Why You Should Slow Down in Barcelona

Discover the city’s unhurried pleasures.

By Chadner Navarro

With glorious year-round weather, a sparkling coastline, one-of-a-kind architecture, and some of the world’s most renowned culinary offerings, Barcelona has all the ingredients of an unforgettable getaway. But with so much to do, it’s easy for a visit to this Mediterranean metropolis to feel rushed, as if you’re just checking activities off a list. To truly get the most out of your vacation, make time for the city’s more leisurely wonders.

To Market

Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria (or La Boqueria) is one of the world’s most famous markets—and as a result, it has become one of the city’s most crowded attractions. Consider Mercat de Santa Caterina (16 Av. Francesc Cambó; 011-34-93-319-57-40; site in Spanish) instead. This market, while smaller than La Boqueria, has a much more laid-back atmosphere. Locals shop for fish, cheese, olive oil, and produce, but there are still restaurants where you can grab a light lunch, such as tapas bar Cuines Santa Caterina (011-34-932-689-918; lunch for two, $30*). You can tuck into seafood fideuà (a dish similar to paella but with noodles instead of rice) or a bowl of gazpacho here. Another plus: Mercat de Santa Caterina is an architectural marvel. Its roof is shaped like undulating waves, and if you head to the top of nearby Barcelona Cathedral, you can spot its brightly colored ceramic tiles.

House Visits

Antoni Gaudí’s works are well worth prioritizing, and if you want to see Casa Batlló (43 Passeig de Gràcia; 011-34-93-216-03-06; admission, from $30) or Sagrada Família (401 Carrer de Mallorca; admission, from $18), make sure to go at the right time so that you can better enjoy your visit. Generally, this means buying your tickets in advance online and selecting a time slot that lets you go right when the sites open to avoid the crowds.

Or you can visit other historic houses, ones that have escaped the masses who have gathered at Gaudí’s creations for years. Local travel agency The Treasures (33 Carrer de Bailen, Suite 2-1; 011-34-662-517-327; tours, from $413 for a day) can arrange private tours to lesser-known jewels such as Casa Ramos (30 Plaza de Lesseps), a privately owned Art Nouveau home that was used as a backdrop in the Pedro Almodóvar film All About My Mother. With the building’s dramatic Moorish arches, curvy fireplaces, colorful stained-glass windows, and beautiful gardens, there’s a lot to take in, and your guide might even arrange for you to have a cup of tea with the owners.

Hiking Trails

Between Barcelona’s buzzy beach scene and cosmopolitan streets, it’s often all too easy to overlook its inland outskirts. But there you’ll find natural wonders that might just make you forget you’re in Catalan’s busy capital. Parc de Collserola (92 Ctra. de l’Església; 011-34-932-803-552) is one of the world’s largest urban parks and a popular hangout for locals, who hike or go bird-watching here. The trail Carretera de las Aigües, which runs along the Collserola ridge, is especially beloved for its bike paths. You can ascend it with a bike, on foot, or on public transportation to take in views of Barcelona.

  • *Prices have been converted to U.S. dollars. Estimated meal prices do not include drinks, tax, or tip.
  • NOTE: Information may have changed since publication. Please confirm key details before planning your trip.
  • Published: June 2018