Tips and Inspiration for your European holiday

My husband, Jason, and I love to take tours when we travel.  We’ve found that a well-informed tour guide can help introduce us to a city while also providing great tips about what to see and where to eat in the subsequent days.  

 
Parc Guell BarcelonaParc Guell is one of Barcelona's main attractions but by taking a day tour of Barcelona you can really immerse yourself in the local culture and cuisine.

Three of the best Barcelona Day Tours

During our recent trip to Barcelona we selected three very different types of tours and enjoyed each of them for very different reasons.  Whatever your budget or travel style, there is a Barcelona day tour to meet your needs.


If you’re deciding which things to see in Barcelona on your visit, why not consider what we regard as three of the best Barcelona tours?


La Boqueria market BarcelonaIf you're a foodie, a day tour which includes a visit to La Boqueria market in Barcelona is a must.


Our recommendations for the best Barcelona day tours are:


Barcelona Walking Tours

During our trip to Copenhagen two years ago we discovered the concept of free walking tours.  Technically the tour is free, but the guides make their money from tips provided by the participants at the end.  We have since made it a point to take a free walking tour on our first day in a new city, and Barcelona was no exception.


In Barcelona there are a few companies offering this service and we selected Free Walking Tours of Barcelona.  We arrived early in Placa Catalunya for the Gothic Quarter tour and watched as dozens of visitors from all over the world gathered.  This particular company offers the tour in English, Spanish and Italian.  We were divided into language groups and then headed towards Las Ramblas and the Gothic Quarter.


Our guide was Zelda and she was energetic, entertaining and informative.  Over the course of two and a half hours we visited the famous Las Ramblas drinking fountain, Roman ruins, two Gothic churches, city hall, chocolate street (my personal favorite), the Old Jewish Quarter and Placa Sant Antoni Neri.  


Gothic Cathedral BarcelonaA visit to Barcelona's Gothic Cathedral is included in many walking tours of the city.


Halfway through the walking tour of Barcelona we took a short break to use the restrooms and grab a cup of coffee.  


At the end of the tour Zelda made herself available for Barcelona restaurant recommendations.  (We asked for a lunch recommendation and were not disappointed!  Our guide recommended Ciudad Condal, a tapas place popular with locals, but also tourist-friendly.)   


No matter what cities you are planning to visit in the near future, I encourage you to take a free walking tour.  These companies go by various names, so I recommend first checking the site, freetour.com.


Click here to check prices of other Barcelona walking tours


Best Barcelona Day ToursBarcelona is a vibrant city with many different day tours available.

 

Barcelona Food Tours

One of my favourite ways to explore a new culture is through the local food.  Sometimes Jason and I create our own food tours through online research, but we felt that in Spain we wanted expert guidance.  


For this tour we selected the highly rated Devour Barcelona and opted for the Tapas and Wine tour.  This three-hour tour took us to three locations and offered a selection of tapas as well as vermouth, cava, white, rose and red wines.  


Our group was quite small with just four participants and was led by Dom, a charming British expat who has been living in Barcelona for four years.  Devour tours can be larger, but usually max out at ten people.  


Barcelona food tourWendy sips Vermouth on her Barcelona food tour.


We began at La Puntual and enjoyed traditional croquettas, patatas brava and vermouth.  Then we moved on to El Diset, a popular wine bar that offers more modern versions of tapas along with an impressive selection of Spanish wines.


It was during our time at El Diset that Dom gave us an overview of the cava and wine industry in Spain.  Being a Californian, I do appreciate wine, but knew almost nothing about Spanish wines since these are not widely available in most U.S. markets.  


We sampled a variety of cava, white and rose wines here.  Our final stop was a private store front where we ended with red wines and a selection of cured meats, cheese, and olives.  


Devour Barcelona offers eight different food tours in Barcelona and the company has additional options in seven other Spanish cities.  I definitely recommend this tour company if you have the opportunity to visit Spain.


Assorted tapas at La Puntual BarcelonaA selection of tapas enjoyed by Wendy and Jason on their Barcelona food tour.

 

Click here to check prices of other Barcelona food tours

 

Barcelona Audio Tours

Recently I discovered a company called Detour which offers unique and affordable audio tours through a phone app.  Currently, tours of eighteen cities are available.  We tried our first audio tour in Downtown Los Angeles and loved it, so on our last day in Barcelona we chose the El Raval tour and explored a different part of the city.


El Raval or The Raval, may not be on everyone’s list of places to visit in Barcelona.  For most of its history this gritty section of the city was home to prostitutes, con-men, and drug dealers.  However, it’s also the home and place of inspiration for several famous authors including Jean Genet and Roberto Bolaño.  


Barcelona’s oldest bar, Bar Marsella, is located here and was frequented by famous authors and artists like Hemingway, Picasso and Gaudi.  We also learned that Barcelona’s smallest bar, Kiosco la Cazalla, is in The Raval and is famous for selling a liquor made of fermented raisins.  


Bar Marsella Oldest Bar in BarcelonaBar Marsella is the oldest bar in Barcelona.


The Raval is experiencing tremendous change and now includes a boutique hotel with a popular rooftop bar, a trendy bakery and well reviewed restaurants.  


We took our tour during the day, and while we felt safe, I was grateful to have my husband with me.  Some of the streets on the tour are very narrow and dark and I wouldn’t recommend them at night.  


In the U.S. we would say this area is in the early stages of gentrification.  Just two blocks away from the famous and upscale Las Ramblas, there exists a condemned apartment building that is fully occupied with squatters.


When visiting a new city we always enjoy seeing its best known sites.  But often these sites - and the surrounding neighborhoods - become so focused on the tourists, that the local culture becomes lost.  So the opportunity to tour a lesser known neighborhood with a dark, but intriguing past, was an excellent opportunity to go deeper in Barcelonian culture.  


Murals painted on condemned building in El RavalMurals painted on a condemned building in El Raval, Barcelona.


The Detour app is free to download and each tour is $7.99.

 

Why we enjoyed these Barcelona day tours

By taking these day tours we were able to combine some Barcelona sightseeing with tours that suited our interests. Of these three tours I can’t say which was our favorite and I think that’s the benefit of experiencing a city in different ways.  


Each tour company and guide bring to the location their own perspectives and experiences.  The opportunity to learn from all of them gave us a deeper and more nuanced understanding of the culture of Barcelona.  


If you’re planning what to do in Barcelona for three days, these Barcelona day tours would be a great start.


Where to stay in Barcelona

After enjoying these Barcelona day tours you'll need somewhere to rest your head.  Barcelona offers a wide range of accommodation to suit all budgets.  Click here for current prices for hotels and apartments in Barcelona.

 

WendyLee300About the Author: Wendy Lee and her husband Jason are Empty Nesters who love to travel.  They both work full-time but do their best to carve out plenty of time to explore locally, nationally and around the world. Camping, backpacking and staying in hostels aren’t Wendy and Jason’s style.  They prefer nice hotels or apartments and enjoy unique tours, good drinks, and eating well.  When traveling farther afield isn’t possible, they instead opt to explore their own backyard, Southern California.  

You can follow Wendy and Jason’s travels on their blog Empty Nesters Hit the Road and on Facebook and Instagram.

    
Read more articles about Spain by clicking here.


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Best day tours in Barcelona