About 10,000 years ago, the City of Barcelona was a small settlement that legends say was home to Hercules but today, there are about 1.6 million residents. It is a major tourist attraction as well as a financial, transportation, economic, and cultural hub in southern Europe attracting millions of tourists each year.
You could stay at one of the 500+ hotels and visit all the main sights like the Sagrada Familia church, the National Museum of Art, or the Barcelona Zoo if you don’t mind the crowds. But if you want more peaceful places, drop off your bags at a luggage storage spot in Barcelona and check out these hidden gems.
Refugio Antiaéreo 307 (Air Raid Shelter #307)
The worst bombing in Barcelona was during the Spanish Civil War in 1938. It started on March 16 and went on for several days, with injuries and deaths totaling over 3,000. It also destroyed and damaged 120 buildings. In fact, it was the first aerial carpet bombing in history, done by Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany.
Barcelona was virtually defenseless so all anyone could do was hide in air raid shelters. In Pueblo Seco, there were many tunnels, but Air Raid Shelter #307 has been preserved and is a fascinating place to visit. It is an annex of the Museum of History of Barcelona and is open to the public with guided tours.
The tunnel stretches over 650 feet long and is one of a few built at a surface level instead of underground. The reason they did this was that it was built into Montjuic Mountain, so it had plenty of protection. The guided tour lasts about 45 minutes, and you will learn all about what went on during those frightening days.
The Chocolate Museum (Museu de la Xocolata de Barcelona)
One of the lesser-known museums in Barcelona just happens to be a chocolate lover’s dream. The Chocolate Museum is located in what used to be the Sant Agusta Monastery and gives visitors a look at how chocolate came to Europe. The tour includes the origin of chocolate, its medicinal properties, and traditions.
The first thing you will notice is that your entry ticket is actually made of chocolate, and you can eat it while you tour the facility. Take a trip back to the cocoa tree plantations where they remove and roast the beans to the hull and crush them in order to make chocolate. But it was not used for candy back then.
The Mayans believed it was a gift from the Gods and they made drinks from it to be used during religious rituals, giving it to warriors after the battle, and it was even used as local currency. One bean got you one avocado, four got you a pumpkin, you got a rabbit for 10 beans, and if you had 100 beans you could get a turkey.
Because the Carmel Bunkers are off the beaten track, you will not have to worry about fighting the crowds of tourists like you would at some of the more familiar attractions like Park Guell. In the district of El Carmel, these old underground military bunkers may actually have the best view of the beautiful city.
After the Civil War, the guns were put away and the bunkers were abandoned. But the impoverished people and those left homeless after the fighting was done took shelter there. In fact, by the 1960s, there were more than 3,000 people living there. Until the Olympic Games of 1992, when they were rehoused.
In 2011, the space was opened as a part of the Museum of History of Barcelona and today you can explore the abandoned bunkers. Besides getting the best views in Barcelona, you can also see the underground museum with old slabs of concrete and half steps. You can even see some items left by those who lived there.
Jardins de Mossen Costa
This botanical garden is right in the middle of the city at the base of Montjuic Mountain with great views of the sea. Jardins de Mossen Costa is named after Miquel Costa, a Mallorcan poet. The 15-acre park is home to 800 different kinds of cacti as well as tropical plants, succulents, and desert trees.
Unlike other gardens in the area, this one is less popular because it is not as large and flashy as the others. It was created in 1970, about 40 years after the more famous ones that were developed for the 1929 International Exhibition. The garden was originally used as a classroom for botany students.
In 1987, it was even listed as one of the 10 Most Beautiful Gardens on the Planet, which should have made it more popular. However, that winter there was a major frost and almost 40% of the plants died. Today, the garden is back to its original beauty and has a variety of stunning plants like Dragos, Aloe, and Pitas.
Also known as the Science Museum of Barcelona, CosmoCaixa Museum was opened in 1981 and boasts a plethora of exhibitions and collections. It even has a planetarium and public square with interactive exhibits. The Flooded Forest has a wet and dry Amazon Rainforest with more than 100 birds, frogs, and crocs.
The Geological Wall displays how the environment affects geological formations by sedimentation, faults, volcanism, and erosion. The Hall of Matter enlightens visitors on the Big Bang in four sections including the birth of civilization, the conquest of intelligence, the first organism, and the birth of matter.
Click and Flash is one of the three interactive areas for kids. It has games that teach about science with sight, smell, and touch as well as electricity, construction, environments, and exploration. Touch-Touch has a variety of life from all over the world including plants and animals from three environments.
Don’t miss out on the beaches while you are in Barcelona. Being on the Mediterranean Coast with warm weather all year long, it is the perfect spot for sunbathing, swimming, and other water fun. Instead of the packed beaches, try Bogatell Beach between Mar Bella and Nova Icaria.