Barcelona is a magical city, the largest metropolis on the Mediterranean Sea where thousands of tourists come to visit from all over the world. And what’s not to love? The beach, sites, architecture, art, and of course food, have become magnets for everyone who wanders the city’s streets.
But in order to get a feel for the real Barna (the nickname for the city used by its residents), then you should go off the beaten path to places such as the Plaza Reial, The Sunday Book Market, The Ruins of Temple of Augustus, and Ermita de Santa Madrona. These are some of Barna’s local gems that will make you feel like a Catalan.
Plaça Reial (Royal Square)
Plaça Reial, located in the heart of the Gothic Quarter, is also called the “world’s most joyous street” from the surplus of various types of entertainers like cartoonists, painters, mime artists and jugglers. You can sit at the tables of the Glaciar Bar for a mid-day cerveza or orxata (if you want something refreshing that’s non-alcoholic), and watch people as they pass by the fountain of the Three Graces. If you sit in the square, you will notice two street lamps on both sides of the central fountain, which were designed by Antoni Gaudí, and were put in place in 1879.
If you’ve ever watched “Perfume”, you may have noticed a historic shop called Herboristeria del Rei, which was featured in the film. This is a historic shop located in the Plaza that was founded in 1823—the first herb store in Catalonia. Step inside to shop for natural remedies and cooking spices, which make great gifts to bring back home to your friends and family.
Don’t have plans at night? Plaça Reial is one of Barcelona’s busiest, most vibrant spots. You can stop by the Sidecar Factory Club for some Rock & Pop music, Jamboree for live Jazz sessions, or Tarantos for the best Flamenco shows in Barcelona.
Are you a book lover? Then you must drop by Mercat Dominical del Llibre de Sant Antoni (The Sunday Book Market), located in the quarter of Sant Antoni. On Sunday mornings, the street becomes full of stands of old books, new books, comics, DVDs, and vinyl records. And if you’ve found a few good reads to take back home with you, stop at a few local bars around the area like Casa Martino or Café Manila for midday vermouth.
You can’t go to Barcelona and not head over to The Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria (also known as La Boqueria), located in La Rambla. It’s a perfect colorful place to taste a little bit of everything, offering food from all over the world. The motto of this market is, ‘If you can eat it, we have it.’”
The Ruins of Temple of Augustus
The Temple of Augustus in Barcelona was a Roman temple built during the Imperial period in the first century BC in honor of Emperor Augustus. At one point in history, the temple was demolished, but the pillars remained intact. It wasn’t until the 19th century that the ruins were discovered when three of its columns appeared on the construction site of Centre Excursionista de Catalunya.
To see a piece of history that is over 2,000 years old, head over to the Gothic Quarter (10, Calle Paradís) to see the remains of the Temple.
Ermita de Santa Madrona
Everyone visits The Sagrada Familia, but not everyone goes to Ermita de Santa Madrona, the only chapel to survive the Middle Ages, dating back to 1403. Located at the bottom of Calle Montanyans, Ermita de Santa Madrona is filled with mysticism because of its stories. According to legend, the remains of Saint Madrona (patron saint of Barcelona since 1563) were transported by merchants from Thessalonica in Greece. The ship sunk and became shipwrecked across the Monjuïc hill. It’s said that from this moment, the saint wished to stay in that place, thus the chapel was built in her honor.
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