The best way to explore Barcelona is by taking a walking tour. Although bikes, cars and Segways are fun and allow you to take in a lot in a short period of time, if you're looking to get an intimate feel for the city - its culture, history and local vibe - then there is no better way to discover the nooks, crannies and hidden gems than on foot.
Although it’s quite easy to pick up a map at any of the tourist information offices, if you’re teetering on doing just one tour while you’re in town, do a walking tour. It might seem easy to navigate on your own, but the city's grid system only takes shape above Plaza Catalunya, with everything below that resembling a maze of intricate cobblestone streets.
With so many windy alleyways and out-of-the-way courtyards, often the only way to access many of the places in Barcelona's Ciutat Vella ("Old City") is by walking. If you don’t know what you’re looking for, it’s easy to miss some of the most beautiful plazas and pieces of history which are often embedded into the stone walls surrounding the Old City.
Walking tour in Barcelona — Photo courtesy of Mariah Quesada
There are tons of walking tours available, including private tours, group tours and even a few free tours, depending on the time of year. If you’re looking for a private tour and want to get a mix of both on and off the beaten path places, Hi. This Is Barcelona is an excellent option.
This small company is comprised of a mix of local and international guides, and they will customize the tour to focus on your interests. They try to give you the local perspective in a creative and innovative way, one that really caters to each individual client.
There are several options for walking tours in the city, including half- and full-day experiences. If you don't have a lot of time (or money) and just want to get a flavor for things, then take a walking tour through the Old City, especially the Gothic Quarter, Raval and Born neighborhoods.
These are great to visit with a guide, as there is so much to see - much of which isn't written about in guide books. The walking tour is a nice way to kick off the trip and then have your guide map out where he or she thinks you should go during the remainder of your stay.
Another wonderful walking tour is a modernist tour to see Gaudi's works and that of his contemporaries during this period. Buildings such as Casa Batllo and La Pedrera are both on Passeig De Gracia, so you can see them both in a short period of time, either from just the exteriors or from the inside as well.
If you're not into Gaudi, then take a stroll through Gracia neighborhood. This used to be an autonomous city unto itself, and it's one of the most local barrios ("neighborhoods") in Barcelona. You can shop, browse and tour in Gracia. Its small, narrow streets provide for an excellent walking experience.