Img Credit: Barcelona Slow Travel
One of the highlights of our trip to Barcelona was our EatWith experience
with Guillermo & Cristina as they gave as an insightful introduction to one of the city’s many markets and made our tummies very happy with their tapas and paella cooking class. This amazing couple are also the founders of Barcelona Slow Travel
, a tour company that seeks to allow tourists to experience this amazing city as authentically as possible. In this version of “Through the Local Lens”, we are really excited to share their very candid responses to the tips and tricks for visitors to Barcelona and some amazing food and cultural recommendations! Enjoy (:
What inspired you to start Barcelona Slow Travel?
3 years ago, we both quit our jobs, left our flat and started travelling. We had reached a point where we were unhappy with our lives and needed a big change. We then travelled for 10 months in South East Asia (SEA). During this trip, we were constantly on the lookout for encounters that were off the beaten path. As much as we could, we skipped the touristy things to do, rented a motorbike and got lost in the countryside. Through this, we had some truly authentic exchanges with the local population.Today, those people that we met on the way and the things we shared with them are the best memories we have from our trip. When we came back to Barcelona, we realized that no company has ever thought of offering real experiences with locals, that will allow travellers to really immerse themselves in the Barcelona lifestyle. So, inspired by our best experiences during our trip, we started to think of ways to replicate them in Barcelona, but this time with us as the locals.
How did you learn about the Slow Travel movement and why do you subscribe to it?
We just bumped into an article about the Slow Travel movement
as we were starting our project and we realized that it was the exact same philosophy that we had for travelling and also our business. That’s when it became clear that we should name our project after the Slow Travel movement.
What are the different tours that you offer? Do you have a particular favourite?
For now, we offer 2 cooking experiences, 1 gastronomic bike tour to discover Barcelona and some of its best gourmet shops, and 1 wine tour in the countryside to visit a picturesque rural village surrounded by vineyards and wineries. From next month onwards, we will also offer a food tour to discover the best tapas in Barcelona!
Our favorite is the “Paella Cooking Experience
”, not only because it is the first experience that we offered, but also because it really reminds us of a wonderful experience we had in Bali. We met a very friendly local, who took us to his local market, shopped with him, went back to his place and cooked traditional Balinese dishes before eating them together.
Still the best paella we’ve had thus far!
Can you share with us a funny/memorable story from one of your hosting experiences?
One of the funniest stories happened during our Paella Cooking Experience. We had a group of 5 Malaysians, and as we started to eat the Paella, they asked us if it was OK to add some soy sauce and chilli in the Paella! We said that it wasn’t traditional at all, but that we’d be happy to try it out with them and the spicy soy Paella actually turned out pretty good!
What is it about the food culture in Barcelona that makes it so special?
As Barcelona is a major Mediterranean city, its gastronomy is mainly influenced by Mediterranean flavours such as olive oil, sea salt, bread and wine. But apart from that, the Catalans (inhabitants of the Catalonia region, of which Barcelona is the capital) have also been strongly influenced by both the Spanish and the French, historically as well as gastronomically. And you can really feel that in many dishes. Imagine getting the best of French and Spanish gastronomy and infusing them with Mediterranean flavours in a simple way. That’s what Barcelona’s gastronomy is all about.
Could you share with us 3 recommendations for authentic local restaurants in Barcelona?
The most authentic one that comes to mind is Cova Fumada
. This place has been operating for years and it’s only known by locals. They don’t have their name on the door, and from outside you really wouldn’t guess that it is open to public. Once inside, you can see a grandmother sitting on a chair preparing the specialty of the house, the “Bomba”. We actually bring our guests there during our Gastronomic Bike Tour
Another great authentic spot is the Xampanyet, a very chaotic place that offers tapas and cava, the “Catalan champagne”. Go there if you wish to experience the real Spanish atmosphere.
The third recommendation is one of our favorite restaurants, much less traditional as it is a very modern restaurant, but it is almost only frequented by locals. It is called Santa Gula
, and this is one of the best restaurants in Barcelona when it comes to the food and service. It is not expensive, so go there early or book in advance as the place gets packed with locals every day of the week!
What is your favourite neighbourhood and why is it so special to you?
Our favourite neighbourhood is Gracia, because it has a very unique atmosphere. It used to be a village and was annexed to Barcelona in the late 19th century. Since then it has kept its village charm, and definitely feels different from Barcelona’s historic center. A stop there is a must when coming to Barcelona, either during the day if you feel like shopping for artisanal, local and/or homemade products, or during the night to enjoy one of its many terraces on a square.
Lovely street art in Gracia
What is one aspect of Barcelona that is underrated?
The Catalan culture! Barcelona is really different from Spain, so visitors should not expect to see flamenco dances and drink sangria when coming to Barcelona. A lot of visitors look for that, and end up at touristy shows instead of discovering the actual Catalan traditions that are very surprising and definitely a must see! There are spectacles, traditions, festivals and events going on all year in Barcelona, so make sure you check that out when you come and visit!
We are currently developing resources on traditions and special events on our blog so keep a look out for that!
What is Barcelona’s best secret?
If I tell it to you, then it won’t be a secret anymore…
When is the best time to visit Barcelona?
Spring and Fall are definitely the best times to visit, not too crowded, nor too hot or cold. If you really want to escape the crowds, I’d recommend staying outside the center. Opt for Gracia for a more urban experience or Poblenou neighbourhood if you’d prefer to be closer to the beach.
What advice would you give to first-time visitors?
Yes, the most important would definitely be: avoid the Rambla, especially for meals! Then I’d say that it’s very important to dedicate at least 5 days to discover the city, and maybe a couple of days to discover the surroundings. There is so much to see!
What are 3 things that visitors to Barcelona should not leave without experiencing?
- Having a traditional vermut at a bodega or experiencing one of the many Catalan traditions.
- Trying local food (preferably at a local’s place or one of the many options on eatwith.com)
- Getting lost in one of the many locals neighbourhood, and feeling the Mediterranean atmosphere of the city.
We’re so grateful to Cristina and Guillermo for sharing with us their favourite spots and best tips for Barcelona, and we hope that this will be really helpful to anyone who’s planning to visit this amazing city. Do you have great tips for Barcelona too? We would love to hear from you in the comments section (: