourist drag between Placa Cataluyna and the water. The Gothic Quarter is on one side, and the famous La Boqueria market is on the other. It is the epicenter of tourism in Barcelona. Street performers and touts are rampant on Las Ramblas, as are pick pockets. It is still fun, but it is uber touristy.
We hung around these neighborhoods during our first two visits because we didn’t know any better. We had a couple of places that we frequented, for roast suckling pig and for tapas. During our second visit it was all very familiar, and very comforting. It is what we imagined our third trip would be – reorienting ourselves with our old stomping grounds and experiencing Barcelona much like we had before.
Check out more tips in our Ultimate Spain Food Guide – How To Travel in Spain
Avoiding Touristy Areas in Barcelona
This time, though, we rented an apartment in a completely different part of town, near the Arc de Triomf. Before this, I didn’t even know there was an Arc de Triomf in Barcelona. We were nowhere near Las Ramblas or the Gothic Quarter. It was like experiencing Barcelona for the very first time. We were living like locals in Barcelona, and I loved it!
We wandered the neighborhood and explored little bars where there were few other tourists in sight. We bar hopped in El Born, an increasingly trendy little neighborhood, which is quickly becoming an alternative to the Gothic Quarter. We ended up one night in a little passageway bar surrounded by Spanish hipsters. We sat in one of the quiet squares, sipping cava, and eating tapas. One morning, we stopped for churros and chocolat.
We shopped where the “locals” shopped, ate where the locals ate, and we drank where the locals drank. We visited Santa Catarina market, just a five minute walk from the apartment. We grabbed an early morning wine, some tapas, purchased a bottle of wine and some cheese from one of the gorgeous food stalls and walked back to the apartment. I imagined this was what we would do if we were truly living like locals in Barcelona. I final felt like I was experiencing Spain food travel as it was meant to be.
How had we missed this experience during our first two times in Barcelona?
Living Like Locals in Barcelona
In fact, on one of our last days in town, we walked from one side of the city to the other. We quickly passed through the Gothic Quarter, almost embarrassed that this was all we knew of Barcelona before. Once we reached the eastern edge, and continued a few more blocks, we found our way into El Born, and into our neighborhood, each of which seemed like light years away from the bustle of the Gothic Quarter. How, in past trips, had we been so close to such an amazing neighborhood, but failed to just cross the busy street to find it?
Well, during those trips we were tourists, through and through. We wandered the streets that surrounded our fancy Las Ramblas hotel.
In our cozy little apartment was very European, surrounded by cafes, wide boulevards, and parks where people brought their children to play on the weekends, we felt like we were living like locals in Barcelona. We sat on a bench in the park, soaking in the autumn sun. We watched the dogs run and play and the events and festivities that took place in the shadows of the Arc de Triomf. It made me want to move to Barcelona!
I don’t know that I would ever return to Las Ramblas or Placa Cataluyna to stay during future visits. I have always enjoyed Barcelona, but this trip I truly fell in love with it, because I got to see Barcelona as the locals do.
We were hosted by GowithOh for this experience. They are experts in helping people create their own experience living like locals in loads of cities across Europe.
If you click through, I do get a smidgeon of a little something something but, as always, my opinions are my own!
Amber Hoffman, food and travel writer behind With Husband In Tow, is a recovering attorney and professional eater, with a passion for finding new food and drink destinations. She lives with her husband, Eric, in Girona, Catalonia, Spain. Together they have traveled to over 70 countries.