Nooks and crannies
Barcelona is the definition of a sprawling city. From the Mediterranean Sea to the mountains, the metropolis is a patchwork quilt of diagonal streets, car-free alleys, and traffic circles, with a few Roman ruins and cathedrals tossed in here and there.
The beauty of being a resident of this city is the ability to see something new almost every day. My three-year tenure in Barcelona has allowed me to explore areas that only locals know, that you cannot find in the guidebooks, that, because of their seclusion, rival the beauty of the Sagrada Familia. While some long-term expats may consider these secret spots to be commonplace, I have found solace in the tourist-less havens of tranquility and uncompromising artistry.
Bunkers de Carmel.
The growing popularity of this former hilltop Civil War bunker with 360-degree views of the city, mountains, and sea is a bit concerning, but it is still worth the climb (and glute workout). Locals and visitors tote coolers of beer, reusable bags of snacks, and heaps of laughter to the tops of the hill where views abound.
Once considered the seedy swell of Barcelona, El Raval has come into its own as an artist's and hipster's mecca. Skateboarders clamor in the plaza outside the city's contemporary art museum (MACBA) while the Pakistani population sell the best halal food in the city on and around the Rambla de Raval. Despite a handful of questionable thoroughfares (especially after dark), the city's pulse would skip a beat without the energy source that is El Raval.
Anywhere at dawn.
Catalans tend to wake up a bit later than the average American, so sneaking out to the cobblestone streets just after sunrise promises empty pathways, stunning photography opportunities, and nary a sound.
Some of my favorite moments in Barcelona occur just as the sun rises, where rays waft through the tight alleyways and bounce of stained glass and centuries-old stone. The city exudes a serving of romance, different from any other time during the day.
If you have gone off the beaten path in Barcelona (or any other cities), share your experiences in the comments below!
Lead photo: Barrio de El Born, Barcelona.