Where To Find Hidden Gems in Barcelona Spain
Updated: Aug 1
Here's my guide to ferreting out the best hidden gems and secret spots in beautiful Barcelona Spain. These off the radar attractions in Barcelona are just as amazing as the must see sites, but without the crowds.
Barcelona is a feast for the eyes. With its incredible beauty and wealth of art and architecture, Barcelona's popularity as a tourist destination has burgeoned in recent years.
The Surrealistic city has almost gotten a little theme park-ish. The city is so crowd-pleasing that it's often overrun by hordes of tourists and selfie sticks. In spite of what can be horrible hordes of tourists, there are still some less-feted hidden gems where you can avoid long lines, bicycles, and crowds.
Some of these fantastic hidden gems are even UNESCO sites, hiding in plain sight but overshadowed by the most illustrious landmarks.
You can visit fantastical Gaudí buildings where you won’t have to queue, admire spectacular city views, and gawk at sumptuous stained glass and decorative mosaics in recently opened Modernist works.
Hidden Gems and Secret Spots in Barcelona Spain
Here's my guide to the lesser known delights of Barcelona, sites that are often overlooked but shouldn't be.
1. Casa Calvet: Early Gaudi Home
Casa Calvet is usually overlooked by those on the Gaudí trail in Barcelona. It's not as curvy, crazy, or whimsically colorful as his more well known work. The upside? It's largely ignored and crowd free.
But it shouldn't be. It's a hidden gem among the other modernist standouts in nearby Passage de Gràcia. And a visit is essential to a full understanding of Gaudí's career and more famous UNESCO buildings in Barcelona.
Built between 1898-99, Casa Calvet was commissioned by Pere Calvet, a textile manufacturer. Casa Calvet was squeezed between two older buildings in a tony neighborhood.
The double gabled building's ornamentation is classic Gaudí. It has bulging and curved balconies, that presage the mask-like balconies on Casa Batlló. The wrought iron is highly stylized and similar to La Pedrera's twisting "seaweed" look.
Gaudí incorporated many mythological and natural symbols into Casa Calvet. Among other things, the front door sports original wrought iron door knockers in the form of a Greek cross. The knocker strikes against a bed bug, in an allegory of faith crushing sin.
Address: Carrer de Casp 48
Note: Casa Calvet is a private residence. You can only take pictures of the exterior.
Metro: Metro: L4 L1 Urquinaona
Casa Calvet Restaurant Hours: Mon–Sat: 1:00 pm to 11:00 pm
2. Palau de la Música Catalana: Barcelona's Pretty Concert Hall
Palau de la Música Catalana is a gaudy rose-covered wonderland and must see site in Barcelona. This magnificent concert hall was designed in 1905-08 by Lluis Domènech i Montaner -- an architect who was just as famous as Gaudi at the time.
You have to see it to believe it. Musicians love its acoustics. Tourists love its unique design. It's a veritable symphony of stained glass, mosaics, sculptures.
Palau de la Musica is located along a claustrophobic, densely packed street in the Gothic Quarter. Montaner countered the claustrophobia with color and levity. The arches and intricate mosaic columns draw your eye up to the roofline. Stained glass windows bring in the natural light.
You begin at the marble Lluís Millet Grand Staircase, named after a famous Catalan composer. As you as ascend, gaze up at the eye catching ceramic glazed ceiling.
You’ll enter a waiting area, the Lluís Millet Hall, enveloped in massive stained glass windows. Parts of the panels are clear so you can see the dramatic mosaic columns outside by Sala Millet.
The auditorium is almost overwhelming. The piece de resistance is the intricate stained glass ceiling by Antoni Rigalt. Iron and glass chandeliers create a starry night effect. And sculptures curve up the sides of the stage, including a glowering Beethoven and Valkeries from Richard Wagner's operas.
Palau is now a UNESCO site. But it wasn't embraced initially. Josep Pla, a doyen of Catalan literature, condemned it as "horrible" for its theatrical excesses. Montaner himself was peeved. He skipped the opening ceremony because he hadn't been paid.
Address: C/ Palau de la Música, 4-6, 08003 Barcelona
Hours:10:00 am to 3:30 pm, 9:00 am to 6:00 pm in August
Entry fee: Guided tour € 20, Self-guided tour € 15.
Metro: Urquinaona, line 4
3. Casa Lleó Morera: the Mulberry Mansion
But it shouldn't be. It's lovely and vastly under appreciated. When the tourists clamor to Gaudi's other master works, you can come here and feast your eyes on beautiful art and architecture.
On 1902, Francesca Morera i Ortiz commissioned Montaner -- the same architect of Palau de la Musica -- to completely renovate the exterior and interior of the building in an Art Nouveau style.
Sadly, Oritz died in 1904 before the mansion was completed. Her son, Albert Lleó i Morera, moved in with his family, bestowing the current name on the house. Lleó Morera means the "Lion and Mulberry Tree House."
The most striking thing is the beautiful curved balconies with ornate floral designs and lions. The ones on the second floor are elongated. The ones on the third floor are rounded. The fourth floor has a set of gallery windows. The overall effect evokes a convent cloister.
Location: Passeig de Gràcia, 35
Metro: Plaza de Catalunya or Passeig de Gràcia
4. Casa Vicens: Gaudi's First Gaudy House
Gaudi’s work dominates the streets of Barcelona. But you may have missed Casa Vicens. North of the city center in the sleepy village of Gràcia, Casa Vicens is one of Gaudi’s lesser-known works. It's his first home and a UNESCO-listed site.
The vivacious Casa Vicens splashed onto the Gaudi tourist circuit in November 2017. After 130 years of private ownership and a massive renovation, Casa Vicens opened its Orientalist doors to the public. The building's exotic, an intense burst of vibrant color and marigold tiles.
Casa Vicens is a must see sight in Barcelona for those who love architecture and all things Gaudí. Even if you don't love architecture, you'll be hypnotized by the showy building. It's likely like nothing you've ever seen before. And it's gloriously off radar because it's so new.
The wealthy industrialist Manuel Vicens i Montaner commissioned Gaudí to build Casa Vicens in 1877. He wanted a summer house, an escape from the city. Now, of course, it's in an arty bohemian district within the city.
Casa Vicens was designed in a Neo-Mudéjar style that was once popular in southern Spain, at Seville's Royal Alcazar and Granada's Alhambra. Like those UNESCO sites, Gaudi intended Casa Vicens "to evoke a caliph’s pavilion set in an oasis.”
Unlike Gaudi's other creations Casa Vicens is very rectilinear, defying Gaudi's edict that there are no straight lines in nature. Everything is square -- square tiles, square windows, square balconies. But the seed of the future Gaudi is evident in the building's ornamentation, if not its structure.
The main floor consists of the dining room, smoking room, and covered porch. The bedrooms are on the first floor, full of exuberant leafy decor. The ceilings are blanketed with bushes, vines, and riotous color. The second floor has a display on Casa Vicens' history.
Address: Carrer de les Carolines, 18-24, 08012 Barcelona
Entry Fee: 16 €, discounts available. Entry is free with the Barcelona Pass. There is a discount with the Barcelona Card.
Hours: Open daily Monday to Sunday 10:00 am to 8:00 pm, last admission 6:40 pm. In the winter, open until 7:00 pm, last admission 5:40 pm.
Online ticket options.
Passes: Free with the Barcelona Pass, 3 House Combo Pass, Modernista Pass. Discount with the Barcelona Card
5. Casa Amatller: Say Yes To Modernista Chocolate
Casa Amatller is a hidden gem in plain sight. It suffers in obscurity because it's right next door to Gaudí’s flashier Casa Batlló. It may not be as revolutionary in design. But it's quite lovely and actually furnished. Plus, you're given chocolate at the end of your (much less crowded) tour.
Casa Amatller was the home of chocolate magnate, Antoni Amatller. Completed in 1900, it was designed by Josep Puig i Cadafalch, another prominent Catalan modernist. It was renovated in 2009-14 and opened as a museum in 2015.
Casa Amatller's neo-Gothic facade is gorgeous, with etched plaster designs and almond blossoms galore. The name Amatller means almond tree in Catalan.
The facade features symbols of the Amatller family, their chocolate business, and their promotion of the arts -- dragons, knights, and other mythical characters. Even a rat with a camera. Eusebi Arnau and Alfons Juyol sculpted the unique and playful decorative pieces that populate the facade.
Inside, it's more castle-like. You can visit the main floor. The walls are covered with etched plaster decorations, French wallpaper, and elaborate tile work. As with the facade, there are humorous sculptures throughout the house. The dining room is gorgeous with beams and a spectacular chandelier with hanging stained glass discs.
The nice thing about visiting this house, unlike most others, is that the original furniture is preserved. The highlight is the beautiful stained glass skylight. Top your visit off with a cup of Amatller's world-renowned hot chocolate.
Address: Passeig de Gracia, 41, 08007 Barcelona
Hours: 10:00 am to 6:00 pm
Entry fee: 19 €
Metro: Passeig de Gràcia
Pro tip: You can save 15% booking tickets online.
6. Gaudi's Torre Bellesguard: A Castle Home in Tranquil Sarrià
Torre Bellesguard was commissioned by Maria Sagués in 1900. She loved Gaudi's Modernist architecture. Bellesguard was constructed on the ruins of the medieval castle of Martin of Aragon, the last king of the Catalan dynasty.
Gaudi lead the construction for nine years. But then he dedicated himself exclusively to creating his opus, Sagrada Familia. Bellsguard was completed by Domènec Sugrañes i Gras, who created the colorful mosaics that give a pop of color to the mud colored building. But the symbolism, curves, and nature motifs are pure Gaudi.
Gaudi was obsessed with the myth of St. George and the Dragon. His more famous home, Casa Batlló, is created in the image of a dragon. At Bellesguard, Gaudi repeated the theme, conjuring a roof with a built in dragon face and angled rocks that double as dragon scales. It's topped with a tower-sword.
On either side of the entrance door are brightly covered seats, which symbolize the Golden Age of Catalonian rule. The interior is a mix of brightness and tranquility. White walls are juxtaposed with blue and yellow tile and stained glass chandeliers and windows. The chandeliers are similar to those at Casa Amattler.
The Sarrià neighborhood itself is a hidden gem well worth exploring. Set at the foot of the Serra de Collserola mountains, the main square looks like a quaint Pyrenees village. Peak into Sant Vicenc de Sarrià Church, founded 1,000 years ago.
Address: Carrer de Bellesguard, 20, 08022 Barcelona
Hours: 10:00 am to 3:00 pm
Entry fee: 9 € audio guide tour or 16 € for 1 hour guided tour
Metro: Take metro line L7 from the station, Placa de Catalunya, to the sixth stop, Avenida Tibidabo.
Pro tip: It's an hour walk from the city center. Here's how to get there using public transport.
7. Hospital de Sant Pau: Barcelona's Theater-Like Hospital
Another cure for over-crowding is to visit a hospital. Barcelona isn't just regal museum-homes built for wealthy families. At the Hospital de Sant Pau you'll find a former hospital outfitted with beautiful Art Nouveau architecture and decoration. The hospital is also known as the Hospital of the Holy Cross and Saint Paul. It takes up 10 city blocks.
Never were patients so well tended. More theater than hospital, the unique building is an ode to the curative effects of beauty. Here, patients could heal their souls as well as their bodies.
Opened in 1930, and just a short 15 minute walk from Sagrada Família down Avenida de Gaudi, the Hospital de Sant Pau was built as an optimistic and philanthropic gesture by Pau Gil, who commissioned the very popular architect Montaner.
In 1997, the hospital was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It functioned as a hospital until 2009.
In 2014, Hospital Sant Pau underwent restoration and reopened as a museum and cultural center. Like Casa Vicens and Casa Amatller, it's one of Barcelona's newer tourist attractions.
The complex is gorgeous, inside and out. The 27 ornate and beautiful tiled pavilions are seemingly independent, like little cities within a city. But they're connected by underground tunnels, which you'll see on your visit.
The gorgeous Main Hall features mosaicked vaulted ceilings, stone carvings, stained glass windows, and tiled domes. Every detail of the interior is worth admiring.
Address: Sant Antoni M. Claret, 167, the entrance is on the corner of Carrer Dos de Maig
Hours: Nov to March 9:30 am to 5:30 pm, April to Oct 9:30 am to 7:00 pm, Sundays and holidays only open until 3:00 pm
Entry fee: Self-guided visit 15 €, Guided visit 20 €, Audio guide: 4 €
Metro: Sant Pau, line 5
8. Pedralbes Monastery & Gaudi Dragon Gate
Barcelona's medieval Pedralbes neighborhood boasts leafy green boulevards and elegant mansions, backed by the green hills of the Collserola Natural Park. On your way to the Pedralbes Monastery, make a pitstop at the Pavellons Güell and clap your eyes on by Gaudí's exquisite Dragon Gate with its intricate curls of wrought iron.
At the top of Avinguda Pedralbes, you’ll find the the Gothic Monestir de Pedralbes. It's one of the most beautiful Gothic buildings in Barcelona.
The Pedralbes Monastery's tucked away behind a stone arch down a picturesque cobbled street. It's also known as the Royal Monastery of St Mary of Pedralbes. Founded in 1327, the monastery features three stories of arched cloisters with a garden courtyard.
The cloister is in fairly pristine condition, given its age. The highlight is the Chapel of St. Michael with ancient frescos from the 14th century. They were just restored in 2018 and now shine with color.
Address: Baixada del Monestir, 9
Hours: Apr 1 - Sept 30: Tue-Fri 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, Sat 10:00 am to 7:00 pm, & Sun 10:00 am to 8:00 pm. Oct 1 - Mar 31 Tue-Sat: 10:00 am to 2:00 pm, Sat & Sun 10:00 am to 5:00 pm
Entry fee: €5, free with the Barcelona Card.
Getting there: It's on the HOHO bus route.
9. Joan Miró Foundation, Art with a Whimsical Touch
The Joan Miró Foundation is Barcelona's most emblematic museum. In this fabulous single artist museum, you'll find the world's largest collection of Joan Miró paintings. Miró founded the museum himself in 1975. Located on Montjuïc hill, the museum's housed in a light-filled gleaming white building from the 1970s, designed by his friend, Josep LLuis Sert.
The museum is crammed with seminal Miró works, from his earliest sketches to his later years. There's 220 paintings, 180 sculptures, and over 8,000 drawings.
Miró was born and raised in Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter, where he began studying art at 14. In his 20s, Miró was attracted to the Surrealism. When his work was initially mocked in Barcelona, he fled to Paris. He became life long friends with Picasso.
READ: Best Museums in Spain
Miró's most associated with the Surrealists. But he was a renegade. His work is characterized by constant experimentation and a decided love of the dream-like abstract. Like his friend Salvador Dalì, Miró balanced the spontaneity and automatism of Surrealism with meticulous planning and precision edges.
Address: Parc de Montjuïc 08038 Barcelona
Hours: Nov to Mar 10:00 am to 6:00 pm, Apr to Oct 10:00 am to 8:00 pm, Closed Mondays
Entry fee: 13 euros, under 15 free
10. Bunkers del Carmel: Sunset and Views
The neighbourhood of El Carmel sits just above Gaudí's famous Park Güell. Bunkers del Carmel used to be a locals only secret. But, like all good things, in recent years it's become somewhat more popular.
That's because it sports one of the best views in Barcelona. If you're willing to hike to the top of Turó de la Rovira, you'll have splendid views over the ocean to Montjuïc and Sagrada Familia. It makes a great sunset spot.
There are a few ways to get to Bunkers. You can hike up from the El Carmel, Hospital de Sant Pau, or Alfons X metro stops. You can take bus #24 from Passeig de Gracia. Alternatively, hop in a taxi.
Address: Carrer de Marià Labèrnia, s/n, 08032 Barcelona
11. Tibidabo: Views & a Fairytale Church
Tibidabo is the highest mountain in Barcelona. It offers sweeping panoramic views of Barcelona and the Mediterranean Sea. It's also home to an amusement park and a fairytale church, the Temple of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Built in 1806, this Neo-Gothic church is the handiwork of architect Josep Maria Sagnier i Vidal. It's a mix of styles, but evokes a Neo-Byzantine feeling. For even higher views of Barcelona, you can take an elevator to the top of the church.
Address: Ctra. de Vallvidrera al Tibidabo, 111
Hours & Tickets: To visit the church, check website here
Getting there: Brown Line 7 (train, not metro) or Bus Tidibus T2A from the Placa de Catalunya
12. Parc de la Ciutadella: Gaudi Fountain
Need a break from the hurly burly of big city Barcelona? Once you pass through the Arc di Triunfo, you land in the Ciutadella Park.
It's one of Barcelona's most photogenic places. The beautiful 74 acre park is a green oasis in the middle of a bustling city, where you can find a sense of serenity.
The park has many attractions -- a boating lake, a collection of statues, a tropical greenhouse, the Barcelona Zoo, and the Catalan Parliament buildings. The highlight is the ornamental fountain, which was designed by Josep Fontsere and a young Gaudi.
Address: Passeig de Picasso, 21
Hours: Generally 10:00 am to 10:30 pm
Getting there: Metro Yellow Line 4. HOHO bus stops at Ciutadella-Zoo stop.
13. Colonia Guell Crypt
Colonia Guell is 10 miles from the center of Barcelona. But it can still be reached in about 25 minutes by public transport. So don’t let the distance put you off visiting.
Colonia Guell is located in the sleepy village of Santa Coloma de Cervello. Commissioned by Eusebi Guell, it was intended as a utopian community, where workers at Guell's textile factory could live. The entire complex comprises a factory area, a residential area, and the Gaudi church crypt.
Gaudi began work on the Church of Colonia Guell in 1908. Due to lack of funds, only the crypt-like lower nave was completed. In 1915, the lower nave was blessed by Barcelona’s bishop. In 2005, it became a UNESCO site.