One of the best ways to quickly get to know a city you are visiting for several days is to take a free walking tour when you first arrive. Especially across Europe, there are a handful of companies that provide free walking tours in different cities.
These free tours provide a more interactive and historical approach to a city than you would normally get just walking around with a printed travel guide.
Barcelona, Spain has an endless list of places and museums to visit and photograph. To get a better overview of the city we joined the tour guides with HostelCulture.
The first walking tour we took is the free tour of Barcelona. Our tour guide was named Alvi, an amazing history and food enthusiast. The tour starts at 10:30AM or 3:00PM daily, on the steps of the Gothic Cathedral on Pla de la Seu.
Plaça Sant Felipe Neri
The Saint Felipe Neri Plaza is a small and quiet square near the Gothic Cathedral. The square boast a church, hotel, beautiful fountain in the middle.
This plaza has important history from the Spanish civil war. During a bombing of the city, a bomb fell in the square and did not immediately explode. The church also runs a school, so after the bomb fell, everyone tried running to a nearby bunker. As the schoolchildren were running by, the bomb exploded, killing two adults and 40 kids
The plaza is also featured in Woody Allen’s film Vicky Cristina Barcelona.
Mount Taber is the home to the first Roman settlement in the city. The term mount is used loosely, as it is only 16.9 meters above sea level. Don’t get too tired on the hike up.
At the summit you can see some 2000 year old Columns of the Temple of Augustus Barcelona, in a very small courtyard.
Baixada de Santa Eulalia
Saint Eulalia is the co-patron saint of Barcelona, who according to the story, at age 13 was tortured and killed for being catholic.
Legend has it that this street is where Saint Eulalia was rolled down a hill in a wine barrel full of glass and nails. When she was taken out of the barrel at the bottom alive, it was decided to finally kill her.
With an interesting history, it is now just a street with a hill.
Plaça del Rei
The King’s Plaza is primarily surrounded by the Grand Royal Palace. Home to the Kings of Aragon, which features one giant room the size of the palace, used for state presentations.
It is remembered as the center of the Spanish Inquisition, where public killings would take place.
Plaça de Sant Jaume
St James Square is the center of old city Barcelona. It served as a Roman forum 2000 years ago, and to this day serves as the center of laws for the region, with the Palace of the Generalitat of Catalonia and the City Hall on either side.
Castellers (Human castle)
Human castles are the most well known Catalan sport. Groups work together to build the tallest human tower. The small child on the top of the tower needs to show four fingers, for four red stripes on the Catalan flag.
The main Castellers event takes place on September 24th, with teams from around the region competing to have the tallest and best built tower.
To Catalonia, this sport represents themselves. It stands for solidarity of the region. There are many people holding up the few on top, along with the youngest member of the group on top.
The Carrer Avinyó is one of the oldest streets in the center of Barcelona. During the 19th century it was the center of the Bohemian lifestyle within the city. It is now home to many boutiques and great cafes and restaurants.
Pablo Picasso’s father taught at the School of Fine Arts that used to be open there. The arts school building now sits unused, until there is money for the city to pay for renovations. This street is where Picasso was truly influenced.
Carrer de la Mercè
Carrer de la Mercè 3 was home to the Picasso family from 1896 to 1904. The street used to be highlight of bar and tapas in the city, but has declined in recent years.
Nearby is La Tasca del Corral, known for its custom vermouth. We were told to ask for the Alvi special (The name of our tour guide), he didn’t say what it was though.
The second free walking tour we took was about the influence of Gaudi and the modernism movement on the city of Barcelona. The tour also starts at the steps of the Gothic Cathedral at 2:30PM daily.
To read more about Antoni Gaudi, check out our 8 must see Gaudi buildings in Barcelona post.
4cats has operated in one way or another since 1897. It became the meeting place for the artists at the center of modernism. The building itself also exemplifies modernist architecture.
On modernist buildings the underside of the balconies are covered in tiles. The more colorful the tiles are, the richer the owner was. Also, the building always had dragons incorporated somewhere.
The Catalan Music Palace was built as a landmark in the cultural and social life of Catalonia finished in 1908. The stained glass ceiling entirely illuminates the entire theatre by daylight. Therefor shows had traditionally taken place in the afternoon.
The building is covered in many mosaics inside and out.
Our tour guide said that the narrow streets around the music hall are home to many good food joints.
Passeig de Gracia is described as the Champs de Lycee of Barcelona. It is now home to many global upscale business and expensive properties. The Art Nouveau style benches that line the street were originally heated with coal in the winters, like an oven.
Along the street there is a block with three houses in a row by different famous modernist architects.
- Casa Lleó-Morera by Lluís Domènech i Montaner
- Casa Mulleras by Enric Sagnier
- Casa Amatller by Josep Puig i Cadafalch
- Casa Batlló by Antoni Gaudí
This large Gothic castle is a beautiful building on the outside. It is a private non-profit building, so you must enjoy this one from the outside!
The last stop on the walking tour was at Gaudi’s most famous work, La Sagrada Familia church. For our complete review of this architectural masterpiece, check out our Gaudi guide.
For evening fun, HostelCulture also hosts a Backpackers Night Out pubcrawl. The night began at GaelicBCN, a small bar, with one tapas and beer or sangria.
The event cost €15/person, but if you pre order the tickets at the end of the walking tour, you get an additional drink and tapas.
We then took the metro to a small bar near the water. It was a quieter bar, to talk to the others in the group for an hour or so. You get a free shot in the way in and out.
We walked to a more happening bar, where we made a quick stop for another free shot.
Our night, we ended at the Shoko Barcelona nightclub. The major note I have about this club is the bathroom. Even by 1am, relatively early for nightlife in Spain, the bathroom was not a pretty sight.
Regular entry to Shoko is €12 for 1 drink, €18 for 2, and €24 for 3. So, if you would like to end your night at the club, going on this pubcrawl is totally worth it.
Other than that, I would suggest this pubcrawl if you are looking for an adventure out at night, but do not have any friends in Barcelona to do it with. If you have your own group, go out on your own, set your own pace and have fun!