Barcelona is the second-largest city in Spain after Madrid. Millions of tourists from around the world flock to experience Barcelona every year, and it’s easy to see why. A rare jewel of European destinations due to the fact it possesses the scarce commodity of having a lively and crowded city centre coupled with gorgeous beaches stretching along the Mediterranean.
I do not doubt that if you have already been, you’ll have frantically tried to tick off all the classic Barcelona attractions in a hectic 3-day weekend. The whacky and infamous architecture of Antoni Gaudi at places like Park Güell and the Basílica de la Sagrada Familia, the divine and romantic Gothic Quarter or a day sipping sangria and eating tapas in the sun on one of the famous beaches.
As amazing as those traditional things are, there is so much more to the Catalan capital and a few slightly more unusual activities and sights to see. From a monthly hipster festival to an ice bar on the beach, if you fancy taking a trip off the beaten path and exploring the more exciting ways of seeing Barcelona, I recommend reading on to find out what the other unusual things to do in Barcelona are!
Along the famous La Barceloneta Beach, you can find everything you’d want for a day by the ocean. Sand, sea, food and an ice bar. Yep, an ice bar. With incredible (ice, obviously) sculptures, temperatures below -5 and drinks as cold as, erm, ice, this strange place is a must-visit after soaking up some sun.
They claim to be the first ice bar on the beach (wait, there are others?!) and there is a cute patio area overlooking the ocean for those not brave enough to face the sub-zero temperatures. There is also the fact that the entire place is 80’s themed. So, everything inside makes you think this is how a bar would’ve looked during that decade if we’d suffered an ice age. Before you ask, there is a Space Invaders arcade game carved out of ice, yes.
Don’t worry, you won’t have to take any warm clothing either, the friendly staff will provide you with big warm jackets and gloves. It’s almost as if they knew you’d only have packed your bathing suits…
Football is the sporting religion in the Catalan capital. The famous Camp Nou stadium hosts FC Barcelona and some of the best players in the world. And while I wouldn’t dismiss visiting it, another sport could tickle your fancy. Plus, you can watch it (and boats) while on the beach!
Ta-ka-tá is a relatively unknown game to the broader public, but very popular with the locals. It’s sort of a cross between tennis, fist-ball and volleyball… The name originated because of the sound the ball (pretty much a tennis ball) makes as it hits your hand. Genius.
While there are no official organisations that host the events, there are nets and matches you can find at the Club Natació Atlètic Barceloneta. The game can be incredibly fast-paced and exciting to watch, so putting your feet up on the beach and enjoying a match can be a great way to spend a lazy day.
If you’re feeling slightly more adventurous, why not ask around and see if you can get involved as well. The locals would probably admire your knowledge even more so if you mentioned Ta-ka-tá!
Most people have had a cheeky pillow fight at some point in their lives. But have you had one with thousands of people gathered in a city centre? If you haven’t and think it sounds like something you’ve dreamt about, then head down to Plaça de Catalunya in April for the aptly named International Pillow Fight Day.
You will find people wearing ridiculous clothing and swinging fluffy pillows here, there and everywhere. It really is like an odd dystopian mess with feathers flying high into the sky and deep into your hair. They do obviously ask you to bring very soft pillows; otherwise, it could get out of hand!
Keep checking various local sites to see what date in April it takes place as it seems to change year from year.
During the summer months, Barcelona opens its spaces up to some amazing outdoor cinemas. Fancy watching a classic Spanish tale in the confines of a majestic castle? Take a trip to Sala Montjuïc in the evening, where you can sit back with a picnic and a drink or two and watch a film on a big screen.
I’d recommend taking a picnic (Extra Tip: Get all your picnic food at the famous Mercat de Sant Josep de La Boquería. It’s an amazing and colourful market, and you won’t believe how fresh all the produce looks and tastes!). Get there nice and early before the sunset as well as you’ll see some gorgeous views across the city.
Plus, from about 8/8:30 there’ll be live music - everything from jazz and blues to folk and flamenco. Check out their website before you head down to see what’s on!
If you love the idea of a big open-aired theatre but would prefer it be by the sea with your feet heaped in the sand, then fear not, you can also find one at Cine Lluire a la Platja. The shows begin at 9 pm every Friday, and it’s also worth checking out what they’ve got on as they do animated films sometimes, so that could be the perfect one for the whole family!
If you haven’t been to Barcelona before and aren’t a skater yourself, you may not know that skateboarding is immensely popular here among both locals and riders from all over the world. It’s an absolute mecca for skaters due to how the city is designed, and it can be quite fun to sit back and watch some of the world's best attempt their latest tricks amongst some incredible architecture.
The area around the Museum of Contemporary Art is a particular haven, and there is a specific time allotted on Tuesday and Sunday evenings for skateboarders, although you’ll often see people skating most days anyway.
Located at the top of Turó de la Rovira in the Carmel neighbourhood, there is one of those jaw-dropping places to go in Barcelona where you are just high enough (but not too high for the fearful!) to see panoramic views of the city.
You can either embark on a steady hike up the hills or grab a taxi. Not only will you have incredible sight, but you will also find yourself in a fascinating part of Spanish history. The remains of the anti-aircraft battery, which helped Barcelona defend themselves from attacks during the Civil War, are spread across the area. You can also find plenty of information in the relatively new museum that was opened here a decade ago.
The perfect mix of history, culture and instagrammable pictures!
Imagine being able to go to a little mini-festival on the first weekend of every month where the entrance fee can be as low as €3. Sounds dreamy, right?! Well, in the quaint small area of El Poblenou, this fantasy has been made into a reality.
Firstly, the area itself has a very ‘hipster’ vibe with chic cafes and trendy bars surrounding converted warehouses that are now inhabited by designers, artists and tech gurus. If that sort of insight into one side of Barcelona life interests you, then coinciding a trip to the Palo Market Fest would be right up your street.
The market resides in this charming and leafy ‘garden’ (it’s way bigger than that!) where you can find one-of-a-kind clothing at boutique local shops and fantastic pop-up bars and eateries that will satisfy your tastebuds like nowhere else in the city. Later in the afternoon, you’ll even be treated to some amazing local musicians. Check out their website for a guide of what sort of music will be on.
With a predominantly local crowd, it’ll give you a real look at how some Catalans enjoy their weekends. Plus, to top it all off, it’s easily accessible via the metro - get down to Selva de Mar on the #4 line.
Barcelona offers so much for every type of traveller, and I hope this list helps point you to a few things away from the crowds and the traditional activities in this great city.
This article was first published on Oct 27, 2019 17:35 UTC.
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