An alternative weekend in Barcelona: modern art, vintage shopping and wild nights out
Article updated 14 November, 2018.
If creativity is your watchword and you don't want to follow the herd, you're bound to fall in love with the original, alternative side of Barcelona.
Fan of all things quirky and original? We have good news for you: Barcelona is a city overflowing with creativity, and could easily become your favourite holiday destination! Are you ready for a 100% alternative weekend?
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City centre or seaside?
There are two distinctly avant garde quarters in Barcelona, each with its own well-defined character.
- Raval: located in the old town, just minutes from Las Ramblas, this multi-cultural quarter has undergone a spectacular transformation in recent years, attracting creative types of all genres.
The Raval has something for everyone: vintage bars, museums, Pakistani restaurants, original shops, traditional tapas bars, medieval buildings and even a thoroughly modern 4-star hotel.
- Poblenou: like the Raval, Poblenou gives off an air of creativity and renewal, but the similarity stops there.
A fair way from the centre, it’s much quieter. However, lots of new buildings have sprung up in recent years, including Jean Nouvel’s Agbar Tower and the design museum, which opened in December 2014. Poblenou is also home to a variety of fashion and architecture schools, and former warehouses converted into designer loft spaces. The quarter offers easy access to the beach and lower prices than you’ll find in central Barcelona.
Apartement or hotel?
If you’re on a tight budget or if there are three or more of you, we recommend renting an apartment.
Things to see and do: creativity, creativity, creativity
Stunning modern art museums
If you’re an art fan, you won’t want to miss the Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art (MACBA), housed in a magnificent structure designed by Richard Meier. The museum often plays host to surprising and fascinating exhibitions.
Another place you mustn’t miss is the Barcelona Centre for Contemporary Culture (CCCB), a rich and unique space installed in the buildings of a former convent.
- Top tip! The CCCB offers free entry on Sundays from 3pm.
Free tours of street art
You can immerse yourself in Barcelona’s art scene without having to set foot in a museum: the streets are full of it! The best quarters to visit for this are Raval, Born, Gòtic and Poblenou.
Better still, you’ll find Street Art fans offering free guided visits every day of the week. As well as being enthusiastic, the guides certainly know their stuff!
Vintage boutiques: make the most of your luggage allowance!
As you might have seen in our article on Shops and shopping in Barcelona: which quarter is right for you?, some areas of the city are particularly rich in opportunities for “alternative”, original and vintage shopping: the Raval and Gràcia.
- The vintage shops in the Gràcia quarter are mostly located around the Travessera de Gràcia.
- In the Raval, head for the Riera Baixa. There’s even a vintage market there on Saturday mornings.
We love Flamingos Vintage Kilo, which sells clothes by weight at knock-down prices! Its sister store, Flamingos Gallery, is close by and also well worth a visit. Carrer Joaquín Costa is another good place to find original and unusual shops.
- Note that shops tend to close for lunch between 1 and 4pm.
Eat somewhere a little different
If originality is your watchword, there’s no reason to settle for the ordinary where food is concerned. Many of Barcelona’s restaurants and tapas bars offer creative and unusual dishes for the adventurous palate!
Fàbrica Moritz is a tapas bar housed in a former brewery, fully renovated by Jean Nouvel. Serious stuff! The food on offer is also highly varied.
Start the evening off with a drink…
After sun-down, the atmosphere in Barcelona changes up a gear. Even if you visited Carrer Joaquín Costa for a spot of shopping during the day, we’re betting you won’t recognise it at night: as the shops close, a whole host of bars open and the hip, semi-pedestrainised street takes on a new, nocturnal identity.
These aren’t just ordinary bars, either! Each establishment seems to be trying to outdo its neighbours in terms of originality, not just on this specific street, but across the whole Raval quarter.
- Our favourite watering holes include Madame Jasmine for its wacky décor, Manchester for the ambiance and 33/45 for the comfortable sofas.
Dance the night away
Whilst the Raval is a great place to start things off, the heart of the action shifts toward Poblenou at around 2am. That’s where you’ll find the Razzmatazz, one of Barcelona’s iconic clubs, where you can keep the party going until the wee small hours.
Ready for a walk on Barcelona’s wild side?
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