Barcelona is the European capital of cool, and what could be cooler than being the first of your friends to discover the city’s lesser-known delights? Sure, the Church of the Sagrada Familia is out of this world, but when you’re ready for something a little different, take a look at some of our tips.
Els Encants is a crazy mash-up of antiques shop and car boot sale in a featureless patch next to the Plaça de les Glòries, Dos de Maig. Search through the broken TV sets, battered cutlery, and tatty books, however, and you will find some gems glittering among the dross. Be prepared to drive a hard bargain, and get here as soon as it opens ( Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, 9am-6pm) to get the best stuff.
Cap de Creus
Rent a car and head out of the city until you reach the Spanish border and the Cap de Creus nature reserve. Your first stop is Cadaqués, an isolated fishing hamlet of whitewashed houses that garnered celebrity in the 1970s as the focus of two artistic movements, one based on the work of Salvador Dalí and the other on Galeria Cadaqués, which brought artists like Joseph Beuys, Man Ray, and David Hockney to the area. Wander down the promenade and order a drink at one of the beach bars, then drive to Port Lligat nearby to tour Dalí’s former house. The cape’s easternmost and highest point is signposted from here. Enjoy the spectacular views over lunch at a terrace table in Restaurant Cap de Creus.
Once you dismiss the slightly macabre overtones, the graveyard that clings to the sea-facing side of Montjuïc is one of the most peaceful places in Barcelona. Scattered among the high-rise tombs is a plethora of artworks, from exquisitely sculpted angels to kitschy homages to virility. At the southern end of the graveyard you’ll find a monument to the 4,000 victims of the Franco regime who were buried here during the Spanish civil war. Designed by Beth Galí, El Fossar de la Pedrera is strikingly touching.
Parc del Laberint
Parc del Laberint is the green heart of the Horta and Guinardó district. Designed in 1792 by the Italian engineer Domenico Bagutti, Barcelona’s oldest garden is a peerless collection of flower beds, small squares, tall trees, and a waterfall spread out over 55 hectares of neoclassical landscapes full of hidden corners, some accented with sculptures of mythological figures. The focal point is the maze that gives the park its name. Created from pollarded cypress trees, it is an idyllic refuges from the bustle of the city.
Fundacio Joan Miro
Picasso receives all the attention when it comes to art in Barcelona, but one of of Catalonia’s most brilliant (and eccentric) artists was Joan Miro. The Fundacio Joan Miro is a wonderful art gallery in the lofty heights of Montjuïc. Even if you are no art expert, you are bound to be moved by the work he produced. Miro spurned the ordinary for a highly individualist surreal style, toying with a range of different techniques in painting and sculpture. You can get to Montjuïc via the port or from Placa Espana, although the climb from the port is the most enjoyable and scenic approach.